• Halla-san
  • 1950 m
  • Primary factor 1950 m
  • South Korea HP
  • Location: North 33.36141, East 126.52944 (GPS at the summit)
  • Difficulty: YDS class 1 (class 2 to true summit)
  • Climbed July 9. 2015.


How to get there:
First fly to the island of Jeju, located south of South Korea. Halla-san is not only the island HP, but also recognized as the highest mountain in South Korea.
There are currently 2 trailheads that can be used, Gwaneumsa and Seongpanak. The first one starts from the north side, while the Seongpanakb trail starts more on the east side. The location of these trailheads are:

Gwaneumsa:   N33.42192, E126.55019, elevation about 585 meter.
Seongpanakb: N33.38470, E126.62039, elevation about 750 meter.

Here is a summary of climbs from this trip in the summer of 2015.
Route description:
From the Seongpanakb trailhead, a pretty wide an obvious trail leads directly into the forest. The trail is a mix of board-walk and wooden steps with sections of fairly irregular (rough) rocks in between. There are lots of informational signs along the trail that show you where you are relative to the entire trail from beginning to the end. The first shelter is a bit more than 4 kilometer along the way. A second shelter is located about 8 kilometer from the trailhead. At the very end, the trail has more staircases as it reaches the crater rim. At the rim, there is a fairly extensive set of walk-ways and markers and various displays and signs. All along this trail, the signs have stated that this trail leads to the top. Unfortunately, as is plainly visible to anybody making the rim, this is utterly false, since the opposite side of the crater (the west side), is clearly higher, perhaps by about 20 vertical meter.
In order to continue to the true high point, some care is needed. First, proceed to the right and locate the top of the trail coming up from Gwaneumsa. Descend the beginning of this trail (staircase), followed by a traverse left. Keep an eye on the terrain as this trail again runs left and gets very near the crater rim. Here, there is a smaller trail that descends along the crater rim into the lowest part of the crater rim. Continue uphill on the far side, there is a slightly steeper section here that is (YDS) class 2. Gain the broad, grassy ridge and follow it to the trailhead. There a trig-point marker as well as a somewhat unstructured cairn.
Note that this last part of the route may be prohibited by park officials. Thus, it is most safely carried out in fog and or at a time of day when there are no (few) other hikers at the rim.
First attempt: I had decided to try this climb via the shortest route, Gwaneumsa, in order to be back at the conference by noon. Thus, I had taxi reserved for 0430 and arrived together with daylight, at precisely 0500, the first possible time to start a hike according to park regulations. It was raining, but the rain was forecasted to subside before noon. However, we were met by a rather hysterical park official. He claimed that the entire mountain was closed due to the rain. Any attempt to show that I was well dressed for rain and that the rain also was supposed to decrease substantially, went seemingly unnoticed. He finally said that unless we drove away, he would call the police! No need to argue any more, I returned back to my hotel and still had plenty of time before breakfast. This attempt essentially consisted of a long ride by taxi for the (not unreasonable) sum of 70.000 krw.
Second attempt: Needless to say, I was eager to give this a second try on the last possible day before my departure day. With the experience from yesterday, I decided to try the other trailhead. Thus, another taxi was booked, this time for 0500. We actually left a bit before the agreed upon time and I was ready to hike at 0530. There was absolutely nobody else around. Somewhat to my surprise and contrary to the forecast, it was still raining. This time, I had left my raincoat behind, hiking in shorts and a light wool shirt. No problem getting wet when it is as warm as here. I set a fairly steady pace, this trail is about 10 kilometer with a net elevation gain of 1200 meter.
I passed the first shelter area at 0630 and the next shortly before 0730. There were numerous signs along the way informing hikers that the latest time to pass the upper shelter would be at 1300. I arrived at the rim of the summit crater at 0815. There I discovered that the Gwaneumsa trail was still closed, this may explain part of my trouble yesterday. It was still a slight drizzle, and somewhat foggy. It was impossible to see across the crater. Park officials probabely expect the first hikers to arrive at least one hour later and there was not any sign of life. As I walked across to where the Gwaneumsa trail enters the rim, a sign explained that this trail was closed due to rock-fall. This might explain yesterdays trouble, however, the guy at the Gwaneumsa trailhead had insisted that all trails were closed due to rain.
I walked counter-clockwise along the rim following a small, but visible trail. After a bit of descent, I noticed that my trail again touched the Gwaneumsa trail and that a somewhat bigger trail originated here. This is clearly the best location from where to start a summit hike.
I continued across a broad saddle, the lowest part of the crater rim, then climbed more steeply uphill. A short section here is (YDS) class 2. Higher up, I entered a nice, broad ridge that subsequently led directly to the highest point.
I was there around 0840. There was still fog and I could not see back to the east rim. I took some photos and did a GPS waypoint recording samples in about 5 minutes. The fog was about to lift and I got some nice views of the crater, as well as downslope the mountain. It was time to leave and I walked briskly back to the Gwaneumsa trail, then followed it back up to the east rim view point. Taking some more pictures as well as an accurate GPS reading, I did not leave before 0925. There were still nobody else around.
Descending, I soon started meeting the crowd of Koreans on their way up. In fact, I soon met about 200 Korean soldiers out on some sort of training session. Subsequently, I met people almost continuously. I was back down at the trailhead precisely at 1200. About 10 minutes later, I got on bus 380 that took me down to the center of Seogwipo. A taxi from there, and I was back in my hotel for a well deserved shower around 1300.