After leaving Sobaeksan and Chungju Lake, I continued westwards across Chungcheong-buk province.
A Korean told me that any mountain with ‘ak’ in the name (Woraksan, Seoraksan, Chiaksan, etc.) is particularly steep and difficult to hike up.
This is Ma-aebul, an ancient carving depicting the Buddha. Legend claims that it was carved at the request of one of the last princesses of Silla, who was distressed by the ancient kingdom’s imminent collapse, yet the artistic style indicates this was carved during the Goryeo dynasty (the name ‘Korea’ comes from the Arab name for ‘Goryeo’). There is a small hermitage nearby, and I heard prayers as I passed by.
The National Park people have highly developed the trail up to Yeongbong, the highest peak of Woraksan, so one doesn’t need any kind of skill to hike it now, but it is still very steep once you pass Ma-aebul.
I did this hike the day after I went on a boat on Chungju Lake, so after the ridiculously steep ascent, I was rewarded with the view of the lake from above.
I originally planned to go all the way to Yeongbong, the highest peak. However, once I passed the point where Chungju Lake was first visible, I changed my mind. From that peak to Yeongbong was not much altitude gain, just a twisty up-and-down trail over granite rock without much promise of spectacular views until near Yeongbong itself. I decided to conserve my time and energy for something else (which will be in the next post), and satisfied myself with merely looking at the peak of Yeongbong.
This meant I got through a very scenic section of the hike twice.
There were more and more hikers, and they were astonished that I had completed the hike so early. I didn’t tell them that I turned around before reaching Yeongbong.
Another reward was seeing a real, wild Korean woodpecker, and getting a photograph before it flew away.
Woraksan had been the site of an ancient fortress, and a bit of the ancient wall remains.
All and all, it’s a beautiful (albeit steep) hike which combines history, culture, mountain vistas, and wild critters.