Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Mt. Pulag: Mission (Un)accomplished

Nov20, 2011 - 2200H, Victory Liner Terminal, Pasay

Out of eighteen, only (lucky or unlucky) thirteen individuals made it to Victory Liner in Pasay terminal. Not bad, as we still have numbers to divide the expenses with. Haha. We took the bus leaving the terminal at 11pm. I was up all day preparing my things for the climb so I ended up fast asleep in the bus. Past five in the morning, we arrived the cold and freezing city of Baguio.

We had a quick loo break before we met our monster jeep driver, Kuya Klint (with a ‘K’).


Nov21, 2011 – 0545H, outside Victory Liner Terminal, Baguio

This monster jeep perhaps is the most expensive jeepney for hire in the country (as far as I know ah..) Rental ranges from 8000-9000. Ours is 8,500 for a roundtrip transportation from Baguio to the Ranger Station of Mount Pulag in Kabayan, Benguet. This part of our trip ate most of our budget, as we have to split the said amount into just 13 persons. This is not ideal for a true blue SOLO traveller. If you can't convince your friends to travel with you to Mt. Pulag, there are a lot of travel organizers that offer climbs in the mountain. (Travel Factor, TrailAdventours, Tripinas)

The first hour of our monster jeep experience was nothing but a normal jeepney ride, only all our windows were closed as it was really cold outside and we were navigating the famed zig-zag roads of Baguio. Then, we reached the well known Pinkan Joe Eatery for our much needed breakfast… We also bought food for take out that will serve as our lunch at the ranger station.

They say your Benguet (Pulag) experience won’t be complete without the top load ride. It’s a custom for locals to sit on top of the jeep, it’s fresh, it gives a different rush, it’s just exciting to be sitting there. I have tried it once in Sagada, but it was a short trip (bitin). Top loading isn’t new to me, as I used to do that during my early teen years in Surigao when roads were still rough, and land transport is minimal.

topload photo-op (Thanks, Inch)
toploaders, for real (Thanks, Inch)
It wasn’t too cold when we took the top load, as the sun joined us to fight the morning breeze of Mountain Province. We had a quick stop over at the Ambuklao dam, and did another set of photo ops.

We were seriously enjoying the life threatening top load ride when suddenly we felt some droplets of water into our skins. This can't be happening. Yes, it was drizzling so we were obliged to get down the roof and settled inside the jeep. It wasn’t a good sign. It was the least thing we want to think about. Haha

After hours of zigzag-uphill ride, we reached our first destination. The DENR office of Mt Pulag Park. It is a must to do a stop over here as you need to register in the office. Mt Pulag Park Supt. Emerita Albas-Tamiray was out of town, so Mr. Roy Lopus, a former Mt Pulag Park Ranger facilitated our much needed orientation.

We failed to watch the video presentation because there was no electricity when we arrived. But then we still had fun learning things about the highest mountain of Luzon.. Mt Pulag can be accessed into different trails. We, of course, took the safest one, the Amabangeg trail. Maybe someday, when we’re brave enough, we can take the so-called killer trail, the Akiki trail.

We also learned about the existence of cloud rats, the biggest rat in the country that can only be found in Mt. Pulag.. and the close relationship between the spring water and the maya-look-alike bird. *According to Sir Roy, you will know if the spring is safe and clean when you see a bird (maya-look-alike) in the area. *

"Mount Pulag is the only place that hosts the 4 Cloud Rat species. It has one of the most diverse biodiversity of the Philippines.." - Wikipedia.
credits to JC
According to Sir Roy, trekking from the ranger station to the camping grounds of the mountain would take three hours. That’s for an executive climb, with a leisurely taken steps, taking time to enjoy the surroundings and feeling the grandeur of Mother Nature.

The DENR office also houses different memorabilias of different group of climbers who successfully conquered the prominent mountain. Too bad, we have no banner yet, so the only evidence we can have for now is the log book, where our pretty names were finely written. Haha.

thanks for the pix, JC
You can also buy souvenir shirts in the office, for 180 pesos. Outside the office, there are some stores where you can do your last minute shopping. We bought our gloves for 40 pesos only. They also sell ukay- ukay trek pants and jackets.

We continued our journey to the Ranger station. And just when you thought you can sleep and rest inside the jeep for the rest of the trip, think again. The stopover at the DENR office marks the start of our monster ride on a monster road inside the monster jeep.

This unusual jeepney ride topped my Mt Pinatubo 4x4 experience where I got bruised because of the bumpy drive. At least, the ride to legendary mountain/volcano in Tarlac was in the vastness of a dessert-like highway, unlike the one-way roads to Mt Pulag where you’re being sandwich to a walled mountain and unguarded cliffs. This is not to scare, but to stir your vivid imagination how nerve-breaking the ride can be. Worth every single cent you pay for the thousand worth monster jeep. It was indeed, hell of a ride.

And to add contrast to the adrenaline-hyped ride, we got badly stuck in the most rock-muddilicious part of the road. We were trapped for almost an hour, we did everything we had to do but it was just too hard to pull a thousand-pound beyond normal sized jeep in a mucky and grubby roads with our tiny, gentle hands.

just how desperate we are.. (thanks for the photo, JC
We're hopeless. Half of our minds were worried about the chilly weather and the light pouring rain. While the other half was trying to convince us to just walk and hike all the way through the ranger station. We pity the monster jeep and Kuya Klint. He tried and tried and tried very hard, frustratingly hard to make lampas the greatest challenge of his life as a monster jeep driver. Yes, according to him, it was the most difficult drive of his career. Haha. Well, there’s always a first time for everything, Kuya… and you made it. What a sweet achievement! Want to climb Mt Pulag and experience a safe monstrous ride, give Kuya Klint a call – 09391608252.
There's a standby shovel on the road... for lubong-gulong situation.


Reaching the Ranger Station was such a great relief for all of us. We were behind our original schedule, so we hurriedly changed into our trekking attire and took a very quick lunch.

It was very sunny when we arrived the ranger station, though I can feel the icy wind touching the deepest part of my skin. And just when we’re ready to start our trek, it started to drizzle again. I quickly changed my costume, as I needed to wear my leggings to fight the gusty wind. Baka di ako makahakbang sa sobrang lamig. I forgot my other jacket, so I was forced to just wear my fleece jacket to ease the cold. (It was a wrong idea.) Took my raincoat, covered my bag, did some photo ops… and off we went.

A Fleece jacket is more useful and must be worn while sleeping and during the trek to the summit. If it’s raining while you trek, you can use your casual jackets or long sleeves. Save your fleece for the night, trust me on this. Haha..

improvised raincoatsr: trash bags

We hired two guides, and one porter. Mommy Earl and I thought we had three porters with us. Had we known we could have asked for one more porter as there were a lot of things to carry, like five tents, our groceries, etc. Besides we allotted budget for three porters which costs 500 each (balikan..) But Manong Daniel didn’t mind carrying all the stuffs for us, or maybe he just had no other choice.

Anyway, the rain continued to sprinkle the grounds, clouds from afar was trying to give us a hint of a doomed possibility of an almost perfect, dream climb. This can’t be another Pico de Loro climb, I whispered to myself. And just when various unpleasant thoughts encompassed my mind, a beautiful, stunning sign of hope appeared into us, as if welcoming us to the mountains.

Behold the beauty. It indeed boosted my strength and lifted up my spirit. Who knows, at the end of our journey, we will be rewarded with a pot of gold.

We left the ranger station at around 215 in the afternoon. In an hour, we reached Camp 1. The rain didn’t withhold its nature and continued to shower us her blessings. It wasn’t easy having her around. I cannot maximize my camera, wasting a chance to photograph the lush scenery. Rainwater started to invade my shoes that made it more difficult to walk.

After a quick snacks at Camp 1, we continued our soaking trek. Don’t you worry if ever you run out of trail water as you can pass by one or two spring water stations along the trek. Don’t miss it, it taste delicious and freshly refrigerated.

For first time climbers, bring as many snack bars and trail food as you can, keep it within your reach, it will help you keep distracted how tiresome mountain climbing can be.

It was like we were at the beach during the trek. We can hear the strong wind blowing her fullness in our midst, as if strong, enormous waves are slapping the shore. It was a bit scary. I hope I can properly justify how bad the weather was, that day. It was a déjà vu of Mt. Pico de Loro.

But being the highest peak in Luzon, doesn’t make Mt Pulag the most difficult mountain to climb. No wonder, this pride of Benguet has captured a lot of tourists and visitors, that even non-climbers will surely have fun in it.

It was raining hard, left and right... I expected the climb to be very strenuous and exhausting, backbone-breaking and energy-demanding, because it is the 3rd highest mountain in the country, by all means. I expected worst. I was prepared for it, mentally and physically. I even brought two Gatorade with me (things I don’t usually bring during day hikes haha) because I knew I'd be needing them… but somehow, I got disappointed. Haha. Because trekking Mt. Pulag just became one of the easiest trek I had (partida, ulan pa yun ah..). This is not to brag, but to encourage you guys, that yes, you can also climb Mt Pulag... ... then climb Mt. Pico de Loro, so you’ll have an idea what I’m talking about. Haha.  For me, the most exciting and challenging part goes to the monster ride.


We cannot contain our excitement as we finally reached the almost zero visibility grounds of Camp 2 of Mt. Pulag. An unexplainable emotion filled up my heart that I wanted to kiss the grounds and thank the good Heavens for a remarkable achievement. (camping grounds pa lang yan ah, panu na kaya kung summit na. Haha.)

If only it wasn’t raining and we weren’t chilling, I’d imagine we’ll be doing jump shots right then. Pinch our respective tents, while camwhoring. Waiting for the sunset, cooking our dinner… Resting under the moonlight, star gazing while enjoying the bonfire. Can this really happen in Mt. Pulag? Maybe, if only it wasn’t raining. Haha.

Back to reality. We proceeded to the bahay kubo, the official residence of the guides. We felt useless, we cannot move around because of the very chilly weather.

While everyone’s trying to figure out how and where to build our tents, when the wind is blowing like crazy and the rain won’t stop its naughty game… we started to test our newly bought tiny cook set. Even if it was an easy trek, nakakagutomrin noh at nakakapagod dahil sa ulan. We had some cup noodles and bread… and corned beef and tuna… while our guides had rice and ulam. Sila na!

So, the guys decided to just assemble their tents under the mighty refuge of the kubo. Yes, no one dared to set up their tents outside the open grounds, as the weather became unbearable. Two tents were set-up. All the guys stayed in it… while six ladies settled in sleeping area of the kubo, upstairs.

This is the right time to wear your reliable fleece jackets to keep you warm. But since, I used mine during the trek, and apparently, I got wet from head to toe, even with raincoat – the situation left me no choice but to keep myself warm though layers of long sleeves. I brought two spare long sleeve shirts and put them on together, then I wrapped my neck with a scarf. (Lesson learned, do not forget to bring one more jacket if you don’t want to get yourself turn into a frozen meat.)

Past 6pm: While our guides were busy chit chatting, we settled ourselves in the kubo. Trying to keep ourselves warm through our sleeping bags-turned-blankets. (Note: Malong can help, but it’s not enough. If you don’t have sleeping bags, bring thick blankets, maawa kayo sa sarili nyo. Haha.)

Around 8pm: Everyone was trying to get some sleep, and the wind and the rain continued to play their favorite scary game, when I suddenly heard voices of women talking. I thought I was hallucinating because of freezing climate, but another group of climbers actually arrived. Three lady climbers. I bet they were more chilling than us, as they were also soaking wet. As much as I want them to join us in our sleeping area, it can no longer accommodate them.. and the ground below the kubo was being occupied by the guys. After a short talk, they left the kubo – and I assumed they went to the camping grounds to set up their sleeping gears. I can’t imagine how they managed it but I admire their bravery.

The trek may be easy, but surviving the night in Mt Pulag is a complete different story. Temperature here can go as low as 5-10 degrees Celsius, I mean, negative 5-10 degrees Celsius. According to our guides, our stay was just about 10-12 degrees Celsius, yet I was already begging the Lord to stop the rain at least for a night and scold the wind for striking so hard... but Mother Nature’s just too strong for me to fight with. So, it did rain the rest of the night, and the wind was just happy to complete the wonderful evening. And we, we succumb to the tricky game of nature and fight the longest night of our lives.

It was as if, a never ending night – if only we can pull the time fast and bring the sun to life. But all we had was hope.

We had different funny stories on how we survived the north-pole-ish night in Mt. Pulag. I just envy Gulli (was it really you?) who was snoring, in the middle of the 10 degree Celsius temperature mountain. How he did it, is still a total mystery. Haha.

If you’re Smart, you’ll have at least a little luxury of telling your love ones how freaking freezin cold it is in Mount Pulag.


Nov 21, 2011 – 0400H, Mount Pulag Camp 2, Kabayan, Benguet

The moment of truth. Our supposed schedule to assault the summit became the perfect time to decide to finally let go of our desire to see the well-known ‘playground of the gods’ and to experience the magnificent and much-talked-about sea of clouds. Oh, what we had was a sea of shattered dreams. Char.

Well, another disheartening moment for the Call of Nature. But I think we learned to maintain our composure for having a positive mind. 

But letting go of Mt Pulag doesn’t mean giving up the idea of (defeating) it. It just prompt us to seek for a sweet come back in His perfect time.

this is supposed to be a jumpshot.. masyadong malamig, di kami maka angat...(thanks JC)

By Gods's grace, it didn’t rain when we started our descent. We had a first glimpse of the sun when we were about a kilometer or two, away  from the ranger station.

be back, Mt Pulag! (credits to abi)


  1. so true, the trek is easy but spending the night in pulag is a totally different story. the owrd maginaw is not enough - correct words is freezing.

    di ba le, there'll be next time. summer time perhaps para mas malaki chance na walangg ulan.

    congrats! =)

  2. trueew! freezing to the lowest level.. yes, will climb again in April, want to join? hehe..

  3. Bigla naman akong na-excite. Me and my officemates were planning to conquer Pulag and sana ok ang weather!

    Good thing nag check ako sa PEX and nakita ko itong blog mo. Baka sya na din kunin namin jeep to ranger. :)

  4. kelan kayo akyat? kami sa april 25-26...might try night trek for a change at kung papayagan ng mga guide.. haha.. go na!

    enjoy your Mt Pulag expedition..