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Mount Pulag: 8 Tips to enjoy the “Mountain of the gods”

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With a towering height of 2,922 meters above sea level, Mount Pulag is the highest peak in Luzon and the second highest in the Philippines, following Mount Apo in Davao. It has since become a favorite hub for mountain climbers and enthusiasts because of its varied but gentle terrain and of its famous ‘sea of clouds.’

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Pulag: The Mountain of the gods

When we were on our way, we met some elders living at the foot of the mountain. They told us to be as ‘peaceful’ as possible because they still believe that the mountain is still inhabited by their pagan deities, protecting and guarding it against destruction, thus earning the moniker “Mountain of the Gods.” Right before starting our trek to the Mountain, we were asked to attend a “pre-departure seminar” at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Protected Area Office and before heading to the Ranger Station.

Outside the DENR Protected Area Office - Mount Pulag

Outside the DENR Protected Area Office

Personally, Pulag is also one of the most picturesque mountains in the Philippines, more famous because of its seasonal but surreal “sea of clouds.” When we trekked to the summit of Pulag, it was a surprising 4 °C and counting lower! And we climbed at around 2 am to have a photo-op with the Milky Way! It is best to have a picture with the Milky Way at early morning because it is more visible and only if the sky is cloud-free.

This is the first mountain I have ever climbed, although unexpected, it was worth it! Yes! And as a neophyte mountain climber, I have come up with some tips for you to know before ascending the mountain.

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Tip 1: Prepare your feet

Of course, when planning to trek Mount Pulag, you have to have a lot of feet power. As of experience, the terrain to the mountain is very varied – rich and thick vegetation below and dry and grassy terrain towards the summit. From the Ranger Station, you will have the option to avail of the porter services, portable stove and tent rentals as well. There are also stores that sell snacks and other mountain gears before climbing. To reach the first camping station, you will have to walk for at least 2 hours.

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TuristaBoy Tip

Have bottled water in hand and an empty 5-gallon water container. There are natural springs along the way (with signage) where you can get fresh and cold water. Don’t forget to bring snacks, too! It’s good to have something to munch while trekking. Also, don’t be too loud and boisterous when trekking. And always practice cleanliness!

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Camping Site in Station 1 - Mount Pulag

Camping Site in Station 1

Upon reaching the first station, you may rest for a while and energize as the second station is quite far. There is a narrow strip where you can set up tents. It’s the only station with a resting gazebo for public use.

To reach station two (which is the main resting place, by the way), you will have to trek for another 2-3 hours. The space to pitch tents is much wider. There is also a public comfort room easily accessible for use. It is the boundary between the thick and grassy vegetation of the mountain and the weather here is starting to get volatile.

When we climbed the mountain last March 21 and 22, it was quite unfortunate that we were not allowed to pitch in Station Two because there was an ongoing Mount Pulag Marathon organized by the Cordillera Conservation Trust and the organizers reserved Station Two for the resting place of the marathoners. We had no choice but to go to Station Three which is the farthest station but the nearest to the summit.

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TuristaBoy Tip

Bring your medication and other vitamins, especially multivitamins, because it really is energy-draining, not to mention the bags, food, and water that you’re carrying.

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Pitched tents in Station Three - Mount Pulag

Pitched tents in Station Three

To reach Station Three from Station Two, you will have to trek again for 3-4 hours (Tiring, huh?). Here, the weather is getting colder as fog always comes and goes. The weather is very volatile – at one time, it is foggy, then sunny on another, and rainy afterward. You really have to have thick jackets as the wind is very, very cold! We were then really tired (because it’s our first time) and we were just surprised that the pathway to Station Three is grassy, because baby bamboos dominate the landscape, but very dangerous because the trails are narrow and follows deep ravines at every turn, adding the presence of fog to the thrill of adventure, making it more difficult to see the trail.

When we reached Station Three, we saw that our porter set the tent up already. We then had lunch and rested the whole afternoon. Our trek started at around 9:30 – 10:00 a.m. and we reached Station 3 at around 3:30 p.m. So we went ahead and had our power naps.

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TuristaBoy Tip

Be generous in giving tips (or you may give food and water) to your hired porters because they will be going down immediately to the Ranger Station after leading you to your camps. That is their only source of living in the area and receives only a little amount in exchange for their service. I find it very cumbersome because they carry heavy bags and walk much faster than the climbers. Even Senior Citizens help in porting these bags! It’s just a way of saying thank you for their service.

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Tip 2: Pack light

Being it’s our first time to ever climb a mountain, we were advised by our organizer, sir Paul, to pack light and prepare the following things: tent (regular or all-terrain), trash bags, 1 or 2 empty 5-gallons of water, food (that can sustain energy), guide stick (well you can find one along the way), thick jacket, blanket or sleeping bag, gloves, flashlight, toiletries, trekking shoes, extra clothes, bonnet (that can also cover your ears), and of course, CAMERAS! These are the only essential things he required us to bring to be as light as possible when trekking.

Trekking from Station Two to Station Three - Mount Pulag

Trekking from Station Two to Station Three

Any extra to the equipment may cause additional weight to your bags and may make it more difficult to carry. But there are porters readily available at the Ranger Station. The porter rates start at around PhP 855 starting at 15 kg. There’s a tarpaulin for the porter fees and corresponding weight divisions. If your baggage is below 15 kg, you will still be charged that of the 15-kilogram weight.

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Tip 3: Never go alone

Always be accompanied by guides or go along with friends or with the climbing team you are in. It is also a requirement by the DENR to have guides as you go along so that you will not be lost and that you’ll just be following the established trails towards the camps. Better yet, avail of a cheap packaged tour (so that guide fees will be included in the package).

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Tip 4: Attend the Environmental Seminar

It’s a must! Even before reaching the Ranger Station, all of the climbers, even if it is your Nth time, are required to attend the pre-climb seminar at the DENR Office in Kabayan, some 30 minutes away from the Ranger station via a vehicle.

During the Pre-Climb Seminar - Mount Pulag

During the Pre-Climb Seminar

The DENR Office opens between 7:30 – 8:00 a.m. and the seminar usually lasts for 2 hours. They will just be orienting you on the dos and don’ts when climbing the mountain. Two of which are: (1) to be quiet while climbing and (2) by always practicing cleanliness. The environmental fee of around PhP 30-40 will go to the remuneration of the volunteers that maintain the cleanliness and orderliness of the whole vicinity of Pulag.

Different Trails to Mount Pulag Summit (via pinoymountaineer.com)

Different Trails to Mount Pulag Summit (via pinoymountaineer.com)

Routes to Ascend Mount Pulag

They will also discuss the 4 possible routes to climb the mountain, they are: (1) The Ambangeg or “Easy” Trail – the most usual and easiest trail, especially for neophyte climbers; (2) The Akiki or “Killer” Trail – because of its steep slopes and is for more experienced climbers; this trail will take at most 2 days and 2 nights of trekking, the third day will be for the day of descent; (3) The Tawangan or “Bloody” Trail because this route has a lot of leeches along the way, also about 2 days and 2 nights of treeking; and (4) The Ambaguio or “Suicide” Trail, via Nueva Vizcaya, this trail takes around 3 Days and 2 Nights, according to your climb pace. Eddet Trail is also one of the routes going to Pulag but it will also coincide with the Akiki Trail so it is not that recommended by the DENR.

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Tip 5: Sleep early to wake up early

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To catch a nice view of the Milky Way (and hope it doesn’t get too cloudy when you climb), you must rest early, maybe around 7-8:00 p.m. so that you have lots of energy in ascending to the summit. Trek to the summit by 2 or 3:00 am (for 30 minutes, from Station 3; for 1 hour, from Station 2) and have photo-ops at the summit marker for an hour or so. You will also have an early view of Benguet, Ifugao and Nueva Vizcaya in the dawn sky. By 5 or 6:00 a.m., the early sunrise and the surreal ‘sea of clouds’ will greet you, a nice spot for a photo-op! But be aware that the average temperature at the summit is around 5-9 °C, and even colder during –ber months!

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Tip 6: Have lunch at the Ranger Station after descent

After enjoying the view from the summit, start descending to the Ranger Station by 7 or 8 am, after breakfast, because it will take around another 3-5 hours of strenuous hiking. You have to descend early so as to avoid the large volume of people flocked at the Ranger Station during midday. You will have to arrive at the Ranger Station by lunch time. Here, many local businesses offer lunch and other food items, plus souvenirs! Prices start from PhP 50 ($1) up.

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Tip 7: Go on a side trip

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After lunch and after taking that deserved rest, it’s more fun if you go on a side trip with your climb-mates! After our climb to Pulag, our organizer, sir Paul Louie Serrano, brought our team (Team Pinikpikan) to three more destinations near Pulag for a short visit. The first of which is the Daclan Sulfur Spring. A natural spring in Barangay Daclan, Bokod, Benguet. I do not recommend this to people with respiratory ailments as the odor from the spring is very strong. After which, we went to a Hanging Bridge near the eatery where we ate for breakfast on Day 1. It is believed by locals to be the longest hanging bridge in the Philippines. (This information still needs confirmation, though). And lastly, we went to Ambuklao Dam, one of the major dams servicing the Cordillera Region. Here, we got to see the calm view of the Ambuklao River and the whole dam facility as well. This is also where we got our climbing certificates! Yey!

Team Pinikpikan in Ambuklao Dam after summiting Mount Pulag!

Team Pinikpikan in Ambuklao Dam!

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And lastly…

Tip 8: Take good pictures and make good memories

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TuristaBoy Tip

If you want to experience Mount Pulag on the cheap, I recommend that you join Sir Paul Serrano’s Team – “Team Pinikpikan.” He offers the lowest (and the coolest) package to Pulag. His package includes the guide fees, environmental and other pertinent fees, free photo shoot at key places in Pulag, a Team Pinikpikan Shirt, 2 lunches, Transportation fees, and an Official Climbing Certificate. You can contact him at +63 917 541 7759 and tell him I referred you! A’right!

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Have any comment, question, or suggestion? Or do you want me to go to places you want to visit in the future? Feel free to drop it below and I will answer them as soon as I get back. 🙂

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THIS IS MY VERSION OF THE MOUNT PULAG TRAVEL GUIDE, HERE! 🙂

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