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Climbing Higher Than the Clouds at Mt. Pulag

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Breathtaking view of Mt. Pulag at Bokod, Benguet.

Philippines is known for its spectacular beaches and tropical weather. But if you’re seeking for something different, something that will make you sweat and make you freeze at the same time, well, Mt. Pulag is a must-try.

 

Climbers suggest January to February are the best time to go there because it is when temperature hits the lowest point.

 

Must bring:

  • food (good for 2 days)

  • water (at least 3 liters)

  • headlamp

  • tent

  • insect repellents

  • thermal sweaters

  • socks (at least 2 pairs)

  • shoes

  • bonnet

  • gloves

  • sleeping bag

 

Guide – Php500/5pax

Fare – Php1,000 for a two-way trip from Manila to Baguio

Habal-Habal (motorcycle) – Php350 (Ate Gina – Ranger Station)

 

Php3,000 is a safe budget.

You could also rent a porter for Php500.

 

There are travel agencies that offer affordable rate (for instance, Php2,600 all in! Inclusive of transportation from Manila to Ambangeg and vice versa; guide and registration fee.)

 

If you will climb with a travel agency, you have to follow their itinerary. Don’t be late for the call time or else you will be left behind and there’s no other way but to commute.

 

I took the latter part and that’s where my solitary odyssey started.

 

If you prefer commuting, better book a ticket ahead of time so you won’t end up being a chance passenger. (Genesis Bus Liner, Baguio route)

 

Prepare your butt to rest for a 6-7 hour trip. Upon arriving at Baguio City, I took a cab going to La Trinidad, Benguet. The van terminal is located in front of Jack’s restaurant.

 

It took 4 hours before the van was filled with passengers. Indeed, patience and perseverance are virtues of a mountaineer. There is a grocery store right across the street so you can buy food and other stuff you need for the climb, or you can also wait inside Jack’s restaurant to kill time. They serve the best coffee and delicious carrot cake at affordable prices.

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There are different trails you can choose to get to Mt Pulag: Akiki trail, Ambaguio trail and Ambangeg trail. The most difficult trail is Akiki or known as ‘the Killer trail’ because of it’s slopes. It will take 2-4 days to reach the summit. On the other hand, Ambangeg has the easiest trail. It will only take you 4-5 hours to reach the summit. For weekend availability, take Ambangeg trail.

 

It took me 2 hours to get to Ate Gina’s eatery and I took “habal-habal”(motorcycle used in provinces where cars of jeepneys cannot stand the rough, steep terrain and narrow roads) going to Palansa (which costs Php120).

The road was under construction that time so I had to transfer to another habal-habal to bring me to Ranger Station (another Php120).

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I decided to hike to save money and get to know the place more by interacting with the people who live there. The road was steep. It can really melt your lungs as there was no flat surface! But everytime I catch my breath, the scenery left me breathless.

The vegetable plantations that looked like rice terraces from afar was astonishing! It was a 3-hour fun adventure and what-have-I-gotten-into trek.

 

I was warmly welcomed at the Ranger Station by some marshals and DENR men, the defenders of the forest from unwanted entities like loggers, NPA, etc.

 

After a short nap (the cold will rob you off sleep), the journey continues. One of the policies of the Mt. Pulag National Park is to have a guide. (Php500/5 pax) For solo climbers, you may tag along with other groups and share the guide fee. We left the Rangers Station at around 1:00 am. There is potable water along the way.

 

For those who have a delicate stomach, bring at least 3 liters of water. It is very dark there so please don’t forget to bring a headlamp, flashlight and determination.

 

We arrived at the campsite around 3:00 am. After a quick break, we headed our way to the summit which is an an hour hike. There were more than 200 mountaineers that looked like ants falling in line and with the headlamps they carried. It looked like a parade of lights, such a beautiful sight!

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The playground of the gods: A view at the summit of Mt. Pulag.

And then we arrived at the SUMMIT!!! It was around 4:00 am when we reached the summit. Mountaineers were setting up their video cameras, waiting for the sunrise.

 

At last! After the tiring climb and after the restless night, as the sun cast its radiance upon the ocean of clouds that covered the view below, the moon was behind us, slowly fading.

 

At the marvelous sight of thick clouds covering the surroundings as if it was an ocean covering the coral reefs with fishes playing  inside it. I wanted to join them and plunge into the sea of clouds.

 

Like a curtain unfolding the show, the clouds slowly faded and revealed something that would keep you staring for hours.

 

The dwarf bamboo grasses served as the mountain’s carpet. It looked like an enormous golf course. (Pulag was derived from an Ibaloi word “pulog” which means bald. )

 

No camera could capture such an amazing view. It’s so extraordinary that you’d bear the cold temperature (16 degrees Celsius), just to savour the moment.

 

The scenery and the feeling of being on top of Luzon’s highest peak (2922 meters above sea level) was supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

 

I wish I could stay longer at the summit. Even though that experience showed me a whole new world and brought me closer to heaven, I still wonder why they call it “playground of the gods” when it looked more like their home.

 

Mt. Pulag is just an introduction of what’s outside our comfort zone. It’s one of the things that the internet can’t show and it’s just one of the great adventures that await you when you get up from that sofa. So, what are you waiting for?

 

Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints and kill nothing but time.

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MT. PULAG (via AMBANGEG TRAIL)

Bokod, Benguet

Major jump-off: Ambangeg Ranger Stn, Bokod, Benguet

LLA: 16°34’58″N 120°53’15″E, 2922 MASL (#3)

Days required / Hours to summit: 4-5 hours / 1-2 days

Specs: Major Climb, Difficulty 3/9, Trail class 1-2

Trail system: Grand Cordillera Trail, Section 3

Features: Sea of clouds, dwarf bamboo slopes, pine forests

 

 

Author: Malaya S.F.  

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Photo source:

Last photo – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Pulag

All other photos – Courtesy of the author

 

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