Above the clouds: Conquering Mt. Pulag

2:42 PM

"Dream hikes do come true", I whispered with a smile on my face as I watched the sunrise with my fellow hikers.

It was a long, tiring journey that was both physically and emotionally challenging. According to one of our fellow hikers, the temperature that night was going to drop down to -2 degrees. The Ambangeg trail was an easy trek however, our greatest enemy was the cold weather.

I felt like I was on the verge of an asthma attack halfway through the hike. I was wearing a heavy coat to keep myself warm yet my thermal clothes were still not enough to ward off the cold. My knees were sore, the air was thin and I kept on accidentally slipping. I did not want to be a burden so I kept going even though I wanted to go back.

My fellow hikers were all nice and understanding. We would pause whenever someone needed a break, and we would say encouragements to each other until we reached the summit. "The sea of clouds is going to be worth all this. Konti pa, kaya mo yan. " 





The Journey

We traveled for 6 hours from Manila to Baguio then switched to rented vans from Baguio to Mt. Pulag's camping grounds. My friend, Celene, invited me to this trip with her officemates since she knew that I have always wanted to climb Mount Pulag. 

Mount Pulag is one of the most popular hiking destinations in the country. Its peak is at 2,922 meters above sea level, and is the highest mountain in Luzon and the third highest mountain in the whole Philippines.  



Before the hike, all climbers are required to submit a medical certificate indicating that we are physically fit for the hike. Everyone is briefed at the DENR station, where we learned the do's and don'ts. It was considered a sacred place by the locals thus, the climbers are asked to respect the mountain. "Leave no trace" is the policy, not just in Pulag but on all the mountains that we conquer. 

We settled at our campsite where we pitched our tents and rested until 1 am. We got to know each other and shared bottles of beer and a few shots (enough to keep us warm but still sober before the hike). 



The Climb

At around 1 am, we started the trek. It was dark out and my only source of light was the moon and my headlight. I was nervous and shivering because of the biting cold, but also excited at the same time. We were a large group so it was really embarrassing whenever I would ask for a pause because i needed to catch my breath. 

We were blessed with good weather according to our guides. We reached the second camp just before sunrise. The sea of clouds is already visible from there. What I saw was probably one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. I wasn't breathless anymore because of the hike but because of the view. 




Mount Pulag was fondly called as the playground of the gods because of its breathtaking view. I was in awe as I watched the sky changing colors as the sun rises, the clouds forming like fluff beneath us and the sun illuminating our surroundings, giving the beautiful scenery an orange glow. It was so beautiful and I am glad that I made it.



Some of our fellow hikers opted to already go back and what was left from our large group, were just 7 of us who decided to go for the summit. Once again, I pushed myself further and kept on joking around that there's lechon at the summit to keep me motivated. 


If asked, would I go back? Maybe. But not now. When I'm fit enough to try the Akiki trail. That sunrise is always worth coming back to, though.


Footnotes

On what to wear: We went there during the coldest season of the year, around December - February where temperatures drop down to negative degrees.
For the upper body, I wore a black sweatshirt (which I also wore during the afternoons where the cold weather was bearable), a thick inner jacket (thrifted) and a Trench Coat which was also thrifted.
For my lower body, I wore thick leggings. Still, I felt super cold that night so I layered it with trekking pants.
For the accessories & shoes: you may opt to wear beanies/bonnets to protect your head, scarves, extra socks and gloves. All these accessories are important. I invested in hiking shoes because the last time I wore my favorite pair of running shoes, I slipped a lot. For Mount Pulag, I wanted to be safe than sorry so I bought a pair of Trekking shoes.
Other things to bring: It's important to be ready for a major hike like Pulag. Bring trail food, enough water, a trustworthy tent and thick enough sleeping bags + thermal blanket (though you could rent these things at the ranger station), personal medicine, head lamps and a flash light. My headlamp and flashlight gave up on me just when I was already near the summit. Good thing I had my iphone fully charged and I used its flashlight function to reach the top. Not advisable though, it's best to have a trustworthy light source if you want to be safe.
Also: LEAVE NO TRACE.  Hiking is a fun activity but we should also help preserve the beauty of our mountains. Leave no trash and respect your surroundings. :)


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