Let me give you a brief introduction about Hallasan, so you can see where I am coming from later. Hallasan is the highest mountain in South Korea and a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site. It is a massive shield volcano and forms the bulk of Jeju Island. The peak of the mountain is at an elevation of 1,950m (6,400ft).
There are seven trails up the mountain, but only two to the summit: Seongpanak Trail (9.6km) and Gwaneumsa Trail (8.7km). The time to the summit for the two are pretty similar since Gwaneumsa is shorter but steeper. The trails are opened in the daytime and entrances are closed by a certain time so that hikers are able to climb down the mountain before sunset.
We woke up when it was pitch-black, at about 4.30am, so that we could start the climb early. Daylight started to appear as we pulled into the carpark to Seongpanak Trail.
Do not believe the trail grading of ‘easy’, ‘normal’ and ‘difficult’. It should have been ‘difficult’, ‘more difficult’ and ‘most difficult’!