A few weekends ago I went with Climbing in Korea on a trip to Seoraksan again! I had read about the Dinosaur Ridge trail and was really looking forward to giving it a go!
We met at 11:45pm on Friday night to take the bus overnight (about 4 hours) to the park. There were two group organized – 1 for the advanced hikers through Dinosaur Ridge and another equally long but easier trail up Daecheongbong Peak (highest peak at 1708m) and then through the valley. I of course opted for the hard one, and was a little intimidated because they kept asking everyone if we were really sure we wanted to do it – offering the option to turn around and come back to the starting point after 3 hours if we were struggling. I thought, “How bad is it really????”
The first group started from a different entrance around 3:30 and we got going at 4:00am. In the dark, we started up hill to the first peak!!!! But the view of the stars at night was really impressive, finally away from the city light pollution so they seemed even bigger and brighter. We had about 2.5 hours up what felt like a million stairs. Someone lost their camera near the start and had to double back and do jt again! I don’t know if I would have bothered, knowing there were so many hours ahead of us. But then again, my camera went down the toilet last time and retrieving it wasn’t an option to consider.
We made it to the first peak around sunrise, which was enough to put an extra kick in the system and motivate me to continue. Climbing around narrow rocky trails, it finally felt like we were up on the ridge.
We regrouped and found that our group had divided into two by then. Luckily I was keeping up with the first one, too scared to be the last one holding the others up, but a few times I got a bit separated and found myself with some older Korean men. I thought they were with our group for the whole morning but it turns out they were separate! So kind though, they helped push me along when I wanted to take a break, offered me chocolate for re-energizing, and when we got to the breakfast stop, they fed me an egg, tomatoes, and apple! 진구 they told me, which means friend. Apart from explaining I was studying Korean and from the US, that was about the extent of our conversation apart from thumbs up when we met at the end. I don’t know what else they were saying!
Breakfast break: I finally looked at the time and it was only about 8:00 in the morning. 1/3 of the way!
Regrouping and meeting more of the group. They made all the newbies introduce themselves and to my horror- sing a song! I finally gave in and ended up with “Row, row, row the boat…”
Traffic jams on the narrow parts were pretty common. This part was still fun though – climbing up and down with rope support. Much better than the repetitive stairs we started with. Autumn is a popular time!
The end of the ridge trail! On Peak #6 finally around 12:00! Lunch break and then making our way down through the valley. (Stairs… Boooooo)
The real end! Back down the starting place, the same bridge we crossed over around 4:00am, but now it was around 4:00pm!
Overall, such a great hike, not as bad as I thought it would be, and the hardest parts really were the first few hours going up to the ridge, and then the last few hours coming back down (poor knees). The bus ride was groggy and smelly, and another hiker showed me his pedometer – 30km total, some 5,000 calories burned!!