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A beginner's guide to conquering Mt. Pulag

By NICK GARCIA Published Feb 13, 2023 5:20 pm Updated Feb 13, 2023 5:51 pm

A photographer recently stunned netizens with a breathtaking view atop Mt. Pulag, the highest peak in Luzon and the country's second highest mountain.

In John Kimwell Laluma's photo, the horizon can be seen touching the Milky Way as the sun is about to rise.

Boasting of an elevation of 2,922 meters above sea level, Mt. Pulag, dubbed as the "playground of the gods," is located in Benguet, bordering Ifugao and Nueva Vizcaya.

It has four different trails: Ambangeg Trail, Akiki Trail, Tawangan Trail, and Ambaguio Trail. Ambangeg Trail is the most popular and the easiest one.

Though it's physically challenging to scale, a trek to Mt. Pulag is perfectly doable—even for newbies like the 35-year-old Laluma.

Besides, its several rewards are too precious to forgo: bragging rights, personal milestone, physical fitness points, sublime view, respite from work, break from one-to-sawa social media browsing, Instagrammable photos later on, and new friends along the way, among many others.

But how exactly can first-timers take their stab at conquering this mountain and reaping the aforementioned rewards?

How to get there

Greggy Galicia, who has been going to Mt. Pulag at least once a month since 2010, told PhilSTAR L!fe that organized trips are their best bet.

For one, travel agency Van Lakwatsero offers two-day, one night Mt. Pulag trips via the Ambangeg Trail worth P4,500 for "joiners" (individuals who shall be with stranger hikers) and P4,000 for an exclusive 12-person hike.

The package is ideal for those who live in Metro Manila as it includes free pick-up at SM Mall of Asia in Pasay, Greenfield in Mandaluyong, or McDonalds Centris in Quezon City headed for Baguio.

It is also inclusive of several fees (entrance, cultural, environmental, guide), as well as a homestay, hosted meals, and a climb certificate.

Agetyeng Tours from Baguio also has a tour package for those who can go to the city on their own beforehand. A group of nine can pay as low as P3,190 per head, while pairs who want a more private hike may pay P8,100 per head.

Or, if you want to go there on your own, from Baguio, you may drive or ride a jeep to the DENR Visitor's Center in Kabayan, Benguet. From there, you'd need to go to the Ranger Station, which is a 30-minute drive.

Do note that most (if not all) packaged tours do not include medical certificates. You may get one from any licensed physician.

What you'll need

While one may make Mt. Pulag their debut hike, Galicia suggested trying other mountains first to prepare. Otherwise, one must be greatly up to the task by working out or jogging.

"You also need to have a good sleep," he added, noting a Mt. Pulag hike takes around four hours.

A basic mountaineering course or BMC is also highly encouraged, he said.

One would have to traverse the slopes of the pine forest early into the Mt. Pulag hike.

Hikers should also bring the necessary items with them without packing too much. These include the following, according to Galicia:

  • Medical certificate indicating fit to hike
  • Personal first aid kit
  • Lip balm
  • Sun screen 
  • Hiking shoes
  • Thick socks
  • Trekking pants
  • Thermal shirt, fleece, or down jacket
  • Rain jacket or poncho
  • Gloves 
  • Beanie or hat
  • Headlamp
  • Chocolate or nuts during trail
  • Vacuum flask for hot water
  • Water container that can hold at least 1L
  • Emergency blanket
  • Ziploc for gadgets

"Knowing what and what not to bring can be the difference between an enjoyable and a not so enjoyable experience," added Laluma, who also suggested bringing a lot of trash bags not only for garbage disposal but also to keep one's belongings dry.

One must also do enough research, especially when it comes to the weather conditions. Laluma took note of Mt. Pulag's single-digit temperatures and frigid winds.

A view from Mt. Pulag's slopes leading to its summit.

"Kalaban ang lamig, putik, at lakas ng hangin while trekking," Galicia said, noting how his tent's fly sheet once froze. That said, be sure you're prepared when it comes to your outfits: Wear layers.

"Do not underestimate Mt. Pulag," Galicia added.

Camp responsibly

When heading outdoors, it’s also important to be mindful of how we’re affecting nature's spaces. You're there to bask in the wonders of nature, and it should be taken care of for others to enjoy as well.

Locals will conduct an orientation prior to the hike, but make sure to personally leave as minimal impact on the environment as possible.

No matter where you go, whichever trail you take, always be guided by the seven Leave No Trace principles.

  • plan ahead and prepare
  • travel and camp on durable surfaces
  • dispose of waste properly
  • leave what you find
  • minimize campfire impacts
  • respect wildlife
  • be considerate of other visitors

"It's another tequila sunrise."