Published: May 7th 2010May 1st 2010
I came to train. I got more than what I had bargained for.
A friend and I suddenly decided to climb up Mt. Pulag in preparation for our Everest Base Camp trip (yes, we are preparing even if it's just the base camp)
. It is the highest peak in Luzon and 3rd highest in the entire Philippines at 2,922 meters above sea level. Upon learning from another friend about an open climb (2 days on Labor Day), we registered without a blink. And a great decision it was.
With 36 other strangers, we embarked on this 2-day journey through a 7-hour bus ride to Baguio City. From Baguio, 2 jeepneys took us to the DENR Visitors Center and Protected Area Office in Ambangeg, Benguet for registration and an orientation. On our way, we passed by the Ambuklao Dam in Bokod, Benguet. It was once the biggest and highest in the Orient/Far East in the 50s. (The livelihood of many people in Benguet is growing of vegetables and selling them in the various parts of the country. The neatly arranged vegetable gardens were a pretty sight along the road.)
The 4-hour rugged, rough, muddy
road trip took its toll on the vehicles -- the tire of the other jeepney burst twice and got mired in the thick mud once too often. A third jeepney that we dubbed "Optimus Prime" had to pull it several times.
Flanked by Benguet, Ifugao, and Nueva Vizcaya provinces, Mt. Pulag National Park is sacred to the indigenous peoples in the area. As such, "love-making," among other activities, is not allowed within the park -- fact much highlighted by the Park Director. From DENR Office, we proceeded to the Park Ranger Station, where hikers taking the Ambangeg trail enter. Although it is only 10-12 km away, it took about more than an hour to reach it. We also had to trek for about 10-15 minutes because of jeepney problems (again).
It was my first major mountain climb. I believe I'm hooked.
There are 3 trails to the summit: Ambangeg (for beginners), Tawangan, and Akiki ("killer" / challenging trail). We took the relatively easy trail. Mt. Pulag's flora is unique. Its foot is composed of pine forest on rocky slopes that changes into mossy forest in the middle and then into an area populated
by dwarf bamboos, and then transforms into a grassland summit.
We had to bring our own water because the source near the camping ground dried up from the summer heat. Some members of the group hired porters at the Ranger Station to help them carry their packs. A number of the porters were women who were even shorter than I am but you would be amazed at how much stuffs they were able to carry. They even just breezed through the climb. (I am really proud that I carried my own pack up to Camp 2; we left our things on our way to the summit.)
At the foot of Mt. Pulag, sadly, there were areas where some of the pines had been burned. There were also areas that had been transformed into rice fields and vegetable gardens to accommodate the needs of the indigenous peoples living in the area.
The assault up to Camp 2 took about 3-4 hours. We camped for the night. Located at the end of the camp site was an area that had been dug out and enclosed for use as "restroom." At least there was no need to dig one ourselves
at the peak
(photo courtesy of Yla Estrelon)
or do it
in the fields.
Since it had been raining, the temperature was cold and became even bitingly colder at Camp 2, especially around midnight. The previous night, a mountaineer we met at Camp 1 said it went to about 12C (temperature can go down to -6C). It was one of the longest nights of my life. The extreme cold prevented me from sleeping well. In those rare sleep moments, I dreamt my toes got frostnip!
We pushed towards the peak at 4 a.m. in order to catch the sunrise. Through the trail in the grassland, we reached the summit in about an hour, just in time. The view was simply spectacular! "Sea of clouds
" had initially surrounded the mountain range tops but eventually cleared up and allowed us to take everything the wonderful sight was offering us. It's such a pity that my camera was unable to capture this.
Upon reaching the summit, I was surprised that there were several children there. I was amazed. :)
The Wonderful Extras
Going down and back home, I brought with me not only wonderful memories, but also new friends found along our way up the
summit. Such circumstances are actually what transforms a simple travel into a great adventure.
There are more photos below