I was 1,279 meters above sea level, and totally alone.
I reached the top on October 2nd, about 5:30 PM, or 45-60 minutes before navigable daylight was gone for the day. (I'd worried I might not be able to make the steep ascent before sunset; that I did make it was cause for celebration.) I'd come from Jung-Jae Pass.
White Cloud Mountain rises from 695 meters above sea level at Jung-Jae Pass to 1,279 meters above sea level at its summit and the guidebook writers warn how hard it is. I'd just come off of two days' rest in Hamyang, lucky for me, so it wasn't too bad.
....the trail turns to the east and onto a rocky surface for about 500 meters before reaching a flat, cleared area that houses two tombs -- whose occupants must have had very good friends to carry them up to this majestic resting place!
At the summit:
Another attempted auto-timer self-portrait, the camera standing on a rock:
As you break from the tree cover, you walk out onto a grassy area where the grass is, in some parts, slashed down to ground level. If this is the case, then the large summit area will provide you with a great place to camp on what is a 360-degree-view mountain top. No water is found near the summit, so you should carry your own if you wish to camp. A large stone stele stands in the cleared area, celebrating the peak and the Baekdu-Daegan. It states that Baegun-san means "White Cloud Mountain", and that there are always snow and clouds on this mountain, where feeder streams of the Nakdong-gang and Seomjin-gang rivers originate.
It was the clouds surrounding the summit that were really astonishing. Looking back on these pictures, as I sit in the Internet Cafe in the small city of Geochang five days later (near a man who arrived at 8 AM on a Monday to play "Starcraft"), I think I've failed to capture how the scene really looked. I'm not a good enough photographer.
Here is one shot that was sort of successful:
It got quite cold that night. I got up before 6:00 AM to check out the sunrise. What better place?
Here it is, or "was":
...If you sleep on Baegun-san, get up early and catch the sunrise, and see how the mountain lives up to its name as low fog and clouds seep through the valleys below like an incoming tide.
I told him I was going off the other way to find the supposedly-nearby temple. (One side-benefit: All temple have constant sources of pure, flowing, highly-drinkable water.) The guidebook says this about the temple:
[The temple called] Sangyon-dae, meaning "sitting on the lotus" temple , was established in 924, near the end of the Shilla Dyntasy, as people believed that the mother of the great Confucian/Daoist sage "Go-Un" Choe Chi-won prayed here before conceiving him.
I backtracked. I started along the path that Mr. Yongin had gone hours earlier. I was on the way to Muryeong-Gogae Pass (무령고개), whose name I wrote in my notebook as "Karaoke Pass" ("노래방재"). The man who runs the small restaurant at that pass has a karaoke machine and plays along with his guitar. Reaching there the next day was a half-step back into modern Korea (a kind of rustic "singing room" or noraebang at the pass) compared to the afternoon hiking up to White Cloud Mountain, and then the mysterious, shivering morning atop it.
[This was written in a PC Room (Internet Cafe) in Geochang on Monday, October 7th.]