Cheonwang Peak at the top of Mt. Jiri offers breathtaking views throughout the year but takes on a special dimension in winter when it is coated in snow. Rising up to 1,915 m above sea level, it ranks as Korea's first national park (designated in 1967) and second-highest mountain after Mt. Halla on Jeju Island.
The mountain extended over two southern provinces of the country looks, from a distance, like a huge rock supporting the sky. It is also one of the best places to catch the first sunrise of the New Year.
Various climbing routes reveal different landscapes and scenery. Cheonwang Peak can be reached by the Jungsalli or Baengmudong courses, and visitors are recommended to stay overnight at one of the mountain's shelters in order to make the most of their trip.
However for those who only have one day to spare, Jungsalli serves as the best and most practical option. The first section of the course from the information center at the entrance of the mountain to Jangteomok is comparatively easy to climb. The route alternates between an earthy path and steel stairs, with a stream flowing beside parts of it.
Around two hours into the ascent, the scenery changes and snow covers the ground. This can go from being ankle-deep to almost knee-high as climbers trudge higher up the mountain’s slope and reach Jangteomok, where there is a shelter offering a restful respite as well as food and useful mountaineering items. The shelter also has cooking facilities, but all refuse must be collected and taken away to keep the area clean and well-maintained.
It takes around 1.5 hours from the shelter to Cheonwang Peak. Unlike the first section, this 1.7-km trail is lined with trees that have long shed their leaves. As visitors reach the peak, the world takes on a white glow and they can recline among the snowfields while snapping photos of the neighboring mountain ranges after an exhausting day's hike.
The descent takes around 3.5 hours by following a 5.4-km trail. Those who visit in winter are advised to take extra safety precautions and prepare thick and water-resistant clothing, gloves and hats. They should also bring appropriate climbing gear such as a head lantern and a stick, as well as some snacks.
For more information on Mt. Jiri, visit the website at http://english.knps.or.kr/.