Dear Akiki trail conqueror (soon),
I’d like to walk you through our 3-day journey last Nov29-Dec1 with a slideshow of photos and my usual kikay feels. I’ve compressed it into one single post so expect that I’ve probably missed some of the details. Nevertheless, I was able to specify the highlights of this climb. This is by far the longest climb itinerary I’ve ever had, the toughest at a difficulty of 7/9, and the highest at a height level of 2922 MASL.
DAY1 | EASY BITSY
Mt. Pulag is the highest peak in Luzon, and the second in the Philippines. It is just 30 meters short of Mt. Apo, the highest in the country. Along with its famous sea of clouds, it is known for its freezing cold temperature. Thus, one has to prepare thick jackets or even the thermal ones to combat the temperature.
We headed our way to Baguio Thursday night at 2200 and arrived at around 0300. We were earlier than our itinerary so we took the chance to buy breakfast and packed lunch here while waiting for the chartered jeep that will bring us to the DENR office for the briefing. Here, they showed us what to expect in Mt. Pulag, the do’s and dont’s, and gave us some interesting trivias about the mountain: the different trails, the different ethnic tribes living nearby the area, and some cool stories from the previous climbers.
Take the chance to do whatever you want to do in the DENR’s restroom because the mountain will already be your next resort. We reached the jump off point at around 1000 after that long jeepney ride from the DENR Office. We were welcomed by this quite intimidating signage that says “Difficult Route”. As some of you know, Mt. Pulag got different routes wherein you can choose from. For beginners, it is advisable to take what they call as the “Executive Trail”, the Ambangeg route.
Never mind the signboards and take a leap of faith that you can do it. One has to pass through a steep concreted road before reaching the Visitor’s center where the registration will take place. There is a registration fee required and climbers have to sign on the logbook they provided. The guides and porters are also in this area. We took our packed lunched here as well before heading our way to the first campsite. We started our trek with a prayer and our usual stretching routines then resumed with our 3-hour trek to Eddet River where we will camp in on our first night.
The Day1 trail resembles that of Mt. Ugu- the perfectly paralleled tall pine trees of different types. I had my point and shoot camera with me and I was really very conservative in using it so I can save its battery for the Day3 view, the sea of clouds.
We reached the Eddet River’s campsite at around 1430 and started pitching our tent, earlier than our itinerary. The campsite’s terrain was perfect that you can easily pitch your tent, is flat, and got garden grasses.
If you’re planning not to camp in Eddet River, I guess you would have to still stop here to take advantage of the views. It got a hanging bridge where you can see the raging river water below. Water is very abundant as well, perfect for drinking and cooking.
Meet Eduard, our cook for the day. Well, actually he’s our chef for the whole climb. Days before the climb, we’ve already planned our meals for the whole 3 days and can I just say , everything’s extraordinary. Our menus include: pork sinigang, chopsuey, beef tapa, maling, corned beef, soup, etc. He cooks food really well and told me that he really does cook at home. These are the kind of groupmates that I really wanted to group into. Haha 😀
Lights out was set at 2000 since we had to be early for our Day2 trek.
DAY2 | ASSAULT, SWEEEPER, and ALTITUDE SICKNESS
We started our Day2 really early since we were scheduled to wake up at 0300. Nerie and I were able to sleep well in my tent. The cold temperature is tolerable so we already went out to prepare for our breakfast. We had corned beef and meat loaf prepared that morning, easy to cook foods. Then triggered our break camp to prepare for the loooong difficult anticipated trek.
It was 0500 when we started the assault. And when I say assault, it was indeed a steeeep assault. From how I described it that time, it was a “What you see is what you don’t get” experience. You keep on looking up to check if you’re nearing the top, but it seemed like it was endless. Every step was agonizingly difficult and hingal-inducing.
I was tasked to be the sweeper for Day2 so I have to be at the tail-end. Together, with Doc Tom, we swept the whole Day 2 together. It was also his birthday that time and I was indeed privileged that I got to spend time with him on this day. He has been one of my favorite buddies in the whole training period and has been such a kuya to me. Wiii! Happy birthday Doc! Read here on how I was able to appreciate sweepers the more.
Being the sweeper, I also got the chance to observe the guides and porters who were with us. Thoughts came in about the job that they’re doing. I was deeply amazed on how they were able to carry heavy bags I guess ranging up to 40kg, or more. And they don’t even wear any Merrel or Columbia trekking shoes, just the basic slippers were fine with them. Life for them seemed to be so simple, no daily reports, presentations, nor issue resolutions. The biggest daily challenge for them however is just to get from point A to point B with those heavy bags. I know you guys get it. 😉
We reached the famous Marlboro Country of the Akiki trail at 1000. The view here is spectacular, you’ll never be aware that there’s this part of the world unless you pass by this trail.
From this point, we passed through another steep assault inside the mossy forest. The view looks like a scene in a horror movie, in a good way. Greeny and mossy, what else would you expect. Haha 😀
After the mossy forest comes the grassland. There was no clearing at this point and was really foggy. I got drizzles in my face and was already cold. The grassland looked like a golf course field and a teletubby land at the same time, except that it’s brown. From the blogs that I’ve read prior, I’m aware that we’re already nearing the campsite. The thought of it made me push for more but of course, I still got the chance to take selfies. 😀
We reached the famous saddle campsite at 1530. There were other groups already in there, a lot of them actually. From what I’ve heard, there were around 500 people who climbed on that day coming from different trails. The campsite was big, enough to house large groups.
At 1630, we decided to assault the summit to see the sunset and to check if there’s clearing, taking chances to see the sea of clouds although it’s actually the sunrise wherein Mt. Pulag is famous for.
I’d like to take this chance to commend our Team Leader Mau Romarate who was awesomely the man behind this climb. This is actually the climb wherein we got the most number of guests. So can you just imagine how tough it was for TL Mau to get all these things organized. He would check on us whenever he gets the chance if we have concerns and he was very warm and friendly with all our guests. Add up his charming personality I guess which put him as the TL for this climb. Kudos TL Mau! 😀
The temperature was indeed really cold that it soothes through my 3-layer jacket already. I got 2-fleeces inside and 1-rain jacket outside. I can’t estimate the temperature drop that time but it was freezingly cold indeed. But it was steady compared to our Mt. Ugu experience that got howling winds along with the cold temperature. Okay, so how may times did I mention the word “cold”? 😀
I didn’t manage to help my groupmates with the dinner preparation already because I was having a headache. Not sure actually if it’s the altitude sickness that they call or just my usual migraine attack. But it was indeed very painful and throbbing that pushed me to threw up just to relieve the pain. But this time, I got a ready garbage bag with me provided so as not to mess up Eduard’s tent. His tent was big enough to cater 3 people, my size. Haha 😀 I shared it with him and Aizel. Yes, I was thirdwheeling with them. Ma’am Ruwen, the medic for this climb, nursed me and Aizel, who was suffering from dysmenorrhea that time. She was so nice and very caring despite the fact that I just met her for the first time on this climb.
Since the outside was already very cold, we invited people to come inside Eduard’s tent to celebrate Doc Tom’s birthday and to share body heat as well. Haha 😀
Despite that hassle of altitude of sickness, I slept that night feeling hopeful and excited, for I know that my most awaited sea of clouds are already within my reach.
DAY3| AMBANGEG TRAIL
We started the assault at 0500, still freezingly cold but tolerable. The sky was clear and got full of stars, we saw the different constellations. We passed through the same assault trail during our sunset assault. There were already a lot of people taking photos at the summit, it got no clearing. I waited for the sunrise, but didn’t see it coming. I waited for the sea of clouds, but it was not showing. Sigh! So I just took the chance to take photo ops with the people I was with that time.
Disappointed yes, probably owing to the fact that I expected for too much and didn’t anticipate this side of the story. Haha 😀 Nevertheless, Mt. Pulag will always be here anyway and I can always climb it next time with still the hope of seeing its sea of clouds. I will never get tired of climbing this mountain over and over again for the sake of that view.
Day 3 was all about the famous Ambangeg. I’ve got friends who already climbed Mt. Pulag before via this trail. True enough, it was indeed for beginners and to those whose purpose is just to see the view and have fun climbing. It was almost paved and spoiled, you’ll definitely get no tapilok moments. This is the perfect definition of the “Walk in the Park” idiom.
I was with Aizel and Eduard the whole time of this trek. I guess I’ve developed this feeling of closeness with them after I shared with their tent. They were like my true blooded sister and brother already that even after the climb, I’m already comfortable sharing all my rants with them without the fear of being judged. I got into a heart-to-heart talk with Aizel and our feels towards heart matters. I’m no expert in love but I could say that I’ve got mature wisdom in this matter. If you would want to get to know someone, I definitely suggest the Ambangeg trail. It’s gonna be the best date for the two of you. *winks* Haha!
We reached the final jumpoff at around 1330. We washed up in one of the houses there and they were so nice that they even heated the water for us. Likewise, the water was still cold despite the hot water poured into it. That’s how cold it was!
We then headed our way back to the DENR office to log out. They were also selling souvenir shirts there so you might as well get one to remind you of that awesome Pulag experience. We got into a very bumpy ride before reaching Baguio City where we had our dinner.
Oh, I forgot to mention that we saw a rainbow just after we left the campsite. I was reminded of Genesis 9:13 where it says, “I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.” God, you never fail to surprise me despite my disappointments and frustrations. With that, I do believe that someday, I’ll get to see my see of clouds as You’ve promised it. I’m adding this in one of the many promises that I’m believing to get in God’s perfect timing. And despite of the uncertainties of things, I’ll try and try for I know it’s gonna be all worth it. I’m still counting Mt. Pulag as one of those unforgettable experience I’ve ever had! I’ll definitely see you again, most probably on a different trail! Wiiii! 🙂