Traveller, Photographer, Mountaineer, Human

C4 – Mt. Pulag (Ambangeg-Ambangeg Trail)

April 17-18, 2011

Mt. Pulag is Luzon’s highest peak and the third highest in the Philippines.  Probably one of the most climbed mountain in the Philippines.

When I started mountain climbing, I’ve read a lot about mountains in the Philippines (mostly through Pinoy Mountaineer website).  One of the most visited page on that site is for Mt. Pulag.  I decided to climb it soon.

Lucky for me, DPM (the group I joined for my first climb in Arayat) was scheduled to climb that mountain in April.  I invited Felix to join me in this climb (hence, the training climb in Mt. Maculot in my previous post).

The famed Pulag grasslands.

We were supposed to climb it on April 16-17 (Saturday-Sunday) but due to the scheduled Climb Against Cancer, DPM moved the climb to Sunday-Monday as the DENR advised that the mountain will be full (200 or 300 carrying capacity).

The road to Pulag is a long one:  a bus ride to Baguio (we left on the 11pm bus trip), a “monster” jeep from Baguio to the DENR office in Kabayan (which takes around 3-4 hours including some break in a resto and a stop to view Ambuklao dam), 30 minute video presentation + pep talk by Ma’am Mering (DENR officer in the Pulag National Park) and another 2 hours or more of road trip through rough roads (very dusty when we visited).

The official jumpoff is the Badabak Ranger Station.  On arriving there, we saw the many (and I mean many) participants of the Climb Against Cancer (including Jeffrey Santos and Rocky Salumbides).  A quick lunch at the ranger station then off we go up, up, up!

The trail through Ambangeg is not that difficult (many Luzon mountains, including Batulao, Maculot and Pico are much harder) but the combination of the cold climate, the thin air and high elevation, not to mention the time and expense it takes to get to Pulag from Manila makes this a “major climb”.  The trail begins through a dirt road passing through plots of lots converted to vegetable plantations, then through a mossy forest (not that thick on the trail), then through the famed grasslands of Pulag (which contains dwarf bamboo grass).  It took us a few hours (3-4 hours from the ranger station to Camp 2, grassland camp).

The grassland camp (picture above and below – right side of the picture).

When we arrived at the campsite, we rested for a while, set up our tent and rested some more.  Rain (on a summer day) began to fall and I and Felix got drenched inside my cheap dome tent as water got inside and I had to poke a hole in the sack flooring so that water could go outside.  Thankfully, the rain only lasted less than an hour.

Felix and I resting before pitching our tent (photo by Lirio Flores).

The rain was soon replaced by fog and the temperature went to 14 degrees Celsius (in summer!).  I was wearing a shirt, a sweater, a jacket, a bonnet, sock, pants, and still I felt cold.  I did not join the socials as I had a headache or was too tired but I kept waking up due to the cold.

We woke up early the following day as we had to trek to go to the summit before sunrise (an additional 1.5 hours of walking through the grasslands).  Three of our companions – Joel, Aisa (his wife) and Blezh (Aisa’s friend) – chose to stay behind in the camp to sleep.

On the summit of Mt. Pulag at sunrise.

Sunrise at the summit is beautiful and I get to see the so-called “sea of clouds”.  Pictures here, pictures there, yosi here, yosi there until the sun rises and time to go down.

Mt. Pulag’s summit.

On getting back to camp, they cooked breakfast (cooking is not my thing) and after we ate, it was time to break camp and descend.  We passed by the DENR office again to get the t-shirts we bought (which says “I survived Mt. Pulag”) and then finally a dinner at 50’s Diner in Baguio before we rode a bus home back to Manila.

It was on this climb that I first met Blezh (when I first saw her, I just thought that this girl is all about makeup – retouching when we arrived in Baguio, in the DENR office, in the ranger station, at the campsite, on return to the ranger station) who became a good friend of mine and a climb buddy through some memorable climbs; James (what can I say, he is fast, barely a month after he first met Blezh in Pulag, they became a couple); Edel (unforgettable line:  “Gaano pa ba katagal hanggang camp” “1 hour” “Pahinga na lang tayo dito ng 30 minutes para 30 minutes na lang lalakarin natin”); and the sweethearts Ochock and Lirio (sweet but not cheesy).

James, me, Allan, Aisa, Blezh, Bong and Ochock.

Dyumar, James, Edel, Alan, Ochock, Lirio, me and Felix.

* * * * *

On this climb, I get to see the beauty of Mt. Pulag.  I would eventually return and face it’s harshness giving true meaning to the t-shirt print “I Survived Mt. Pulag” but that would be for another post.

(All pictures taken with my Samsung point-and-shoot camera, except as indicated).

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