Destiny is not a choice, it is a chance.
It is not a thing to be waited for,
it is a thing to be achieved.
~ William Jennings Bryan
I am in for a bit more reminiscing after writing about our Sagada Adventure here. But before that awesome trip, there was first Mt. Pulag story.
Scaling Mt. Pulag or Mt. Pulog in 2005 was probably the biggest challenge of our mountaineering life. Being passionate with scaling mountains and advocating love for nature, I only dreamed of reaching it’s peak and I’ll be the happiest person ever. By far, the most thrilling and overwhelming adventure I had organized in my life.
Our itinerary was timed at a long holiday on Oct. 28 – Nov. 2, 2005.
Our ambitious trail would lead us to: Manila – Baguio – Mt. Pulag – Sagada – Baguio – Manila
It took a month of planning, hours of online research, coordination, pre-climb meetings, and empty pockets, before everything was ironed out. I asked every participants to do physical preparation as well and indulge their selves with exercise and cardio activities to warm up for this demanding event.
Mount Pulag is the highest point in Luzon and the 3rd highest mountain in the Philippines. Located 2,922 meters above sea level, the locals of Benguet consider this place sacred. We expect a major climb, but only the determined ones are rewarded with awesome visual treats, spectacular sun rise and sea of clouds.
The high altitude is a home to diverse flora and fauna, pine trees and mossy forest. During January – February, temperature drops to its lowest that sometimes make freezing mist.
Oct. 28, Friday
2200 ETD Victory Liner, Pasay
Oct. 29, Saturday
0400 ETA Baguio City
Last Minute Provision
0500 ETD BAguio to Babadac Jump-Off Point
1100 DENR Station
1200 Trek to Ranger Station
1700 ETA Ranger Station
Rest & Eat
1800 ETD Ranger Station to Camp 2
2300 ETA Camp 2
Cook Dinner, Eat, Socials
Oct. 30, Sunday
0500 Peak Assault
0700 Summit Grassland
0730 Descent to Camp 2
0900 Break Camp
Ready for Descent
1700 DENR Station
1800 ETD DENR Station to Sagada via Kabayan Route
1st Day – Breathing Fresh Air
The group met up at Victory Bus Liner in Pasay and reserved our tickets to Baguio. Our waiting time and long road trip gave way to bond and meet the unfamiliar faces behind the 16 participants name.
*Me, Asi, Allan, Ferdie, JP, Leila, Badet, Jeff, James, Dang, Pilo, Sonny, Precy, Tessa, Shirley & Setiel
We reached Baguio at 4 AM. The cool air brushed our tension away and just left us with raging excitement for the day’s development. We bought breakfast to fill our energy. Our jeep was pre-arranged through Mang Roger. He was really helpful in making our plan an ultimate success, providing us with the most sufficient driver, Kuya Noli.
Our service dropped us at Babadac Jump- off point to register at the DENR station. On our way, we passed by the breathtaking Ambuklao Dam.
An hour before 12 noon, we reached the DENR station where visitors are required to register and attend the 15 minutes in-house seminar. This is the jump-off point to Mt. Pulag. It also houses a souvenir shop.
After our last minute check. we’re off to a rough road adventure. Some even enjoyed the vantage point at the top load (atop the jeepney’s roof). But not for long, we’re not even far yet from the station, when our jeepney driver declared that our transport will not be able to make it through the bad road condition. Our jeep was trapped at the muddy pool, even at several trials, it can’t pull off to bring us to the Ranger’s station.
We don’t have a choice but go on by foot. This is a sudden change of plan, although I am half-expecting it already, but some from the group may have ignored my preemptive warning during our many meetings. We walked almost 5 hours to get to the Ranger’s station. We were so behind schedule due to our low pacing.
The path is breathtaking, not too steep. But between cold weather and fatigue, we felt a degree of difficulty in breathing. The long walk was exhausting, considering at least 15 kilos on our back and I wouldn’t even start with how much the men can handle. But the environment seemed to soothe our weary bodies. The cold wind blows softly through our stressed out mind. Hiking through Ambangeg trail was physically draining, yet it gives one a quite time to go on and walk further with much adrenaline.
Finally when we reached Ranger Station, everyone recharged with snacks and steal a few zzzs. Everyone seemed hesitant to go on a night trek as the weather drops lower.
We departed just before 6 in the evening from Ranger’s Station. A long, cold and dark night accompanied us. Our group was eventually broken into small groups. Our many rest stops were a bliss.
We understand that we can’t pitch tent anywhere as this is a rule within the boundaries of Pulag National Park. As we trek along the looming darkness, I feared for our safety. I fear about others losing hope in reaching the camp seeing exhaustion and effect of cold weather. God’s grace worked most powerful that time, we all reached Camp 2 safely before 12 midnight.
Some interesting and funny highlights of our first night:
*JP who struggle to bring his cathedral tent to accommodate all of us was the one who got evicted and has nowhere to sleep to.
*Sonny and Tessa shared a tent.
*The mystery behind the culprit of spreading bad gas on a very soothing air of Mt. Pulag.
We thank our boys whom beyond our stressful day were able to cook our food for the evening. Though everyone seemed exhausted and cold enough to eat and be merry.
2nd day – Race to the Peak
Our supposed call time was 4:30 in the morning, but the weather crept on us like a blanket that lulls as more to sleep. We literally drag ourselves to move and go hiking 30 minutes later.
The grassland summit seemed close, yet so far. From Camp 2, we have to trek for around 2 hours to get to the Peak Summit. Ah, the torture, yet again. But we can’t deny, it’s all worth it.
Sunrise can’t wait and we witnessed it on trail. Apparently, there are many groups ahead of us, Mountaineering Federations of the Philippines, Inc., Sabit Mountaineers, and more.
The sea of clouds were not as we expected, maybe because we climb too late but nonetheless, we are awestruck by the green rolling hills, amazed at how many we’ve crossed just to get on top. It was a wonderful feeling.
Pulag is referred as a Bald mountain. The grassland, well, not a single tree on the peak. I bet Tiger Woods will have a blast on this giant golf course.
We can’t stay long enough to savor this great achievement, and before the thought creeps in that we conquered the highest peak in Luzon, we realized that we needed to get back to our campsite soon. Maybe less than 2 hours of trek this time.
We were greeted by a sumptuous feast on our arrival to the camp courtesy of our group mates who decided to stay away from the trail early. We were all hungry for breakfast.
At half past 10 in the morning, we cleaned up. Break Camp and did last minute check before going down. As mountaineers, we are an advocate on preserving the natural beauty of our environment. All things we brought with us, shall also be going down, and leave the area, as if we were never there. Too bad some people aren’t responsible enough to clean their own mess.
At 5:00 in the afternoon, we reached the DENR Station, all sweaty and eager to freshen up. We had minor issues with the availability of jeepney service that caused our delay. We signed out from the registration book and checked some souvenir shirts to take home.
We are headed to Sagada! Sonny, Setiel, Leila and JP have priorities to attend to and can’t make it with us, so they joined the other jeep going to Baguio instead. James who’s original plan was to go with them, gave in to our prodding and joined us in Sagada only until the following morning.
Mang Roger’s Lost in Love Jeepney
Contact Number: 09208068656
Important Reminder and Tips:
1. Prearranged the vehicles only with Mang Roger as there has been reported criminal cases and theft from unreliable agents.
2. Prepare physically and mentally weeks prior to the climb. Climbing in cold weather is life threatening, more so, hypothermia can cause death.
3. Another great option if you want to stay out of the strenuous trek is to stay at Rangers Station for the night, leave your bags there and do a peak assault early morning to catch the sunrise.
4. If you are intending to follow our itinerary, be sure to go early at the peak.
5. To maximize your Mt. Pulag Experience, climb between January to March and enjoy the freezing weather.
Bidding goodbye to this beautiful scenery at a passenger’s seat, Sagada to Baguio Route
James Dela Rosa | Panfilo Villanueva | Valerie Teves
Hoping to scale Mt. Pulag’s Akiki Trail too,