Mt. Pulag: Above the Clouds Escapade

In Travel Guides
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The Sea of Clouds

The Sea of Clouds | © Dyan Manuel

Overview

One of the famous travel destinations in the Philippines is Mt. Pulag; dubbed as “Playground of the gods” and has a large diversity of flora and fauna, some of which are endemic to the mountain. Standing at 2922 masl (meters above sea level), it is the highest mountain in Luzon, the third highest in the Philippines which is situated on the provinces of Benguet, Ifugao, and Nueva Vizcaya.  The spectacular ocean of lofty clouds as seen from the summit and the view of the Milky Way Galaxy at night makes people so drawn to it. Temperatures may plunge from 5 degrees Celsius to subzero level at the summit especially during rainy season. The shortest and easiest trail suited for beginners is the Ambangeg trail as the path is clearly easy and not as strenuous as Akiki and Tawangan. However if you are looking for a long and challenging hike, give the two other trails a try.

Ambangeg Trail

Philippine Rice Terraces

© Dyan Manuel

My sister and I left for Victory Liner Bus Station Cubao at 9pm to meet up with our colleagues and after an hour we took the bus heading to Baguio City. Estimated travel time from Manila to Baguio is 6 to 7 hours. We reached Baguio by 15 past 5 at dawn and chartered a jeepney to the Ranger Station. (Make sure to plan your trip duly to make arrangements through internet or phone for jeepneys taking you directly to the Ranger Station.) We proceeded to the Visitor’s Center slash DENR Office for registration and fees. Orientation is required particularly for first timers. Medical Certificates are also mandatory as of December 2015. It took us 3 hours from Baguio to reach the Ranger Station. From there, we hired a local guide from the community that cost us 500 pesos for 1 to 5 persons, you can hire a porter as well if you need help to carry your extra pack. We were divided into two groups: “team ratrat” (literally meaning quick) and “team chill” in which the team ratrat has to be in the saddle before nightfall to set up camp and get everything set for dinner. My sister and I decided to join the “team ratrat”, owing to the fact that lashings of rest makes you feel more exhausted.

Mossy Forest

© Dyan Manuel

Summit is just 4 to 5 hours away from the Ranger Station. The initial part of the trail is just a wide unpaved surface giving you an option either to hire a motorcycle to take you to the opening of the forest or choose to walk instead. We passed along the forest which renders a distinct view of surrounding pine trees and vegetable terraces then we advanced to the mossy forest veiled with lichens and moss.

In just an hour and a half we reached camp 2 where we had our lunch on a spot adjacent to pools of dwarf bamboo. From there, you can have a glimpse of golden brown hills enfolded with dry and fresh vegetation. The trail following camp 2 is like a walk in the park since there are some stone pavements along. On the further side of the summit is the saddle where we plan to set up our camp. We reached the saddle 30 past 2 and set everything up at once. Dusk was falling rapidly and the other team began to show up.

I wasn’t actually prepared for the weather. No exercise for almost a month plus no appropriate gear made it difficult for me to overcome the plunging temperature. I couldn’t breathe well because of too much frigid air inhaled so I barely had enough sleep until I found myself cocooned in my sister’s arms.

An hour before sunrise, we prepared our breakfast and started to pack up then we commenced assaulting to the summit. My exhaustion upon ascending to the summit turned into exhilaration as I recognize a wooden Mt. Pulag sign indicating that we were just a few steps away. The view was overwhelming once you stepped onto the summit. As seen from the highest point of Luzon is a breathtaking panorama of unparalleled golden brown hills overlaid with sea of clouds. Definitely one of the best summit I have ever seen.

 

Sample Itinerary

Day 0

2200 – Take bus to Baguio City

Day 1

0500 – ETA Baguio City. Take a chartered jeepney to the Visitor’s Center slash DENR Office

0800 – Visitor’s Center. Registration and Orientation

0900 – ETA Ranger Station

0930 – Start Trek

1100 – ETA Camp 1

1200 – ETA Camp 2. Lunch

1300 – ETA Summit. Take pictures

1430 – ETA Saddle. Set up camp

1900 – Dinner. Socials

Day 2

0500 – Pack up. Trek to summit

0600 – ETA Summit. Just in time for sunrise

0630 – Start descent from summit

1000 – Ranger Station. Breakfast

1130 – Visitor’s Center. Log out

1430 – Baguio City. Late Lunch

1600 – Head back to Manila

2300 – Manila

Estimated Budget: Php 2500-3000 / $52-63 USD

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