Friday, April 22, 2011

Mt. Pulag 2011

Bokod, Benguet
Major jump-off: Ambangeg Ranger Stn, Bokod, Benguet
LLA: 16°34'58"N 120°53'15"E, 2922 MASL (#3)
Hours to summit / Days required: 4-5 hours / 2 days
Specs: Major Climb, Difficulty 3/9, Trail class 1-2
(Source: http://www.pinoymountaineer.com/2007/09/mt-pulag-2922.html)

The Backpackers:
Ivan Ignacio
Heinz Lopez Alvarez
Liz Honrade
Ralph Flores


The BACKPACKERS and Friends 
Climb Luzon's Highest Peak: MT. PULAG
(2011 Ultimate Summer Adventure Via Ambangeg Trail) 

By: Heinz Lopez Alvarez, Jr

It was definitely an amazing experience to be on top of the great Mt. Pulag while realizing that we were literally higher than the sea of clouds.
Mt. Pulag is one of the most beautiful mountains in the country. Famous to both local and foreign mountaineers, it stands 2922 MASL making it the third highest mountain in the Philippine archipelago.

The Journey Begins...

We left Manila at exactly nine in the evening and reached the Summer capital of the Philippines at around three in the morning of the next day. As expected, it was cold in Baguio City, where a monster jeep waited for us.




"Monster jeeps" are called as such because of their capability to surpass long, winding and rough roads going up to the mountains of Benguet. They are generally bigger compared to city jeepneys in Manila and their engines are definitely tougher and more enduring.


Everybody was able to experience toploading. It was an extremely exciting adventure holding on to bars for your life while the monster jeep tackles the rough road up the Benguet mountain!


The trip to Badabak Ranger Station in Bokod, Benguet, which marked the start of our trek to Mt. Pulag's summit, took three to four hours from Baguio City. But it did not give us any problem and we were able to avoid our seats from heating up because we had two drop off points. First was the Ambuklao Dam. We enjoyed taking pictures by that structure, which is considered the biggest rock filled dam in Asia supporting a hydroelectric power plant.


 




Our next stop was at a DENR Office where we registered and had an orientation on Mt. Pulag Climb Do's and Dont's. It also provided us more information about what to expect while on the top surface of this majestic mountain such as weather conditions.



The Trek Via Ambangeg Trail...

Ambangeg is the easiest among the three established trails which makes it the most preferred pathway among first-time climbers in reaching Mt. Pulag's summit. Akiki and  Vizcaya, both arduous, are the other trails normally preferred by seasoned mountaineers.



It was almost noontime when we reached Badabak Ranger Station but We felt surprised when a refreshing cold temperature greeted us soon as we jumped off the monster jeep. Plus, the locals were very friendly and by their smiles they looked very accommodating. There were groups that came earlier than us and everybody was busy preparing to start the trek.



The trek was very enjoyable though there were numerous uphill climbs. Pine trees were everywhere that made us feel we were not in the Philippines especially when the cold breeze blew and touched our skin. Beautiful landscapes looked like theater backdrops. Several mountain slopes were converted into terraces where locals planted cabbage, lettuce and variety of crops. Wherever we brought our sight, Benguet never failed to amaze us! 




At the Camping Ground...

We reached the Camping Ground Two in a couple and a half hours from the Badabak Ranger Station. It was a great relief seeing an almost flat surface on top of Mt. Pulag where we fixed our tents and camped. It was two in the afternoon but the cold breeze kept us refreshed. And, the view as seen from this part of the mountain was undeniably very inviting.



Because we were ahead of schedule, our Climb Lead and this climb's organizer, who happens to be my best friend, gave us time to have siesta. So everybody went inside the tent including myself to get a nap. Whoa! Our systems voluntarily woke up after an hour and noticed ourselves chilling and shaking because of the cold temperature at four in the afternoon! Needless to say, we grabbed our backpacks pull our winter jackets out and wore it.



We had socials after dinner and excitedly went to sleep knowing that the next day would be the highlight of our summer adventure- the assault to the summit to witness the sunrise and see the sea of clouds.


The Summit, A Heaven On Earth... 

Because of excitement, plus the 9 degrees celsius freezing temperature, we almost did not sleep at all as we kept on lifting ourselves to add and layer our clothes up. It was extremely cold! By four of that morning, we all held our flashlights up, form a single file, and started the assault to the summit.



WOW! That was the most common expression we heard from the tourists, mountaineers, and climbers while witnessing the sun as it gracefully rose up behind the sea of clouds. It was truly a splendid picturesque. Little by little, the sun lighted up the land and dramatically showed the beauty of Benguet and the Cordilleras. No doubt, it is the "playground of the gods" as the natives call it.



A Promise...

We left the summit with our hearts filled with genuine joy and thankful that the Almighty allowed us to see one of His marvelous creations. When one reaches a place as beautiful as Mt. Pulag, he will have trouble refusing to give a promise. In our case, we promised to love nature more and to visit Mt. Pulag and its summit in the future.


Mt. Pulag Conquerors: The Backpackers Big Four and Friends



Photo Selection and Captioning by: Heinz Lopez Alvarez, Jr.
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