After summiting Cheonwangbong, the highest mountain peak in mainland South Korea, it was time to get to the shelter where I had a reservation.
Speaking of shelter reservations, any foreign tourists trying to get reservations at shelters in South Korea should know this: as of 2014 (the year I visited South Korea) there was no English-language website where you couuld get mountain shelter reservations, and even if you used the Korean-language website, it was impossible to get a reservation without a residency number, which foreign tourists do not have!
A South Korean who lives in Germany told me that, even though he is a South Korean citizen, the online reservation system would not accept him because he is a non-resident.
The way I got a shelter reservation is I sent emails to email@example.com, and I thank the staff member who responded for arranging the reservation at Seseok shelter for me. By the way, even if you do not have a South Korean bank account, you can send money to the Korean National Parks’ bank account by visiting any retail bank in South Korea (I was charged a 1,000 won fee for this service).
After taking longer than expected to get up the ridge, I practically flew along the ridge trail as swiftly as my adrenalin could muster.
It didn’t take me long to reach the top of Jeseokbong, which at 1,806 meters is the third highest peak in Jirisan and mainland South Korea.
Apparently, Jeseokbong was once covered with forest, but in the 1950s illegal logging was common in Jirisan, and the illegal loggers accidently set off a fire which killed all of the trees at the top of Jeseokbong. The National Park says this is a parable which should teach us to value and care for the environment.
After passing Jeseokbong, I descended to the little coll where Jangteomok Shelter lies.
I could tell that Jangteomok Shelter was going to be full that night, and that they must have all gotten their reservations early.
It’s no wonder – Jangteomok Shelter is the closest to Cheonwangbong. Rotari Shelter is also close, but Rotari Shelter -> Cheongwangbong is a lot steeper than Jangteomok -> Cheongwangbong. These overnighters all wanted to get up early enough to see the sunrise from Cheongwangbong, mainland South Korea’s highest point.
After I passed Jangteomok, I continued to encounter many hikers bound for Jangteomok.
I continued on the way, letting appreciate the scenery a little, but not so much that I would not reach Seseok Shelter by sunset.
I passed Chotdaebong, which at 1,704 meters is the 8th highest peak in all of South Korea, and finally caught sight of Seseok Shelter, which would be my home for the night.
I wanted to sleep in at least ONE mountain shelter in South Korea (I like to compare mountain shelters), and Seseok Shelter was that one. It is the largest mountain shelter in Jirisan National Park, and since it’s not particularly close to a popular peak or convenient access route, it was not full that night (it turns out I didn’t even need my reservation since they were accepting drop-ins).
It wasn’t a particularly social experience, probably because I don’t speak Korean and they didn’t speak English, but it’s a clean, comfortable (by mountain standards) shelter. I used my sleeping bag, but they also rent out blankets.
When it was time, I tucked into my sleeping bag, put in my ear plugs, and closed my eyes.