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Mount Pulag National Park
A Mount Pulag climb is in the hitlist of almost all local outdoor enthusiasts. It is starting to gain popularity even with the non-local trekking community. And why not? Towering at a height of 2922 meters (9587 feet) above sea level, it is the highest peak in Luzon (and the third highest in the Philippines). No wonder it is dubbed as the “playground of the gods”. Climbing Mount Pulag makes watching the sunrise in this side of the world a little more unique.
It is understandable why most people who had a Mt. Pulag tour will strongly encourage you to experience the beauty and serenity of the mountain yourself. A Mount Pulag trek will introduce you to the fabled mossy forest, the unmistakable pink ayusep flowers, the distinct dwarf bamboos – all which contribute to a certain feeling of indescribable lightness.
When you reach the summit of the mountain, the view will mesmerize you that you can’t help but sit down and take everything in. You quietly watch as the sea of clouds slowly roll into the horizon to make way for the glorious sunrise. And then you smile to yourself. Despite the winds at the top, you feel warm. You are at peace.
One of the foremost adventure destinations in Northern Luzon, Philippines – Mount Pulag is in many Filipino and international mountain climbers’ must-do list or bucket list, if you will. Standing at 2922 meters above sea level (MASL), Mount Pulag is the highest peak in Luzon, the third highest in the Philippines. In any case, Mount Pulag is first-rate in giving the novice, the uninitiated, the newbie in mountaineering, hiking or trekking as much adventure and as much awe and wonder as the seasoned mountaineer.
One of the most well-maintained “premier” national parks in the country, it is home of the nation’s rare and endangered species of flora (like the dwarf bamboo) and fauna (e.g., the cloud rat, kock’s pita, serpent eagle, Philippine deer, Philippine pig, etc.). It is also home to some of North Luzon’s ethnic tribes; four of them actually reside within the park – Ibaloi, Kalanguya, Kankana-ey, and Ibanag, and most of them consider Mt. Pulag a sacred place not only because they consider it a resting place and playground of their gods but also a place where they bury their dead.
Mt. Pulag is located within the municipalities of Buguias, Kabayan and Bokod in Benguet, Tinoc in Ifugao and Kayapa in Nueva Vizcaya. Deep ravines, gorges and steep terrain characterize Mt. Pulag.
This is the well established and considered the main trail going to Mt. Pulag. Vehicles can negotiate the trail all the way to the Ranger Station which is the entire Ambangeg Trail. Still others can choose to hike the entire trail.
The DENR office and the Ranger station are located along the trail, a few meters from the park entrance. From there, the Mt. Pulag base camp is a 4-km hike along the well-paved trails with a convenient rest stop waiting shed. From the base camp, the summit is just a 45-90 minute hike away.
The majestic mountains of Benguet superimposed with the stillness of its surroundings truly makes for an awesome site. Towering among these mountains is Mt. Pulag. Covering 11,550 hectares with parts in Benguet, Ifugao, and Nueva Vizcaya, this mountain was declared a national park in 1987 in order to preserve and protect the ecology and endangered animals of the area. Several tribes in the area call Mt. Pulag home and consider it sacred.
he journey through Mt. Pulag can be long and arduous, but definitely rewarding. At 2,922 meters or 9,587 feet above sea level, Mt. Pulag has one of the best sunset and sunrise views.
One has two options in Mt. Pulag: The easy climb through the Ambangeg trail (half-day climb) or the much harder Akiki trail (2-day climb).
MANILA, Philippines – The drop in temperature at Mount Pulag in Cordillera is attracting more mountain climbers who want to witness the phenomenal frost at the peak this season.
City tourism officer Benny Alhambra said that the climbers are also looking forward to the freezing temperature and the perfect view of three mountain lakes from Mount Pulag’s summit.
According to MountainForecast.com, temperatures at the top of Mount Pulag this week will not go below 12°C and may drop to as low as near-freezing 9°C at 3,000 meters above ground.
From the foot of the mountain, the temperature is between 17°C and 21°C.
Alhambra said that not all tourists to the Cordillera range intend to hike up the country’s second highest peak.
He observed that the mountain resort has overcame its 2012 slump as more eco-tourists visiting hot springs and holding outdoor activities arrived for the December holidays.
While many of the tourists left after celebrating New Year, new batches of tourists reached the venue to experience the cool atmosphere, Alhambra said.
Most expeditions are arranged in Baguio City where there are experienced tour guides and climbing equipment are more available. The city receives more than a million tourists every year.
MT. PULAG (AMBANGEG TRAIL)
Major jump-off: Ambangeg Ranger Stn, Bokod, Benguet
LLA: 16°34’58″N 120°53’15″E, 2922 MASL (#3)
Days required / Hours to summit: 4-5 hours / 1-2 days
Specs: Major Climb, Difficulty 3/9, Trail class 1-2
Trail system: Grand Cordillera Trail, Section 3
Features: Sea of clouds, dwarf bamboo slopes, pine forests
Last updated: February 16, 2013
Majestic Mt. Pulag is highest peak in Luzon and one of the most beautiful mountains in the Philippines. Its fabled views, of winding slopes of dwarf bamboo, and distant peaks surging like islets in the ocean of lofty clouds, comprise perhaps the most breathtaking sights in Philippine mountaineering. The native tribes say that Mt. Pulag is the “playground of the gods”. In Luzon,
it is literally the closest to heaven that mountaineers can get!
See “Special Feature: Mt. Pulag – This Way to the Clouds”
The enchantment of Pulag, however, is much greater than just the clouds and dwarf bamboo. The entire experience is a great treat that makes the long travel time (10 hours from Manila to Baguio then Baguio to the jump-off) worth it. Whichever trail you choose – the easy Ambangeg, the challenging Akiki, the arduous Vizcaya trail, or the various traverse climbs – Pulag is a great adventure. Of course, many would opt to do different trails in one climb, the most common of which is the Akiki-Ambangeg combination.
When you climb Mt. Pulag, you would already start off on a high altitude. The cool weather is refreshing, but if you are not prepared the weather will become a great burden because temperatures have been recorded to reach zero or subzero levels. But with proper preparation, the cold weather is quite an experience. Pine trees are everywhere, and you will encounter villages of the Kankaney, Kalanguya, and Ibaloi tribes. Their children are very cute, and bear a resemblance to the other mountain peoples of the world. Their main livelihood is agriculture; you will pass through sloped plots of cabbages, lettuce, potataos, and other crops that ultimately find their way in Baguio’s famed markets. Bear in mind that the region is the ‘Salad Bowl’ of the Philippines.
THE TRAILS OF MT. PULAG
THE AMBANGEG TRAIL
It is very convenient to make arrangements for jeepneys from Baguio to take you directly to the Badabak Ranger Station. This significantly cuts climbing time, and it makes possible a 2-day Pulag climb. If you arrive early in the morning in Baguio, you can take the jeep and be at the Ranger Station by lunchtime.
From the Ranger Station to the summit is around 8 kms. First you will pass by wide trails, surrounded by pine trees and picturesque landscape. After awhile, you will enter the montane forest, with its grand spectrum of flora – from the pink flowers known locally as ayusep (see photo) and various mosses to the archaic, bonsai-shaped trees. The next landmark in the middle of the mossy forest is Camp 1, marked by a hut.
In the entirety of the trek to the grassland, there’s only one moderately steep part, taking just a few hundred steps. Actually the trail is very relaxing and enjoyable, with the cool weather and the encounter of various faces of the mountain (pine trees, montane forest, grassland). At the montane forest, you will catch the first glimpse of the Pulag summit, which has a hue of golden brown.
There are a few campsites to choose from: Camp 1 is still within the mossy forest area; in Camp 2 the grassland is just beginning (2600+ MASL). There is also another campsite which goes beyond the summit, on the way to the Akiki trail. This is the saddle campsite and is preferred by those who want close proximity to the summit. Camp 2 is the most advisable campsite, with a close water source, latrines (work in progress), nice views, and more manageable weather conditions. However, the saddle campsite, being very the near the summit, takes you as close to the sky as possible. Either way, brace yourself! Temperatures can really plummet to near-freezing levels.
Ranger Station to Campsite 2 takes around 3 hours. From this camp, the summit assault is typically done either late afternoon (for the sunset) and very early morning (for the sunrise). The trail beyond this point is offers unparalleled grassland landscapes, with the grand array of the Cordillera mountains as backdrop. The dwarf bamboo grass that envelope the slopes is a wondrous presence. After an hour of trekking, you will finally reach the summit, that is, the highest point in Luzon.
The summit views of Pulag are fabled and legendary. On a blessed time, seas of clouds form beneath, covering everything but the highest points in the Cordilleras: Mt. Amuyao rises very distinctly northeast, then the twin Mts. Kapiligan and Napulauan (NNE). The picture on the left shows the blogger’s hands at Amuyao (L) and Napulauan (R). Mt. Tabayoc (N) and Pulag is separated by Mt. Panotoan (N). Then moving your eyes westward, you will see the the mountains of Tenglawan and Kibungan (NW), and you will also appreciate Mt. Timbak (WNW), said to be the Luzon’s third highest point. The range from which Mt. Timbak rises is one where the Halsema highroad, the Philippines’ highest highway, passes. In this range one can also see Mt. Pawoi (W). Beyond this, further west, is already the Ilocos region. Baguio City and Mt. Sto. Tomas continue the visual circle (WSW) and if the sea of clouds is lower than 2100 MASL, you can also see Mt. Ugu (S). These are objective sights to see, but the subjective feeling of being there, above the clouds, is hard to put in words. How beautiful exactly? One has to go to Pulag in order to find out. It will be more than worth it.