Sunday, November 13, 2016


I thought it would be a lifetime regret if I only experience autumn once. So I packed my bag, put on my new hiking boots and left for Korea again. It has been 6 years since I last visited Korea during autumn and memories of autumn at Naejansan (내장산, 內藏山) and Damyang's Metasequoia Forest Road are still fresh in my mind. However, given an opportunity, it is always better to live in the present than past.

The main destination of this autumn trip is Daedunsan (대둔산, 大芚山). When I told the owner of the guesthouse I stayed in, I went to Daedunsan, he asked, "구름다리 (cloud bridge)?" Yes correct, that mountain with the "cloud bridge". Besides the swinging bridge, Daedunsan is also famous for its "samseon" stairway (삼선계단) and special rock formations.

View from top of Daedunsan (대둔산, 大芚山), at Wonju County, North Jeolla Province

End of October is a peak visiting season at Daedunsan. In order to avoid the maddening weekend crowd, I chose to visit it early on a Monday morning. The cable car operates from 9am onwards. I reached the cable car station at 8 but yet, I was not on the first cable car up. There were already more than 50 people ahead of me in the queue. Each car can take up to 51 passengers and there are two cars operating in opposite direction. In my case, I only waited about 15 minutes before the next car arrived. The six-minute journey to the mountain station felt much longer when I was distracted by the scenery around me.

Cable car with a capacity for 51 passengers. Traveling time in one direction - about 6 minutes

The first stop after getting off  the cable car is the observatory (전망대). From the observatory, you get to enjoy 270 degrees of unobstructed autumn view. But when I returned to it after descending from the peak, I found the view rather ordinary. In other words, the view higher up was much better.

Observatory - the first stop after getting off cable car

A view, from Observatory, of the rock formation and autumn foilage

The second stop is the must-visit "cloud bridge". There are some steep steps to climb and a short distance to walk to get there but not particularly tough. The cloud bridge does not swing a lot but walking across it can still be quite a challenging for some. My advice is just look straight and it will be alright.

Next stop - the cloud bridge (구름다리) of Daedunsan.

The "cloud bridge", a swinging bridge, hangs between two cliffs

The third stop is samseon stairway. The narrow path to the stairway demands a little bit more of physical fitness. It is like a one-way street where you cannot turn back once you embark on it because there will be many people behind you, pressing you to move forward. If you do not like exerting too much, then returning to the cable car station after crossing the cloud bridge is recommended.

Pine at the edge of mountain adds a poetic feel to the scenery

Looking down at Daedunsan cable car station. The autumn hue will become more intense in the following week.

Samseon stairway is very steep and narrow. Although not very high, it seems like I took forever to climb to the top. When I was halfway up, the height at which the stairway is located, gave me a bit of dizziness. This must be the highest "ladder" I have ever climbed.

The samseon stairway looks awesome from afar. I could not give it a miss after coming so far.

Special rock formations amid beautiful autumn foilage

The cloud bridge as seen from samseon stairway

One-man width samseon stairway on close-up. Once you step on it, you can't turn back even if you regret your decision halfway.

There no way back now. The only direction is up.

The last stop is Macheondae (마천대), the peak. The last lap was the most difficult. As I climbed up the rocky and steep slope to the peak, I have to stop multiple times to catch my breathe. For people who do not exercise frequently, leg cramps will most likely happen. It was definitely tough but if 60-plus years old grand nannies could make it to the top despite repeated complaint of "힘들어, 힘들어", anyone younger than them should have no excuse. It took me an hour to reach the summit after getting off the cable car.

Macheondae (the peak) looks so near with zoom but yet so far in reality

Finally, on top of Macheondae, the peak of Daedunsan (848m)

The best view is not always at the peak but in the case of Daedunsan, it is.

Looking back at the route I took to come so far, the cloud bridge and the samseon stairway

Walking below the cloud bridge on the way back to the cable car station

Back at base station

I spent about two hours up in the mountain, By the time I reached the base station, it was about 11 am. The crowd has built up. There were hundreds of visitors queuing for cable car. I was glad I have completed my objective early and did not have to jostle my way through the crowd. Going on a mountain trip always brings me great satisfaction. I enjoy overcoming the challenges on the way to the top. Beautiful autumn scenery was just a bonus.

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