Mt. Pulag is a protected national park located in the province of Benguet and situated within the Philippine Cordillera Mountain Range. It is the highest peak in Luzon and the second highest mountain in the Philippines next to Mt. Apo in Davao. A trek to this mountain will reward you with a spectacular vista of rocky slopes covered with pine trees, lush vegetation in the mossy forest, rolling grassy hills, and a magnificent sea of clouds at the peak. It also boasts a large diversity of flora and fauna including the endangered mammals like the Philippine Brown Deer, Northern Luzon Giant Cloud Rat, the Luzon Pygmy Fruit Bat as well as some rare orchids and plants endemic to the mountain.
Mt. Pulag was the first mountain I ever climbed and the one that opened my eyes to the world of outdoor recreation. It was an unforgettable journey along the Ambangeg Trail which was the perfect route for a newbie like me. Instead of focusing my attention on keeping my feet on the ground or gasping for air on challenging trails like Akiki and Tawangan, I was able to simply enjoy the scenery around me. I sank into my own world, basking in the serenity of the surroundings while walking its well-trodden path. Oftentimes I was staggering to keep up with the rest of the group, unmindful of my over-stuffed backpack and aching calves and shoulders (which were more a reflection of my level of fitness rather than the difficulty of the trail!).
Back then, everything was new to me. I was like a child on a candy mountain perpetually in awe of the picturesque terrain of this national park which was different from the usual rainforest mountains I was familiar with. The pine forest and the patches of vegetation that carpet the steep slopes and deep valleys, the verdant hills, the cool weather and the friendly indigenous people made everything a memorable experience for me. My first journey to this mountain, however, did not culminate above the sea of clouds at the summit, but in the sea of water and freezing temperatures inside our tent at Camp 2.
I never thought the weather here could be so unpredictable, like a schizophrenic person instantly changing his personality. The hot and pleasant conditions at the start of our trek suddenly became ominous, dropping in a flash to sub-zero just a few minutes after reaching Camp 2 late in the afternoon. The freezing wind was biting and a sudden downpour just made things worse. I felt like a thousand needles were being thrown at my face while every exposed part of my body became numb in just a few minutes. The worst part came when our tent was flooded in the middle of the night in freezing temperatures – it was the worst night of my life!
Before the crack of dawn, the rest of the group still attempted to reach the summit despite the terrible weather. My mind was willing but staying up all night seated inside the wet tent had sucked all the energy out of me, so Laarni and I decided instead to stay in our tent. It was a good decision as it was zero visibility on the summit at that time and some of my friends had a mild case of hypothermia when they got back to our camp. On our way back, my friend Mayo asked me if I would climb a mountain again after the ordeal that we had just gone through. Surprisingly, I found myself saying it was all worth it and that one day I would go back to Mt. Pulag to summit it at any cost.
Special thanks to my friends from Maersk, Laryh and Ram for inviting me in this climb. Thank you also for the consolidated pictures of this trip. Sorry I can’t recall which is which anymore. Sa uulitin po