I cannot believe that Mt. Pulag is already the 6th mountain that I have climbed so far. From the humble beginnings of trekking Mt. Batulao, I never thought I would be able to climb the 3rd highest mountain of the Philippines. Thanks to the passion being shared by my office colleagues, I was able to reach high peaks and see wonders of nature that I never thought I’d see in real life.
Hiking Mt. Pulag requires proper preparation, especially for amateur climbers. Aside from the physical demands of trekking, other factors that were needed to be considered are: the cold temperature during the climb, the possibility of having elevation sickness, and the fact that we were beginning the climb during the wee hours of the morning. As a beginner myself, I was cautious about this particular climb, because I recognize the risks involved. Here are some tips that I can give you in case you are planning to climb Mt. Pulag.
What to bring. I can summarize this part in one sentence – always pack light. Bring only the most necessary stuff during the trip. I know this one might not be instinctive to everyone (me included!) but I promise you – things would be easier if you only have a few items on your luggage.
Here are the items that is a must for this trip:
- good hiking backpack -I used a Sandugo Yangra 40L Bag, bought at BaseKamp
- headlamp – bought at BaseKamp
- sleeping bag – bought also at BaseKamp
- tent – if you are joining a tour group, the organizers usually provide this for you; this is the case for us
- camping pole
- insulator – recommended, as the ground will get cold at night; I didn’t have this, but I still managed to get through that cold night
- trail food (chocolates, gummy bears)
- emergency kit (personal medicines, band-aids, etc)
- mess kit
- trash bags
- wet wipes
What to wear. This is the most significant part to consider for this climb. To literally survive the hike, you need to wear proper gear. The summit of Pulag is situated almost 3km above sea level, and temperature can go as low as negative degree Celsius, and can still feel colder because of the wind chill. Make sure you get all your body parts covered during this hike.
Here’s a suggested checklist of things to bring:
This list would still depend on how much your body can handle coldness in general, so your list can have more or less items compared to this one. You might not need to wear all of them during the climb, but for sure you will need them during the overnight stay in your tent at the base camp. In my experience, I was wearing everything in the list (plus I am inside my sleeping bag) and I still felt so cold during the night. So better be prepared!
My Hike Experience
Friday night – ride the Victory Liner bus from Cubao to Baguio (~5 hours)
Saturday morning – ride Jeep – from Baguio to the Ranger station in Benguet (~3 hours)
Saturday afternoon to evening – settle down at the camping site, prepare tent, chill, socialize, and sleep!
Sunday morning @ 1:30AM – start of climb
Sunday afternoon @ 1:00PM – end of trek, return to camp site
My journey to the Pulag summit was one very emotional hike – a life changer for me at the very least, from the moment I left our house on Friday morning to our travel to Baguio itself. The day that we leave Baguio was my dad’s birthday and I felt guilty not being able to spend time with them. I left the house with a heavy heart and I silently cried at the backseat of my Uber ride to the office. Remembering it now makes it all funny, but yeah, that’s honestly what I felt during that time. I also saw a white moth in the bus which I regarded as good premonition. I comforted myself that way. I just wanted this trip to be over already so that I can move on with the rest of my plans in life. 😅
The organizer for our Pulag Hike was Pinoy Getaways (they were also our guide during our Talamitam hike) Their service include food, tents (and entertainment also as the guides are so witty! 😆). Pinoy Getaways is a group composed of skilled firefighters who knows a lot of survival skills. They’ll accompany you throughout the hike geared with ropes and emergency kits. Because of this, we felt that we were in safe hands. They also provide van transporation, but our group opted to just commute by bus and just meet them in Baguio.
|This is our jeepney ride! (taken during our breakfast stop at Benguet)|
|Mt. Pulag merch at the breakfast place|
There was an orientation before the climb. This is required for all hikers. The locals kept emphasizing that Pulag is a sacred mountain. They believe that the spirits of the departed locals reside in the mountains, so it was important for hikers to respect their resting place. Pulag is well-known for its sea of clouds during sunrise. The locals believed that if hikers were noisy in the night, there won’t be any clouds in morning, as the spirits’ punishment to the rowdy intruders.
|My colleagues at the top of the jeepney. 😂(📷: April B)|
|At the camp site!|
|with the gang at our campsite setup! (📷: Lynzel B.)|
Our camping spot was near a house. The guides of Pinoy Getaways knew the people who lived there. We were their guests and we were free to use their bathrooms (yay!). We spent the rest of the day settling down and arranging our things in our tents. I was still sleepy so I took this time to snooze. When I woke up, it was already afternoon. Our group just chilled and chatted away while drinking the soju that we bought. Darcy, one of my colleagues, bought some flavored soju, and it was all our first time to taste it.
|Drinking soju at the campsite! (📷: April B)|
And the Actual Hike Begins!
At around 1:30AM, our alarms went off. It was time to get up! We had less than an hour to prepare before taking off for the hike. We had coffee and some light snack. It was still dark so we all had our lights (flashlights, headlamps) to light our way. Mt. Pulag’s trail is relatively easy (not that steep) but we just had to be extra careful because it was still dark.
During the start of the climb, I had to put in extra effort to focus on my steps because I tended to walk mindlessly because I was still sleepy. We had breaks on some spots, of course, to rest for a bit. During those breaks, I craned by neck upwards to see the stars. And then I saw it – at first I thought it was just clouds, but I realized it was not moving. And then realization kicked in: I was actually looking at no other than the Milky Way band (it kinda looked like this, but a bit fainter). I was so amazed! Unfortunately I didn’t have a good camera with me so I just took the pleasure of looking at it with my naked eye.
At around 5AM, we saw the horizon starting to light up. Sunrise will be happening soon! The actual summit was still a bit far from where our group was so our guide took us to one of the “mini summits” of Pulag so that we can still have a good view of the sunrise.
When we finally reached our summit, we settled down and got our cameras out. It was only our group (plus a few others, including bloggers from OurAwesomePlanet) at that peak. The scenery before us was such a beauty. We were so relieved to see the sea of clouds in the horizon. Added bonus was the crescent moon and Venus that were also visible from our view.
|waiting for the sunrise|
When we were moving, we didn’t feel much of the cold. Now that we were just sitting, the coldness started to creep into our skins. My toes were literally numb! Apparently, two layers of socks were not enough to protect my feet from the coldness of Pulag.. I had to squeeze my shoes every now and then to check if I still felt my toes. 😅 It was also a challenge to take photos because our hands were freezing. I had little difficulty using my point-and-shoot camera. However for my phone, I had to take off my gloves so that the touch screen would work.
|(📷: April B)|
|On our way down the grassland. (📷: April B)|
|(📷: April B)|
We went to Camp John Hay early the next day for breakfast. It was so relaxing to walk with nature again after that hike! After drinking some hot chocolate at Chocolate De Batirol, we returned to the hostel to prepare going home, through Victory Liner bus again.
And that practically wrapped up our adventures in Mt. Pulag!
I consider this hike as one of the highlights of my outdoor adventures. I think I won’t be able to repeat this activity again because of the condition of my knee today so I will truly treasure the memories I’ve made during this hike.
Thanks again to my colleagues for this adventure. Thank You Universe for allowing me to experience this. 😄