Saturday, November 29, 2014

Yeongsil Trail Up Mount Halla (Hallasan) Part 1 @ Jeju Island [Korea]

With more than a hundred and fifty photographs, my hike up South Korea's tallest mountain via Yeongsil trail would definitely be one of the longest blog post ever even though i am still contemplating at this point if i should break it up into two posts!

Whichever the case, i have to begin somewhere and i guess starting from the car park under the backdrop of a spectacular cliff would be an appropriate step. 

Yeongsil Trail, at 5.8 kilometers long, was labelled as the shortest yet the most scenic route for hikers, especially during autumn. By shortest, the guidebook meant a walk of 2.5 hours; one way! 

We were not deterred as members of my family were known to be fast walkers and how hard could mountain climbing be?! Such haughty comment from a man whose highest ascent was the 168-meter Bukit Timah hill could only mean trouble in time to come. 

It was cold (my estimate was less than 10 degrees celcius) and we had to don our winter jacket shortly after stepping out of our warm and comfortable Hyundai Morning. 

By the way, don't you think that my younger sister looked like she was on her way to the market where she can take out the things from the recyclable bag, lay them down on the mat and hawk them to interested parties?!

There were random splashes of autumn colours; guess the period we went wasn't the full fledged autumn season when the entire forest would be decked in brown and red. 

A stream along the way.

Steps on the ridge!!! Our eyes immediately looked towards Louise (she was the instigator for this hike) and asked if we had to climb so high up! She replied "don't know, this is my first time also".

With our fingers crossed, we continued our journey. Oh, terms and conditions for all hikers! Well, it didn't seem to deviate from anywhere else; no smoking, no camping/ cooking etc.

See those relaxed, excited, happy faces? Sustainability would be an issue soon. 

Map showing our progress! Another few more kilometers to go! This would be chicken feet for those ladies who shopped a lot; for example, both my sisters! Of course, climbing up versus walking on flat surfaces is eons apart. 

This was a common feature in a few of my China visits and some of you might even note the resemblance this has with the Tibetan prayer rock piles.

Guess my sister still remembers the trip we made to Yunnan, where such a practice was the norm in Shangri-La. Anyway, no harm adding a stone to the pile just to bless the hike.

The soothing colours of autumn! 

Hardship began from here! Bloody steep steps and i could hear the exclamations (peppered with intelligible words; likely vulgarities) from the older generation when they got to this spot! 

If not for the nylon rope next to the stairs, i can bet with you that many amateur hikers would likely tumble down and seriously injure themselves.

Our orange saviour!  I totally pity those who took their toddlers along; it is a given that they would have to be carried which would further drain the strength to pull yourself up!

With sight of the clear blue sky, i thought this would be the end of our ordeal; at least for a few hours before we descended the mountain. 

Turned back and it was an incredibly impressive sight of the East China Sea! 

A platform for the tired hikers; a much needed respite for those who just got out of hell! We rested our legs for around ten minutes before deciding time mustn't be wasted this way! We had too much to cover that day! 

Weird looking flower; looked like a mix between a poppy plant and an oddly shaped lotus seed capsule. 

Folding Screen Rocks (Byeongpung Bawi) - in my opinion, the most iconic structure along the trail after Hallasan crater. Wait, there were people walking on top of the rocks?!??! Guess that's where we are going to. :(

For a better look at the surrounding, you can use the stationary binoculars at no charge. The Folding Screen Rocks are also known as abode of the gods as they were often covered in clouds; not during our visit though.

The trail that just goes up and up and up. At this point, we were around 1,400 meters above sea and had hiked for around an hour. Darn, we had really lousy stamina. Haha.

Since the weather was superbly good with minimal clouds, photographers were out in full force to take the rocks in all its glory! I really respect those photographers who take the trouble to bring along a tripod and have the patience to use it.

A cheery photograph of the two sisters before the truth sinks in.

Truth was; there was still a ton of climbing to do and the initial happiness quickly dissipated with the appearance of more stairs! 

Joyce was still fairly optimistic that the end was near. Anyway, the scenery was too good to spoil the photo moment with a grumpy face. 

It was coming to 9 am and it's fascinating to find the temperature rising so dramatically within an hour! We were actually sweating and i was glad to have worn a thin tee shirt beneath my winter jacket.

Louise is a vampire, given her dislike for sunlight. Hence, we could not grasp her reason for suggesting a mountain hike in Jeju Island!

Ahjumma in a hurry to sell her wares! Actually, the sun was slowly eating into the shaded areas and she had no choice but to move her ass.

Although tagged as an 'A' grade (difficult) segment, this wasn't as bad as the ones we just came out from. Maybe it was the beautiful scenery that kind of motivated us to trudge along. 

1,500 meters above sea level - Hallsan, despite holding the prestigious position as South Korea's tallest mountain, is only a modest 1,950 meters tall. 

Dangerous woah; the great length a photographer would go just to get that epic shoot. I am usually not that adventurous, especially when it means challenging my fear for heights!

With the sun glaring at us, it would be a difficult task to take decent photos too! There's actually a lens hood which could help to avoid the glare; i was too lazy to bring it out. My fault. 

More steps... and we were not even halfway up! I regretted not eating more at breakfast; the black pork BBQ dinner we had the night before was totally digested!! 

As you can see, the terrain wasn't as jagged as those on mainland China and Dad, being a veteran of China tours, wasn't impressed with the photos so far.

I beg to differ. The beauty of nature also depends on the atmosphere, the weather and at time, the people surrounding you and although physical appearance plays a part, the fact that it is crafted by nature means there are always differences that seek to make it unique from the rest.

The power of photographers and the prevalent use of technology (shutter speed, aperture, photoshop etc) also mean a piece of rock can take on an appearance vastly different from its original look. Take an example, my sister seemed to be taking a jump off a cliff from the above photograph. 

Of course i wouldn't subject her to such danger! 

According to the location map, we had not even reached the 1.5 kilometers mark! There were still another 4 more kilometers to go! What?!!?!?!?!?!?!?

Personally, i think hiking is for hiking enthusiasts or locals who have more time to plan; definitely not for travellers who are hard up for time! 

Even when greeted with a such scenic view, it didn't really stop us from taking a well-deserved breather. Our objective was simply; clear as far as we could!

I did manage to dig into a bar of chocolates a fellow colleague specially bought in London! 

There were a number of colourful information panels installed which would explain the kind of eco-systems, iconic structures, the species of animals / plants etc found along the trail. The above showed the kind of birds you can find in Hallasan.

What i saw were ravens, ravens and more ravens! 

The lack of vibrant flowers in the entire landscape was also a surprising phenomenon even though it could be because of the season when we were there. Sparsely distributed were the purplish flowers with spiny petals as shown above.

As it aged, the petals would turn white, dry up and be ready for dispersion by the wind! The plant was easily recognisable with one notable feature; the sharp, spiky leaves! 

Panoramic view! 

I am bad with trees and have no idea if this tree was dead or alive. There was a bunch of them spread out on a plot of land and i would show them either later in this post or in part 2. 

Doesn't this look magical!? A person blowing a mysterious ring of power to counter his / her enemies! Since there is no sign describing the name of the rock, i shall hereby name it "blower"!

A kind of berries, i think. 

Note the emergency number in case of any incident / accident. I would have loved to scan the QR code but it would have been a futile attempt since we didn't sign up for any data! Rule of thumb, sign up for data so long it isn't going to cost you a leg or arm. 

More climbing to go.....How many times have i shown the pictures of stairs? 

A signboard alerting all hikers to take the trail leisurely. Yes, i believe i would need this sentence of encouragement to push me forward. 

One wrong step and you can say bye bye to your loved ones. Please don't bring your hyperactive kids unless you are confident in managing their behaviour. 

Back view; there were many times we wanted to give up, cut short our hike and proceed to our next destination (which is O Sulloc). Other than proving ourselves, curiousity was another motivating factor. 

I didn't realise it then but after sieving through the pictures, i can roughly work out we should be on top of Folding Screen Rocks at this moment. 

9.30 am - the path was getting rocky again and i wasn't looking forward to another torturing walk. I did recollect from the location map that once we passed Folding Screen Rocks, the route would be easier. 

Heng ah! Really not as bad albeit a bit narrower than the pathways before. 

The only labourious effort made was to cut through volcanic stone bed where the summit of Hallasan was ahead of us. Do note that Yeongsil trail would not bring you to the crater summit!

So what lies ahead after we walk out? Do look out for part two! The kids are in my house now and i have dedicated some time to play with them instead. Blogging is a passion but family is more important. :)

For Part Two, click HERE.


Western Seogwipo,
Jeju Island

Contact Number to Key in GPA

For the summary of my inaugural South Korea trip 
(Seoul and Jeju Island), click HERE.


  1. Lovely photos! Thank you so much for sharing this amazing tour! Warm greetings from Montreal, Canada. :)

    1. Thanks, Linda! It was amazing alright; just physically exhausting! haha.

      Heard it is super cold in Canada now; a friend is in Calgary and she was posting pictures of heavy snowstorm there!

  2. Thanks for this awesome post! The pictures are good! Now i am more mentally prepared for the hike. Had initially thought we can complete the hike in 2 hours! Will be sure to allocate more time for this activity.

    1. Yes, safety comes first! Do take a breather every now and then to enjoy the spectacular view! If possible, bring along some snacks too. I was so tempted to beg for a bag of chocolates from fellow hikers! Haha

  3. Lovely photos! I did this hike in the winter and it was quite challenging!

    1. Oh my god!!!!!! You did something i fail to do. :(

  4. I enjoyed reading your comments n seeing the photos that followed. I have in mind to visit jeju island n do some tracking, following the Youngsil trail as I understand it is the shortesttrail. I feel encouraged to follow my dreams after reading your comments...but then, there's age factor that I have to consider. Thank you for the interesting post..

    1. You should! as with any hiking, just be safe and take things slow and steady. Now sure how old you are but i have seen elderly gentlemen and ladies taking the trail too. Do bring along hiking sticks!!!

  5. Amazing pictures! What time did you start hiking? Is there any water points?

    1. i started from 8am! Don't remember seeing any water points.. But i might have overlooked it as we went prepared with bottles of water. lol.

  6. Hello! Lovely photos you've got there! (: May I know which month did you visit Mount Hallasan? Would love to catch their autumn bloom but I'm not sure when does autumn starts in Jeju.

    1. Hi Janice! Thanks for your compliment! I visited in the month of October and like you, i was hoping to catch the autumn beauty but it was not to be. :( Hope you have better luck than me!

  7. Hi Cavin,

    After read up your post, it has encouraged me to go for my coming trip to Jeju in Sep. May I know that you have taken how many hours to complete this whole course?

    1. Hallo! We took about 3.5 hours! Hope you would enjoy Jeju as much as i did and if you are self-driving, please be alert!

  8. Hi, where did you get tickets for the yeongsil trail? Is the start of the trail from the ticket booth area itself?

    1. Hallo! I didn't buy any tickets; thought access is free....

  9. Hi Cavin!

    Appreciate your post very much, how detailed it is and what nice photos! You probably also saved me from a tough hike with a young child. If Yeongsil trail is supposed to be the shortest hike, any idea what is the _easiest_ (if the answer is different)? Anything that might be doable with a kid?

    Btw, what camera do you use? Sorry i can't help asking as the photos look very good. Did you bring along different lens for the close up photos?


    1. Hi Kai!

      You are most welcome and thanks for your compliment! If i recall correctly, Yeongsil is said to be the easiest! How old is your child?

      I used Nikon D7100 and i don't use fixed lens unless it is for food. Hahahah. As this was quite some time back, i couldn't remember if i lug along my zoom lens. However, the zoom lens isn't as good as the 18-105mm standard lens. :P


  10. i love your photos... what time do they open the trail for hiking in the morning? thanks

    1. thank you! i think the operating hours depend on seasons and i was there at about 7-ish to 8am. Heard no one is allowed to stay overnight.

  11. Thank you for this detailed (tons of photos) post! So fun to read other people's experience. It reminds of the hike I did in Hallasan and of the sections I had forgotten about!

    1. It must have been a wonderful trip! After this pandemic, i would love to revisit Jeju Island and check out the other trails at Hallasan!

  12. This is a very helpful post. I am planning a winterYeongsil hike but forecast says high winds at 80kmph with windchill below -20C. Your photos makes me want to try again in summer. Thanks for the sharing.

    1. most welcome! i visited during autumn though; summer might be a bit too hot, i heard. haha.