First-timer’s Guide to Mt. Pulag: 7 Things to Prepare

(Mt. Pulag, Kabayan, Benguet – Travelled on April 25-26, 2015)

If you are an adventure seeker but has a big fear of heights and has no training whatsoever in hiking/climbing a mountain, worry no more. You will be able to survive the highest mountain in Luzon. I just did! 🙂

Proudly towering at 2,922 meters above sea level, Mt. Pulag, is the third highest mountain in the Philippines, after Mt. Dulang-dulang and Mt. Apo. Although my last hiking trip was ten years ago back in high school, which was barely a “mountain climbing” experience, I did not hesitate to accept this challenge. Just seeing photos like this is enough to make me wanna reach that summit no matter what!!!

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Photo from feel-free-travel.com

For first time climbers, here are things to remember and prepare:

1. Get a reliable and awesome tour guide!

It is possible to conquer Mt. Pulag with a DIY trip. However, since this is our first time to climb a mountain, we decided to book through a travel agency to make everything more efficient and safer. After looking at various deals online, we chose Lakwatsa Tayo Pilipinas because they have the cheapest package. For only Php 2,300, you get the following inclusions:

– Transportation (Baguio to Mt. Pulag to Baguio)

– DENR Entrance Fee

– Camping Fee

– LGU Green Fee

– Cultural Fee

– Guide Fee

– Certificates

– 2 Meals (First and Last Day)

Ms. Cyril of Lakwatsa Tayo was very helpful with our inquiries. Transportation from Manila to Baguio is not yet included in the package. But this should not be a problem since it is easy to board a Victory Liner or Genesis bus; one-way fare is Php 450.00. We left Manila at around 8 in the evening and arrived in Baguio at about 2am. Sir Paul Serrano, Lakwatsa’s coordinator in Baguio, was already waiting for us at 7-11 opposite Victory Liner.

Note: There are two Victory Liner terminals in Baguio. One is in the main terminal with the other buses (such as Genesis which is the one boarded), and the other one is a stand-alone terminal near Microtel. Both terminals have 7-11 stores near them. Make sure to go to the one near Microtel and Caltex! Don’t be like us, we almost missed the pick up!

As a coordinator, Sir Paul was very hands-on and he really knows the what-to-do’s in climbing Mt. Pulag. Plus, he is an awesome photographer who will provide your group with free photo shoot!

 

2. Take out and bring your winter clothes!

Oh well, there is no winter in the Philippines so I bet you do not have any proper winter clothes. But in Mt. Pulag, you are about to experience one! Summer does not exist up there. So bring your gloves, socks, ear muffs, scarf, thick jacket, blanket and whatever it is that will keep you warm ‘coz it is freezing cold on that mountain!

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Summer? What summer?!

3. Boost your cardio!

This is the real preparation that you have to do! If your daily physical activity only involves walking from your living room to the kitchen and sitting in front of the computer the whole day, then you better start moving and do some exercise! Even though the Ambangeg trail to Mt. Pulag is recommended for beginners, it will help you a lot if you do some jogging and other cardio workout beforehand. A three to four-hour hike is no joke, at times you might find yourself catching your breath, literally.

 

4. Install a star gazing app in your smart phone.

One of the most spectacular views you will see on Mt. Pulag is the sky filled with millions of stars. It was like a wide black canvass sprinkled with powdered crystals. It was truly breathtaking. And yes, you will be able to see the Milky Way!

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The most breathtaking sky I have ever seen. Millions of stars and the Milky Way. Photo credit: Paul Louie Serrano (He will provide the group with awesome photo shoots like this.)

But, easy on using your star gazing app. There is no electricity so careful not to drain your battery.

 

5. Bring out the boy/girl scout in you.

Lakwatsa Tayo will provide you with a list of things to bring – usual things needed for camping. But being the stubborn young people that we are, we did not really pay much attention to that list. 😦

Do not forget the ever handy and reliable flashlight. Don’t just rely on your phone’s flashlight app, you’ll never know when your phone’s battery is going to die.

Bring food that will keep you energized. You may bring cup noodles because Sir Paul and his staff will provide hot water for everyone. We were really envious of the other campers as they sip their steaming, hot noodles, while we can only feel the coldness of the canned tuna that we brought. If you feel like being a true camper, then you can also bring your own portable stove and have your meals freshly prepared.

When they say bring empty gallons of water, please do yourself a favor and follow them. Don’t be like us who just brought our tiny bottles. Once you are in the camping site, the locals will get water for you – fresh spring water from the depths of the mountain.

Refreshing spring water! We did not have any negative experience from drinking the water here. But, if you have very sensitive stomach, you might want to bring your water purifier.

Lastly, camping won’t be complete without a tent! If you have your own tent, make sure that it is really suitable for outdoors: waterproof and will keep you from the cold. I purchased a tent online for only Php 699 and to my dismay, we were not able to use it. Rain poured down on the campsite and our lovely tent just soaked all the water that it got contact with. With this, there was no escape from the cold – inside and outside of our supposed fortress. Luckily, our local tour guides were still able to provide an extra tent that we can rent. Tent rental is only Php 150.00 per person. I learned later on that what I bought is just a beach tent. I didn’t know that there are different kinds of tents; for me, a tent is just a tent that can be used for any type of activity. Sigh..

Rainbow it is!

 

6. Prepare for the real [bathroom] challenge.

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst” when it comes to your calls of nature. There is actually a Restroom in the campsite. However, there is no water to flush down whatever is needed to be flushed. Hence, a “Do-not-breath technique” is recommended whenever you enter the comfort room (minus the comfort, of course).

 

7. Prepare to be amazed.

The sea of clouds. The sunrise. The endless mountain range. The sky glowing with stars. The cold, soothing wind. The pictures and words will never be enough to prepare you for this stunning scenery. It’s an experience worth every muscle pain.

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Although the “sea of clouds” was not as near as what we expected, the scenery was not disappointing at all – amazing and surreal. (We found out that the visibility of the sea of clouds depends on the weather. Will definitely come back to finally witness that majestic view!)

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One of the best sunrise that you will see. ❤

 

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A slice of clouds embracing the mountain.

 

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A different kind of world within this vast mountain range.

 

Even though I would need to endure another 4-hour exhausting trek, I will have no second thoughts going back to this beautiful place again. Next time, I will be more prepared and armed with better equipment! And hopefully this will be the start of my mountaineering journeys!

 

Here is a detailed itinerary of our trip:

Friday night:

8pm – departure from Manila; board Genesis bus in Avenida (near Doroteo Jose LRT station)

Saturday:

2:00 am – arrival in Baguio

3:00 am – pick up by Sir Paul at 7-11 (near Victory Liner terminal and Caltex); departure to DENR

5:00 am – stop-over for breakfast

5:45 am – continuation of trip to DENR

7:00 am – arrival / registration in DENR

8:00 to 9:30 am – DENR seminar

9:30am – departure to the Ranger Station

10:30 to 11:00 am – arrival at the Ranger Station; registration for Guide and Porters

11:00 to 11:30 am – Early Lunch (included in the package)

11:30 am – Start of Trekking!

12:30 to 1:00 pm – arrival in Camp 1; rest

1:30 pm – start of trekking to Camp 2

3:30 to 4:00pm – arrival in Camp 2; pitching of tents

4:00 pm onwards – Resting time; dinner; photo shoot

Sunday:

2:00 am – wake-up call; viewing of Milky Way and pictorial

3:00 am – start of trekking to the summit

4:00 am to 4:30 am – arrival at the summit; viewing of the sea of clouds and waiting for the sunrise

7:00 am – going back to Camp 2

8:00 am – arrival in Camp 2; breakfast time (Sharing of Foods)

9:30 am – start of trekking back to the Ranger Station

11:30 am – arrival at the Ranger Station

12:00 to 1:00 pm Lunch Time ( Package included)

Side Trip Bonus:

1:00 pm onwards – Daklan Sulfer Spring/ Volcano, Longest Hanging Bridge, Going back to Baguio

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