Our Mt. Pulag adventure was one of Tribu Tagbu's much awaited major climbs. We've thought and planned about it for several months, we even had preparatory climbs prior to it just to make sure we were on our best climbing selves during the event. Well, for the most part, it was amazing, I thought I was ready for it but then things did not turn out to be seamless, at least for me. Let me tell you our story.
Location: Kabayan Benguet
Elevation: 2,922 meters above sea level
Dry weather: March - May
Wet weather: June - October
Coldest: December to February
Our team decided to take the Akiki trail whom many dubbed as the killer trail, indeed it was. The Akiki trail has a 7 out of 9 level of difficulty, there are also other lesser challenging trails such as the Ambangeg, and Tawangan trails from Benguet and the Ambaguio trail from Nueva Vizcaya. We liked challenges and we were there for that longing to conquer the 3rd highest peak in the Philippines.
Our adventure happened Nov. 27 - 29, 2015. A 3-day event that's all worth the effort. One of our goals in visiting Mt. Pulag, aside from challenging ourselves and to be closer with nature, was to witness the majestic sea of clouds. The weather condition as well as the question of when is really the best month to visit Mt. Pulag is quite unclear, since the weather condition in the lowlands is quite different with that in the summit itself, this is mostly true in many high-peaked mountains.
It took us approximately 8 hours to reach Baguio City from Cebu City. We left Cebu in the evening of November 26. Immediately, right after we arrive in Baguio (Nov. 27), we did our last minute grocery in the Market for our supplies. Baguio is known for its cold temperature, so we already grabbed our fleece shirts and jackets. We wanted to take a few hours or even minutes to stroll in Baguio but we did not have that luxury of time and besides we were there for Mt. Pulag, well, there's always a next time. It was actually my second time in Baguio and I still fell in love with the place just like the first time.
|Sausages in Baguio City Market|
|Waiting for our chartered jeep on our way to Kabayan, Benguet|
|Picking up supplies in the busy Baguio City Market.|
Another couple of hours was spared from our pick-up point in Baguio going to Gina Epe's place. Gina Epe is famous for her hospitality and service when it comes to travellers who are visiting Mt. Pulag. Her place offers a comfortable restaurant and a convenience store for travellers. The place is spacious enough to accommodate groups of travellers. I remember during our stay, there were 2 groups including us inside her humble wooden dwelling.
|Agno river on our way to Gina Epe's place.|
|Group shot in Ambuklao Dam. (Photo credit: Verdi)|
|An amazing view of the Ambuklao Dam. (Photo credit: Verdi)|
It was already lunch time when we arrived in Gina Epe's place, we rushed in preparing our stuff and left unnecessary items in her place. We know we were already late from our planned itinerary. As much as we like to skip lunch just for us to buy time, we certainly needed all the nutrients we can get for the exhausting trek ahead of us.
|final rest and prepping up in Gina Epe's place. (Photo credit: Verdi)|
From Gina Epe's place we went to the DENR station or Mt. Pulag National Park Visitors' Center. for the registration and orientation before heading to the jump-off point. A medical Certificate is now compulsory to all adventure seekers to ensure safety, it was mandated by the DENR right after a recent death in Mt. Pulag due to heart failure.
Our next destination was at the Akiki Ranger station where the jump off point is at, and it was also where we met our guide and porter. Since there were 16 of us in our group, we needed 2 guides as mandated by the Mt. Pulag officials. When we arrived in the Akiki Ranger station I was feeling a little light-headed, I thought it was probably because of the long-draining ride. I did not worry that much after taking Paracetamol thinking I will be okay few hours during the trek. At that point I already informed everyone that I wasn't feeling well, It wasn't that serious because I'm used to having headaches once in a while and it was tolerable during that time. We went on and I was feeling a little bit better, maybe because of the medicine or probably because of how wonderful the trail was.
Everywhere we looked was picturesque. I even had a hard time choosing what photos to use for this entry, from the mountain ranges along the road to the lush-green vegetation, everything was just pretty.
Due to the number of adventure-seekers like us, who happen to climb mount Pulag when we visited, there was an inadequate number of guides and porters to take care of everyone. They were only able to assign 1 guide to us, he also helped us in carrying few of our supplies because there weren't any other porters available. They promised to send us 1 more guide who happen to arrive the following day. After enlisting our names in the logbook and a little talk from our guide, we started the ascend.
|Akiki Ranger Station during our debrief with Tribu Tagbu. (photo credit: Verdi)|
The area surrounding Mt. Pulag has a diverse vegetation, ranging from pine lands, mossy and grassland vegetation. It was very interesting indeed, as what we've learned during our orientation and as what we've witnessed during our climb, those vegetations will never mix and we definitely saw how each trail changed as we gained elevation.
As we started our walk going to our first base-camp (Eddet River), we were greeted by a greener and healthier foliage along the way. It was indeed an amazing sight. That was the time when I pondered upon myself how lucky I was to witness everything in front of me. I realized how far I have travelled just to kiss the peak of Mt. Pulag that I know I will witness in a few days. I did not feel my headache at that point in our journey.
We arrived in the Eddet River base camp around 6pm, it was drizzling and my headache was back. The entire place was about to be blanketed by the night sky, thus, we weren't able to photograph the famous Eddet River, its mighty boulders and the foot bridge. If I was sad about not able to witness the mighty river, Ivane (my wife) was even sadder because she already have planned all her poses on top of the huge rocks and on the bridge itself.
After dinner and a little bit of socializing we settled in for the night because we had to wake up early the following day for a more gruelling up-slope trek where the Akiki trail got its title from, "The Killer Trail".
We woke up really early and started walking around 4 in the morning. It was still dark, we had our gears on, yes, it was kinda like a night trek with all the headlamp and reflectors on. Indeed it was a killer trail, imagine a 10-11 hours (depending on the pace) of uphill walk with your more than 10 kilos (depending on what you brought, mine was 12 kilos during that time) back pack, it will surely make you struggle for breath. It was even harder for me because I already had fever at that time, I felt my head throbbing, and every single step felt like so much hellish. I was out of breath most of the time and I needed more rest than usual. I still tried to enjoy all the sceneries around me and still tried to beat what I was feeling. I was wrong, i got weaker and weaker.
|Ivane on the steel foot bridge of Eddet river. Too bad it was really dark.|
|I was trying to get some rest with that amazing pine tree view.|
|Ivane was always there to take care of her sick husband. How sweet is that?|
I kept on thinking what went wrong. I actually prepared for this, I told myself. And then I realized, I might have over-prepared because I still managed to hit the gym the same day we departed to Manila from Cebu. I was over-fatigued. Wrong move, stupid decision, but it was too late, I was already there feeling really weak. Some of them even offered to carry some of the things I had on my back but I was thinking, hey, I can do it. I'm stronger than the fever and the headache I was feeling. And yes I did, I tried even harder.
|I was trying to smile despite the headache.|
We arrived in the "Marlboro Country" (The original Akiki Basecamp) during lunch time. Rest was at hand, and I even managed to snooze a few minutes just to make me feel better. I needed all the rest I can get for the longer route ahead. They call it the Marlboro Country because of the place's resemblance to a Marlboro cigarette commercial. The place has a decent water source and toilet for everyone, It also has a cabin for the porters or guides. We filled ourselves before heading to our next destination, the saddle camp of Mt. Pulag.
When we started walking I was already feeling better. We passed by the mossy forest, which for me was really enchanting because of how each branches and tree barks were decorated with multicoloured moss. It's like from that of a fairytale we read from books. Maybe I was just exaggerating, but I can't help it. It was for me a splendid sight.
It was almost sundown when we reached the grassland and the weather was not good, the clouds were really thick, looking like some storm was brewing waiting for our arrival in the camp site. When it started raining, the wind blew really hard as well, we already managed to wear our raincoats that ended up useless because it was torn by the angry gush of wind with the rain.
We were all soaking wet when we arrived in the saddle camp. My headache was already at its worst. That was also the moment when I knew our team leader Fritz Jay Hortelano was not feeling well, he was shaking because of the cold temperature that reached around 10 degree Celsius. I was thinking we were even lucky because there are times when the temperature in that place reaches to an even lower temperature. Fritz needed to set up their tent to warm his core up because hypothermia is at hand.
|Saddle camp near Mt. Pulag's summit. Look at how many tents there were during our visit.|
After my wife and I set up our own tent, I also decided to lie down to recharge a bit. Since most of our team mates were feeling fine, they've decided to cook dinner for us and even managed to prepare hot soup for everyone especially those who weren't feeling well. We settled in for the night with the rain still pouring and the temperature continuously dropping, we were all hoping to still see the famous sea of clouds the following day.
Part 2 of our Mt. Pulag adventure will be posted soon.
More information about this trip on the 2nd post.
More information about this trip on the 2nd post.