I’ve been planning to climb Mt. Pulag for almost 8 years! Yes, I wanted to climb this mountain waaay way back but I dismissed the idea and moved on with my life until I met my very enthusiastic travel friends 2 years ago which rekindled my desire to take on the third highest mountain in the country.
If there’s one mountain that almost sucked the life out of me just to put in a fresh one, It’s the majestic Mt. Pulag. It could have been an easy, scenic route to the summit as what I have imagined before but we have decided to take on the more difficult and less crowded Akiki trail, and then go back down via the touristy Ambangeg trail.
We were aware that the 10 hour or so hike was no joke. We even had to postpone our climb to the next year just to be ready physically and to make sure that our gear was complete. This was supposed to be a birthday climb (October) that was moved to become a Christmas climb (December) but was then pushed through as a New Year climb (Mid January).
We packed up our essentials and headed to our meetup place in Cubao at 10 pm. From there, the rented van took us to Baguio at past 4am. From the Victory Liner Baguio terminal, we hauled our 13kg bags on a jeepney and then we went up north for another hour.
At around 5am, we stopped at Jang Jang Eatery in Bokod, Benguet. The weather was getting colder so we decided to get a cup of coffee and a bowl of papaitan. The quick breakfast woke up our senses. We then explored the place and found out that there was a hanging bridge at the back of the store! We hung out on the bridge while taking some photos.
It was time for us to leave when we decided to hop on the roof of the jeepney. Yes! The top load adventure lasted for another 3 hours to the jumpoff! The cool fresh air of Benguet was relaxing and at the same time, the sudden twists and turns of the jeepney through the narrow mountain passes made me hang on tightly on the railing. It was an awesome experience! We passed by Bokod along its mountain ranges, rice fields, and pine forests until we reached the jumpoff in Kabayan, Benguet.
The steps going to the ranger station seemed too difficult to take because of our heavy bags. 13kg of stuff for a 10 hour hike seemed too much for my stature. (I really need to work on my upper body strength.) We hired a porter to lighten up our burden a bit until the weight seemed manageable. I finally made my bag 4kgs lighter!
Start trek to Eddet River
We started the hike at around 930am. It was an easy path in spite our heavy load and It took us two hours to get through the gradual ascent along the scenic views of mountain ranges, rice terraces, and even a burial cave with human skulls in it!
First stop was the campsite just a few meters from Eddet river. This was where we had a quick lunch, refilled our bottles from the nearby water source, and readied ourselves to the grueling 5 hour steep assault!
The grueling ascent
We crossed the bridge along Eddet river and then the rest was a steep ascent along the pine forest. This section made Akiki Trail one of the most difficult routes going to the summit. It could have been a quick trek to the top but the sudden elevation gain was unbearable that they had to create a pathway in a long, winding, pine tree-covered trail going up the so called Marlboro Country.
This was where we took several rests which was longer and more frequent than usual. it could have been a bearable climb but our bags were too heavy to move faster. We even took baby steps just to save some time.
We have finally reached Marlboro Country at passed 4pm. (Yes, it was that long) We settled inside a shelter for a little while and then we were informed that the next water source would be 5 minutes away and we had to fill up a gallon or so for camp.
At this point, the porters who were on the other end of the group (which was about 30 minutes away) just walked past us! I couldn’t help but admire these guys as they carried 15kgs of stuff shoved inside old rice sacks on their back! And to add to their handicap (which wasn’t a handicap for them at all), they were using old slippers! I jokingly asked one porter where did he buy his slippers and I’ll go get a pair as well. Those guys are legends!
We reached the water source and then we headed to the mossy forest. This was the denser and cooler part of the trek and the extra weight of water that had to be carried to the campsite wasn’t much of help. Our pace got slower, my toes were sore and I was barely speaking because of the exhaustion. Halfway through and I felt the weather got colder, signalling that we were getting near the grasslands.
I had to rummage through the remaining trail food that I had just to stack up on some energy and lighten up my burden at the same time. After 15 minutes, I mustered my strength to finally lunge my way to the grasslands.
Sea of clouds / Saddle Camp
The air got really cold here and it was almost sunset. I looked behind as I was scrambling to a higher ground when the view got me speechless. The famous sea of clouds was in front of us! Eyes wide, I didn’t mind the chilling air as the deep, humming sounds of the vast clouds, which extended to the horizon struck me! It was amazing! The peaks of the nearby mountains were visible as well and we were not even on the summit yet. I haven’t seen anything so beautiful and haunting at the same time.
“Now I know why the native tribes call this mountain The Playground of the gods.”
It got darker and eerier at this point so we had to move along. I endured the cold air as I took my top off to layer up on fresh clothes. With flashlights on, we headed to the rolling hills going to Saddle Camp.
Our guide was nice enough to pitch tents for us when we reached camp. We set up the burner and cooked dinner, shared stories, and then slept at around 11pm for tomorrow’s final climb to the summit.
*Other useful information such as climbing requirements, gear, and preparations for climbing Mt. Pulag will be posted on a separate write up*
MT. PULAG (AKIKI TRAIL)
- Kabayan, Benguet
- Major jump-off: Brgy. Doacan, Kabayan (Akiki)
- 2922 MASL
- Hours to summit / Days required: 10-11 hours / 2-4 days
- Specs: Major Climb, Difficulty 7/9, Trail class 3
- 2000 Meet up at Shopwise Cubao
- 2100 ETD Baguio City
- 0400 ETA Baguio City
- 0500 ETA AKIKI DENR
- 0800 Briefing and Orientation/ Registration.
- 0830 Proceed to Akiki Jump Off.
- 0930 ETA Akiki Ranger station, Secure Guides
- 1000 Start Trekk
- 1100 Eddet River.Early Lunch
- 1130 Proceed to Marlboro Country
- 1600 ETA Marlboro Country
- 1630 Resume Trekk
- 1700 Mossy Forest
- 1800 Grassland / Sea of clouds
- 1900 Saddle Campsite/Pitch tent/Dinner
- 2000 Dinner, Socials
- 2100 Lights Off
- 0300 wake up call – Breakfast
- 0500 Summit assault
- 0530 Summit photo ops
- 0630 Descent to Ambangeg Ranger Station
- 0930 ETA Ranger Station, Wash Up
- 1030 ETD Baguio City
- 1300 ETA Baguio City
- 1400 ETD Manila
- 2100 ETA Manila