Traversing Mount Purgatory

In Philippines, Travel Guides
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Exploring the Cordilleran Mountains

The Philippines, as small of a country as it is, has 7000 plus mountainous islands, so giving the exact number of mountains in it is quite a hardship. We don’t even have an official list of how many there are. Believe me, I scoured the internet to check for the answer in vain. But I digress, official and unaccounted for or not, there are a lot or mountains and volcanoes that are simply enthralling. Now, I live on the region of the country that is referred to as the mountains – the Cordillera Administrative Region or the Cordilleras. And as humans, it is but natural for us to explore our environs. Catapult the time decades later, these explorers now call themselves mountaineers and outdoors-men. I am such a creature, and I belong to the Boulder Monsters Club.

Stewards of Nature

The the northern part of the country boasts Mount Pulag in Kabayan, Benguet, the third highest mountain peak in the Philippines with its summit at 2922 meters above sea level (MASL). The other two highest peaks are both in the south (Mount Apo in Davao province, 3144 MASL and Mount Dulang-Dulang in Bukidnon province, 2938 MASL). Due to the popularity of Mount Pulag, trekkers, climbers, mountaineers and backpackers all across the globe come to visit and traverse all year round, resulting to a very huge impact to the mountain’s ecological biodiversity. And as the appointed and dedicated stewards of nature that they are, there are current rumors that the Mount Pulag Ecological Park’s Administration Office and the Municipality of Kabayan, Benguet are now thinking of closing the mountain to climbers for 5 years beginning 2017 so that the mountain can recover. Knowing that Mount Pulag needs the recovery, mountaineers understood the importance of closing the Eco-park, yet we can’t help but think where to next?

Mount Pulag's Camp 2

Climbers pitching tents in Mount Pulag’s Camp 2

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The well-worn path leading to Mount Pulag Summit via Ambangeg Trail

Mount Purgatory

Mount Purgatory in Bokod, Benguet is one of those mountains that aren’t fully explored yet, at least not as widely visited as the likes of Mount Pulag or Mount Ugo, the two highest peaks of the Cordilleras. Mount Purgatory may not have the ever famous and widely popular Sea of Clouds of Mount Pulag, but it boasts a long and pristine mossy forest that even a mountaineer like me can’t help but admire.

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Many are Called, but Few are Chosen

Geographically, Mount Purgatory is nestled between Mount Pulag and Mount Ugo and even though the municipality of Bokod would like to refer to the trail as Mount Purgatory Traverse, it is technically a circuit of mountains namely:

  • Mt. Mangagew – 1705 MASL
  • Mt. Mt. Pack – 2310 MASL
  • Mt. Purgatory – 2100 MASL
  • Mt. Tangbao – 2208 MASL
  • Mt. Komkompol – 2375 MASL
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The Mount Purgatory Traverse visually

The traverse is a 26-kilometer distance from the jump off point in Bisal, Bokod, Benguet to exit point in Ekip, Bokod, Benguet with a mountain traverse difficulty of 7/9. To those who are really not familiar with the terms, let me try to simplify things for you. In mountain difficulty levels out of 9, 1-3 are the easy ones, 4-6 are the medians, and 7-9 are the most difficult ones. Although, of course, every climb is subjective and is greatly factored by the climate and weather, the terrain and most importantly, the water source. The difficulty measure and classification is an attempt to guide the climbers about the mountain and the trail so they can prepare accordingly. Please don’t let this discourage you. With the right cardio exercise and preparation, along with the right attitude and determination, you’ll be able to conquer these 5 summits in 2 days, or 3 days if you want to have the more leisurely pace. Initial climbs through the so called Mount Purgatory Traverse were around 2012, and climbers can choose not to go through the entire circuit mentioned above. There is a path for exit in Mount Tangbao for those who wish not to go to Mount Komkompol anymore.

If and when you so choose to answer the challenge the mountains post, you will be gifted with the rewards only nature can provide: pristine mossy forests and pine forests, panoramic views, sunrise and sunset from the Cordillera Mountain Range, wild orchids and other flora, and will get the chance to interact with the villages of Ethno Linguistic Tribes of Bokod (Ibaloi, Carao and Calanguya).

Rates and Estimated Cost for a Climb

REGISTRATION FEEĀ  – PHP 100.00 (USD 2.06)/head

CAMPING FEE – PHP 20.00(USD 0.41)/head

GUIDE FEE(1:7 RATIO) – PHP 250.00(USD 5.16)/guide per day

4X4 JEEPNEYS (good for 10-12 passengers) – PHP 7500.00(USD 154.72)

PORTER FEE (optional) – PHP 500.00(USD 10.31)/guide per day

Take Heart

It may seem intimidating, it may seem insurmountable and the summit may seem a very hard goal, but there are many beautiful scenes that can be appreciated from each vantage point as we progress with the climb. Climbing a mountain is like going through with life – we have our end-games or long-term goals that can be likened to the summit, and we have our short-term goals likened to the vantage points as the climb progress, these are the small victories and milestones as we go through the process. In a very conscious effort of each one not only to survive but to thrive, we must be willing to climb the mountains that lie in our way, no matter how difficult they may seem.

Take heart.

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