Aug 3, 2014

Mt PULAG : This Way To The Clouds

Sunday, August 03, 2014

“I’ve got to find my way to the clouds”, that’s what I promised myself when I first learned how majestic the sea of clouds phenomenon looked like at the summit of Mt. Pulag. More than a decade passed, that goal remained an idea, owing to several excuses I usually tell myself when doubt and fear of the unknown set in. Until the opportune  time presents itself through a reader’s dare which involved great perks when fulfilled, hence saying “NO” would be very foolish.



Sea of Clouds at Mount Pulag
Dream fulfilled! The sea of clouds in all its splendor ;)

Mt. Pulag is the highest mountain in Luzon, 3rd highest in the Philippines, with an elevation of 2,922 meters above sea level. How I made it successfully to the summit without much trouble, I owe it to the right attitude, having the appropriate tools, some physical preparation, and God’s provisions. There are four major trails up the summit, the Ambangeg, Akiki, Tawangan from Benguet and Ambaguio from Nueva Vizcaya. We did Ambangeg, the easiest trail suited for beginners.

Preparation / Tips

Ambangeg trail may be the easiest trail, but it’s not like any walk in the park as others put it. An uphill walk for more than a couple of hours to reach the base camp was no easy task. My friend almost gave up midway the climb, exhausted and was gasping for air most of the time. Obviously, he took my reminders lightly in preparation for this climb. First time climbers will benefit from the following pointers below before going to Mt. Pulag:
  • If you can climb some flights of stairs without any difficulty then you can handle the Ambangeg trail to Mt Pulag.  Just develop the endurance to do that activity for 3 to 4 hours.
  • For beginners like us, joining an organized and experienced tour group made our Mt Pulag climb hassle free and stress free. We joined Travel Factor and their Conquer Mt Pulag tour package costs 4,100 pesos inclusive of transportation, food and tent accommodation.
  • Wear the necessary climbing gears, bring the right tools and be sure to have the appropriate clothing to withstand extreme weather.
  • Develop the attitude of gratitude, a happy disposition and a sense of adventure.
  • Don’t underestimate the cold weather at the base camp and at the summit. You’ll be sorry if you did.
  • Finally, remember this quote :
“Mountains have a way of dealing with overconfidence.” - Nemann Buhl

Getting to the Ranger station

The ranger station is located at Kabayan, Benguet. We left Manila on a Friday night on board a Byaheng Victory exclusively assigned for Travel Factor participants bound for Baguio. We arrived Baguio at past 4am and transferred to our designated jeep with our assigned  group leader. Our 1st stop was at the nearest restaurant to have breakfast. This meal is still on our account, the succeeding meals, however were handled by Travel Factor. Next stop is at the DENR office to register for the climb and to hear a short briefing about the DO’s and DON’T’s of climbing Mt. PULAG. We skipped the talk in hopes of arriving earlier at the ranger station to secure a better spot in preparation for the climb. After 3 hours of winding road travel and one  more stop to buy water, we reached the Ranger Station.
Register at DENR for Mt Pulag Hike
DENR

At the ranger station, porters are lined up waiting for their names to be called, but given the ample number of climbers during that weekend, I bet everyone got hired. Cleaning up and changing to suitable outfit for the climb was first in the agenda while here. This is the last stop where we still have access to a basic bathroom and a running water. Porter service is not included in the package, but hiring one for 500 pesos made my Mt Pulag climb easier.
Porter Station, Ranger Station, Mount Pulag
Porter Fee is 500 pesos for every 15 kilos of load

Trek to Camp 2

Travel Factor, Conquer Mt Pulag
with the Travel Factor tour leader, Ron
After our hearty lunch, we started the trek at past 11am. There were several local guides to lead the group and assigned sweepers to assure that all the participants will find their way regardless of how slow they ascend. Apparently, we’ve became close with the sweepers, well, to put it lightly, hehe! Thanks guys.

Interestingly, the real adventure began when we entered the seemingly never ending mossy forest trail. "Aren't we there yet?", we quipped, each time our friend, Cooky would show signs of wearing down. But he carried on amidst the difficulty, step by step until we reached Camp 2. We were fortunate enough, it didn’t rain that day, otherwise a muddy and slippery trail would’ve taken us a couple more hours to reach our camp.

The scenic views and the cool weather made the hike bearable and engaging. Stopping numerous times to snap selfie moments, take a breather and then amuse ourselves with how laughable our condition was.
Mossy Forest, Mt Pulag

Under these favorable weather conditions, our leisurely pace took us 4 hours to reach Camp 2.

Camp 2, Mt Pulag
our tent, 2nd one at the top in an inclined position
LATRINE - an outdoor toilet that has a hole dug in the ground
You should be done with No.1 and No.2 before dark sets in because the latrines are above up there and bring plenty of wet wipes and sanitizer to finish the deed.

After dinner was served, all I can think of was dozing off in preparation for the hike to the summit tomorrow before dawn, but that alone proved to be a challenge. Lying down steadily at our inclined tent made sleeping difficult and despite wearing several layers of clothing and a sleeping bag the cold still seeped through the skin. A throbbing headache and an acid reflux made the feeling worse. I only felt better after throwing up and afterwards managed to sleep for 2 hours until we heard the wake up call to be ready in 30 minutes.

Trek To The SUMMIT

Armed with headlights, trekking poles, bonnets, gloves, thermal wear and wind breakers, we headed to the trail, mindful of our every step. The weather was perfect, the moon guided our trail and the lights coming from every hiker helped lead our way to the summit. 
Mt Pulag Trek to the Summit

After almost 2 hours, we reached our goal just before sunrise. And boy, you have no idea how elated we all felt upon reaching the summit. The rewarding experience was more than worth all the difficulties we endured.
Mt Pulag Summit
Summit, Mt Pulag
Mt Pulag Summit /2,922 meters above sea level
Thank you Mr. Patrick Paguyo for providing the way to make this adventure happen ;).

Sea of Clouds, Mt Pulag
The sometimes elusive sea of clouds phenomenon showed up in all its grandeur. Thank you God for allowing us to access your playground. :)

Grassland, Mt Pulag
Grassland, Mt Pulag
The magnificent view of the grassland unfolds as we trekked down from the summit. This was not evident during our hike to the peak and little did we realize the possible danger of losing your balance while navigating the narrow trail at night.


Camp 2, Mt Pulag
after breaking camp and heading down
"Take nothing but pictures. Leave nothing but footprints. Kill nothing but time."
Ranger Station, Mt Pulag
Finally back at the ranger station with our constant company, the guides/sweepers


 
Set the settings to HD for better viewing. This is how we found our way to the clouds. Catch our journey to Mt Pulag in action here in this video.

Written by

Occassional blogger, photography enthusiast, apparel designer, engineer and a big believer of God. In my spare time I love to create DIY projects or chase the bliss of solitude, sipping a cup of nicely brewed coffee, munching some yummy cookies while reading a good book in a new place with an awesome view.

6 comments:

  1. For real...your trip to the sea of clouds was more than a decade in the making? :)

    That one picture of your friend bracing himself against a tree trunk tells his whole story, hehe. The comfort station up the hill is such a primeval way of doing one's business, and you described it in not so many words. Part of the perks of camping, haha :))

    Poor thing, you were probably reacting to the thinner oxygen & high altitude, with the headache and all! Yeah, who's that person who dared you to do this (I'll have a word with him/her)... almost got you in trouble! :)

    That trek to the summit with all the headlights in the dark must have been a sight to behold!

    Voila! You were all rewarded at the summit... t'was worth all the trouble. Someday, I hope to be able to view that spectacle. Great story and visuals :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep, that's true! I'm close to abandoning this goal, haha! That dare put me on track ;)

      Poor Cooky, he's probably not aware of this photo yet, lol!
      Actually I use the latrine once to do No. 1 and never came back. I can't stand the smell. And I was able to abstain from No.2 for two days, hehe!

      Could be the thinner oxygen or most likely indigestion coz I ate a lot and then went straight to sleep, hehe! Good thing I was able to throw up ;)

      The experience is really rewarding! I really hope you'll have your chance :)

      THANK YOU! ;)




      Delete
  2. Hi! We're planning to conquer mt.pulag next year and I got more excited after reading your blog!!! :) i just wanna ask about your sleeping arrangements, how many people per tent? Or is it by group? Or all boys/all girls? Thank you! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi there! The tent is good for a max of 4 people. The arrangement is dependent on your preference. So if you're a group of 5, the other one has to join another tent with fewer people. The travel coordinator will help facilitate this concern. Goodluck on your climb, I bet you'll have a rewarding experience.

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  3. Good timing because lately I've been thinking of making the climb after seeing the IG and FB posts of my friends who conquered Pulag. I am planning to do this solo (meaning I am not asking my friends to come with me) so I'd join an organized tour. I'd probably contact Travel Factor too. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    Coffeehan

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome Marjorie. I'm happy to be of help.

      Go for it! Organized tour is a big help for beginners. Goodluck on your way to the clouds.

      Delete

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