Hiking Mt Hallasan, Jeju Island

I looked up some videos on YouTube about climbing Mt Hallasan on Jeju Island, South Korea’s highest mountain at 1, 950 m. It seems most agree that it is not an easy climb. The ascent and descent together is about 18 km in total and the average person would take an estimated 10 hours.

The ascent map shows your progress

My first reaction was surprise at the elevation. Korea has many mountains yet their highest is only 1,950 m. This cannot be compared with Mt Kinabalu in East Malaysia which is 4,095m high and I have hiked there several times. By comparison, Hallasan should be doable.

However, as the day drew near my anxiety increased. I hardly could train as I had originally planned. Saturday church ministry meant I was available for training intermittently. Thus, I tried to squeeze in some training on days and times different from the rest of the Saturday hiking group. I did make sure I had at least one endurance training which went from 7.45am to about 12.45pm. I remembered how a lack of training ditched one of my earlier group hikes in Hong Kong on the MacLehose trail. And I was not as young as before when I did my earlier hikes up Mt Kinabalu. What made things worse were weather forecasts of cold weather! That worried me as I hated cold!

When the group gathered together at the airport most of us knew each other. Some of us had hiked together for years. Others were new. The oldest was Jenny Teo, 75, the leader’s elder sister. The youngest was Eunice Lian, about 23. Most of us were in their 60’s including me. With mixed ability and levels of training, the challenge was obvious, “How can we keep the group walking and summiting together?”

We stayed about five nights in Forest Hostel (photo: Yenny)

It was good we had a few days in Seoul to relax and carbo-load before the climb. I will blog about our days in Seoul in a later blogpost. We took a Jeju Air one hour flight to Jeju island and settled into the Forest Hostel. The weather was often on our mind, so we flashed our requests up to God about this.

The light of dawn revealed the beautiful autumn colours of Hallasan
At 1,200metres
Our hiking group leader Linda Teo with her elder sister Jenny (age 75) (photo: Jeffrey)
Jessie (who surprised us) and her strong husband Jeffrey who carried her backpack!

We decided to take the difficult Gwaneumsa trail (8.7km) up, and the easier Seongpanak trail (9.6km) down. We started our hike early at 6.45am. We wanted all in the group to be able to make it by the time fixed by the park. For safety sake, they turn back hikers who cannot make it to the three quarters point by a certain time. So the leader, Linda Teo, appointed Brian to be at the front and nobody was to overtake him. He would pause and regather the group at various points up the route. She took the rearguard. The route was straightforward and no guides were required.

Steps – wooden, cement, stones, rocks, mud. Be prepared to step up!
The vegetation gets wiry the higher we go
It was cold as we got higher and there was melting frost on some parts

As light gradually shed its rays on the forest we saw how beautifully the valleys were dressed in their lovely autumn colours, set in the midst of grey rocks and dried stream beds. Taking our time to enjoy the sights and take photos, the hike seemed quite leisurely during the early part of the hike. And I was thanking God for the fine weather: it was not as cold as weather reports predicted! The terrain and vegetation changed as we hiked up the route. We paused to drink, snack, take pictures, use the toilet and to regather the group.

The rangers offices and resting and toilet area where people are turned back at a specific time.
Hong Kwen and Brian 
Eunice the baby among the seniors (photo: Eunice)
Nellie and Tan Jee Lian (photo: Eunice)
Bibi (photo: Hong Kwen)
Plodding the upper stretches before the summit
A few bridges but this was the most impressive near the summit

The last stretch was deja vu for me. It felt like that last stretch before we reached the Laban Rata rest house at Mt Kinabalu. All of us made it on time except for a lovely couple who did not meet the time requirement. They were advised to go back down the same route. Later, when they heard stories of the rest of our hike, they were glad they were turned back. It would have been impossible for them to ascend to the summit and down the trail without great difficulty. By the time they were turned back, the rest were already hiking the last uphill climb to the summit. It would be another hour and a half before we reached the summit at about 1 plus. Someone brought a Singapore flag and we took photos and looked around the summit, peering down the crater lake (more of a pond), and the cotton clouds below us.

Another mountain nearby. Good thing it wasn’t Hallasan.
Another unknown mountain. Is this the Hallasan?
The summit area
Joy Lian (photo: Yenny)
Yenny and Y.K. (photo: Yenny)
Kenny, Jenny and Beng Chai (photo: Yenny)
At the summit of Hallasan with the clouds below eye level
Looking around at different directions at the summit. Some were on the way down.
The crater lake or should we say “pond”
Filled with excitement, satisfaction and relief at the Mt Hallasan summit with a Singapore flag. (photo: Linda)
Descending was difficult for the first kilometre
This was what 5.37pm looked like near the end

Then the mountain ranger hurried us off. We were at risk of hiking in the darkness if we did not hurry. Darkness fell early at about 6pm. We raced down even though we carried LED torches with us. If we could, we would rather not hike in the dark on uneven stony paths. By 5.30pm it was already dark. We reached the car park at about 6.45pm. Others in the group returned later. I thanked God for Beng Chai and Brian, who helped one of the hikers, who sprained her ankle at the summit area, down the trail at her pace. When all were in the bus, we were happy to return back to the hostel with a great sense of satisfaction, and exhaustion. I was so thankful to God during the climb for the fine weather and the strength to summit and descend safely.

Jurong Lake & Little Guilin Ride

We were supposed to have started our ride at 7.30am. But it rained and so the Brompton Pastors Club had breakfast in my home. A leisurely breakfast. By the time we finally rode off it was 9am. The weather was superbly cool. We rode to the Chinese and Japanese Garden because Then Chee Min came all the way from the east. At the least he should ride through the gardens. Then we were on the PCN to the Little Guilin. The west is where I live, so I guided the group. At Little Guilin the rain fell and we adjourned to a Malay kopitiam for an early lunch and fellowship (and theological discussion abut generational curse) till the rain stopped. Then we headed to the former granite quarry at Bukit Batok Park and from there proceeded to the PCN that links the Bukit Batok to the Ulu Pandan PCN. Our original plan was to do the Ulu Pandan PCN to Ghim Moh for lunch but rain altered our plans and we called it quits after we did the lovely Teban Garden overhead  steel bridge. We reached my home by 12.15pm. A wonderful splendid lovely morning with pastors! God’s way is always better – the rain forced us pastors to spend as much time time seated around the table of fellowship as on our Brompton foldies; and it cooled the day which otherwise would likely have been direct sun on us by mid-morning.

Early morning rains delayed our ride. We were in no hurry.
Unfolding the Brompton folding bikes.
Ready to ride by 9am!
At the Chinese Gardens main building
Riding along Bukit Batok streets
Two oranges, two blues and two greens. Bromptons against Little Guilin.
Wefie.
Shelter from the rain. Might as well have an early lunch!
Old quarry at Bukit Batok Park
Along the way on Bukit Batok PCN to Ulu Pandan PCN
Trouble on beautiful steel bicycle bridge that connects Ulu Pandan PCN to Teban Garden PCN. Brompton toolkit and common sense solved the problem. Thank you Jesus.
One final shot for the road.
Back in my home: 4 folded Bromptons inside a Toyota Wish. Incredible sight.

When pastors ride together in their Bromptons

At the Pasir Ris MRT we introduced ourselves and engaged in small talk while we waited for all to gather

This ride had an interesting element. Two of the pastors were new to the group: Jason and Vincent. We wanted to get to know them more, and of course to ride the park connector network from Pasir Ris MRT to Ponggol MRT.

It was my first time taking a Brompton on the MRT. It was a breeze even with the 6.30am crowd.

For me it was the first time I would be taking the Brompton bike into the MRT. Now we can do it at any hour. Formerly the bike was not allowed during peak hours. Some friends would be taking the Brompton on the bus from Potong Pasir to Pasir Ris.

I was at the Chinese Garden station at 6.30am. I live in between Chinese Garden and the Jurong East stations. I thought I should be able to get a seat but the train was full, and I was only able to get a seat when the train reached Eunos MRT station!

We introduced ourselves and waited for everybody to be present and then we took off. It was a pleasant ride all the way to Coney Island but after that the sun grew stronger and the Ponggol stretch was harsh.

A Halus Bridge wefie
Coney Island’s highly photographed green metal gate. They should spend money to do it up and make it iconic.

During the ride we took some breaks and Richard and I were doing some “evangelism” the wrong way. We were trying to sell the plus points of owning a Brompton bike to one of the pastors there. We extolled the great qualities like its compact fold, its engineering efficiency, its eye-catching uniqueness, its smooth ride, its durability and how it can be a great retirement vehicle. However we were too brash and near oppressive in our approach. So likely this friend was left with a bad taste in his mouth.

Waterwaypoint….at last!

We were happy to arrive at Waterwaypoint. The coolness refreshed us and we settled at the MacDonald’s at the basement. We got their coffee but bought buns from the Four Leaves bakery nearby. Here we were: Anglican, Pentecostal, Baptist, Evangelical, and Canaanite (haha). We got to know each other better and did what pastors did best: talk shop.

Vincent overpowered by two Kennys!

Interestingly we abandoned our original plan to ride to Brompton Road. Everybody had things to do. So we went off in different directions: some rode home to Potong Pasir and Toa Payoh. Vincent and I rode back to Pasir Ris where he parked his car. However, along the way an idea struck us so we tried calling Kenny Fan to see if he was free for lunch. He has moved to Pasir Ris Bethesda Mission Church. We have not met as a group for over a year. This was a good opportunity and we had lunch at Changi Hawker Center and good coffee at a cafe. It was wonderful to touch base as we updated each other on what’s been happening in our lives and pastorates.

Its always good to have friendships with pastors outside of your church or even denomination. There is a richness there, an anointing of life and abundance. How blessed for brethren to dwell together in unity, there the Lord commands his blessing. Do you have pastor friends outside of your church and denomination? Like to hear from you.