Well, I think I’ll strike while the keyboard’s hot and do the second part of my Daecheong-Bong tale tonight. I have a few more Seorak-San posts I want to do, and something tells me I’m going to be busy next week…
I’m going north to the capital for a week of teacher training. Odd timing, yes — I don’t understand it either. It might have been more useful before I was immersed, completely unprepared, in the middle-school shark pool back in early January.
But how could I say no? The Board of Education is paying for me to go up there, attend classes on Korean language, culture, and classroom management etc during the day, feed and house me, and the nights will be my own as far as I know. I’m going early — Saturday morning — and coming home on Sunday afternoon, giving me time for some exploration, photos and a ton of walking. I’ve only spent a single day in the place, so I’m pretty excited. Even the seventeen units of online prep I have to get through beforehand are less painful than expected.
Hope to take the laptop and do a couple of posts from the largest city proper in the OECD developed world (Wikipedia). Quite a change of scene from placid Seorak:
A megacity with a population of more than 10 million…the Seoul National Capital Area…is the world’s second largest metropolitan area with more than 25 million inhabitants. Nearly one of every four South Koreans lives in Seoul; half of South Koreans live in the metropolitan area, as well as 275,000 international residents (Wikipedia).
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Not much to say, word-wise: I kept on climbing, the trail got steeper, some mountain alchemy turned my ultralight pack into lead, I stopped every few seconds for another picture…and gradually the views expanded and my hazy objective materialised, with dusk approaching and a roof of cloud sealing in the valleys below.
I passed one “shelter” that was jam-packed with overnighters. Like a Japanese or European mountain hut, but a lot rarer, the Korean version is well-constructed, expensive, and surely guarantees a night of dubious sleep as you jam up on the floor between your invariably snoring neighbours.
I thought I’d take my chances on the ground.
Birches seem to be very fussy about their position in the strata of mountain denizens. Every time I’ve encountered them on climbs in Asia and America it’s been within a narrow elevation range. I believe these are Betula platyphylla, the Japanese white birch, apparently seen as varieties of the European silver birch by some botanists:
It’s often been said that I have my head in the clouds (or somewhere less scenic):
The cool of late afternoon. Sokcho, and the ocean beyond. Just yesterday I’d been standing over there looking up at this ridge on which I now paused:
I could now see my night’s digs: Daecheong-Bong, highest point in Seorak-San and third-highest in the land. The trail led along a col between the summit and that of a neighbouring peak studded with golfball-shaped communications equipment. Another shelter nestled on the col, positively swarming with hikers. I didn’t even pause there.
You can just make out a few walkers on the summit:
I’m sure there is a Korean word for the sea of cloud that the Japanese called unkai — one of my favourite Japanese words.
I approached the summit at last, almost alone, scanning the sides of the path for somewhere to crash. I decided this narrow hollow would just about fit a tiny air mattress in a bivy — but it was right next to the path:
Then I was on the top, and completely forgot about sleep amid the glorious distractions…
~ And that’s all the Goat wrote