Sunday, February 24, 2013

태백산 산행 - 하편

A part of Holstee Manisfesto said, " Travel often. Getting lost will help you find yourself."
I found half of myself at Mt. Taebaek. I was lost in a sense I could not figure out where I was on earth at any time, but was not lost as I was always guided by directional signs and footprints on snow. At no time was I required to push my limits. Difficulties met along the way were well within my means to cope. Mt Taebaek was not highly challenging but I am glad I did something different. A sense of achievement is always sweeter than enjoyment.

Despite the biting cold, I spent nearly half an hour at the peak. I was literally freezing but in a state of excitement. The endorphin rush probably kept the pain at bay so I could hold up much longer than I thought I could.

If at the start point of ascent, my objective was the peak, then at the beginning of descent, my objective was home. Descending was definitely easier but it was no less risky especially when moving down steep and slippery slopes without crampons.

10:37am : View of Janggun Peak from Cheonwang Altar.

On my descent. Mang-gyeong Temple (망경사, 望鏡寺) is at the end of the slope. By the way, 썰매 (ice sled) is prohibited if that idea ever crosses your mind. You will be warned by sign put up at every slope.  

Situated at one corner of Mang-gyeong Temple (망경사, 望鏡寺) was a spring called "Dragon Well" (용정, 龍井). To call it a well is a misnomer. It was said that in ancient times, a pavilion was built over the spring where people prayed to the dragon god. Since then, the spring was known as "Dragon Well". Legend has it that a carp ascended up Mt. Taebaek from Nakdong River and transformed into a dragon when it reached Dragon Well via "Jagaemun" (now known as "Gumunso") - a rock scenery in Mt. Taebaek

The legendary "Dragon Well". Spring water still flows freely on the coldest day of winter.

"The spring water from the "Dragon Well" was once used as offering when sacred rites were conducted at the top of Mt. Taebaek to honour the Heaven. This spring is Korea's highest spring at 1,470m above sea level. It is ranked top among the 100 most famous springs in Korea. The spring water has an refreshing taste that is uncomparable." The brief introduction of Dragon Well was taken off a signboard. It was so cold that I did not dare entertain the thought of drinking from the spring even though it sounded so special and heavenly.

After some hesitation, I decided not to drink it. Too cold for comfort.

A statue of Manjusri bodhisattva at Mang-gyeong Temple which is rather small.

Small birds, which were not afraid of human, feeding on ramen seasoning spilled by some careless visitor.

Knee-height snow on the sides. Luckily, hikers before me have cleared a path for me.

Path was so well-defined that it became quite unchallenging. But the good thing was I knew I was on the right track.

After an hour or so, I arrived at Banjae (반재) which was supposed to be a rest area. The tables and stools were all covered in knee-height snow. I sat on a stool which was cleared of snow and had my lunch. The gimbaps and orange juice were all frozen. Frozen gimbaps tasted weird but the orange juice was nice. After my lunch, I continued my descent to Dang-gol Square. The slopes from then onwards were much gentler but there was no exotic scenery or yew trees to enjoy along the way.

11:35am: Reached Banjae (반재) rest area. Table and stool were covered in snow at Banjae. Gimbaps were frozen when I took them out of my bag. I ate them anyway, too hungry to bother about the ice in them.

These trees look like they were planted by people. Too orderly to be natural.

Cute birdie "asking" for food but I have none.

Snow-covered trees look awesome

Without its snowy facade, the cliff looks "old"

Bring on the sled but no gurantee you will remain in one piece at the end. Reminder: Ice sledding in Mt Taebaek is prohibited because you never know where you will end up at.

Terrain getting flatter as I got nearer to the end point.

It seemed like a river ran under the bridge but I could not tell.

I could sense the end when I met more and more people along the way.

The end was near when the path became flat.

12:42pm : Reached Dang-gol Sqaure, the end point. Dang-gol Square is the venue where the annual Mt. Taebaek Snow Festival is held. Inside each of the wooden and metal structures was a snow sculpture which was hidden from public view until the snow festival which is usually held at the end of January.

The metal tower structure is the landmark of Mt. Taebaek Coal Museum.

An ice fountain seen along the way to the exit.

Preparation work in progress for the coming snow festival.

After five hours of trekking in an extremely cold day, I was only too glad to catch a cab back to my accommodation beside Taebaek Station. With the completion of my Mt. Taebaek's "challenge", I have also completed my sight-seeing in Gangwon Province.

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