hiking, hiking diary, travel

Hiking Diary: Mt. Pulag

Last March, I finally made one of my hiking dreams come true. I woke up at 12 midnight and joined Justin and the rest of our group on a midnight trek for a chance to  see Mt. Pulag’s famous sea of clouds and sunrise scenery in person.

I braved the cold. My hands were so numb, I felt pinpricks of pain whenever my skin brushed against the fabric of my gloves and trekking pants. And although there were no sea of clouds to greet us once the sun rose above the horizon, the experience is still definitely one for the books.

Besides, I can go back to Mt. Pulag some other time, right? Maybe Justin and I will take the Akiki trail. I just hope we have better gloves when that time comes.

It’s also quite peculiar. I never imagined words would fail me in my attempt to tell my Pulag story. Before the hike, I had it all planned out. I had words. Sentences in my head. But it’s been about eight months since that trip and that rough draft I had is now reduced to, “OMG WORTH IT, I WANT TO GO BACK. SO BEAUTIFUL!”

I guess I’ll let the pictures do most of the storytelling for now. When I visit Pulag again, I’ll make sure to bring a travel journal. (Although I doubt I’ll have time to write– it was already hard to take pictures the last time I went). Before I jump, though, I’d just like to thank Jerson and Yob for making this trip possible despite the numerous setbacks. My annoying whining in the office was definitely worth it.

After a 6-hour bus ride from Manila to Baguio, we boarded a monster jeep to take us all the way to Kabayan, where the DENR office and the ranger station are both located. It was a cold and rather bumpy 2-hour ride– I didn’t sleep a wink.

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At a wayside eatery where we had our breakfast and, much later, traditional pinikpikan.

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Finally at the Mt. Pulag Ranger Station, perched high at roughly 2,500 MASL. This meant we’ve only got 400+ meters to climb via the Ambangeg trail.

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Believe it or not, but this was taken around midday! It wasn’t too cold then– the temperature was playing between 15 to 20 degrees. Come nighttime, it was a rather freezing story, which called for hot and spicy bowls of pork sinigang, and, as night cap, some shots of tequila (this good girl hahaha did not participate. I had my first taste of tequila much, much later).

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There were times when you can see your group, and then there were times when the visibility was so low. It was really fun!

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Divided into three groups (and led by guides from the local community), we started our assault at around 1 in the morning. Our group made quick work of it that by 3 in the morning we were already resting at the final campsite before the open grassland. By 4, we started our trek again. It was much colder (there were no trees to shield us from the wind) and the traffic more annoying. Some groups thought little pinlights would be to enough guide them to the summit. Dude. No. So, as a side note, I highly encourage you guys to hold a pre-climb meeting to discuss what to bring to the trip. Bring head lamps, not pinlights.

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Since it was already mid-March, we didn’t really expect to be treated with grand views of the sea of clouds. That’s okay, because the scenery was still A+.

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Obligatory cheesy pic

At around 6:30 am, we made our way back to the campsite for some delicious breakfast care of Yob. It was also during this time when we finally got to see just how beautiful the Ambangeg trail is. Since we started the trek at midnight, it’s natural for everything to be cloaked in darkness. The mossy oak forest was beautiful! Fave fave fave.

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The shadow of Mt. Pulag.

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Aaaaacrees. Visible horizoooooon. Where it starts and eeeends. When did we start the eeend?

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We missed so much while trekking under the cover of darkness, let’s be real. That’s why we took our sweet time to appreciate Mt. Pulag’s sprawling summit area. I forgot the correct figures, but we’re talking about more than 10 hectares of land here. There were other peaks to explore, and it’s entirely up to you if you want to take the walk.

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Okay, this is not the best picture ever. It doesn’t do this part of the trail justice at all. But let it be known to the blogging world that Ambangeg’s mossy oak forest is such a treat for sore eyes!

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I’m not an expert on the land, but this is still part of Mt. Pulag… which brings me to the more serious side of this blog post. As of date, Mt. Pulag National Park has several “disrupted” areas where human activity thrives. This includes the local community at the ranger station. For these communities, farming is a part of life. While we’re not one to lord over them and say, “Hey, you can’t use this land,” the effects of “human development” on parts of Mt. Pulag are quite worrisome. Local officials have now banned weekend camping in the mountain for the meantime to let the mountain recover. As far as I know, DENR is also encouraging locals to work for them as guides and park rangers as an alternative to farming.

These are indigenous communities we are talking about. We don’t want to limit the freedoms they enjoy in their ancestral domain, but we also don’t want to see more of Mt. Pulag disturbed. I hope we all join in the conservation efforts in our own way by following the LNT principles. It would also be really great if you’ve got spare clothes and gear to donate to the local guides. Let’s all be conscientious hikers, mountaineers, tourists… whatever you want to call yourself.

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5 thoughts on “Hiking Diary: Mt. Pulag

  1. Thanks for posting this, really enjoyed reading it! We’re actually going to be in Manila in a couple of months and I was hoping to do some hiking near Banaue…can you do Mt Pulag in a day trip from there, do you know? Many thanks.

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  2. Thanks for posting this! Really enjoyed reading it. We’re actually going to be in Manila in the next few months and were hoping to do some hiking near Banaue. Is Mt Pulag possible in a day trip from there, do you know? Any other recommendations for that area are welcome! We like long hikes (7-14 miles) and unforunately won’t have a car or tents. Many thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • vannaisms says:

      Hi! I don’t think a day trip from Banaue to Mt. Pulag is possible. Hiking up Mt. Pulag is usually an overnight affair. You go to Kabayan, Benguet and locate the local DENR office (opens at 8 am) to register and attend the orientation. Then it’s a waiting game at the ranger station for the midnight trek since Mt. Pulag is famous for its sea of clouds every dawn. If you’re okay with hiking at noon and missing the whole sea of cloud shenanigan, then I think you can arrange something with DENR and the local guides.

      But since you’re already in Banaue, I don’t think you need to go as far as Benguet for a decent hike. Banaue is part of the Cordillera region– it’s a mountainous area where you can find plenty of trails to explore. You can find the trailhead for Mt. Napulauan in Hungduan, which is just outside Banaue.

      You can also check out this link: http://www.pinoymountaineer.com/2008/05/cordilleras.html.

      Have fun!!!! The Cordilleras is a beautiful region.

      Liked by 1 person

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