Pulag, playground of the gods

Who hasn’t heard of Mt. Pulag? Witnessing its famous sea of clouds has been on my bucket list since I started climbing in 2012.

Mt. Pulag – highest peak in Luzon- was my 4th climb. It also happened to be my first overnight climb. Aside from my weekly running routine, I had no preparations prior the big day. My friend and I joined an organized climb c/o Arcobaleno Trailoutours so we were spared of worrying about the food, tents and transportation. I was mainly concerned if I’d be able to 1) carry the weight of my pack up until we reach camp, and 2) withstand the freezing temperature.

The bus from Pasay left at 8:00 pm, got stuck in Friday madness traffic, and arrived in Baguio at around 4 am. At the terminal, monster jeeps were already waiting for us. We had a bumpy ride (I couldn’t tell the time because I slept it out) and then stopped to get some breakfast. After eating, our whole group moved to the top of the jeepney!

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Toploading was the best way to soak up the fresh air and magnificent views of the Cordilleras. From here, we stopped by Ambuklao dam and the DENR office for protocol registration and briefing.

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We started the trek after a quick lunch at the jump-off. My shoulders were already sore after 5 minutes into the trail. Because I wanted the full experience (or was it pride), I didn’t hire a porter so I had no right to complain. Haha! I kind of got used to it after some time and it stopped bothering me, although the pain crept back whenever we took breaks.

In the course of our hike, the trail transformed from woodlands of mostly pine trees, to a beautiful mossy forest, to exposed grasslands. We took a lot of breaks along the way to take it all in.

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The Ambangeg trail was indeed manageable even for beginners; the real test is of physical and mental endurance. We trekked mostly flat trails but it took us around 6 long hours, reaching camp with just enough time to see the sunset and set up camp. And with the setting sun came the cold air… I had 3 layers on but I was still shaking the entire time, even inside the tent.

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After setting up camp and dinner, we downed some alcohol to warm us up and help us sleep. The night sky was dotted with stars and it was lovely! If only my camera could capture the sight. 😦 If only I could stay outside and just look up, but it was too damn cold!

We woke up at around 3:30 am the next day, drank warm soup and immediately headed for the summit armed only with headlamps and cameras. I think this was the only steep part of the trail and it took around 30-45 minutes. By the time we reached the summit, many others have taken their spots, waiting for the sun to rise.

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I could not describe the feeling of being above the clouds. The sun seemed so reachable, but at the same time it made me feel so small and insignificant. The sunlight reflecting on the grasslands gave it a beautiful red-orange hue. The view was just wow. It’s the kind of view that makes the challenge worth it. I remember taking a photo of it in my mind, hoping it will be etched in my memory for good.

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