It was September of 2014 when we climbed Mt. Pulag. It was supposed to be just a side-trip of our Sagada itinerary, but eventually, in my opinion, it became the highlight of our whole trip.
Mt. Pulag is located in Kabayan, Benguet. It is Luzon’s highest peak at 2,922 metres (9,587 ft) above sea level. Baguio, usually is the starting point of most climbers.
From Cebu, we flew to Manila and arrived late at night. We immediately boarded a bus to Baguio. We just slept on the bus just to save from paying a night stay in Manila. We arrived in Baguio early in the morning. We then looked for a place to stay since our arranged trip to Mt. Pulag was scheduled on the morning after. We booked a tour to Mt. Pulag since most of us were not yet experienced climbers and we don’t have the proper equipment yet to climb it on our own. To fill our days, we roamed around the city center of Baguio. We also bought extra coats and jackets on their local “ukay-ukay” to be used on our camp.
Woke up by 3AM, we prepped ourselves and headed on to the nearby bus terminal where we will be met by our tour personnel. There were at most 15 of us on the tour. We were briefed before the tour commenced. We rode, on what they call “monster jeep”, for hours before reaching the Ranger Station, which is the starting point of the trek. We made several stops for various personal necessity reasons.
Before reaching the Ranger Station, every visitor must drop by the local government environmental office for registration and quick lecture and orientation.
Upon reaching the Ranger Station, we geared up, did some stretching. There are porters on the village who are willing to carry your extra load for some price.
On the Ranger Station, another registration form must be filled again. We were told that we will take the Ambangeg trail since most of us does not have the sufficient climbing experience yet. Ambangeg trail is dubbed to be the “celebrity trail” because of its low level of difficulty. Rumors did not fail. The trek was really easy. Though the distance was quite far, but the steepness could never be felt. The trails are already established. Thankfully, the weather cooperated with us, though there were occasions of drizzle. Our guides said that there are time when the temperature on the mountain could drop to negative degrees, that it’ll leave frost trails on your brows and lashes. We learned to always secure and wrap extra dry clothes to protect them from getting wet from rains and moisture.
After hours of trekking, we reached the camp site. We then immediately set-up our tents and secured our things inside to protect them from getting wet. The camp has two pit-latrines and a flowing fresh water. The camp gets colder and colder as night approaches. I got out all my extra jackets, gloves, socks, beanies and wore them on my sleep.
Wake-up call was early, at around 3 in the morning. Quick prep and ready to assault. The climb to summit would take about an hour depending on the pace of the climber. It was completely dark, and flashlight is a must. We reached the summit while it was still dark. Frost bites are common. Thermal blankets will become your best friend. We waited and endured the freezing wind for the majestic view of sun’s rising. As the sun rose, all the thoughts of exhaustion were completely vanished. The long treks and the freezing temperature is worth that brief moment and the scenic view of the sea of clouds. I was never been on that level of awe before.
Getting back to the campsite was a breeze. I enjoyed the scenic views that I had no idea we passed, since it was still completely dark when assaulted to the summit. With the sun’s soft kiss accentuating the details of the mountains, and the haze effect of the clouds, it was as though a scene that can only be seen in the movies. As we reached our camp, we had our breakfast and head on back to the Ranger Station.
There were several side-trip included in our tour. Included are the old JangJang hanging bridge, Ambuklao Dam and the Sulphuric Hot Mud.
We arrived back to Baguio late in the afternoon. Another problem we had again was the place to stay. Luckily, one of our co-climbers tipped us of a cheap place named Calalily Pension House. It is located just a walk away from SM Baguio. We then immediately called the place and haggled the price. It was not peak season, so we got the place on a cheaper rate. As we reached the said place, we then cleaned ourselves, prepared our things, and rested for our early Sagada trip the next morning.
If given the chance, I would climb Mt. Pulag again but on Akiki trail. It is said that Akiki is way more different and more challenging than the Ambangeg trail. Unfortunately, I heard news that Mt. Pulag is already overly crowded by tourists. Hopefully, when I get back there, there will only be at most 15 people on the summit, just like what I experienced way back 2014.