Known as the highest peak in the entire Luzon, Mt. Pulag has become one of the most popular mountains to climb for enthusiasts in the Philippines. This climb in extremely cold climate is not for the faint hearted. As a matter of fact, you are now required to show a medical certificate from a licensed physician to state that you are physically fit to do the climb. Formalities aside, what was Mt. Pulag really like? Is it really worth the effort, cold, and journey? In my opinion, yes! Although I thought I wouldn’t make it (I am a bit of a wimp), the satisfaction of reaching the top and seeing the famed sea of clouds made each step worth it.
To be perfectly honest, I never intended on climbing the third tallest mountain in the Philippines. In fact, I only decided to join as all my guy friends were planning a trip and someone made a cheeky comment on how “the girls” wouldn’t be able to do it. Without blinking an eye, I told them to sign me up and soon, I found myself sitting in the briefing room completely unprepared as to what was going to happen over the next two days.
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The Mt. Pulag Trekking Trail:
- Days required / Hours to summit: 4-6 hours / 1-2 days
- Features: Sea of clouds, dwarf bamboo slopes, pine forests
- Difficulty Level: High (due to extreme weather conditions)
- 2922 meters above sea level (MASL)
There are three trails to choose from which all vary in difficulty level. You have the easy trail Ambangeg, Akiki which is a bit more challenging, and lastly, the strenuous Vizcaya trail which is only recommended to experienced hikers. We did a combination of the Akiki-Ambangeg trail which was challenging enough for me.
The Long Way Up Mt. Pulag
From Baguio, we loaded a jeepney which dropped us by the Badabak Rangers Station. After a brief seminar, we began our climb to the first campsite. As like most cold climate hikes, you layer on clothes but immediately begin to regret it as you begin sweating. I wore long pants, a top, and a fleece sweater which I took on and off depending on the wind direction. The first few hours were very manageable. The trail was well marked and had ample space for everyone. After passing picturesque views of pine trees, you enter the forest where you can see a plethora of trees and flowers, depending on the season. It took us about 1.5 hours walking through the pine forest and another 2.5 hours or so to the mossy forest.
Campsite 1 is located within a mossy forest while Campsite 2 is in the grasslands at around 2600+MASL. There is a third campsite which is closer to the summit for those that want an easier trek early in the morning. For me, the hike itself wasn’t too bad-it was the cold weather which made things more difficult. After a few more hours of walking and trekking, we finally reached our campsite for the night. We quickly pitched our tents and began cooking our dinner. The night was looming and we needed to quickly get to work. By this time, I was already bundled up in as many items of clothing that I had. I WAS FREEZING. We warmed up a bit with some noodle soup and quickly got into our sleeping bags ready for the early 3am climb to the summit.
What You Need To Climb Mt. Pulag:
I would advice everyone to PACK light. Although there are porters which you can hire, bringing just enough for what you need is important. The weather is also VERY unpredictable, reaching temperatures below zero so make sure you are prepared for the cold.
- Camping gear (if you go as a group, coordinate with each other so you can just share supplies)
- Sleeping bag/thick blanket
- Thermals/leggings/long pants
- Winter jacket (I suggest getting a good waterproof coat and a heavy fleece sweater)
- Hiking shoes
- Baby wipes / medical kit
- Extra socks/ sarong
The Hike to the Summit
It was still pitch black when our guides started waking us up Mt. Pulag. Shivering from the cold, we quickly got our things together and got ready for the climb to the top. We began walking up the trail with nothing but our headlamps leading the way. Around us was complete darkness. The stars lit our way as we all stumbled around, making our way to the sea of clouds. Like I said, the trek itself wasn’t too difficult. It was the wind chill that was making every step excruciating. Despite wearing thermals, long pants, plus three layers on top, I could feel the wind piercing through my clothes. It took us about 1.5 hours until we finally reached the summit. It was still fairly dark when we reached the top. By this time, due to the wind, the temperature had already dropped to zero and instead of the usual “yeah, I made it to the top of this mountain” feeling, I crouched next to a shrub, trying to hide my freezing body from the wind.
Dawn soon started breaking and as soon as the sun came out, I started feeling much better. Unfortunately, on the day we went, it was so windy, that the famed sea of clouds were barely there as they were all moving too quickly. After a couple of hours taking photos and taking in the spectacular views from the top, we slowly started making our way down. The landscape during our walk down was STUNNING. Grassland ravines, and perfect blue skies.
Every photo was picture perfect. It was slightly terrifying to see the path which we walked through while it was pitch black. One slip or fall could have sent us tumbling down as the ravines were quite steep. We headed back to camp to eat breakfast then began packing up our tents. The trek down from the summit took about an hour.
Costs of Trekking Mt. Pulag:
Insider Tip: Due to the popularity of climbing Mt. Pulag, it is advised to call ahead of time to check if there is still available slots. Please note that Medical Certificates are also now required)
You may contact: DENR-PASU (Mereng) – 09196315402
Apart from Transportation Costs, you need to pay:
Mandatory orientation and registration at the Visitor’s Center- P225/person.
Tour guide fee – P500 / guide / group (5 people max)
Porter fee – P300 / porter
Tents for rent- P200
We did a DIY trip which was organized by our friend. Today, there are various tour groups which organize outings to Mt. Pulag which might be an easier alternative to those that want to do this hike without the hassle of organizing it. A good DIY guide to doing the hike can be found here.
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