73 Ascent into coldness 3 a.m.: The Hallasan attempt began. Our group of 12 filled the van with eyes half closed, carrying our hiking equipment, plastic-wrapped pastries and Dixie cups of coffee. After a slow, icy drive, we arrived at the park entrance. 4:45 a.m.: Dozens of hikers packed the entrance, adjusting their cram- pons, taking group photos and finishing up a final pre-departure snack; and in the wan winter light we ascended in droves up the darkened trail. The mood at first was jovial, and chatter drowned out all other sounds, but after an hour the trail ascended sharply and the blanket of snow cover- ing the ground became thicker; the chatter ceased and a silence pervaded our reso- lute throng. 6 a.m.: Sunrise. The early morning rays started to filter through the trees, and we packed away our headlamps and flash- lights. The sunlight — a welcome guest after an hour of fumbling along in darkness — turned the untouched snow on the trees a soft blue, and the hikers remained silent in respect for the natural beauty to which we were all privy. 11 a.m.: We reached a shelter and took cover, and I realized I was quite ill-prepared for the cold: My face (uncovered) was red and sore from wind burn, and my fingers were numb. When I was offered a hot cup of coffee, I gratefully accepted. 2 p.m.: We were about an hour and a half from the top, at least according to hearsay, but then our group leader pulled aside a few members and exchanged some rap- id-fire Korean. It had been decided that we would not continue to the top. The snow hadn’t been cleared, and our ferry back to Incheon was departing in just a few hours. There was a chance we could make it if we increased our speed, but we risked losing our transport home. After a quick group vote, it was decided that we would turn back. A smAll but tenAcious group For the third time, I missed catching a glimpse of the elusive Halla- san peak. I didn’t take the obligatory photo with the famous crater in the background. I didn’t catch a glimpse of the lake, Baengnokdam. Despite this failure on all accounts, there was no disappointment. The point of visiting Jeju Island in the winter, the reason why determined visitors take on the challenge of a 12-hour hike up Korea’s highest mountain through uncleared snow, isn’t just for that coveted crater selfie. Rather, it’s to see the beauty of Korea’s natural environment at its harshest and most unfor- giving, and to convene with the small but tenacious group of visitors who prefer trudging up a mountain at 5 in the morning to lying on a beach in the tropics. And so what if a winter vacation in Jeju doesn’t go exactly as planned? That’s why there’s soju and heukdwaeji. There was a chance we could make iT if we increased our speed, buT we risked losing our TransporT home, so afTer a group voTe we decided To Turn back.