Climbing Mount Pulag – “an adventure above the clouds”

Mount Pulag Summit (Taken last March 15, 2015)Mount Pulag


Mount Pulag is the 3rd highest mountain in the Philippines next to Mount Apo and Mount Dulang-Dulang. It is the highest peak in Luzon standing at 2,922 meters above sea level. Interestingly, provinces of Benguet, Ifugao and Nueva Viscaya borders meet at the mountain’s peak.

Mount Pulag is one of the foremost adventure destinations when talking about Northern Luzon, Philippines. It will almost be included in the bucket list for many Filipino and International mountain climbers. It is often dubbed as the “the peak at the sea of clouds”.

As the highest mountain in Luzon and being one of the most well-maintained national parks in the country, Mount Pulag attracts myriad of mountain climbers – from novices to seasoned. The highlights of the climb are its grassland summit with its mystic “sea of clouds” phenomenon. Additional highlight would be its serene forests that serve as home of the nation’s rare and endangered species of flora and fauna.

Mount Pulag has four major trails going to the summit namely the Ambangeg, Akiki, Tawangan and Ambaguio. Ambangeg is the easiest, dubbed as the “executive” trail and one can reach the campsite and the summit in about 3 hours or less depending on your pacing. Akiki trail is sometimes dubbed as the “Killer Trail” by some mountaineers due to its path difficulty level. It could take 11 hours more or less to reach the summit via this trail. Tawangan trail however is dubbed as the “Bloody Trail” as it has blood leeches along the trail and could also take around 10 hours to the summit. To top it all, the longest trail is the Ambaguio Trail which could take up to three days just to reach the summit. That’s becuase the trail jump off starts at Nueva Viscaya. There is also another trail calledΒ  the “Eddet Trail’ but I don’t have info about the trail, if you happen to know the specifics, let me know by leaving a comment below.

For us, we could not consider ourselves as seasoned climbers yet but just a bit above the novice level. πŸ™‚ Thus we chose the most convenient way up to the summit (Ambangeg Trail) considering everything as well as the climate in mount Pulag – the area has one of the coldest climates in the Philippines because of its high altitude by the way.

Mount Pulag is one of the most beautiful mountains in the Philippines. Its majestic views of the winding slopes with dwarf bamboos, and the distant peaks resembling like islets in the sea of clouds, perhaps made Mount Pulag one of the most breathtaking and mesmerizing sights in Philippine mountaineering. The locals/natives say that Mt. Pulag is not just a park or a resting place but a sacred place for them, not only because they consider it asΒ  the “playground of their gods” but also a place where they bury their dead . It is literally the closest to heaven that mountaineers can get in Luzon, Philippines!

(Day 2 – March 14, 2015) : Baguio City to Mount Pulag Campsite

We had our wake up call at around 3AM to prepare something to eat for breakfast. At 3:45 AM, we then went to the meeting place , at the gasoline station right across Victory Liner terminal. We’ve waited for about an hour or so, have been accounted by the tour agency personnel and a quick recap of our itinerary.

IMG_20150314_044215 (1)(Pose to the camera while waiting)

At around 5AM, we had our assigned jeepney but still waiting for the other group that participated under the Pagnat saka Adventour event. There were also few groups that are from other Adventure Agency that has the same meeting place as ours. Few minutes after, we’re all set and we need to beat the time to stick to the itinerary. We need to be there in the Ranch Terrace Restaurant by 6AM.

We’re still sleepy at that time. Some of us including me had fallen asleep during our trip – can’t see the scenery though as it was still dawn.

At 6:30 AM, we had a stop at the Ranch Terrace Restaurant for 30 – 45 minutes for others to have their breakfast, use the restrooms, etc. We’re done with our breakfast back at the transient house, so we just chilled right outside after using the restrooms.

IMG_1074 (1)IMG_1059 (1)
IMG_1135 (1)

Break is over and we resumed our trip going to DENR office – our next stop, where we have to register, secure permits and attend a short orientation regarding the national park of Pulag.

We arrived at the DENR office at around 8:30 AM. I really thought that its too early for us to arrive there but as we entered the office, to my surprise, there a lot of visitors/mountaineers ahead of us. Good thing is we didn’t need to do anything regarding the registration process, it’s been taken cared of by our guides – everything. All we need to do is wait for our orientation. Since there are a lot of people ahead of us, we were not included in the first batch for the orientation, but its okay, we will get there – mount Pulag will not run anyway. πŸ˜€

So while waiting , we did what we love to do – picture taking.

IMG_1152 (1)

IMG_20150314_091125 (1)(The orientation for the second batch started at 9:30AM)

The orientation was supposedly just a quick one for about 30 minutes and it should have been started at around 9:00AM but some leaders from the other group was not yet around, so Miss Albas,Β the Protected Area Superintendent waited for them. At first, other participants seemed annoyed and not interested to what Miss Albas had shared and presented during the orientation and keep on complaining that it took so long, but after such time when she started throwing punch lines, it seemed that they want more from her and won’t let it stop. We keep on smiling, giggling and most of the time a loud laughter has filled the orientation room. All I can say is that for me, she threw punch lines somewhat similar to Sen Merriam always did and I find it amusing. Well maybe not just me coz most of the participants seemed to enjoy it too.

IMG_1170 (1)(Some of the memorabilia left by the climbers of Mount Pulag @ DENR office)

IMG_1169 (1)Β (Top Loading on the jeepney πŸ™‚ )IMG_1165 (1)

After the orientation, the next destination would be to the ranger station. But we stopped somewhere for our lunch. I don’t know the exact place but it seemed it was the contact from our guides to cater for our food.

IMG_1186 (1)(We had our lunch ready when we arrived at this place.)

Everyone was hungry already, so we then had our lunch. Even though the lunch they provided was not that tasteful (seemed no seasonings at all – I don’t know if it’s kind of native cooking) , but we are in the mountains, we have to eat what’s available. We need energy after all plus the temperature was dropping drastically.

After an hour, we then continued our trip going to the Ranger station. At around 2PM we finally arrived. We embarked at the ranger station road to be exact. One of our companion just remembered that she forgot to bring her flashlight/headlamp. She then bought one in the ranger station store – good thing they have available items there.

Again, another long wait. The guides just left us there in the ranger station road and they’re the ones who went to the ranger station for another registration. The reason why they left us was that, the ranger station were overly crowed that time and we don’t have any place to sit or relax in there. The wait was about 2 hours more or less. Waaah!

Everyone in our group seemed too tired of the trip and felt sleepy especially me. Huhuhu, when are these long wait going to end? – was on my mind.

IMG_1193 (1)(Posing in front of the camera right after we got off from the Jeepney)

IMG_1197 (1)(This spacious ground here, turned to campsite later in the afternoon, as there were no more space in the designated camp sites according to the mount pulag rangers)

IMG_1200 (1)(Behind those pine trees on the Hilltop, served as camp site for others that were not accommodated in the designated camp site)

IMG_1233 (1)(Everyone was exhausted an in dire need to have rest)

IMG_5521 (1)(Picture taking under the sun)

Past 4PM, the guides were back and they brought us toΒ  the ranger station. Yay! the long wait was over.

(Everyone hurriedly heeded to the ranger station as it was about to rain)IMG_1274 (1)

IMG_1276 (1)(Ranger station at last!)

Everything was settled then and we have an assigned local guides already. (FYI: It’s their policy to have a local guide for every group when going to the summit of mount Pulag).

Too bad, there were only 5 remaining slots available in the campsite and we were too many from pagnat saka tours. 2 slots were already filled leaving just 3 slots open. The guide (Eugene) asked us if we wanted to camp there, but we have five tents so we declined – we needed to be in one place anyway.

Everyone waterproofed each backpacks as the rain started pouring down. We then heeded to the private camp site just few minutes away from the ranger station. The rain had stopped and few minutes after, we were already in our camp site. The guide let us chose where to pitch our tents and he asked us to join them for bonfire in the evening.

We had pitched our tents immediately as the rain was about to pour again plus it was too chilly already as it was late in the afternoon. I can feel that the temperature was about 12 degrees centigrade or so. Tats decided not to pitch his tent and will share tent with me. Well that’s fine with me coz it’s really cold in there, I really need to have all the warmth I can get.. (It”s better to have a buddy inside the tent, it will add the warmth inside).

Just right after pitching 3 of our tents, mine, Joshs’ and Normans’, the rain had poured again. The last tent for Angel and Michelle was not pitched yet, the local guide help them. Thanks “ate” for your help. Upon pitching the tent, their tent pole gave up and had been broken. Waaaah… We needed to fix it immediately but to no avail, it was really hard to especially the rain was pouring and the temperature was really dropping insanely fast.

We offered the tent pole from our extra tent from Tats as it happened to be the same model of tent. Making it short , we’re done setting our camp in few minutes though.

The rain poured really hard and everyone has been hiding inside their tents. We then decided to take a short nap. But due to tiredness of the trip, we slept until half past 6PM. They were having the dinner by 6PM though. We didn’t noticed that the guide tried to wake us up at that time.

I woke them up at around 6:45PM, the temperature started to dropped at around 9-10 degrees I guess. I can’t even move my fingers comfortably even if I was wearing gloves though. Damn, my fingers are about to froze. The guide then called us again to eat our dinner. Guess what, everyone had already eaten except us. πŸ˜€

We had our dinner near the bonfire that our guide had made. Thanks goodness, the warmth from the bonfire added warmth to our cold bodies and it felt really good. Plus the food had taste already, not that fancy but it was way better than our lunch. πŸ™‚

(We were the only group that joined them in the bonfire. The rest were hiding in their tents already.)Pulag

Angel at that time was just wearing a Tee, everyone was shocked as the temperature was too chilly. We asked her why, she told us that her jacket was wet and that she only had another one reserved for the next day’s assault to the summit.

Our guide Eugene took picture of us with Angel visibly wearing T-Shirt, and said, she was the first climber he had met that was wearing Tee in the night at mount Pulag. He then went to his tent and grabbed something, Tsada!, it was a fleece jacket. He offered his jacket to Angel, how sweet!.. HEHE

He jokingly saidΒ  that, shall Angel needed more heat, his tent or Hausen’s tent (the other guide) is widely open. πŸ˜€

After the bonfire, Josh told us that it’s very cold in their tent. We then offered to have him in our tent with Tats or with Aldrich and Norman. Aimie will be joining the two ladies in the bigger tent with Michelle and Angel. We had the boys talk inside the tent and the ladies had their girls talk too. At 9:00PM, we then called it a night as the wake up call for the Summit Assault will be 1AM. Huhu. Everyone seemed cold that night indeed.

(Day 3 – March 15) : Journey to the Sea of Clouds

Β At 1:00AM, we then had our quick preparation for the summit assault. We survived the temperature drop of about 5-7 degrees that night. It was a struggle indeed since we didn’t have proper clothes layering. Going to the summit, we only brought us what we needed in the summit and left everything in the camp – except the valuables of course.

Our journey to the summit started with a prayer and then we proceeded afterwards. Basically, I still felt very cold despite my heat tech and jacket. Started the trek at 2AM. After 2 hours or so, we then reached camp site 1. We had a short break and then continued after. From camp site 1 to camp site 2, it took us around 45 minutes.

At around 5:00 AM, we’re already at the foot of the summit – the camp site 2 and 3. We rested for a while and wait for couple of minutes before going to the summit. At 5:30AM, we then started to climb to the summit. Few minutes after, Yay! we did it!

We rested again at the summit while waiting for the sun to popup above the “sea of clouds”. Huhuhu, it’s way colder at the top.

IMG_1295 (1)(Me and Tats lying with Aldrich, Josh, Aimie and Angel above us)

Its almost 6AM when everyone was busy preparing their cameras. The sun is about to shine at last.

IMG_1297 (1)(Getting ready for the sunrise)

(Group picture – [Cebu Group] From left to right: Norman, Aldrich, Tats, Me, Josh, Aimie, Angel and Michelle)IMG_1308 (1)IMG_1306 (1)(Another groufie)

IMG_1310 (1)(Trying to propose? πŸ™‚ or playing rock, paper scissors? πŸ™‚ )

IMG_1313 (1)(Patiently waiting… for the sun? or patiently waiting for someone to appear from the clouds? )

IMG_5565 (1)(There you are, you came out finally!)

IMG_0616 (1)(Someone caught me taking pictures with the sunrise)

IMG_1367 (1)Mount Pulag(Sea of clouds, isn’t it?)

Mount Pulag(The gents: We salute you!)

IMG_1322 (1)(The ladies: We loved the sunrise!)

Mount Pulag(Gents: Us too!)

IMG_20150315_060736 (1)(Ladies: Let’s call it a wrap, it’s already 6:07 AM)

Here are few more pictures from the summit.

(The grassland summit of Mount Pulag, lovely! is it not?)Mount Pulag

(We wanted to go to another summit, but one of our companion is not really feeling well that time)IMG_5622 (1)

(Punching Josh πŸ™‚ for funIMG_1378 (1))

(The summit is also a romantic placeΒ  for lovers, don’t you agree? – what a lovely couple :))IMG_5566 (1)

(The clouds were so inviting, Everyone wants to play above them!)Mount Pulag

IMG_5604 (1)(Starting the descent from the summit back to camp site 2)IMG_1406 (1) IMG_1411 (1)(Having our breakfast just below the summit, but one of our companion can’t eat his breakfast coz he was not feeling well πŸ™ )IMG_1425 (1)(Picture taking along the trail on our descent – Ambangeg trail)

IMG_1431 (1) IMG_1461 (1)(The pine trees are just simply beautiful)

IMG_1251 (1)(Some vegetation along the trail)

IMG_1480 (1)(Finally were back at our camp site. It’s time to pack up and break camp. Thank God the temperature was back to it’s normal – around 18-20 degrees C)

IMG_5711 (1) IMG_5712 (1) (Its time to go! Last group picture at the campsite)

We’re ready to go! We then had our descent back to the ranger station and wait for our other group mates on the jeepney for our side trips which would be in an another post.

Have you been to Mount Pulag? What trail did you take? How was your experience? Feel free to share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

Guess I’m too chatty today. I talked so much. Sorry for that! If you haven’t read my Day 1 Baguio adventure post yet, click “here”.

For our complete itinerary, click “here”.

One thought on “Climbing Mount Pulag – “an adventure above the clouds”

    1. Wow… How I wish we had the Akiki trail too.. but on the bright side of it, that would be a good excuse for Mount Pulag rematch via the Killer trail πŸ™‚

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *