MT. PULAG: THE FIRST HIKE AFTER TWO YEARS OF ISOLATION

Hooh! Finally! Yes, just like what the title said, after two long years of isolation brought by travel restrictions due to Covid 19. I finally got to wear my hiking attire and carry my travel gears again. As the restriction eases in my hometown Benguet, I got an invitation from my long time friends and hike partners, Team Ladaw to go on a weekend overnight hike to Mt. Pulag.

Mt. Pulag, branded as The Playground of the Gods has an elevation of 2,926 masl and tagged as the third highest mountain in the Philippines.  The mountain maintains its long reputation as one of the most captivating summit to hike with its stunning sea of clouds, captivating sunrise and mesmerizing landscape as you hike. A lot of hikers I met surely puts Mt. Pulag as their top favorite mountain they set foot on.  It is also every hiker’s bucketlist and on their return list if they get the chance.

The Journey: How To Get There

There are several trails to get to Mt. Pulag with different jump offs but the two most popular are the Akiki Trail and Ambangeg Trail. Akiki is the challenging longer trail that can take three days, while the latter is the easiest one which can be done within a day or overnight.

Since we have been isolated for a long time and none of us have any training prior to the hike we opted to take the Ambangeg Trail. To save ourselves with any hassle we also choose to just go for joiners event with Mt. Pulag Akiki Trail on Facebook.

We left La Trinidad, Benguet at 8 am in the morning since there was no traffic we drove smoothly until we reached Amboklao Dam in Bokod at around 9:30 am. We took a break to enjoy the view of the dam and also for toilet break. (P.s. You can do boating activity in Ambokalo dam, if you have time to spare.)

We continued to drive until we reached Ambangeg Daclan to have our medical check up. Since 2015, the DENR requires all hikers to Mt. Pulag to secure medical certificate stating they are fit to hike. You can get your medical certificate to any clinic and hospital of your choice but as for us we didn’t have the time to acquire one so we got it from a local clinic, JB Medical Clinic. The consultation and certificate cost Php 130.

We carried on our journey to Mt. Pulag National Park Protected Area Office in which our medical certificates, vaccination cards and valid IDs are collected. We were also asked to watched a 15-minute video about the Dos and Don’ts  when hiking in Mt. Pulag as part of our orientation. After that, we were off to Ranger Station also know as Camp 1 which serves as our jump off point.

Camp 1 (Jump Off)

The Ranger Station is a residential area and can be reached thru any mode of transportation. It is located around 2,400 masl so YES, this hike is pretty chill. Some hikers in Camp 1 can opt to set up a tent or get accommodation in homestays. Since it is a community area you can spot some sari sari stores to eat and hang out with other hikers. Most hikers spend the night here before going up the summit at around 1 am just to be on time for the sunrise.

As for our team, we opted to camp out in Camp 2 which is around two hours hike up from Camp 1. We honestly find Camp 1 a bit too chill for our liking and crowded with other hikers so we want to space out plus we can have less hectic call time the next morning.

Camp 2

Camp 2 is the midpoint from Camp 1 to the summit. Hikers usually set up their tents here. It has toilet although don’t expect too much of it and a cabin built for those who don’t have tent. I personally find the hike from Camp 1 to Camp 2 somewhat the most difficult part of this hike especially when you start in the middle of the day since the sun will be quite harsh. It is mostly ascending but not assault so for us who haven’t exercise for a while it is quite a struggle. The view is nice. Most of the trail is shaded on the latter part of the hike and there’s a small mossy forest  in between. The pathways are well made and safe.

Tower Site

If you stay at Camp 2 the call time for the sunrise in the summit is usually 3 am. However, when we spoke to locals and our guide. They unanimously advise us to witness the sunrise in Tower Site for a sure view of the sea of clouds.  The hike going up to the Tower Site only takes 30 minutes so it means more time to sleep for us. Our call time is 4:30 am and going there is not difficult at all.  We’re glad we took their advice since the view of the sunrise above the sea of clouds didn’t disappoint.

Mt. Pulag Summit

After chasing the sunrise in Tower Site, we proceeded straight up to the Summit. The hike ascending to the peak can take 2 hours. It is easy and can be accomplished even just by a newbie hiker. It is open with no shades so just be wary of the harsh sun when you end up hiking until the mid day. The pathways are developed and very safe with no falling rocks, loose soil and assault areas. The views along the way are stunning. Out team really took the time to take a pause, appreciate and took photos of the landscape. When we reached the summit, we were greeted with cotton candy clouds above us, a bit of sea of clouds and other beautiful Benguet mountains. Dwarf bamboos are also present on the peak.

My Thoughts

Obviously, My Pulag is a must try experience. Although, some of my friends who have been there told me that I might not see the most stunning view of the mountain on my first hike because it took them numerous attempts before they could see the best view. I ended this laidback hike really contented with the scenery I witnessed.  I also appreciate our guide for setting our expectations straight and giving us tips to make the most out of our first hike. For someone whose been hiking for years the level of difficulty for me is 3 out of 10 and that contributed to the development of the national park because of the long standing popularity of the mountain.

Expenses

Mt. Pulag Akiki Trail Joiners Event: Php 3,100

Package Inclusions:

> Transportation (Baguio-Mt. Pulag Vice versa)

>  Park Fees (Entrance Fee, Guide Fee, Cultural and Camping Fee)

> 3 Meals (Dinner, Breakfast and Lunch)

> Coordinator’s Fee

> Homestay/ Tent

Porter Fee: Php 1,750

Shout out to Team Ladaw and Mt. Pulag Akiki Trail for making this post possible.

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