This is my story of that one time I went up Mt. Pulag. At first, I was quite a skeptic of my own capabilities, because It felt that I could be a little too heavy to summit the mountain trails. Not to mention not just any mountain in Luzon. We’re talking about 2,922 meters or 9,600ft above sea level making it the 3rd highest mountain in the Philippines. I had no climbing experience before or prior training. Many people told me that It was impossible, but this travel dialogue proved them all wrong. I wouldn’t say it’ll be easy, but what I am telling you is that it is doable.
Mount Pulag borders between provinces of Benguet, Ifugao and Nueva Vizcaya. It has one of the richest biodiversity in the country, having vast forests full of pines, moss, and grass. It is a mountain worth climbing, both for its challenging trails and its natural beauty. There are three (3) parts that you will experience while traversing this mountain. You will go through the beautiful pine forest, the moist forest and the grasslands where you will set up your base camp.
I went through Pulag’s summit through the Ambangeg Trail- which is known as the ‘easy trail’. Quite fair for first timers like me. Setting up camp on the mountain is definitely a rewarding experience; you will constantly be surrounded by jaw-dropping views and embraced by the mountain’s cool air.
Should you be a first time climber of Mount Pulag here are the phases that you will go through and some helpful tips based on my experience as a first time climber.
I was part of a climbing tour group so we rode to Baguio city from Manila all together then parked our van in the nearest and safest area then hired a strong jeepney to take us to Ambangeg. Before riding the rented jeep we stock up on much-needed supplies which were cases of alcohol, food amongst other things.
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Before anything else, safety is the top priority and for us visitors to be inducted into the culture and ways to show respect to the mountain and its spirit inhabitants. You will need to register at the Department of Natural Resources satellite ranger’s station.
Here are the key takeaways from the orientation
- Register and pay at the DENR ranger station
- Tha air is thinned out so be prepared. Your lungs will have to adjust.
- Leave no trace and bring back ALL garbage when you descend back to the ranger station.
- Mt. Pulag is a national park. Thus, everything in it is protected.
- Respect the place as it is believed to be inhabited by deities and Ifugao’s ancestors.
Please be informed that a Medical Certificate is a must for all hikers as a policy by the DENR.
Quick Snapshot of Mt. Pulag’s Profile
Location: Benguet, Ifugao, Nueva Vizcaya
Elevation: 2,922 masl
Mountain range: Cordillera Central
Easiest route: Ambangeg Trail (Artista Trail)
Parent range: Cordillera Central
Major jumpoff: 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
2300 Take the bus to Baguio City
0500 ETA Baguio City. Breakfast then proceed to jeepney terminal/chartered jeep.
0700 Take the chartered jeepney to Ambangeg.
1000 ETA Visitors’ Center. Registration / Orientation
1130 Set out for Ranger Station
1230 ETA and lunch at Ranger.
1300 Start trek
1430 ETA Camp 1
1600 ETA Camp 2. Set up camp
1800 Dinner at campsite; socials
0430 Early morning trek to the summit for sunrise
0545 Arrival at the summit just in time for sunrise
0700 Start descent from the summit
0800 Back at Camp 2; breakfast
0900 Dismantle/Decamp; start descent to Ranger Station
1130 Back at Ranger; Settle guide fees
1230 Back at Visitors’ Center; shower/tidy up
1400 Head back to Baguio City
1700 ETA Baguio City. Dinner.
1900 Head back to Manila
As we start our ascend we notice that the air thinned our due to the high altitude of the place. At first, it was challenging to manage your breath while lugging a huge backpack during the trek. But good thing we did the climb as a group so the random conversations and little rest pits helped a lot.
Mt. Pulag is not just any other mountain, but also an absolute life source to its inhabitants. From her richness springs vast grasslands and acres of dwarf bamboo fields. In her mossy forest shelters various animal creatures and rare species of plants.
A mountain filled rivers too with waters flowing primarily to Ambuclao and the surrounding provinces. A place that is sacred to the Ibalois, Kalanguya, Kankana-eys, Karao, and Ifugaos as she is not only their home but of their ancestors and their spirit.
The mountain is beautiful and unconventional in such a way that somehow you’re experiencing something spiritual.
After all the tents were pitched up. each settled down to their designated shelter for the night. I had some free time during the afternoon and did some socials with my fellow climbers.
After dinner, the temperature dropped to -2 degrees. The cold was excruciating and lucky me I didn’t bring enough heat layers. Well, there’s always room for mistakes for 1st timers right?
After probably sleeping for 3 hours, we prepared for the summit assault. It was raining and very cold.
We have to reach the summit before 5 am to anticipate the sunrise.
We quickly shifted off the main road to the tip-off point of Ambangeg trail. This time the trail we had to walk on is narrower. It was still slippery and muddy with rocks scattered all over it. The mouth of the trail quickly descended for several steps until we were walking on a flat surface again then ascended a little then back to flat. The ladder-like path stretched to about 8 feet abruptly turning right stretching to another 7 feet.
I am not going to sugar coat this experience. It was physically challenging and given the other risk conditions of the weather and trail. All I was thinking when up there was I wanted the day to fast forward so I could return back to the ranger station. Yet, you will really revert back to your main purpose on why you signed up to climb this mountain.
The muddy quest began along acres of dwarf bamboos then passed several slopes it suddenly changed to never-ending grasslands similar to that of Mt. Batulao. It nearly took us an hour to reach the summit. Before finally approaching the base of the summit, a rainbow appeared and surprisingly the sun rose up the sky. Still struggling, it finally found its way through the stormy clouds but failed to stop the drizzle. Despite that, the sun’s warmth still felt soothing against my skin.
Never underestimate climbing Mt. Pulag. Come prepared with the right gear, the right group, and right mental & physical drive to pursue this mountain.
- Clothing (cold weather): Trek gears for the cold weather. Pack heat tech inner shirts, windbreaker, good pair of trousers and socks, bonnets, gloves, trek shoes
- Toiletries: Personal packs, wet tissues, alcohol
- Hydration: Water bottles, 1 liter trail water
- First Aid: Medication and first aid kits
- Camp: earth pad/sleeping pad, blanket
- Food: Trail mix, protein bars, canned goods
- Other gear: Whistle, duct tape, small knife, mess kit and black garbage bags, head lamps, flashlight
Climbing this mountain is an exprience and I would love you to see her yourself. As we always say in our travel dialogues, go forth and wander. Be a storteller when you return home.
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