As how major climbs should be, everything was planned ahead of time for financial convenience and for physical training. From getting promo fares and contacting guides to calculating the fees is not as easy as it may sound. We barely had time for training to be honest. Our schedules were kind of messing around with the plan and I would remorsefully write here that we spent our littlest time chilling around doing nothing.
There was a major change of plans as the date approaches. Jun and Ampao could not go with us because something came up (work). Oding had health issues so she also bailed. The changes spoiled all the excitement that we thought for a plan B of some sorts.
I was worried with the weather; it was dreadfully cold since December up until late January. Recalling my Mt. Apo experience, making it through the whole climb was hard to imagine especially if Jun would not be around.
The Long Ride
Melven took a 6pm flight, followed by Mylove and princess in the afternoon while the rest of us flew at 8pm. We headed straight to the Victory Liner terminal in Pasay city with Melvin, Mylove and Princess along with our climb organizer, Kuya Jovi and his friend Alex. From there we would need to go on a 6 hour bus ride to Baguio. We slept during the travel and would just wake up every time we reach a stop-over. We arrived in Baguio past 5am and it was so freaking cold. We were greeted by a Strawberry taho peddler and immediately indulged to a good cup of strawberry flavored silken tofu.
From Baguio, we travelled for an hour and then stopped for breakfast and last buys. After the much needed meal, we headed straight to DENR to have a short orientation about Mt. Pulag, the do’s and don’ts and a brief geographical discussion. The road going to DENR was extremely bumpy, and even when you are inside the jeep with everything closed you will still end up covered in thick dust so imagine how opposite to fresh they became after Raj and Melven decided to ride on top load? ( Lalai: ewwww)
It was 11am when we reached to the Ranger’s station which is also the jump off site. Prepared the things that we needed, gears had a quick lunch and then started the trek at past 12pm.
Trail and The Usual
It was agreed that we’d take the Ambangeg-Ambangeg trail and as described in the orientation, this was the easiest amongst other trails which some of them takes 2 days to be completed. But the course we were about to take was just a 4 hour walk. So I thought to myself (with a little smirk) EEEEAASSSYYY!
I was assured by Jun that it would be as easy as Osmeña Peak and indeed, it was like a walk in the park. But as usual, I am always in the tail, sweating and struggling to catch my breath. The weather was weird if I were to describe it, sunny but cold at the same time but that’s better than not having Mr. Sun at all.
We reached camp 1 after an hour of walk and assault. We stopped to rest for 2 minutes. By that time, I was already trying so hard to catch my breath. My bag was heavier than the usual since I do not have someone to share the load to. Our local guide, Kuya Elpon, offered to bring my bag because he noticed my frequent and untimely rest. I, along with Arn and Mylove was already 30 minutes behind from the targeted 2.5 hour walk. Yes, it was supposed to be 4 hours but the others meaning Princess, Mai2x and the rest (as always) had 30M horsepower. They’re always a hundred steps ahead. The group is already used to my slacking techniques during treks; hence the “usual” tag.
At past 3pm, we were already pitching our tents. As we were planning out tent assignments, Raj caught Arn and Kuya Elpon cutting his “trapal” into half and then he went ballistics. Well, that was the first time we saw him react like that and up until now, we would still laugh at the idea of seeing him upset.
After luring Raj back to his usual self, the next problem we needed to face was the tent assignments. We only brought 4 tents for a group of 14. Dyan’s tent can occupy 3 persons; the other tent can squeeze in 3, Arn –4 and Jun’s little hive is only good for 2. It was a problem that we needed to figure out right away as the temperature started to drop. By that time, I started wearing my gloves because at 6pm, it was already 4 degrees. We came up with an arrangement and then proceeded to get the things we needed to feel comfortable.
I thanked the heavens for giving us a nice weather. Yes, that was nice even at 4 degrees. No rain, no chilly wind. Just the normal temperature drop Mt. Pulag gives its visitors. It was so cold that I could no longer feel anything when I bite my lower lip. But even with the coldness, we were all dry and I felt as if it was the best thing that happened to me in a major climb, next to reaching the summit. It did not take a lot of guts for me to go outside and appreciate how beautiful Mt Pulag was because I would not worry about getting wet.
Camp & Summit of Mt Pulag
After dinner, we went to sleep (around 7pm) except Princess who bonded with Kuya Jovi and Alex over a flask of rum. When Princess went in for a rest (we shared a tent), she brought with her the mini petromax which Mai2x gifted to Jun for Christmas. It gave us our much needed heat since the two layers of socks still could not give us warmth. Dyan, Jedward and I got up to warm our feet and eventually went back to sleep.
From Camp 2, we are set to walk for about an hour to get to the top. DENR only allows 100 persons at a time to visit the summit. This is to prevent the soil from pressing further that may forfeit its title as the second highest mountain in the Philippines. So there really is a need for us to get there first since there were a lot of other groups ready to witness the sea of clouds.
At 3am, everyone was already outside; ready to sip a hot cup of coffee. That also means we could be the first among the other groups to reach the summit at that time.
Indeed, we were the first to go. And the other groups were 30 minutes behind.
My pacing towards the summit started okay and I was on the lead group. I tried so hard to stay ahead of everyone but failed to do so as my stomach was grumbling. As I had my first of the many rests on a 1 hour trek, I decided to just wait around until Kuya Elpon arrives.
He would then sit with me every freaking time I strive to catch my breath. When we reached the last ascent to the summit, I convinced him that we’d take longer rests because I felt like I was going to collapse when he suddenly grabbed my arm and dragged me towards the top without even stopping while giving me a pep talk: “Mam, malapit na tayo mam! 2 minutes nalang o! Dinig mo na boses ng mga kasama mo”. I was closing my eyes while making my final way to the summit and the next thing I heard was Princess cheering for my very huge success.
I leaned on the Mt. Pulag sign while I was grasping for air. Mai2x and Raj who was hiding behind the dwarf bamboos for warmth called and offered me water while Princess on the other hand helped me light a cig. We waited to be amazed by the sunrise and the sea of clouds.
Parade of clouds
The clouds started to form beautifully as the sun came to greet us. You can hear the gasps and amazement from everyone. Even Kuya Elpon still gets awestricken by the scene despite the frequent trip to the summit.
I recall standing in total wonder at the display before me. If there’s one lesson I learned from climbing mountains is that the best things truly come when you have the patience to endure. Amidst the stunning view, I could not help but blurt out to everyone how much I missed Jun.
The pictures you see around the interweb still could not do justice to the actual view. Breathtaking, amazing, stunning, beautiful, whatever you want to call it. It was the best of the best. The journey was worth it and up until this moment, I am still in awe and describing it as an unforgettable would be an understatement.
Backtrack and good morning, you are about to be stunned
The walk back to the camp was easy. Some of us even tried running downhill. The sun was up but it was still gentle. The way back did not need any rests and even when you have already descended the summit, you will still see puddles of clouds, almost similar to that beautiful sight above.
We relaxed for a bit and went on to take our breakfast. Afterwards, it was time to bid goodbye to our most recent conqueror, Mt. Pulag.
While trekking back to the Ranger’s station, we were greeted by groups of Fil-Chinese who would brave the terrain and later on be stunned by Mt. Pulag.
There were actually a lot of people that we even complained how tiring it is to greet each one you meet along the way. Good morning here and there. We even joked about recording and just play it every time we meet other climbers.
Most of them would just smile coyly not knowing what’s in store for them for the next morning.
Nothing really, just total beauty.