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Step on Cloud Belt… Origin of Korean People

Posted January. 13, 2005 23:06,   


Four o’clock in the morning, in the dark sky surrounded by valleys of Chungsan-ri (Sichon-myon, Sancheong-gun, South Gyeongsang Province) twinkle the countless stars. So bright are the shining stars which never emerge in the grey sky of the cities that it feels like being in a new world. On the other side of the sky sits half Luna who stays up all the long winter night with the stars.

After two hours of mountain climbing, passing by the Sword Stone to the Rotary Shelter, I get some rest for my weary legs. On my way further, a glimmering light catches my eyes. It’s Beobkye Temple. Still the dark dwells in the deep mountain, and the earthlings in towns are yet in bed. However, the Buddhist priests already started their daily routine, finishing morning worship to Buddha and their morning service.

About seven in the morning when I almost reach the handrail right below Chonwang Peak (the highest peak of Jiri Mountain, 1915.4m), white clouds flock to the east sky where daybreak is about to defeat the dim twilight. It’s because air warmed by the sun starts convection. It is said that the sunrise on Chonwang Peak can be seen only by the descendants of those who lived virtuous life over three consecutive generations. Seeing the clear dawn sky with twinkling stars, I expected to see the sunrise this time. Not so much unfortunate was I, since I met the young sun over the ocean of cloud.

Cheonwang Peak, at last. There was no sign of wind during the four hours of mountain climbing, but as soon as I step on the peak, strong wind rushes from all directions so that it is hard to keep my balance. Amid the wind, the boulder reading “Cheonwang Peak” on the top of the pile of stones stands firm. “Spirit of Korean People Origins Here,” the back of the boulder says. Baekdu Daegan, the range of mountains that run through the Korean Peninsula, starts from Jiri Mountain to Baekdu Mountain, and the spirit of the continent flows through it to erupt here. By climbing this mountain, I can identify the spirit of Baekdu Mountain running through me.

Now I walk on the ridge of the mountains to the north. With the boulder on my back, I step down from the pile of stones. The ridges of mountains are covered by white snow. Nothing blocks my eyesight to the world around me. Feels like I’m on the top of the world. On the path along the ridge to Jeseok Peak, I can see Jungsan-ri Valley on my left which I walked all morning, and Hamyang City of South Kyungsang Province and Namwon City of North Jeolla Province on my right.

In no time, the white clouds encircle the mountain’s breast: the ocean of clouds. The mountain on the clouds looks even more mysterious; feels like the weariness from the climbing vanishes. Jeseok Peak is a bare mountain with withered trees rolling over.

I reach the market place. It’s a market located in the middle of mountains where people of Hamyang and Sancheong, two towns at each side of Jiri Mountain, gather, sell, and buy what they brought. On the rather non-spacious flatland stands a mountain shelter with a kitchen and wooden bed. There you can buy groceries and medicines transported by helicopter.

Now it’s time to descend the mountain. I can go either to Baekmoo-dong, Hamyang, or Jungsan-ri, Sanchong, where I departed. On the old paths to both places, Korean ancestors who carried goods on their heads and backs to the market place were strewn with sweats.

Information for Mountain Climbing-

Courses -Climbing up-Jungsan-ri∼the Sword Stone∼the Rotary Shelter∼Bupkye Temple∼Cheonwang Peak (7.4km); Ridge of the Mountain-Jeseok Peak∼the Market Place~ the Mountain Shelter (1.7km); Climbing Down-Market Place∼Yuam Waterfall∼Jungsan-ri Valley (5.3km)

Advice-Night Climbing prohibited during two hours before the sunrise and sunset (except New Year’s Day); Water: fountains are frozen, and the shelters are short of water. Carry enough before climbing; Shelter Accommodation: You can make a reservation on the Internet site of Jiri Mountain National Park (www.npa.or.kr/chiri), up to three people per person, two-15 days prior. Need to show ID on arrival. Rate 7,000 won except shelters in Yonhachon, Piagol, and Baemsagol (5000won).

Telephone- Jiri Mountain Managing Office 055-972-7771∼2; Sub-office in Jungsan-ri 055-972-7785; Market Place Shelter 016-883-1750

Seung-Ha Cho summer@donga.com