Mount Pulag is the third highest mountain in the Philippines (2922m) and Luzon’s highest peak. The landscapes of Pulag and the Cordilleras are truly amazing, but the hike to this mountain is way too overcrowded....
We signed on a guided trip to Mount Pulag with Trailadventours, because that was actually much cheaper than trying to do it by ourselves. Cheaper mainly because of the shared transportation to the trailhead and also the share of guide. Having a permit and a local guide on this mountain is mandatory anyway. We were on a guided trip, but we brought and carried all the food and equipment (such as our tent) by ourselves.
It was a big surprise to find out that more than 40 hikers (3 westerns and the rest Filipinos) had signed up for this trip, most of them aiming for the Ambangeg-trail. We joined at the Victory Liner bus station in Pasay (Manila) in the evening Dec 27. From there we took the 6-hours night bus to Baguio City, where we arrived before sunrise. In Baguio the three chartered jeepneys waited for us, so the second leg of the journey along the scenic Halsema Highway could start almost immediately. We had breakfast halfway along this beautiful winding road in the middle of the Cordilleras, and we also had a sightseeing stop at the great Ambuklao Dam. Unfortunately one of our jeepneys had a breakdown in the steep uphills, but we were able to continue after a quick repair.
We arrived the National Park Office in Ambangeg at 9 am, where we had a mandatory orientation about the park and the strict rules of behavior. The permits had been arranged in advance by the tour organizer, so right after the orientation we continued on the terrible road to the Ranger Station (1 hour). The elevation here, according to my iPhone, was 2350m.
We started to walk 12:30 pm, initially on a road, then on a well trodden trail which continued into the mossy rain forest. We arrived Camp 2 already at 2:05 pm, thus we spent much less time on the trail than the estimated 3 hours. We actually walked to the extended camp less than 5 minutes away, since the original camp would be too small for a group size like ours. The elevation of Camp 2, according to my iPhone, was 2750m.
We had a gorgeous afternoon in Camp 2 as the clouds started to disappear. More beautiful scenery would be really hard to find, anywhere on this planet. The night got cold and several Filipinos complained they were not able to sleep. After a quick breakfast we started to walk 4:00 am. It was pitch dark, and the trail was muddy and slippery. We reached the summit already 5:05 am, way too early for the sunrise. Unfortunately the low clouds started to build up quickly, and it delayed the sunrise. We waited almost 2 hours, before the rays of sun finally hit our cold limbs and faces. The view from Mt Pulag was indeed spectacular.
After the sunrise, we descended to Camp 2. It started to rain during the descent, and we arrived to our wet tents. We ate more food and packed our stuff, before we returned to the Ranger Station. Surprisingly a congressman visited Ambangeg this day, so it was a big celebration in the village. We were invited to indulge in all the food we could eat, and later the dance performance....