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Mountain Trekking in the Secret State

North Korea - May/June. 2017
What an experience! For quite some time I've been wanting to visit North Korea to showcase some of the mountains they have that are very rarely seen by outsiders. The opportunity came up this year, and I wanted to do this before the political climate got too hot.

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The view of Pyongyang from my hotel.
Pyongyamg, North Korea cityscape.
The Juche Tower in Pyongyang. We were allowed to go to the top and get a great view of the city.

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Pyongyang, as seen from the top of The Juche Tower.
Pyongyang.
Walking around in Pyongyang, DPRK (North Korea) The place has very few billboards or advertising, other than party propaganda posters everywhere.

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Kim Il-Sung square in Pyongyang, DPRK. This is where the big parades of military hardware are held.
Uniformed woman, directing traffic in Pyongyang, DPRK (North Korea). Behind her is one of countless propaganda posters that are ubiquitous in the city.
Fountain in Pyongyang.

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At the podium in the 800 seat library auditorium in Pyongyang, North Korea.
Subway system. Pyongyang, North Korea
Subway system. Pyongyang, North Korea

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Riding the subway system. Pyongyang, North Korea
Commuters in the Pyongyang subway, reading the latest government-run newspaper headlines.
The subway system emplys a group who signal the train conductors.

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Our guides told us that the subway system was "not a bomb shelter"... However, it is VERY deep undergroound, and we were not allowed to closely photograph the tunnel entrances. This was as close as I could get. Also, we did see soldiers coming out of one of the tunnels, and there was evidence of a track system for a blast-door at the subway entrance. Just a coincidence though, right?
Despite the train cars looking retro, the subway stations themselves were beutiful, with elaborate mosaic walls, and chanedliers.
Traditional medicine, or threat? You decide!

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An acclimatisation trek in the
Sangwon Valley, in the Myohyang area.
Myohyang area.
Gorgeous landscapes.

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Sunset from near our Myohyang hotel. Most of the hotels we stayed at were almost completely empty other than us, and perhaps a few others.
A stream along the hike towards Piro Peak.
The mountains of Myohyang.

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Getting closer to the summit.
At the summit of Piro Peak near Myohyang, North Korea, carrying the flag of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society What an experience! The climb took about 12 hours to get to the summit and back down to a lower spot on the mountain where we could find water and set up camp. I had a problem with my recurring hernia. Every few minutes, I had to stop and push my intestines back into my abdomen as they were pushing out through a gap in the muscle wall... Unpleasant.
The view from Piro Peak, North Korea.

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Home for the night after the 12 hour trek to the summit and back down.
The trekking was challenging at times, but the wilderness areas of North Korea were beutiful. It's such a shame that few people will ever get to experience these places.
While in North Korea, it was almost impossible to get any outside information. Some of the hotels we stayed in did have scratchy satellite TV service, and I was able to get some news. Imagine my surprise when I turned on the TV and saw this one morning. The ballistic missile launch test was off the east coast, not too far from where we were at the time. We never mentioned it to our local escorts, and I have no idea if they even know abut it.

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The rocky formations of Mount Kumgang, North Korea.
There were metal ladders in some of the more vertical sections of the climb on Mount Kumgang. This one had been taken out by a rockslide at some point.
The view Mount Kumgang, North Korea.

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A solar halo, somewhere along the east coast of North Korea, near the DMZ.
In the building in the DMZ where the North Koreans and the U.S. & United Nations signed the treaties that brought "peace" to the region in 1953.
Looking south towards the South Korean side of the DMZ. The building you see is on the South Korean side, and the soldiers are on the North Korean side of the border.

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DPRK soldiers march in formation in the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) in North Korea.
North Korean Soldiers guard the DMZ. We had to be very careful here and follow our guides instructions closely. This close to the border with South Korea, it is easy for a simple misunderstanding to escalate, and there are cameras everywhere!
North Korean childern, dressed up for a wedding in Pyongyang.

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Children are taught to hate the U.S. at an early age.

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These kids would hit these wooden cutouts of U.S. Army soldiers with sticks. The propaganda and indoctrination is deep and starts early.
 
North Korean Propaganda Posters

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