The best part of a winter trip must be hiking on a snow-covered mountain. A sight of the world covered with white snow overnight makes us feel warm in the cold weather.
Such beauty of white snow is what we are missing all the more in the polluted city center. Furthermore, because of the extraordinarily warm winter whether, it is hard to expect snow in Seoul ever since the first snowfall of this year last month.
Mt. Deogyu surrounding Gucheon-dong in Muju is well known as the best of the best winter mountain. The snow-prone area has a ski resort and its summit is already covered with frost and snow, making a splendid view. Let us relieve our impatience for snow while participating in a snowflake trekking course to Mt. Deogyu.
Beauty of Pure White which Sanggodae Makes-
The name Mt. Deogyu represents a generous and virtuous mother mountain. The mountain situated over Geochang of Gyeongsangnam-do, Anseong-myun and Seolchun-myun, Muju of Jeollabuk-do makes a splendid view with many peaks which are approximately 1,300m above sea level, including Hyangjeokbong (1,614m) which is the main peak, Daebong, Jungbong, and Sakkabbong.
There are as many as eight valleys in the mountain. Among the valleys, Muju Gucheondong is a well-known national tourist attraction which is a 30km valley flowing between northeastern Muju and Mupung to Namdaecheon, a branch of Geumgang. In the valley, which is known to consist of 9,000 curves, many famous attractions exist such as the 33 scenic attraction of Gucheondong, including Gucheondong Muigugok, Guwoldam, Susimdae, Haksodae, and waterfalls like Chilyeon pokpo and Yongchu pokpo.
Baekryeonsa around the summit area of the mountain is the only Buddhist temple in Gucheondong valley. Passing through Iljummon by walking on the arch-shape bridge at the entrance of the temple, you will see 108 stone steps that symbolize 108 agonies of life. Stepping on the steps, there is a calm view of the temple with small and big buildings, including Daewungjeon.
As there is Sanggodae through the winter in the mountain, you can appreciate the beauty of pure white anytime, even if there is no snow. Sanggodae means a frost flower, made when humid clouds and fog are attached and frozen on the tree. The frost flower appears at a place at least 1,000m above sea level when the temperature is lower than minus six degrees and the humidity is more than 90 percent. Mt. Deogyu, under which Geumgang flows, has the perfect condition for the frost flower and also has exceptionally more snow compared to other places.
Reach the Summit by Gondola-
Although the scenery covered with snow is beautiful, it is not easy to climb to the summit of Mt. Deogyu, which is 1,600m high, and passing through the piled snow. But there is no need to worry. If climbing is hard, you can take gondola from Muju resort to the summit.
The pathway of gondola reaches Seolcheonbong (1530m), a peak just under Hyangjeokbong. Especially, if you take the gondola on a day when there are snow clouds in the middle part of the mountain, you feel as if you are taking a walk on the clouds. As you are approaching the summit of Seolcheonbong, the scene of trees covered with snow swinging in the wind looks like more like a pure white coral reef rather than trees. It is as if you are exploring the sea in a submarine.
That is not all. Riding a gondola, you will find a different view of treetops, which you could not see while climbing up the mountain. It is the same mountain, but the feeling is very different from when you are walking in the mountain. A particular pleasure of riding a gondola is that you can enjoy the view of inside of the mountain while relaxing, rather than walking hard. Reaching Seolcheonbong in a gondola, you will find another spectacular scenery. Take a step outside the gondola platform, and you will not see anything because of thick clouds covering the whole world. Youll find an observation tower after walking through the clouds for a while, but youll be confused as to whether it is real or a dream.
Layers of White Ridgeline-
It takes 20 minutes on foot from here to Hyangjeokbong. It is particularly enjoyable to walk through the trees making a tunnel of snowflake. It is also an unforgettable experience to look over the world on the summit of Hyangjeokbong. You will feel free and open when you see the layers of ridgelines from Cheonwangbong and Banyabong of Mt. Jiri to other peaks of Mt. Sokri. At least at the moment, youll be free of all concerns of the world.
After you taste the real pleasure of the summit of Mt. Deogyu, it is also good for you to enjoy the landscape of the hiking road while walking down the mountain. It takes three hours on foot from Hyangjeokbong to Gucheondong. The shortest course is from Hyangjeokbong to Muju Gucheondong via Baekryunsa, but the path to Baekryunsa is somewhat steep. On the other hand, another path to Chungbong takes 40 minutes longer, but offers the sight of beautiful snowflakes on the small trees along the gentle ridgelines.
Muju Resort 063-322-9000
There are one-day train trip courses for snowflake trekking of Mt. Deogyu from Seoul Railway Station on Wednesdays and Sundays in January. The expense including gondola fare is 52,000 won. Woori Travel Agency 02-733-0882
Article Choi Mi-seon, Travel Planner, email@example.com
Photograph Shin Seok-gyo, Freelance Photographer, firstname.lastname@example.org