Ascent of Halla-san on 2012-12-26

Climber: Christopher D'Aiuto

Others in Party:Bill D'Aiuto
Mark and Aubrey Bigenho
Date:Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Taxicab
    Location:South Korea
    Elevation:6398 ft / 1950 m

Ascent Trip Report

This was my first hike in snow/winter conditions, and it was phenomenal.

Started at the Gwaneumsa trailhead/campground at 7:09. We didn't see anyone else around, and did not see where you could rent crampons as I had read about, so we just went up in our boots. Shortly after, others in crampons passed us, so it might be the vendor opened late. On the way up, after it had snowed the day before, the trees were completely covered in snow, and as the sun rose, it was a true, beautiful winter wonderland. We saw chinese red pine (pinus tabuliformis), Korean white pine (pinus koraiensis), and abies nephrolepis. Got to shelter at 10 am.

This trail has awesome views of rock outcrops and formations. This also had the steapest sections that were very hard without crampons. Luckily, there are ropes most of the way up, so with time and balance, it is possible.

Got to summit at 12:14 pm. The clouds cleared away from the south so there were clear views of Jeju-si and the sea. There are boardwalks on the summit. There was a hundred people at the top! I can't imagine how much busier in the summer it would be. There is no trail to the higher western peak, but it was only blocked by guardrails. No officials were around to keep people away. It didn't seem to be much higher anyway.

Descended Seongpanak at 1 pm. This section has tons of Korean fir (abies koreana), maples, and a grove of Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica ; had thorn-like needles). Also spotted a wild boar (Sus scrofa coreanus)!

We took taxicabs from Jeju-si to and from the trailheads for 11000 and 20000 won respectively. Not bad for 4 people.

Websites recommend going up Seongpanak since it is a more gentle and a smaller gain approach, but on our approach we had a hand full of people pass us, and were alone most of the morning (until the crampon people caught up). Almost all the hundred people at the summit came up Seongpanak, so we were also almost alone on our descent. And if there wasn't snow and ice, or if we'd had crampons, I'd imagine our hike time would have been much lower. I just wish I would have had time to hike up from sea level!

Descending without crampons can be dangerous as the trail was very compacted snow to slabs of ice (also making gators optional). But since we were wearing all-weather pants, we found sliding down the steep section on our butts was really fun and much safer! I highly recommend it, even if you have crampons.

Hit up a jimjilbong afterward to recover from the cold and pain.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:4364 ft / 1330 m
    Total Elevation Loss:3938 ft / 1200 m
    Round-Trip Distance:11.4 mi / 18.3 km
    Quality:8 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Snow on Ground, Snow Climb
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
    Weather:Frigid, Breezy, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:4364 ft / 1330 m
    Distance:5.4 mi / 8.7 km
    Route:Gwaneumsa Trail
    Start Trailhead:2034 ft / 619 m
    Time:5 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:3938 ft / 1200 m
    Distance:6 mi / 9.7 km
    Route:Seongpanak Trail
    End Trailhead:2460 ft / 749 m
    Time:3 Hours 

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