Last weekend, I decided to join a group of friends to embark on a journey that would take us to Mount Pulag. Mt. Pulag is situated near the Benguet province. It is Luzon‘s highest peak listed at 2,920+ meters above sea level and the 3rd highest in all of the Philippines. Since it was our first time to hike and camp out, we decided to take the easier Ambangeg Trail.
The trip starts at our meeting point in Metro Manila on Friday at around 10:30 PM. From there, we traveled to Baguio where we would meet up with our travel organizers. It was still dark when we reached Baguio. From there, we unloaded all of our baggage and transferred to ride a jeepney to head to the DENR office. It probably took us an more than an hour to reach the DENR station where everyone was required to sign-up and attend an orientation. By the time we got here, it was already sunrise. We were part of the 2nd/3rd batch to attend the orientation which took around 45 minutes.
From the DENR office, we then headed straight to the Ranger Station. This is one of the starting points at the Mt. Pulag National Park. Due to the waiting time it took for the orientation, it was exactly noon time when we arrived at our starting point. Contrary to our prior setup, we were to camp here instead of Base Camp 2. This just meant a longer hike for us instead of hiking midway and then ascending further for the sunrise the next morning.
(A week before our trip, we were informed that hikers can no longer stay at Base Camp 2. The move was done to avoid the mountain’s degradation. When we were in the orientation however, we’ve been hearing that it has again been opened. Only a certain amount of people can stay at the new Base Camp 2. Unaware, there was also Base Camp 1.)
Staying at the Ranger Station can be a win-lose situation. I was actually surprised to see a convenience store which had everything you needed. They even sell beer and you can buy some spam and have them cook it for you. Moreover, there was a small lodge to stay in if you did not want to tent out. For those who opt not stay, you can still use their toilet and shower for a small fee. Talk about convenience…
On the downside, hiking towards the peak took longer. The hike should have only been 4.7 km to Base Camp 2. After that, only 3 km left the next day to reach the peak. Since we were not fortunate to stay at any base camp, it meant an 8 km hike towards the peak plus another 8 km back.
Once our tents were properly setup, we immediately had lunch. Despite having not much sleep, curiosity got the better of us. Our group decided to start hiking around 2 pm that Saturday.
From the moment we started to hike, you can already see the stunning view of the mountains and it’s surroundings. Our timing was just perfect to hike Mt. Pulag. It never rained during our stay here. The weather was cool and the sun was bright.
Before reaching our destination, we passed by Base Camp 1 and two water stations. The source is from fresh spring water so no need to bring too much liquids while hiking up. You can just re-fill when you pass by these stops. It was already 4:30 pm when we reached Base Camp 2. We felt tired during some parts of the hike due to our body adjusting to the altitude and all. We were able to cut time going back as the descend is always faster. It was already sundown when we reached Ranger Station.
For dinner, our organizers cooked us some sinigang na baboy (pork tamarind soup). I had two cans of beer afterwards before I headed to rest. It was already 9+ in evening at this point. Our call time was around 12+ am Sunday morning. Midway through my sleep, I woke up twice due to the cold climate. Even though we had some thermal mats and sleeping bags, the ground was just too cold. I was only wearing a thermal shirt when I slept so the rest of my arms were chilling. Brrrr… I just decided to wake up at around 11+ pm and wait for the ascend. At this point, I only had around 1-2 hours of total sleep ever since we left Metro Manila.
It was already wake-up call at this time. We had all of our gear ready for the real hike towards the peak! Bringing trail food is a must. Most notably powers bars, nuts and some sweets to keep your energy up. Likewise, hiking with the appropriate gear (hiking shoes, thermals and a head lamp) will really help.
We left at around 1 am and reached one of the peaks at around 5 am. I guess, our initial hike really helped as we were able to significantly cut our time to get to the peak. We even had the time to lie down and star gaze for a few minutes before the final ascend.
As soon as it hit sunrise, the beauty of Mt. Pulag (and the sea of clouds beneath) is revealed. It was sheer beauty and splendor! After taking quite a few photos during sunrise, I just looked as far as I could from where we hiked. Looking back, I can’t imagine how we managed to traverse across this beautiful landscape. The reach to the summit was such a rewarding experience!
Before 7:30 am, we decided to head back down. It was almost noon time when we arrived back at the Ranger Station. After our late breakfast, we backtracked for Baguio. We returned before 6 pm and decided to grab some early dinner at Cafe by The Ruins before heading back to Manila.
This was definitely one of my more memorable trips so far. It made me realize that I don’t have to be too far from home to experience the beauty that our world has to offer. Mt. Pulag has widened my traveling perspective for sure!
– The Tourist Pao