Before 2016 ends, I decided to reserve a slot for Mt. Pulag trek. A year-end getaway on the cold month of December. Yes, you read it right! I climbed Mt. Pulag on the coldest month of the year. I wanted to experience the thrill of Mt. Pulag’s wind chilling and freezing cold weather. I needed a serious preparation for this kind of extreme adventure because of the unpredictable weather condition at the top of the mountain. This Mt. Pulag experience was the toughest yet the most humbling hike I ever had. An amazing climb that was worth the struggle. Yes, the struggle was real! One of the hardest and coldest but best climb I had for 2016.
Mt. Pulag is the highest peak in Luzon standing at 2,922 meters above sea level (MASL) and the third highest in the Philippines. It is famous for its “Sea of Clouds” and the view of the “Milky Way Galaxy” at dawn, which has attracted many tourists who wish to see the scenery. There are two trails going to the summit. The Ambangeg trail which is the easy trail usually full of weekend armchair tourists in Manila and the Akiki trail which is considerably more challenging.
HOW TO GET THERE:
My friends and I had a DIY tour going to Mt. Pulag. We chose the Ambangeg Trail since it was the easier trail ascending the Mt. Pulag’s summit. Before anything else, I had an advance reservation of slot at the DENR office in Ambangeg via phone call and text. I informed the DENR Superintendent (Emerita Albas), the intended date of the climb, the number of participants and the chosen trail. DENR regulates the number of climbers per day so it would be better to inform them way ahead of time. For advance reservation, you can contact Ms. Emerita Albas at +63 910-301-0423 or +63 919-631-5402.
Just Do-It-Yourself! (DIY)
1. From Manila, we took a Victory Liner bus in Cubao going to Baguio City. The fare costs Php 445.00 per person for one way . Travel time took us 6 hours.
- Tips: Take the 11:00 PM schedule trip then arrive in Baguio at 5:00 AM the next day just like what we did.
2. When we arrived in Baguio, we rode a taxicab going to Baguio City’s Old Slaughterhouse where the van terminal to Kabayan, Benguet was located. Then, we took a regular passenger van and told the driver to drop us off at the Junction in Ambangeg near DENR Station. The fare costs Php 150.00 per person for one way. Travel time took us 3 hours. First trip is usually 7:00 AM going to Ambangeg or until the van gets full.
- Tips: There are several carinderias or food stalls at the terminal selling affordable breakfast meal before departing from Baguio to Ambangeg, DENR station.
- You can opt to spend overnight in a hotel or homestay in Baguio City before or after the day you climb Mt. Pulag so you have enough sleep and energy. Just Book and reserve at TravelBook.ph.
3. Upon arrival at the Junction in Ambangeg (Bokod, Benguet) around 10:30 AM, a van driver (Mr. Jerson) approached us to join other trekkers and share fare expenses for discounted rates. From Ambangeg Junction to DENR office then to Ranger Station (back and forth) costs only Php 400.00 per person. Since it was our first time to climb Mt. Pulag, we were required to attend a one-hour orientation. It was conducted at the DENR office to acquaint us of the Mt.Pulag History as well as the Rules and Regulations of the climb. Oh! Don’t forget to bring your Medical Certificate since it is now a mandatory requirement before you climb. “The No Medical Certificate, No Climb policy”.
- Note: Going back to Baguio City, the van driver (Mr. Jerson) also offered to directly transport us from Ambangeg, Junction to Baguio city for Php 120.00 per person one way. For cheaper transportation expenses to and fro Mt. Pulag, you can contact Mr. Jerson at +63 910-634-6620 or +63-906-416-6025.
Other Transport Option:
Once in Ambangeg, just walk in the direction of the DENR Office for registration and orientation. Then, Hire a habal-habal (motorcycle) for Php 250 per person for one way to bring you up to Babadak Ranger Station, the jump-off point. Travel time takes one hour.
- Note: Going back from Ranger Station to DENR station is just the same as you hire a habal-habal for the same price. Then, ride a jeep/van from Ambangeg Junction to Baguio City. (If you chartered a jeepney/van skip this item as your rented jeep/van vehicle will take you back and forth).
4. We reached the Ranger Station at around 12:30 PM just in time for lunch. Then we paid for the local guide fee and arranged a guide then started trekking. For those who do not have proper climbing/camping gears, beginners, and climbers with children in the group you can spend overnight in homestays at the Ranger Station and ascend Pulag before dawn. You can also opt to hire a porter to help you carry your things for the climb.
- Note: There are sari-sari stores and carinderias at the Ranger Station selling affordable meals ranging to Php 80.00 – Php 100.00.
MT. PULAG RATES AND FEES: (UPDATED AS OF 2017)
- Entrance Fee – Php 175.00/pax
- Camping Fee – Php 100.00
- Environmental and Cultural Heritage Fee – Php 150/pax
- Guide Fee – Php 600.00 / group of 5 pax
- Porter Fee – Php 500.00 optional (maximum of 15 kilos)
- Bus from Manila to Baguio – Php 445.00 per way
- Taxi to Baguio Old Slaughterhouse – Php 70.00 per way
- Commuter Van from slaughterhouse to Ambangeg, Benguet-Php 150 per way
- Habal-habal (motorcycle) from DENR office to Ranger Station-Php250 per way
Note: Going back to Manila is just the same as the above transportation and rates.
- Jeep Rental from Baguio to Bokod,Benguet-Php8,500 for 15pax (back & forth)
- Van Rental from Baguio to Bokod, Benguet-Php5,000 for 10pax (back & forth)
WHAT TO WEAR:
1. Do invest on sturdy outwears, shoes, bags and thermal wears. Make sure to bring a thermal jacket and an inner jacket with 2 thermal long sleeve shirts that will surely make you warm. Thermal gloves, bonnets and 2 extra pair of thick socks as well! Don’t wear shorts but wear thermal pants instead or extra thick leggings. Oh! Knitted gloves would not surely make you warm just what I had worn. I tell you, it would be freezing cold uphill.
2. Bring raincoat, waterproof bags or something that would keep your stuff dry coz most of the time, there was rain uphill. Even we were inside the tent, we could still get wet because of the moist created by the cold temperature.
The Real Climb Experience (Mt. Pulag Itinerary)
The whole Mt. Pulag experience was challenging and unique with four (4) hours hike going to the summit. The weather and landscape is much different than the usual tropical area. I would recommend going here during dry season to avoid a foggy top and bad weather. Upon arrival at the jump off point, all I could see was mountains full of trees, fauna and flora species with cool fresh air kissing my face. OMG! I already fell in love with the magnificent view of the mountain.
There are three (3) campsites from Ranger Station, the jump off point with installed toilet area in campsites 1 and 2. Most trekkers like us chose camp 2 as a campsite for one night.. When we finally started the trek at around 2:00 PM, I was more involved with the place. I felt like I was dating nature because the views along the way was just plain wonderful and amazing. Although trekking in a muddy and slippery trail was kinda tough, I managed to walk and climb with my kinda heavy backpack.
CAMP 1 – We reached the long, heart-pumping but easy climb to Camp 1 at around 4:00 PM for about two (2) hours. Just have to endure the sweat and the burden of carrying a backpack full of necessities. Oh! Don’t forget to refill drinking containers with pure, clean and refreshing water at the spring. There was this part that I have to rest a bit to catch my breath. After 15 minutes of rest at Camp 1, we started our trek to Camp 2 at around 4:15 PM.
CAMP 2 – At last we reach Camp 2 in a shorter but harder and steeper trail at around 5:15 PM for about one (1) hour. We passed by the same curves, same directions, same pattern. agghh! My mind constantly asked me “Are we there yet?!”. Our guide suddenly told us to watch out for dwarf bamboos. Why? It was the sign that we’re near the camp 2. Yay! Indeed we reach Camp 2 and we felt that the weather was getting colder and the sky was getting darker.
Upon reaching Camp 2, it was time for us to set up tents. To avoid over crowded campsite and to have the luxury of choosing a good area to set the tent, we scheduled our climb during weekdays. Trekkers are only allowed to camp at Mt. Pulag Camping Ground 2 and 3 during weekdays and at the Ranger Station during weekends.
After pitching tents, we just waited for the beautiful sunset to arrive. WOW! Amazing sunset above the “Sea of Clouds”. Then it was a sudden darkness and the stars appeared from the sky.
We were stargazing with millions of stars so visible that you might imagine “Is that the Milky Way?”. We could actually map out the whole constellation up in the sky. Okay! Enough for the stargazing mode. We prepared food for dinner at around 7:30 PM and slept at around 9:30 PM since we have to wake up early the next day. However, I did not even sleep well since it was freezing cold. The temperature in Mt. Pulag was not a joke, it could drop up to zero degrees or even to negative one. So don’t underestimate the weather in Mt. Pulag even during summer days.
We woke up early in the morning at around 4:00 AM and prepared packed breakfast for the climb. We started to trek at around 4:30 AM. Just better be careful with the trail and it’s a must to have a headlamp if not better be close to the person with a light. The trek was almost an hour, it was fairly close but the trek was all uphill and freezing cold. Unfortunately, after 15 minutes of trekking, I decided not to continue the climb to summit. I could not stand the freezing and chilling cold weather so my friends and I just turn back to campsite 2. We just took photos at the extended uphill mountain with a breathtaking view of the Mt. Pulag landscape.
We started descending at around 8:00 AM and arrived at the Ranger Station at exactly 12:00 PM. We fixed our things, took a bath at the Ranger Station and immediately headed on the van terminal to take us back to Baguio City, then back to Manila. Although I did not reach the summit, seeing the magnificent views of the mountain range was totally worth it! I would definitely love to try to climb Mt. Pulag once again to experience it.
- You must be physically fit. Have an endurance training before the climb.
- Pack light and only necessary. Essentials include wet wipes, alcohol and insect repellant. Bring your necessary camping gears. Do your routine nature calls in the DENR station or Ranger Station.
- Bring enough food and energy bars for the climb.
- Have your camera with you to capture moments.
- Listen well to the orientation.
- Leave no trace especially trash. Bring trash bags with you.
- Be ready with the freezing cold temperature especially during December to January
- The most important thing to bear in mind is “No quitting”. The road to the summit is rough but it’s all worth it.
Each fresh peak ascended, teaches something. ” It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves”.