With an elevation of 2,922 meters above sea level, Mt. Pulag is the highest mountain in Luzon and 3rd highest mountain in the Philippines. To its summit, there are four major trails: the Ambangeg, Akiki, Tawangan, and Ambaguio. We did the Akiki – Ambangeg traverse.
The group, 13 of us, decided to meet-up at Victory Liner – Cubao at 8:30 pm for our 9 pm trip, which we bought the tickets a week before. However, not everyone made it on time. Despite of the heavy traffic on the metro, I was able to arrive 10 minutes before the bus’ departure. The others who were left became chance passengers for the next bus ride to Baguio City. It was a 6 hour bus ride, with around 3 stop overs. It was my first time riding a bus to Baguio. At first, I was scared but I realized there’s nothing to be scared of and it’s more comfortable to ride a bus than a car because of the bigger leg room and expertise of the bus driver on the deadly zigzag-y road to Baguio City.
We arrived Baguio City at around 3 am. The jeepney that we hired to take us to Akiki, Kabayan, which is 3 hours away from the city, was scheduled to arrive at 7 am. So, while waiting for the jeepney and our dear friends who were left at the bus terminal, I took the chance to grab some sleep.
On the way to the DENR, we ate breakfast and brought packed lunch. As soon as we arrived the DENR, we registered and attended the orientation to hear a short briefing about the DO’s and DON’T’s in hiking Mt. Pulag. Here are some of the things I’ve learned from the orientation given: Every group of Mt. Pulag hikers is required to have a local guide. Mt. Pulag’s vegatative cover is composed of mixed vegetation, pine forest, mossy forest and grassland, which I will show all later. Ambangeg is the easiest trail and Akiki is dubbed as the “Killer Trail.” Temperature in Mt. Pulag can drop below zero and there were already cases of hypothermia.
Then, we rode the chartered jeepney again and headed to the Akiki – jump off point. Guess what? I rode the top part of the jeepney. I was even able to lay down and sleep for awhile while being on a jeepney topload ride. No need to go back to Universal Studios for fun trips, just need to be on top of a jeepney!
From there, we climbed the steep route to the Ranger Station. There, we ate our packed lunch, met our guide and our porter. Yes, you can hire a porter to reduce the load of your baggages. We let the porter carry our tents. A porter for the Akiki trail costs 1,500 pesos for 15 kilos and an additional 100 for every kilo above 15 kg. The porter and guide will be with you all throughout the hike.
As soon as we finished eating lunch and got a little bit of rest, we started our trek. For the first day, the goal was to reach Eddet River and camp there. From the Ranger Station, the first thirty (I’m not sure because I just know it was really tiring) minutes that welcomed us will make you rethink of why were you there and just go home. Ohmmmyygosh. It was so steep! For me, that was the hardest part of the hike. But wait, I change my mind. The hardest part of the whole hike was sleeping in the cold at night! I’ll tell you about it later but for now, let’s get back to the trail. That steep hike I was talking about ended when we reached a roll. Thank, God!
Upon reaching the ‘roll’ part, it was just like a long walk in the park.
As soon as we arrived the first land mark in the trail, the Eddet River, we set-up our tent and then, ‘played’ on the hanging bridge on the river.
Despite of the freezing cold water, some of the guys in our group soaked their selves in the river. Our guide told us that you can bathe in the river BUT with no soap or any form of chemicals. When I heard the scream of the guys when the river’s water touched their skins, I changed my mind of ‘playing’ in the river. I just stayed on the hanging bridge, instead.
Near the camping site, there are two portable toilet and bath rooms. Just beware of the freezing cold water! There are also nearby potable water source near the campsite. Around 6 pm, we were able to eat dinner. For that night, we ate pesto pasta and burrito. At 7 pm, I started sleeping. Due to the very cold temperature, I woke up at the middle of the night, wore extra clothing and went back to sleep. Sleeping in the cold was very hard.
We woke up at 4 AM to eat breakfast and prepare for a 7 hour long hike to the next camp site.
I was a little bit scared for the Day 2 hike. I thought it was as steep as the hike after the Ranger Station but I was wrong. It was steep, but not as steep as the it’s-so-steep-i-don’t-want-to-go-back-there part that we’ve been to. In this part, you are about to see pine trees everywhere.
The first plan was to have lunch at Marlboro Country but it was changed. Upon reaching there, we just relaxed for a while and enjoyed the scenic view.
Then, we continued trekking to the last water source and had lunch there. We were supposed to eat chicken for lunch but it got spoiled. Instead, we just had a Filipino vegetable dish called “Chopseuy.” After lunch, we still had two hour of hiking left until we reach the next campsite.
Experiencing Mt. Pulag is wayy wayyy different than just reading this blog. I hope you’ll get the chance to climb the scenic mountain. However, for now, I’ll just bring you with me.
Pine tree part is over! Now, we are about to enter the mossy forest.
Then, out of the mossy forest, into the grass lands!
More of the grasslands!
We arrived the campsite before it turned dark. As usual, as soon as tents were set up, we changed into thicker clothing in preparation for the cold night. In that camp site, there is a portalet but you can’t use it since it was damaged by a strong typhoon. However, there is a ready pit there that you can use as a toilet.
We woke up at 4 AM to do the same drill: eat and prepare. We needed to be at the summit before the sun rises. From the camp site to the summit, it will take you around 15 to 25 minutes, depending on your speed.
When we arrived the summit, we sat in one corner and wait for the sun to rise. I searched for a spot with internet signal and skyped with Jacob. Yes, there are places in Mt. Pulag that have mobile signal. You just got to find it. Thus, Jacob and I were able to watch the sunrise and its sea of clouds together via my 3 day Akiki trail and his 3 second ringing Skype trail. Reaching Mt. Pulag’s summit doesn’t guarantee you of seeing the “Sea of Clouds” phenomenon. I’m grateful that it showed up on my first Mt. Pulag climb! I wasn’t able to take lots of photos in the summit but I’m glad Paolo Dala was able to take some really good shots. Now, I’ll just let his summit photos do the talking.
Going down from the Summit, we used easiest trail in Mt. Pulag, the Ambangeg trail.
The said trail will only require you 3-4 hours of hiking to reach/get off from the summit.
Drop off point of Ambangeg trail is at 2,500 masl, which makes you start/end off on a high altitude.
Due to my hectic schedule and laziness, I wasn’t really able to prepare physically for the hike. I just did a couple of night jogs, which isn’t sufficient because the Akiki trail is dubbed as the “Killer Trail” by mountaineers because of its steepness and high slopes at 70 to 80 degrees. However, even though I lack physical preparation, I think my stamina is strong due to activities. I used to jog everyday… but stopped since the Christmas season started as a Christmas gift to myself. Christmas hangover! Haha. I wasn’t prepared clothing-wise either. I just brought one fleece jacket only. I didn’t have a thick sleeping bag. With me are only a couple of shirts, leggings, soccer socks, head gears for the cold that I bought when we arrived Baguio, one pair of gloves, one sleeveless top that was supposed to be for my sleeping time and that one fleece jacket that saved my life. Basically, I underestimated the cold in Mt. Pulag, which is a no-no. NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE COLD IN MT. PULAG. If you are prepared, the cold weather is refreshing. However, if you aren’t, expect it to be a great burden. So learn from my mistakes! Be prepared physically and follow the packing list!
I didn’t bring enough camping stuff, but I had a bunch of good friends with me!
What Should Be In Your Back Pack?
First aid kid; Fleece Jacket; Windbreaker Jacket; Hiking Clothes; Thermal Clothing; Gloves; Bonnet; Sleeping Bag; Toiletries; Wet Wipes; Thick Socks; Trail Food; Trail Water; Mess Kit; Cup; Slippers; Headlight
*detailed fees to pay: to follow; will update this soon*Prepare at least 3000 pesos just for the hike; some cash for your out-of-hike meals and pasalubongs
So what are you waiting for? Set a date for your Mt. Pulag hike now. Trust me, your 11 hour Manila – Baguio – Manila bus ride, 3 days and 2 nights hike and all efforts are all worth it!
Want to see more of Bela? For more updates and to get notified about my new posts, ‘like’ my Facebook page.