If Seoraksan Mountain is considered to be akin to a fierce waterfall and Jirisan Mountain a meandering valley, Deogyusan Mountain is like a loosely flowing river with a peak of 1, 614 meters, making it the fourth-tallest mountain in Korea. This is why many flock to Deogyusan, which sits on the border between the provinces of Jeollabuk-do and Gyeongsangnam-do and is in the Baekdudaegan, the mountainous spine of the Korean Peninsula.
Written & photographed by Lee Jae Hyoung
Each mountain in Korea has a prime season during which its beauty peaks. Deogyusan Mountain is famous for being beautiful year-round, but winter is when its brilliance truly comes out. The mountain has a ski resort unlike other national parks and is the country’s southernmost ski resort. A long gondola lift for those seeking to easily reach the ski slopes makes Deogyusan all the more convenient.
A combination of the gondola lift easing the tough ascension and the highbut-not-stiff topography offers relaxation hard to find on other mountains. Climbing the 1,614-meter-high mountain is also not hard for senior citizens, children and even the disabled. Thanks to online reservations, visitors need not dread long lines.
Going to Hyangjeokbong Peak
This trail allows a single line leading up the mountain.
Arriving at Seolcheonbong Peak makes one feel as if he or she climbed the 1,520 meters in no time. The route to Hyangjeokbong Peak, the summit of Deogyusan Mountain, requires a 30-minute walk after getting off the gondola. Mountains tend to incline steeply when approaching the summit, requiring perseverance up until the last moment, but scaling Deogyusan needs only a leisurely walk.
The road between Seolcheonbong and Hyangjeokbong peaks is lively thanks to the people enjoying the snow-capped mountain. They use their smartphones to take pictures of whatever scenic spots appear.
Skirt with Pretty Creases
The wide-open ridge of Deogyusan Mountain offers a scenic treat for the eyes.
Trees covered with white snow instead of green leaves on both sides of the road disappear and the last slope leading to Hyangjeokbong Peak appears. The summit is also spacious, and the expansive four directions come in contact with the blue sky.
The gigantic mountain range stretches to Jungbong Peak, Dongyeomnyeong Pass, Satgatbong Peak, Namdeogyusan Mountain and Yuksimnyeong Pass in what appears to be soft creases created when a traditional Korean skirt falls lightly.
Feeling the strong wind and seeing the wide-open view are attractions of the 1,614-meter-high highlands. Clouds come and go repeatedly in a flash once the unexpected wind at the peak sets in. Accordingly, blue skies and dense fog keep changing to make climbers feel like they are on a winter mountain.
Gems Formed by Biting Wind
Those who climb Deogyusan Mountain on foot during the snowy winter will see traces of someone who swept snow off the frozen signpost by and.
Yew trees and Korean firs near Hyangjeokbong Peak form a beautiful sight in winter.
Deogyusan Mountain is famous for unusually strong wind gusts. Walking along the ridge, one often encounters a wind that climbs up the mountain slope and crosses the mountain to the opposite side.
The wind also causes gems to be formed on the mountain every winter. Snow lies thick on skinny branches and repeatedly melts and freezes, and Deogyusan’s cold wind blows to create blade-like ice by texturizing a grain and sharpening a blade repeatedly, producing gems.
Hoarfrost, or frost that appears in crystalline form on something, is a great reason to climb Deogyusan Mountain in winter, as the entire building on Seolcheonbong Peak appears to be frozen solid.
While deciding which attractions in and around the summit to visit, people can rest with a cup of warm coffee at the mountain cabin Hyangjeokbong.
The road to Jungbong Peak is comfortable like a walking trail during the 20-minute trip. There are no excessive ups and downs or rugged rocky courses, and travelers can walk the comfortable road and look down at the wide-open world.
A cluster of beautifully curved trees are on the way, specifically of the yew and fir varieties that Deogyusan is famous for. The mountain was probably famed for a cluster of yew trees back in old times as well.
“This is called juniper, but why does it have no scent?”
“This tree will have a scent after the Maitreya (a Buddhist messiah) returns to the world.”
This dialogue between a classical scholar and a monk who passed this place 450 years ago is said to be heard here.
The gondola lift quickly brings visitors to Hyangjeokbong Peak, whose elevation is 1,614 meters above sea level. © imagetoday
Reaching Jungbong Peak and seeing the mountain range stretched endlessly to the north reaffirms the greatness of Deogyusan Mountain. The route where trekkers can seem like they are walking on a high mountain comfortably ends here. Most who take the gondola lift here return time and time again after seeing the expansive mountain range from the peak.
The road from the peak to Yuksimnyeong Pass through Dongyeomnyeong Pass is considered a full-fledged climbing course many enjoy year-round. For those who wish to stay the night, the shelter Satgatjae midway offers relaxation on the journey.
Novice climbers can ride the gondola lift to reach Hyangjeokbong Peak in just 20 minutes. © imagetoday