Where: Mount Pulag, Kabayan, Benguet, Cordillera Administrative Region, PH
Who: Mr & Mrs Wanderlust, our 15 member team CHOPSUEY led by Mr. Yob Red
When: Feb 2014
What: First summit as a couple! (and valentines♥♥♥ maybe?)
Mount Pulag is Luzon’s highest peak at 2,922 meters (9,587 ft) above sea level. The borders are between the provinces of Benguet, Ifugao, and Nueva Vizcaya meet at the mountain's peak.
It is the third highest mountain in the Philippines, next to Mount Apo and Mount Dulang-dulang.
Famous for its "sea of clouds" on its summit during sunrise and the best and majestic view of the Milky Way Galaxy at night, which attracts many tourists, local and international alike who wish to see this glorious scenery.
Because of its high elevation, the climate on Mount Pulag is temperate with rains almost the whole year. With June - August being the wettest months
There is no snow but frost is more common in the mountain due to the low temperature during rainy months. During the amihan season, the temperature in the highest point of the mountain is known to dip into sub-freezing temperatures making it the coldest place in the Philippines. The only recorded incidence of snow was in the late 1800s.
There are also known trails to Mt. Pulag, easiest is the Ambangeg, Akiki, and Tawangan trails from Benguet and the Ambaguio trail from Nueva Vizcaya.
We have signed up with a group tour with an expedition leader who was well versed with mountaineering and outdoor lifestyle (shoutout to Mr. Barry Red! and to the whole #teamchopsuey) to be sure that we are also equipped, ready and safe for our 1st climb ever. The expedition leader provided us all the info for the climb beforehand, also got the transportation, and some camping equipments 1st timers didn't have such as tents, sleeping bags, thermarest, cooking equipments and common food.
From Manila, there are available 6 hour (average) bus rides to Baguio.
Then from Baguio, there are available jeepney to Kabayan that usually leaves before 7:00am so it is better to be early to be sure you still have a seat.
2 hours of zig zag roads going up and down the mountains so if you have motion sickness, it is advisable you take your anti-dizzyness medication even before riding the jeep. Ask the driver to drop you off Ambangeg .
**Then it is mandatory for you to go to DENR Office for the registration and video orientation especially if it is your first time. Also there will be payment of fees, Entrance fee is 100PHP per person and Camping fee is 50PHP per person
From DENR office you can directly go to the Ranger Station, by either your rented service jeep, or hiring a habal-habal.
Once you are on the ranger station, it is where you can arrange for a guide and a porter. Rates are displayed and locals are very nice people, and will definitely help you if you need.
Please note that Mount Pulag is a protected environmental area of the government and that there are no structures / any accommodation after the Ranger Station.
In other words, you will be camping, and not just plain camping because it will be very cold especially in the higher campsites (2 & 3) so make sure you also prepare a sleeping bag that can handle sub-zero degrees temperature to be more comfortable.
Bring proper clothing/layering which will be discussed below as well as other things you need to bring to be equipped.
Finally there is no electrical source so be sure you have a head lamp, and if you plan to cook, make sure you have your cook set.
On the bright side, if you don't have sleeping bags, tents and other outdoor materials, and don't plan to buy one yet, there are tour packages that already provide these necessary equipment such as for cooking food / hot coffee and also some are for rent, like sleeping bags, and mats to be comfortable inside your tent.
Definitely what you will be doing all day is walk, from the ground, to the thick mossy rain forest to camp 1 where you take a rest and eat to keep energy. Seasoned mountaineers however, claim they can reach from foot to summit in just 3 hours at a regular pace.
Walk a few more elevated grounds to camp 2, then walk more to grasslands (this is where no trees are alive due to the altitude however there is a lone pine tree that you wouldn't definitely miss.
Then finally before going to summit, you would go down a very steep slope that is also muddy and slippery making it a bit harder to get to Camp 3 which is the nearest camp to summit, it is advisable that you pitch your tent and get everything ready before the sun sets.
Now as the sun has set and moon now shines, make sure you have your headlamps, and set the kitchen up. This is a common area for groups where you will arrange the meals, cook, and eat and socialize. This needs to be stable as winds on the mountains or sometimes rain will get your kitchen flown off. Again this was taken care of by the expedition leader, but it is better to also help and learn for your future (survival? lol) reference.
~ Realizations: While walking the trail going up, we would usually come across groups of people coming down their hike from summit who would usually give you a smile, greet you, and wish you the best. At first we didn't really get it, but we just got along with it and greeted them good morning as well.
Now, after reaching the summit and seeing the glorious scenery that the mountain has to offer, when it was our turn to go down, we also met group of hikers going up along the way. This time still feeling blessed by the mountain gods, positive vibes is with you and you also tend to wish them the best of luck. For them to see and feel the best of the mountain experience and scenery that you just witnessed. Whoa! That was just a wisdom right there!
We were also first time climbers (but with the guide of our expedition leader Mr. Barry Red) he helped us with the to bring list, what to pack, and more tips to get us to the summit of Mt. Pulag.
> First thing you need is the will to climb. We may be a bit athletic, but this mountain still tested us both physically and mentally.
> Mt. Pulag's temperature drops from below 5°C to sub zero. So for clothing, layering is very important.
This was our layering while going up the mountain: 1st layer: Dri-fit shirt, 2nd layer: fleece jacket, 3rd layer: outer shell (waterproof jacket).
This was our layering after the sun sets on our campsite: 1st layer: long sleeves thermal underwear, 2nd layer: warmer shirt, 3rd layer: fleece jacket, 4th layer: outer shell jacket, with gloves, bonnet, and another fleece blanket.
Essential Things to bring:
1. Head Lamp / extra lighting lamp
2. Jacket / Poncho- combination of fleece for warmth and outer shell which should be waterproof.
3. Bonnet - our bonnet were cotton and the wind makes it moist and wet. Try ones for mountaineering.
4. Scarf / Bonnet - it is important to keep your neck and face warm.
5. Gloves - or else your fingers will get numb.
6. Blanket - Fleece because it keeps you warm yet not so thick.
7. Tent - yes, the complete set, if you don't own one, most prolly you can rent from mountaineer friends.
8. Sleepingbag - This will keep you warm the whole night while you look like a mummy at a sarcophagous.
9. Thermarest - to avoid feeling the bumpy rocky ground at your back, place this under your sleeping bag.
10. Tissue / wipes / alcohol - or any personal sanitary / hygiene set (esp for females.)
11. Trail food - from salty snacks, sweets to boost energy, and carbs to keep you going.
12. Personal water - Recommended is 2 Liters / and maybe extra for common/ cooking etc.
13. Mess Kit - lock and lock or anything similar, with spoon/fork and small portable mug.
14. Medication - You don't want any of sickness above which can be prevented by medicines.
15. Extra socks - if your socks get moist you'll get colder even if inside the sleeping bag.
16. Trash Bag - this is where you dispose your trash, take note of Leave No Trace Principle
17. Outdoor / Mountaineer cooking equipments - If you plan to cook in your camp, you should know the essentials and how-to, but usually on group tours / package tours, expedition leaders already got this taken care of.
It may seem daunting but we are sure you can do it. It may sound easy but do NOT ever underestimate it. Just prepare accordingly, make sure you have essential things to bring, and most of all, have the heart of an adventurer.
** Pacing / Walking tips - Don't rush yourself. Just keep walking even if you are going slow. Take time to appreciate the nature around you, else you won't see it if you rush so much, and you get too tired to appreciate your surroundings.
** While walking, make sure you have easy access to your drinking water and keep hydrated. You may not notice that you are being dehydrated because of the cool climate.
** It is alright to eat snacks while hiking, better if chocolates or sweets for energy boost. Just be sure to dispose of your waste properly. Please don't leave any litter behind.
***Packing/Bag tips - Pack light, make sure your backpack is water resistant or at least have a cover for your bag, if bag isn't waterproof, make sure the clothes and things inside your backpack are sealed in plastic bags.
*LAST BUT NOT THE LEAST* Please practice, the Leave No Trace Principle.
Personal Note: Whenever we are discussing the coldness and preparation to Mt. Pulag, we always get comments from foreigners (or some kababayans na nakatungtong lang sa ibang bayan) be like "pshhh we live in _____ and we have -25°C and we still manage to go to work and drop kids to day care and all that."
To answer that reply: First off, we are talking about being above the mountains, as altitude goes up, even your breathing pattern changes. Plus winds are very strong above the mountains that a regular 2°C will feel -5 to -10. And unlike being in a cold city, you can immediately go to your car, house or go indoors and turn on heater immediately and be warm in seconds. In the mountains, there are no heaters, and temperature inside the tent is still 5°C. Wind factor will always leave your tent moist, even your sleeping bag to your socks so it is really best to be prepared.
We made a quick travel montage of our trip to the mountain, and what we came there for to see. If you like what you saw, please do check out our Travel Sights & Sounds page.
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