If you hike Mt. Taebaek in the winter be diligent in preparing everything you need to be comfortable.
Mt. Taebaek is in Taebaek Provinvial Park in Gangwon-do on the eastern side of the country. It is the highest peak in the Taebaek Mountains at 1567 vertical meters. It’s famous for it’s beauty and is a popular hiking destination, even in the snowy winter months.
I hiked Mt. Taebaek during the weekend of the Taebaek Snow Festival in January, and it was very busy. It was cold, but luckily the weather was clear and not too windy. This was my first experience doing any kind of mountain hike in the snow and ice, and I was unprepared, to say the least. Still it was a magnificent experience that I will always remember.
If you are thinking about hiking Mt. Taebaek in the winter, here are some points to keep in mind before you go.
1.It’s far from Seoul
The trip from Seoul takes about 4 hours by bus, and it is through the mountains and into the remote wilderness. Buses from Seoul Station leave around 6:00 or 7:00 in the morning, so depending how far away you live, you must wake up early. It will then take at least three hours to hike up and back down again, so it’s not a feasible day trip from Seoul.
Instead, you should either spend the night in Taebaek city either the night before your hike or the night after. Plus, there are other attractions to see in the park. I spent the night before my hike and came back to Seoul after the hike. Some people prefer to wake up early to watch the sunrise from the top of the mountain.
2. It is crowded on the trail
Despite Mt. Taebaek being so remote and far from Seoul, this is a popular hike for outdoor enthusiasts, even in the winter. That said, the trail will be packed with hikers. When I went, it was literally packed. You probably would never imagine seeing a hiking trail packed so full of people. The bottom is particularly crowded, but it does thin out toward the top, marginally.
It will be crowded coming down too, and you can expect people to fall into you. You will also see people taking shortcuts off the trail to try and bypass everyone. However, the snow is not packed there and is more difficult to walk on.
3. Bring crampons for your shoes
This is a must. If you go with a tour group, they should have some that you can borrow. Otherwise, buy some. Even if you only use them once, they will be worth it for this hike. I suppose it would be possible to go without them, but the trail is ice and packed snow, so it will be too challenging to be any fun if you don’t have them.
The hike itself is not difficult, but the ice makes it difficult. And who knows, maybe you will enjoy snow hiking so much that you will do it again, so if you bought your own crampons, they will turn out to be an investment.
4. Take a walking stick
I didn’t have one when I climbed Mt. Taebaek, but it probably would have made the hike easier. It gets slippery as the snow gets trampled on, melted, and turned into ice. Having a walking stick should help prevent you from wiping out too many times. It will also help you pull yourself up the steps and inclines if you ate getting tired toward the top.
5. Wear warm, waterproof, windproof clothing
It might seem obvious, but don’t underestimate how important this is. You will be warm from hiking, but the temperature will likely be below zero. It can get windy on the top, and the wind is like a thousand icy knives. You don’t want it getting through your jacket and pants. I only wore jeans, and it wasn’t enough.
Don’t forget about protecting your head, ears, neck, and nose. And if it snows, or worse, rains while you are hiking, and your clothes aren’t waterproof, may God have mercy on your soul.
6. Have waterproof shoes
I can’t stress this enough. If you read my post from the snow festival the day before, you will know that I didn’t prepare the proper footwear for this trip. I wore Uggs, which are useless if the ground is wet.
As you hike, you will slip and slide, and your feet will get covered in snow and quickly become wet and so so so cold. Crampons won’t prevent this. Thus, it is essential that you wear waterproof hiking shoes so your little toesies don’t fall off. Frostbite is real, yo.
7. Pack water and something warm to drink
You are hiking, after all, so bring something to drink. I always prefer simple water when I do any kind of physical activity, since other drinks can make you more dehydrated. However, you also might want to pack a thermos of something warm, like tea, cocoa, coffee, or even soup.
If you are lucky and the top is not too windy, you might have a chance to enjoy a mini picnic. If you forget to bring a hot drink, buy one at the bottom of the trail when you are finished.
8. You will likely fall on your ass
There’s a chance you will fall, either on the way up or on the way down, maybe both. The crampons do help a lot in keeping your feet steady, and I imagine a walking stick would make things even better. In my experience, I only fell on the way down because I was part of a domino effect. It is slippery. It is a bit trickier coming down, and sometimes you fall not due to your own steps, but because someone behind you is going down and takes you with them.
9. Don’t forget to enjoy the scenery
The trail is crowded, cold, and slippery. But it will also be beautiful. Don’t ignore the snowy trees along the trail or the wind-blown drifts on the top. You won’t be very happy with yourself if you are too focused on the negative aspects of a snow hike that you forget to enjoy the moment. So, relax for a minute, forget about the cold, and take in the winter wonderland of the Taebaek Mountains.
Do you have any experiences hiking Mt. Taebaek or any other mountain in the snow and ice? Let me know about it in the comment section below.
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Read: Taebaek snow sculptures
Read: Taebaek snow festival