One week in South Korea – Part 5 – Seoraksan National Park

Written by Gary on September 5th, 2016

Seoraksan National Park is a beautiful mountainous park dominated by rugged granite peaks and maple gullies amongst cyprus forests only 15 minutes drive from the coastal resort town of Sokcho on the north-eastern coast of South Korea.

One should take care with mosquitoes as there apparently is a small risk of mosquito-borne Japanese encephalitis virus and even malaria according to WHO, but the more dangerous animals such as tigers and bears are now extinct from most of South Korea including in this region.

Sokcho is a 3-4 hour bus ride from Seoul depending upon traffic conditions.

These images were taken with Micro Four Thirds cameras – the Olympus OM-D E-M1 and E-M5 with the Olympus mZD 40-150mm f/2.8 and Olympus mZD 7-14mm f/2.8 lenses.

We only had one day in our itinerary to hike in the park and that one day coincided with almost constant heavy rain which absolutely soaked not only my active wear but also my Olympus E-M1 with 40-150mm f/2.8 lens and its lovely rain protective lens hood which fortunately are highly water resistant and did not suffer any ill effect from the constant rain over a 5 hour period – unlike my friend’s “water-resistant” Garmin watch we failed permanently half way due to the rain.

The hike we chose was to the rugged granite peaks which was some 11km and 5hrs return in the rain with seemingly thousands of steps and a total ascent of over 600m to the ~1200m altitude peak which overlooked the Sokcho valley in the very brief intervals where the clouds parted and we could see what was below us.

The scenery so reminded me of Japanese ink sketches that I decided to post-process these images in that style.

The peaks which we were to climb up as seen from the Seoul-Sokcho bus.

At the start of the walk is a Buddhist Temple which provided for some very nice imagery:

Whilst at this temple we took pity on a very keen Canikon elderly Korean man who was trying in vain to get some shots of this temple with his camera on a tripod wrapped in towels to keep the camera dry as well as trying to hold an umbrella in the wind – unfortunately for him he did not choose a weatherproof camera and lens with image stabilisation such as we had with our Olympus gear, and so we helped him out by holding his umbrella so he could get his shot.

As we start our walk alongside a fast flowing stream, we walk over some nice old bridges:

and then perhaps half way up our ascent we arrive at a remote old Buddhist temple built into the mountain side:

a tourist wet and tired and its only a third of the ascent work down:

Perhaps at this point I should have said a few prayers because the ascent from here on became very steep indeed but gave very rewarding vignettes dominated by these beautiful trees amongst the peaks:

and now ascent into the clouds:



and finally to the peak – the hiker and his umbrella – as we found – no match for the strong up-draught winds hurtling upwards and playing havoc with the umbrellas:

The price to pay for these beautiful sights was 3 days of very painful calf muscles but thankfully, we did not trip and fall in the wet, slippery conditions.

After the hike, an incredibly kind young Korean lady who worked in a park cafe finally worked out what we were trying to ask her – “where is the local thermal spas?” and she offered to drive us there as the cafe had closed and so we made it to the thermal spa baths which were in another valley – but to our naive surprise they were authentic Oriental style baths which banned all forms of clothing – so when in Rome ….

 

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