Jeongryeongchi is one of two mountain passes that cross over Jirisan, the Korean mainland’s largest mountain, and it is the single biggest climb in Korea based on elevation gain, adding over 1,000m over 13.5km of distance. This climb is a beast, plain and simple. It’s big. It’s steep. It’s hard.
The climb comes in two sections of roughly equal length. The first 7km average 6%, but it’s not a steady climb. From the moment the climb begins this part of the road repeatedly ramps up and levels off, with several of those ramps hitting 10%. But as you reach the final parts of this first section, the gradients really ease off, giving a nice opportunity for a little recovery before the climb really kicks up.
The second half of Jeongryeongchi is, to put it succinctly, rather brutal, averaging 10% over the final 6.5km. This part of the climb rarely dips below 9%, and when it does it’s only momentary. And, like the first half of the climb, this second section pretty regularly throws even steeper ramps at you, and the closer you get to the top, the steeper they become, some hitting as hard as 15%.
Not only is Jeongryeongchi an incredibly challenging climb, it is also beautiful one whose aesthetics change noticeably from beginning to end. At the lower slopes of the climb the road primarily traces the edge of the mountainside which allows for some gorgeous views to the left of the other mountain ridges and the valley between. The forest off to the right provides excellent shade with its deep, green tree cover. But as you approach the second half of the climb these characteristics change. Here the road takes a more direct route to the peak, cutting a straighter path through the forests. The trees themselves grow smaller as you gain elevation and the forest itself seems to be a bit sparser. There aren’t many full vistas to enjoy, but little glimpses here and there through small breaks in the trees hint at the possibility. But until reaching the rest area at the top, there really isn’t much in the upper slopes to enjoy.
Jeongryeongchi really is a monster of a climb. It’s big, sure, but it’s also just really hard, especially the second half. But don’t let that scare you away. Every cyclist in Korea should give it a go. Just take your time and be ready to suffer a little bit.