Two years had passed since I last attempted to climb Mt. Pulag but my bittersweet memories of this mountain are still fresh and vivid. Since then, I had been waiting for an opportunity to go back and settle my unfinished business at this mountain so I didn’t think twice about joining the Kabun Mountaineers and some guest climbers when they invited me to join their open climb for February. This time I had come prepared. I had a few mountains under my belt now, a reasonable fitness level, the right gear, and the determination to reach the summit by all means.
Maybe the Gods had finally conspired and decided to be generous with us this time. We were blessed with good weather, and the whole trip was a fun and pleasant experience with old and newly-found friends. We were ahead of our itinerary schedule when we reached Baguio City around 4 in the morning. It was more than a 6 hour bus ride from Victory Liner Terminal in Cubao and another 3 hours in a private jeepney from Baguio City to Ambangeg in Bokod, Benguet.
I didn’t notice if we passed by Ambuklao Dam and Lake but I could still clearly remember how serene this place was when we had a stop-over at this lake the first time I attempted Mt. Pulag. After having breakfast and buying our packed lunch at Jang-Jang’s Eatery I dozed off for the rest of the trip, unmindful of the bumpy and dusty ride on the way to DENR Station. We were asked to register here and pay the entrance fee before having a short briefing from the Park Superintendent, Ma’am Emerita Tamiray, who was her usual humorous self.
I still consider myself a newbie to mountaineering so I wasn’t up yet for the more challenging trails of Mt. Pulag. On this trip, I just wanted to see the rolling hills of the grassland summit and the famed sea of clouds at the mountain peak which I missed experiencing the last time I was here. Taking the Ambangeg Trail had once again allowed me to trek at a relaxed pace while taking time to pause and marvel at the scenery before me. Except for some recently burned patches, Mt. Pulag National Park still has the familiar breathtaking panorama I had fallen in love with on my first visit.
We started trekking from the Ranger Station around 10:30 a.m. and we reached Camp 2 around 1:00 in the afternoon. Aside from the cool weather, taking the Ambangeg Trail made the trek like a walk in a park. The changing landscape from the pine forest on barren slopes, to the cool mossy forest full of ferns, lichens and mosses, and finally to the rolling hills of grassland kept me entertained throughout my journey to the peak.
It took us around two hours to reach the saddle camp at the base of the summit from Camp 2. It was still early and we weren’t planning to summit till the next day so we were able to trek the vast grassland at a very relaxed pace. I was surprised to see that the path to the summit wasn’t that steep. It was just a gradual ascent along the winding trails of rolling hills draped with dwarf bamboo. The landscape was dramatic it fits its name as “the playground of the Gods”.
APPROACHING THE GRASSLAND
It wasn’t till 6 p.m. when the rest of the group had finally settled down at the saddle camp. I couldn’t help but smile as Moy Moy earnestly monitored the continuous dropping of temperature with his watch. Around 8 p.m., it almost reached negative one (.09 degree Celsius) but most of us were still outside our tents braving the cold. The absence of wind and rain made it bearable this time. We even made a ref cake and fruit salad and left them in the open for the rest of the night – a gelatin experiment would have been amusing too.
The night at the saddle camp was still very cold but compared with my last trip it was luxury! But the cold night was forgotten when I reached the summit at daybreak the next day (along with around 200 other people!). The moment I felt the first rays of the sun peeking out over the horizon and slowly engulfing the summit with its golden beams, I finally told myself I did it. And the best part was sharing it with someone so dear to me. (cheesy!)
Bits and Info
1. There are 4 popular trails from Kabayan, Benguet and the surrounding area that lead to Mt. Pulag National Park.
- Ambangeg Trail – (Babadak Trail) The easiest trail to the summit which is also manageable for a day hike. All visitors taking this route are required to register at the DENR office. Park entrance fee: PhP800, Filipinos PhP100, Senior Citizen is free. A guide is required PhP 500. After registration and a short briefing here, another 12km will lead to the Ranger station where the trekking starts. A comfortable overnight stay at the Visitor Center in Ambangeg will cost you PhP 100.
- Ellet Trail –From the Ellet (aka Eddet), Abukot (sawmill) and past Lake Lebang to the Ranger Station then to the summit.
- Kabayan Trail- ( Akiki or Killer Trail) From Barangay Akiki, 2km south of Kabayan. This is the shortest but most difficult way to the summit.
- Tawangan Trail – 9km north of Kabayan, a track leads from the main road to the village of Ballay and from there via Tawangan to Mt. Pulag.
2. Best time to visit – March and April if you want it dry, December to February if you want it cold and July and August if you want the rainiest time.
3. Essentials to bring – aside from the “must bring” things when hiking a mountain like trail food, first aid kit, etc, the following essentials will protect you from the harsh elements of nature: lip balm, sun-block, hat or beanie, gloves, wind-breaker, fleece, at least 2 pairs of socks, sleeping pads, thermal blanket, raincoat or umbrella and dry-fit clothes.
4. For more information about guides, porters, accommodation and about the park in general, contact Park Superintendent Ma’am Emerita Tamiray from the DENR Office – 0920-3013932/ 09196315402
Our Expenses: (2500 each for group of 18) This includes all permit fees, guide, porter, transportation ( Cubao Baguio-Pulag- Baguio, Cubao), 1st night dinner, 2nd day breakfast and lunch, ID, shirt and priceless fun.
MT. PULAG ITINERARY – Amba-Amba Trail
February 19 – 21,2010
Major jump-off: Ambangeg, Kabayan, Benguet
LLA: 16°34’58″N 120°53’15″E, 2922 MASL (#3)
Level and days required: Level 3, 3-5 days
Hours to summit / Days required: 4-5 hours / 2 days
Specs: Major Climb, Difficulty 3/9, Trail class 3
Feb 19 – Friday
8:30 pm Meet up @ Victory Liner Cubao Station
9:00 pm ETD Manila to Baguio
Feb 20 – Saturday
5:00 am ETA Baguio City, Breakfast
6:00 ETD Baguio City to DENR
10:00 ETA DENR, Register & briefing, settle guide (wash room/cr available)
10:30 ETD DENR to Ranger Station
(very rough road, prepare hanky for dust protection- if not raining)
12:30 nn ETA Ranger Station, Eat packed lunch
Water source and wash room/cr available,
there’s a store in the neighborhood too
1:00 pm Start climb
2:00 Camp 1, major rest
2:15 to camp 2 (water source and cr available)
or saddle camp (cr available)
6:00 Camp 2 or saddle camp
7:00 Dinner, socials
10:30 Lights off
Feb 21 – Sunday
6:00 am breakfast, watch sunrise picture picture
7:30 break camp
8:30 camp 2
11:30 camp 1 major rest ulet
12:30 Ranger Station, wash & tidy up, eat lunch
1:00 pm ETD Ranger to DENR
2:00 ETA DENR, get certificates
5:00 ETA Baguio City
8:30 Meet @ Victory Liner Baguio Station
9:00 ETD Baguio City to Manila
Feb 22 Monday
5:00 am ETA Manila,
Special thanks to NT and Empot for organizing this trip, to Carlitos for patiently carrying Bill and the tripod , and to everyone who had been part of this climb. Sa uulitin po