I anticipated my body would feel terribly tired but I woke up refreshed. If I walked around a city for 8 hours it would take a lot longer to get recovered, I thought. That’s the power of Mother Nature, maybe.
Today’s itinerary: Yeonhacheon Shelter – Hyungjaebong Peak – Byeoksoryung Shelter – Seseok Shelter – Jangteomok Shelter [13.5km]
Today is the longest day of the ridge hike. To get an early start, we prepare breakfast at 6am. It’s a beautiful morning again! The clouds of last night are nowhere to be seen, and we are again blessed with warm morning sun. Under the orange-glowing sunlight, we eat our oatmeal to prepare for the day. Today’s route is considered intermediate level. I feel more optimistic compared to yesterday’s advanced level trail.
At 7:30am we say goodbye to Yeonhacheon. One of the good things about today’s hike is that there are two shelters and one spring along the way. The first shelter, Byeoksoryung, is 3.6km away. It’s 6.3km more to Seseok and 3.4km after that to Jangteomok Shelter where we sleep tonight. This means we don’t need to carry full bottles of water. That saves 1-2kg, and that’s huge.
If you want to catch the early morning landscape, it’s also a good option to walk 3.6km to Byeoksoryung Shelter and eat breakfast there. We thought of this while eating breakfast. Maybe next time…
The trail today is supposed to be intermediate but the level of walking feels harder than yesterday. Compared to wooden staircases, today we have a lot of loose rocks. With substantial weight on the back, it isn’t so easy to climb the steep sections. The wildflowers and amazing scenery help me keep going.
Hyungjaebong Peak (1452m) means peak of two brothers. Like the name, two rocky peaks appear 2km in, which is more than half way to the first shelter, Byeoksoryung. The view from this shelter would be legendary when there are no clouds. Located on the ridge between dense forests, Byeoksoryung is also a popular place for ridge hikers to sleep. The water source here is located about 140m downhill. Suddenly I’m thankful for the nearby water stream yesterday.
The distance between Byeoksoryung to the next shelter Seseok is about 6.3km but there is a natural spring an hour from here, so no need to fully top up your water. The first couple kilometers are truly intermediate level but the rest of the way is quite difficult because of loose rocks and elevation changes. This 6.3km section is quite hard but I keep thinking to myself, ‘I’m here, I’m walking, and I’m going to make it!’. There is something special about being in the wilderness. It makes me calm and more energized.
Sesok Shelter is also another option for ridge hikers. It’s a good alternative if Jangteomok Shelter is fully booked. But if you want to climb Cheonwangbong Peak for the sunrise, it’s better to stay at Jangteomok which is right below the peak.
From Sesok, it’s 3.4km to Jangteomok. It’s a difficult way but I have only one thing in mind: Spam. That’s right. It’s the special treat we saved for the last night’s meal. I feel like I can do anything to get to that Spam! But toward the end, I feel myself getting crankier. I was mad at the national park people to mark this trail as ‘intermediate’ not ‘advanced’. I was mad at myself for not knowing it before. I was losing my spirit. But thankfully we reach Jangteomok before I was gone too far. My energy was restored quickly after sitting down for a little while. We arrived at the shelter about 5pm. The map said 13.5km but my GPS said we walked 16.13km for 8 hours. Good job, us!
Second day record: 16.13km for 8 hours
In the old days, Jangteomok Shelter was the place where villagers came to trade. Jangteo means ‘market area’ in Korean. This is located right down the hill from Cheonwangbong Peak, the highest in mainland South Korea. There are also several hiking trails to descend. Because of its convenient location, this shelter is often fully booked. You can see the reservation status through the national park’s reservation system.
Sleeping arrangements here are a bit less private with more people sleeping in a smaller space. Each sleeping compartment is divided with only a small screen between sleepers. Men and women sleep in different rooms. But there are plenty of power outlets, rooms are heated, and there is a section where you can hang your wet clothes. Now it really feels like I’m in the mountain. Despite being the least fancy shelter, I still consider this as glamping.
It’s 99.9% humidity this evening so we can’t see a thing. Will we see the sunrise tomorrow morning? No one can say. It’s known that the Sky God (or guardian of this world) only allows you to see the sunrise from Cheonwangbong Peak if three generations of your family did a lot of good deeds. That shows how rare it is to actually see the sunrise. We ask the park rangers for the sunrise schedule and his prediction of tomorrow’s weather. He says “Sunrise is at 5:27am. Weather is just like any other day, but it’s up to your luck to see the sunrise.” There was rain forecasted for the next day so we were not really sure if we could… But I can’t not try especially when I’m right here. So we are going to be at the peak tomorrow at 5:27am, no matter what.
Jangteomok to Cheonwangbong Peak is only 1.7km but it is a steady uphill. Most of the people take about 1 to 1.5 hours. But the good thing is that we can leave our bags here because we’ll return after the sunrise. We’ll leave at 4am tomorrow morning.
Did my family do a lot of good deeds? I’ll know tomorrow morning. I went to bed at 9pm in my small sleeping area full of hope.
Blanket (there are only blankets in this shelter, no sleeping pad) 2000won
 Day 1: Sungsamjae – Nogodan Shelter
 Day 2: Nogodan – Yeonhacheon Shelter
 Day 3: Yeonhacheon Shelter – Jangteomok Shelter
 Day 4: D-Day Cheonwangbong Peak Sunrise Extravagant