Head in the clouds: Island-based climbing

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Head in the clouds: Island-based climbing


Hiking the peak of a mountain on an island and glancing down at the surrounding sea feels almost as if one is walking on water. And contrary to what people might think, most mountains on islands are reasonably easy to climb ― most are less than 500 meters above sea level and steep valleys are rare.
After reaching the top of the mountain, visitors can also observe a broad spread of green beneath their feet. The merit of this type of hiking is the combination of mountain climbing with an invigorating voyage at sea. Moreover, people don’t need to bother with crowds of other tourists, unlike on well-known mountains near the city, which often feel more like being in a crowded subway than getting back to nature. The trip to the island can be peaceful and carefree as well. With the long afternoons of summer lingering on, one can spend time promenading on the deck, take a short nap in the cabin or just appreciate the scenery while traveling.
It can take four to six hours to reach the summit on some islands but, if you want to return home the same day, it’s best to allot only about two hours for climbing. The following are some recommendations:

Mangwol summit, Buan, Wi island
Wi is an island 14 kilometers from Geokpo dock in Byeonsan-myeon, Northern Jeolla province.
The hiking trails on Wi were installed only two years ago. The trail to Mangwol summit is 12 kilometers long, taking most walkers about six hours to travel each way.
A 3-kilometer-long course from Wiryeongtap memorial tower to Gaedeulnyeom town takes one and a half hours. Despite being the toughest course on this mountain, the trail is highly recommended because of the many seafood restaurants along the way, allowing hikers to rest and enjoy fresh fish as well as the views while walking around the coast.
A 3-kilometer course from Gaedeulnyeom to the tiny island of Chi, which takes around one-and-a-half hours, leads to the beach. For beginners, a 6-kilometer path, taking about 6 hours, is an appropriate choice.
“During weekends and holidays, about 50 people visit the island. One way to enjoy climbing is to take only some parts of the trail then walk along the coast road,” said Lee Hyo-yeol, a staff member at the district office on Wi island.

Take a car ferry from Gyeocpohwang terminal for a 40-minute voyage, then transfer to a bus at the dock to reach the entrance of the trail system. The ferry costs 6,700 won ($7) per person and 24,000 won per car.
For more information, call (063) 581-0023 for the ferry terminal or (063) 583-3804 for the district office on Wi island.

Mount Daebu, Yeosu, Geumo island
Located in Dadohae Marine National Park, 40 kilometers from the Joongang dock in Yeosu city in the southern part of Jeonra province, are 11 inhabited and 29 uninhabited islands, part of Nammyeon district. The district office is on Geumo island and 1,700 residents live there. Mount Daebu, at the northern part of the island, is 384 meters above sea level.
At the entrance to the hiking path is a pile of stones, called “shil,” and a stony slope, named “edulgyeong.” After walking for about 50 minutes, climbers arrive at the summit of the mountain where a spectacular scene is spread out beneath them. “On a fine day, people can observe Baekun mountain in Kwangwang, Geomun island, Baek island in Yeosu and Sarang island in southern South Gyeongsang province,” said Kim Wan-yong, a vice head of the district office.
The path downhill from Daebu island is quite steep. Climbers can easily make a false step while concentrating on the amazing views. An 800-meter track from Samguri, or the three road intersection, to Yeochon village takes two and a half hours. If you want to pass by Kali, Neujin and Oknyeo peaks, the distance is 11.3 kilometers, taking around five hours.

A ferry to Yeochon village from Shingi village in Dosaneup, a village in Yeosu city, takes only 20 minutes. The fare is 3,500 won per person and 11,000 won per car. For more information call (061) 66-8092 for Hanrim Marine Transportation or (061) 690- 2605 for the Nammyeon office.

Shunwang Mountain, Sinan, Bigeum island
Bigeum is an island 54 kilometers from Mokpo port. It has an area of 48 square kilometers and about 3,900 inhabitants. The hiking trail starts 255 meters above sea level on Shunwang Mountain. Most climbers drive to Sangam village on Shunwan Mountain to begin. A 5.4-kilometer course from Sangam village to the beach over the peak of Shunwang Mountain takes about three hours. Less than 10 minutes walk from the start, the picturesque scenery of distant blue sea and peaceful fishing villages rolls out below the climbers. Bigeum island is the biggest salt producer in Korea and the salt field is an integral part of the superb view. When descending from the mountain, most climbers opt for the path to Hanuem beach, which was featured in the Korean soap opera “Waltz For Spring.”

by Lee Hai-suk

Take a high-speed passenger ship from Mokpo terminal to Bigeum island. The fare is 14,750 won per person. The Chadosun, a car and passenger ferry, costs 6,300 won per person and 27,000 won per car. For more information, call (061) 244-9915 for the Namhae speed ferry or (061) 244-0005 for the Chadosun. The phone number of Bigeummyeon office is (061) 275-5231.
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