A Beginner’s 2-Day Itinerary for Mt. Pulag Ambangeg Trail Hike

by Kim Ilaya

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Never in my life have I imagined myself climbing a mountain peak 2,926 metres high, not until my mother went out of her mind one day and tagged us along to hike the majestic Mount Pulag. Mount Pulag was thought to be the second highest mountain in the Philippines until better mountain documentation listed it as the third, next to Mt. Dulang-Dulang and Mt. Apo.

How to Get There

We’re a group of 14 people all in all that’s why we rented a private van to get to Baguio City from Manila. We rented rooms in Baguio and spent a night there before going to the foot of the mountain the next morning. You can also ride a bus from Cubao to Baguio if you want. But of course, you can always save yourself from planning as there are a lot of Mt. Pulag tour packages anyway.

Mt. Pulag Trails

There are four pathways to the summit— the Ambangeg, Akiki and Tawangan Trails are in Benguet while the Ambaguio trail is in Nueva Vizcaya. The hiking difficulty is different for each trail. We took the easiest and most recommended for beginners, the Ambangeg.

DENR Registration

We left Baguio at 6 am through a chartered jeep to Bokod, Benguet, where the Ambangeg trail and DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) Visitor Center are. We registered there and went through one hour of orientation. Then we head off to the Ranger Station which meant another hour of going through a long, steep and winding road, so better prepare some medicine for road sickness.

Babadac Ranger Station Jump-Off Point

At the Babadac Ranger Station, we hired a guide and a porter. Before the actual hike, we ate lunch at a native’s house. They were so accommodating, warm and friendly. We had this purple rice which, according to them, is way healthier than white rice. You should definitely try it and bring some with you when you go home.

The Hike to the Summit

Finally, after staying an hour at Babadac Ranger Station doing some last preparations, we’re finally ascending the mountain. I don’t even know how to describe the hike. Bittersweet I guess. It left me dead tired but it showed me incredible things. We aren’t even climbing that long yet but I was definitely catching my breath already. We stop every two minutes as my mom, who’s almost 60-years-old, can’t control her breathing properly.

Camp 1

The way to Camp 1 is through the Mossy Forest and they say there are leeches there but we saw none, thankfully! There are a lot of different kinds of trees, plants and red flowers with pretty small leaves. We made it to Camp 1 an hour after we started. We rested for a couple of minutes there before doing another hour of the hike to Camp 2.

Mt. Pulag Ambangeg Trail Mt. Pulag Ambangeg Trail

The Sea of Clouds

Halfway through, mom told us that my sister and I should leave her and my brother behind already so that we could go faster to the camping area and prepare our tents. But when my sister and I reached Camp 2, the first sight of the famous sea of clouds captivated us so much that we prioritized taking photographs over settling down. It was almost sunset then and the sky’s pinkish hue and glow even made the whole view perfect and painting-like. You don’t have to worry if you only have a phone camera to capture the scene because no matter what, that natural beauty will transcend any lens or screen.

Mt. Pulag Summit and Sea of Clouds

Camp 2

A few minutes after the photo shoot at Camp 2, we finally got into setting up our camp and not long after, we doze off to sleep. When the dark came, the cold took us off guard. My Mt. Pulag outfit didn’t totally beat the cold. I put on four layers of cover on my upper torso, two pairs of leggings, two pairs of socks, a pair of gloves, two bonnets and a scarf around my neck. I also covered myself with a thick blanket but I was still shivering. By 9 pm, the temperature went negative already. For someone living in a tropical country, this is beyond normal for me, but I’m grateful to have experienced it anyway.

Mt. Pulag Camp 2 Tent Set-up

I didn’t have a good sleep. I got up every two hours. At two in the morning, I already gave up any hope for a tight rest. Anyway, there was only an hour left before everyone goes up to the summit to welcome the sunrise. I went out at three in the morning and saw how the stars in the sky were extra huge and bright. It felt so close when you’re in the mountains. Then when you look north, you can see Baguio with all its dancing city lights.

The Summit

By four in the morning, we were already traversing the path to the summit. If the hike to Camp 1 and 2 was filled with mossy trees and ground, the way up to the peak is covered with grass and dwarf bamboo plants. The area is actually called the Grassland.

Mt. Pulag Grassland Hike to Summit

The trails to the summit were the steepest I’ve ever seen! I was literally almost crawling! The morning sun came just in time as we reached the peak and it’s the most beautiful sunrise I’ve ever seen. Thankfully, there was clearing all throughout our time at the summit because normally, fogs shift easily blocking some view.

Mt. Pulag Summit Sign

The Descend to Babadac Ranger Station

After a while, we decided to trek down and I swear the brownish Grassland was more beautiful with sunlight hitting on it. Our way down was easier but it felt more tiring, maybe because we were already very tired, to begin with. But one thing about it is that we’re happier on our way back because we already have the incredible wonder that Mt. Pulag gave us.

Sample Itinerary

Here’s a rundown of our whole itinerary.

Day 0

9:00 PM – Departure to Baguio

Day 1

12:00 AM – Arrival in Baguio
6:00 AM – Departure to DENR Visitor Center
7:00 AM – Breakfast along the way
8:00 AM – Arrival at DENR Visitor Office
9:00 AM – Departure from DENR
10:00 AM – Arrival at the Babadac Ranger Station and lunch
11:00 AM – Start of Hike
1:00 PM – Arrival at Camp 1
4:00 PM – Arrival at Camp 2
6:00 PM – Dinner
8:00 PM – Sleep

Day 2

3:30 AM – Wake-up call
4:00 AM – Start trek to Summit
5:00 AM – Arrival at Summit
6:30 AM – Trek down back to Camp 2
7:30 AM – Breakfast and pack up
9:00 AM – Descend to Babadac Ranger Station
12:30 AM – Arrival at Babadac Ranger Station and lunch
1:30 PM – Departure from Ranger Station
3:00 PM – Arrival at DENR
5:30 PM – Arrival in Baguio
6:00 PM – Dinner
7:00 PM – Departure to Manila
11:00 PM – Arrival in Manila

Reminders

  • Don’t underestimate the cold. Bring as much cover as you can. Someone already died in the mountain because of it. It usually rains as well, so bring rain gears but definitely no umbrella!
  • Mount Pulag is a national park and it is a sacred place for the natives so do not take anything from it or even leave any trace, such as trash.
  • Last January seven hikers caused a fire that damaged six hectares of the Grassland. You will either pay millions or spend six years in prison if you cause the same damage. So be careful about bringing anything that can cause a fire to this protected national park.
by Kim Ilaya

by Kim Ilaya

Thursday, December 27, 2018

I'm a freelance writer and filmmaker living in the beautiful country of the Philippines, a place rich in diverse stories of people. I'm in love with cinema and I know in my heart it's a miracle in the form of images and I'm ready to share that realization to the world.

Read more at kimilaya.com

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