Mt Pulag (or Pulog) is a major item (bold, italicized, and probably underlined) in a lot of people's bucket list. Being the highest peak in Luzon and the 3rd highest in the country (there used to be a time when its classified as 2nd) it has been in the sights of folks would love to hike and adore the outdoors. The sea of clouds phenomenon and the sunrise at the summit are also enough to entice even the most lazy of photographers to make the trek. And with the Ambangeg trail (the "executive trail"), Mt Pulag has never been so accessible. Its literally a walk in the park!
The Ambangeg trail is one of the 4 major trails managed by Mt. Pulag National Park administration (Pulag was proclaimed a national park in 1987, and I think its currently under consideration as a UNESCO World Heritage Site). The trail is probably not the most scenic of the four (some would claim Akiki trail offers the most photo ops), but since its the easiest, its the most widely used. But I tell you, the scene you'll see along the way would not disappoint a shutter bug.
It also helped that during the weekend we decided to go there, the weather was most cooperative. No rain, but no sun either. Just a nice cool weather for a hike.
It was foggy by the time we were at the ranger station (the official trail head). We learned a lot of groups have cancelled their climb thinking its going to be rainy (its was raining cats and dogs and marsupials when we left Manila). We ate our lunch there, paid the fees, arranged for guides and porters for some of our bags, and was soon on our way.
The trail starts with a fire road that passes through vegetable farms. I could not see much because of the fog, but on the way back I saw how beautiful the landscape was below.
We were on the fire road for a good 30-45 minutes, and that's on easy pace, with a few stops to catch our breathe. One may not noticed it right away, but its more difficult to breathe as you go higher since the air is thinner.
The real fun begins as you enter the mossy forest.
entering the mossy forest
Mt. Pulag gets a lot of rain most parts of the year with August - September being the wettest months. The trail through the forest may get a bit challenging during those times.
There are plenty of stuff to occupy the senses that you would not notice how much ground you've already covered. Or you would probably be more occupied with your breathing you won't notice how far you've walked.
There are plenty of nice spots to take a breather and appreciate the scenery of the trail. A friend even asked in one of our rest stops: "Who does the gardening and landscaping here?". Well who else but The Man Upstairs.
rest stop after Camp 1
There is a midway check point (Camp 1) where our we regrouped. Camp 1 has an open shed that can shelter a group of 10-15 hikers, and has other "necessary facilities". From Camp 1 its another 20-30 minutes of leisurely hike to Camp 2. If Camp 2 and its extension camp gets too crowded, then Camp 1 is a perfect alternative compared to Saddle camp (the one nearest to the peak).
more scenic trail
We reached Camp 2 after hiking for about 2.5 hours. We were given some "fog free" time, just enough to pitch our tents, before a thick blanket of fog moved in, reducing visibility to a few meters. The weather has been doing us favors the whole day.
I've seen photos of how Camp 2 can become a crowded tent city, but with fewer groups, we have the choice of prime real estate.
uncrowded Camp 2
That night temperature was a manageable 10-15 degrees C. We had some fun shooting the clear sky an hour or so before the summit assault (pics of this in future post).
Up next: More walk in the park with grassland scenes and the amazing sunrise at the peak.