Location: Benguet, Ifugao, Nueva Vizcaya
Elevation: 2,922 masl
Mountain range: Cordillera Central
Easiest route: Ambangeg Trail (Artista Trail)
Parent range: Cordillera Central
Major jump-off: Ambangeg Ranger Station, Bokod, Benguet
Days required | Hours to summit: 4-5 hours | 1-2 days
Specs: Major Climb | Difficulty 3/9| Trail class 1-2
Features: Sea of Clouds | Mossy Oak Forest | Pine Forest | Dwarf Bamboo Slopes
Mt. Pulag (Pul-ag) which means bald because there are no trees from grassland to summit and is known as Luzon’s highest peak and the country’s third. The locals believe in a superstition that it is a resting place and playground of their gods and part of it is also a burial site.
Of course on any outward trip you’re motivated by the fact that you have something to look forward to, your aspiration, your nirvana; but oh no it was fog! Fog, of course, is a weather term to denote a thick cloud of tiny water droplets suspended in the atmosphere at or near the earth’s surface which obscures or restricts visibility (to a greater extent than mist; strictly, reducing visibility to below 1 km), but the reality is that the effect is a crushing of your expectations and hopes of seeing the infamous sea of clouds as the sun rises on Luzon’s highest peak.
So in short, got none of that! What we did get was a mind-numbing cold, mixed up nicely with a drizzle that seemed to be able to cut through our 3/4 layers of clothing and what seemed to me like a nose that I would have been happy to break off my face it got so itchy from the freezing conditions. Onwards to the summit we struggled, like intrepid mountaineers assaulting the left face of the Eiger, and having conquered the climb our worst fears were confirmed and there was more chance of winning the lottery than getting a good picture.
I can’t say that Baguio is, by any stretch of the imagination, the easiest place to get to from Manila, unless you enjoy 5 hours of bad roads and suspension in a coach!
There was, once upon a time, a commercial flight service, but it closed down almost as quickly as it started and has never been heard from again, so if Richard Branson is reading this, Richard there is a gap in the market here!
From Baguio, we took a jeepney going to Ambangeg with a stopover at Jang-Jang Hanging Bridge for breakfast. There is a hanging bridge at Jang-Jang which is 290 meters long and is one of the longest hanging bridges in Benguet. Because it is situated near an eatery, Jang-Jang has also become a favorite pictorial spot for climbers. It’s also free of charge!
Then, you sign in at DENR Station at the start of the climb where you watch a short video that orientates you with the good and bad rules of camping at Mt. Pulag National Park. In short, you will be going into a protected area and you are expected to leave no trace of you ever being there; bring back your garbage folks and stick like glue to the approved trails.
The most popular Ambangeg Trail we were taking is less wearisome of the routes to Mt. Pulag and is a healthy 4-hour hike to the camping area where you break off to rear before the final 2-hour assault at dawn to catch the sunrise. For the Indiana Jones of you, there are more difficult routes including the killer Akiki Trail, which is a draining 8-12 hours of climbing or the quaintly nicknamed ‘bloody trail’, due to the leeches also called “Limatik ” waiting for you on this one!, but otherwise known as the Tawangan trail and Lusod or Ambaguio or Mt. Ugo-Pulag Trail.
All the trails begin at the same spot (Ranger Station) and you get to the start by 4 wheel drive jeeps. There are some great views along the way, whichever route you take, including magnificent pines, ‘bonsai’ style miniatures including Mr. Miyagi moss, as well as cabbage terraces.
After we arrived we had some free time, so were lucky enough to be able to watch a cultural show put on by the locals involving dancing accompanied by their local instruments. Yours expected to make a ‘donation’ for the kids and it was all great fun and really enjoyable.
It’s no cosy sleeps ins for this trip and it’s probably worse than being a new recruit to the army as revelry is around 1am to make sure you complete the climb to the top by dawn – you came for the sunrise so, up and at’ em and you can have the spa treatment service on your next trip 🙂
Be prepared for around a 4/5 climb to the top, unless your super fit, but your guides are just like Mum and Dad on a car trip when you were kid and kept asking ‘are we there yet?’ They will tell you it’s just a bit longer; not to far now; were almost there and other-assorted phrases intended to sweeten the bitter pill 🙂
When you eventually get back down to base and fell you can’t carry on, you can hop on the nearby motorbikes, to finish the journey and, for many, is worth the 100 peso cost :)!
It was really a great shame with the adverse weather conditions, but having reached the top once and knowing what to expect in the future, I will redouble my efforts to return soon, so I can finally see for myself, what must truly be a stunning and awe-inspiring spectacle of the sunrise across the ocean of ripple clouds, gently washing against the mountainsides.
Immediately after our Mount Pulag climb, we headed back towards Baguio City with a few quick stops along the way.
First stop was the Ambuklao Dam. The Ambuklao Hydroelectric Power Plant is one of the oldest power plants in the country and was among the first large hydroelectric power plants constructed in the Philippines. Running along the upper portion of the Agno River, Ambuklao Hydro was constructed for power generation and flood control.
The final stop was at the GoodTaste Restaurant where the food was really great and then it was back to Baguio where we arrived just before nightfall. Before heading back to Manila our guides handed us certificates for our monumental achievement of conquering Mt Pulag.
Yay! It’s official. We did it! We survived Mount Pulag!
It may have been disappointing from a weather perspective, but the new friends, camaraderie, and sense of achievement, more than made up for that and it was a truly memorable and exhilarating trip.
- Medical Certificate is required before the climb. Make sure you have your doctor’s clearance too if you know you may be in a delicate state of health.
- For mobility and ease of trekking, the use of backpacks is recommended. The rule is to make sure your hands are free so that you can support yourself (or your companions) in case you slip or fall.
- Waterproof everything! You’ll notice how it gets progressively colder the higher you go. This is especially true in the night, as everything gets moist and wet.
- Please try to minimize the weight of your backpack. Simply Travel light, no need to brings things not required like a book! (You won’t have time to read it.) 🙂
- To ensure minimal impact on the environment, make sure you follow the “Leave No Trace” principle.
- Trash and litter have no place in the wilderness. Campfires are NOT allowed. Picking, gathering, hunting and especially damaging the flora and fauna is strictly prohibited.(no you cant pick them for your vase at home!)
- The temperature on Mt. Pulag may drop to 2 degrees or less, so make sure you have some warm clothing for the camp at night.
- Make sure your friends/family know where you are going (unless you’re on the run from the mother in law) Have at least one person know where you will be going, with whom, and when you are expected to return.
- Attend the pre-climb meeting so you know what to expect and it is also an opportunity for any of your questions to be answered.
- Respect. Say “Tabi-tabi po.”
The local tribes consider the mountain as a sacred place. Learn how to respect.
- Greet the locals.
All the locals in Mt. Pulag are really friendly, so I think, there’s nothing wrong with sharing a smile and a simple nod.
- Finally and to try to put it as delicately as I can, there are no conventional CR’s so it’s more a question of a squat, if you get the idea!
Things to Bring:
– Jacket at least 2
– Trekking pants/Jogging pants
– Trekking shoes
– Bonnet/Beanie hat
– Personal First aid kit
– Warming Oil
– Raincoat (Important)
– flashlight /headlamp with extra batteries
– Trail water
– Trail Food (mixed nuts, chocolates, jelly ace)
– Extra Socks
– Extra clothes
– Personal Meds / First-aid Kit
How to get there:
To take Ambangeg Trail, take a bus from Manila to Baguio. Victory Liner has Baguio trips every hour.The feee is Php450.
It is best to leave Manila at night around 9pm onwards. Since Manila-Baguio is like a 6-hour-drive, you’ll arrive in Baguio City before dawn.
From Baguio, rent a jeepney to the jump-off point which is at Badabak Ranger Station. There will be 2 stop-overs – 1) Jang-Jang’s Eatery also known as “Kainan” and 2)DENR.
If convenience is your top priority, choose a guided tour.
In our group, my cousins selected the services of Nomad Adventures which cost Php 2,700 which included the following:
– 2 way transportation MANILA – BAGUIO – MANILA
– 2 way transportation BAGUIO – PULAG – BAGUIO
– LGU fee, Camping fee
– Cultural fee, Environmental fee
– Accredited local ranger guide fee
– Expedition leader service
– Day 1 Dinner
– Day 2 Breakfast
– Day 2 Lunch
– ID bagtag
– Certificate of Conquest
Photo Credit to Sir Ronald Festijo
10PM – CALL DAGUPAN BUS CO INC. (CUBAO)
VAN – QUEZON AVE MCDONALDS
11PM – ETD CUBAO – BAGUIO
5AM – ETA BAGUIO
10AM – ETA DENR KABAYAN
12NN – ETA RANGER STATION – REST
2AM – WAKE- UP CALL, BFAST,FINAL PREP
3AM – START TREK
5AM – ETA CAMP 2, SUNRISE
7AM – START DESCENT
10AM – ETA BACK AT RANGER STATION, EAT MEALS
12NN – ETD RANGER STN – BAGUIO
5PM – ETA BAGUIO, SIDETRIP
7PM – ETD BAGUIO – MANILA
12AM – ETA MANILA