Dream Climb: Mt. Pulag

It is a personal victory to be able to conquer one’s dream and one’s self. And to think that you have gambled something for that very thing that you love and you end up victorious is such a rewarding experience. My journey as a mountaineer started with a little dream, that dream of being able to push myself and overcome something. I have waited for the right time, invested on the right gears and trained myself in any ways possible – all for making it happen, the dream of climbing Mt. Pulag and witnessing the majestic Sea of Clouds.

Bucketlist to climb Mt. Pulag - CHECK!
Bucketlist to climb Mt. Pulag – CHECK!

Yes, it has been on the top of my bucket list and is one of the reason why I packed my bags and traveled all the way up North. When Kuya Gerald invited me, I still have a lot of apprehensions but I have learned that when it comes to my dreams, I should not say No. It took me just seconds to say yes, and that was one of the greatest decisions I have made so far. April 13, 2013 – the time that I have been dreading to come, and the day that I got to fulfill my much awaited dream. Ironically, I never felt the excitement before the trip it only dawned on me when I was already on my way to Cubao.

and the adventure begins (c) Jill
and the adventure begins (c) Jill

After some bus-chasing, late-waiting and after JV told me that I’m the only traveler who has no sense of direction, we were able to board a bus bound to Baguio. The start was like a series of unfortunate events from Jill and Malou’s epic fail moments in Caloocan Terminal, to having a scheduled 2AM trip, to having our tickets refunded and boarding another bus. It was fun though and was just a disguise of an adventure of a lifetime that was waiting for us.

a 30php worth of goodness

Five hours of travel it is and it means five hours of catching some sleep and gaining some energy but I ended up awake most of the time. We arrived an hour early so we took the time to stroll around Baguio. We were welcomed by local taho vendors and I decided to try the strawberry-flavored one. The sweet kick from the strawberry woke me up and honest to goodness it really tasted good. An hour after, one by one our trek mates arrived and we have seen Kuya Ge. He and Kuya Ted fixed our stuff on the jeepney and after seeing what will take us on our way to the Ranger Station, an idea came to my mind – TOPLOADING!

getting ready for some toploading action (c) Jill
getting ready for some toploading action (c) Jill

For an hour we stayed inside the jeepney and waited for the go signal from our driver and when that moment came, I hurriedly went outside and secure a spot. I dreamt of doing it in Sagada but if I can do it now and do it again soon, why shouldn’t I? I sat on the near end of the jeepney, and outside I may have looked calm and collected but what they don’t know is I was already flipping cartwheels on the inside. The feeling was definitely overwhelming, being able to do something on your bucket list and being able to do it with awesome friends.

Bucketlist to experience toploading - CHECK!
Bucketlist to experience toploading – CHECK!
playing around the Hanging bridge
playing around the Hanging bridge
it will never be complete without a jump shot
it will never be complete without a jump shot

We went to stop on a viewing deck, had some pictures taken and marvel on how beautiful that part of Benguet is. Sitio after sitio, you will see how laid-back the way of living of the locals are. We passed by an eatery, bought our lunch and found a hanging bridge just beside it. Just seeing it brought back the kid in me that when I get to step on it, all I did was run from end to end. What everyone didn’t know back then was, I was going on a hard time and being able to join the trip was my form of escape. The moments I have had in there validated that I am just doing something that makes me happy.

moments at DENR Station
at the DENR station

We reached the DENR Station after an hour or two of drive from Ambuklao Dam. We registered our names, checked on the souvenir items while we were waiting for our turn for the orientation. The orientation was basically about the do’s and dont’s and everything can be summed up to, “Respect Mt. Pulag.” It lasted for around 15 minutes, and was ended by a time-lapsed video submitted by one climber. After the orientation, we had our lunch and readied ourselves for the pre-trek to Ranger Station.

Benguet is indeed beautiful
Benguet is indeed beautiful

Options were given, it was either we take the much more longer route to Ranger Station or take the road which was still being paved for us to save time. Since we were the last team out of 300+ climbers that day, we took the shortest way possible not knowing what awaits us. For 15 minutes we were seated comfortably in the jeepney and we safely arrived at the junction. By then, we had to reach by foot the place where our second ride was parked. At first I found it easy, and it was like my pre-climb, but as time goes by, I became exhausted fighting over the heat of the sun, the coldness of the weather and the heaviness of the load that I was carrying. Sweats were dropping all over my face, and it wasn’t the start yet but my feet were already on the verge of giving up.

it ain't a Ferrari but it took us where we want to be

I waited for our jeepney not knowing that the automobile on my front was the one that’s going to take us to the Ranger Station. It surprised me since I never expected to ride on a pig/cow truck or even the thought of it never crossed my mind. It was my first and the experience was something that is out of the box. You know that tingling excitement of experiencing something new? That was exactly what I felt. It started to drizzle on our way to the Ranger station and the gush of the wind as it cools down our faces with matching sprinkle of rainwater was therapeutic. The company we have with each other as we were throwing jokes and laughing eased all the negative energy.

while they were busy negotiating with our porter and guide, it was cam-whoring time for us
while they were busy negotiating with our porter and guide, it was cam-whoring time for us
Team A with my 6 liter baby
Team A with my 6 liter baby

When we arrived at the Ranger Station, the place was already crowded, and everyone was in a rush since it was already one in the afternoon. The team decided to group ourselves into three – two of us ran their way to Camp 2, to secure our place and set up our tents, Team A which is composed of me, Jill, JV, Malou, Gilda, Mike, Don and Cara and Team B which is composed of our Malaysian and Chinese friends. We hired one guide and two porters to help us with our load. It was amazing to know that most of the porters there were of local women, and to think that they have to carry loads of like 15 kilos maximum for a living was surprising, and at the same time heart-breaking. When I asked one porter she told me, “Mabigat pero sanay na din naman kami” (It’s heavy but we are used to it). That did touch the core of my humanity and as much as I want to help them, to be honest I can’t carry that heavy of a load so I just opted to bring the 6 liter soup for our shabu-shabu.

passing through a mossy forest
passing through a mossy forest
no water challenge? GAME ON!
no water challenge? GAME ON!

The trek was easy but somewhat challenging since the trail was muddy. It took us an hour before we reach Camp 1 where we took a good 10 minute break. It was slippery that time, and to think that I was carrying a 6L load with me was like an added punishment. Reaching Camp 2 requires you to pass vegetation, a mossy trail and a rain forest. That time I did pushed myself and decided not to drink the water and the energy drink that I brought. Surprisingly, I was able to live up to that challenge, and I learned a thing or two about discipline and determination.

Camp 2 action
Camp 2 action

At around 1730 I reached Camp 2, and by that time our tents were already pitched. The coldness was of no joke that every time we say a word, smoke comes out from our mouth. It was around 12 degrees when Kuya Gerald check the temperature so I looked for blankets and stuff that can help me warm up aside from the layering of clothes that I did. My tentmates JV, Jill, Malou and I had no sleeping bags. Yes, we were that stupid to think that body heat is enough but to be honest it sufficed.

Team Body Heat doing what we do best
Team Body Heat

When everything was set, we had our dinner, and it was my first time climbing a mountain having an all-vegetarian meal. That night, we had shabu-shabu, and surprisingly it tasted good (that comes from someone who isn’t a fan of Asian Cuisine). After dinner, we had our socials. Though bringing of alcohol is prohibited we were able to sneak one bottle. It lasted for only an hour and we had more than enough. We then decided to sleep, but because of my excitement to witness the sea of clouds and maybe because of the sugar rush out of eating chocolates the whole trek, I was hyperactive and I did not let my tent mates get to have their much needed rest.

At around 2400, it started to rain. I got scared since it was only us who had a dome-type of tent, and rain may enter it and leave us soaking, and chilling in cold. Good thing the rain didn’t last for long, and body heat was very effective. We were able to survive Mt. Pulag without any sleeping bags, What a feat.

early morning trek to the summit
early morning trek to the summit

Our call time was around 0230 and it was only around 0200 that sleepiness dawned on me. I only got 30 minutes left but since I knew that they will still prepare for our breakfast I sneaked back to get much more sleep. After a mouthful of veggie burger, and a cup of hot coffee, we started to trek our way to the summit. It was another first for me, trekking at night/early in the morning, and fun is such an understatement to describe the experience.

and that was the time that He started to paint the sky
and that was the time when He started to paint the sky
first glimpse of the sea of clouds before sun rise
first glimpse of the sea of clouds before sun rise

When I get to see a glimpse of the sea of clouds, I went ecstatic. It was almost dawn and the sun was about to rise. Everyone was in awe and it made them stop for a while. For me, there was no time to waste so I decided to fasten my pace and reach Peak 2.

emotional Kenny is emotional
emotional Kenny is emotional

I sat there and waited for the rising of the sun and it was a fleeting moment. I breathe in, take in and indulge myself in the panorama of the sea of clouds as I was gasping for air and mentally patting myself in the back for doing the right thing.

view of Peak 2 from Peak 1
view of Peak 2 from Peak 1
summit at last
summit at last

From where I was, I can see Peak 1 and I could not let that moment pass without getting in there. Even though we were advised not to, for us to save time, I ran my way to it. I underestimated the weather that when I get to reach the top I went freezing. It was breathe-taking like literally and everything was jaw-dropping. Reaching the summit and seeing the sea of clouds with my very own eyes was rewarding. I got teary-eyed to be honest, and flashback hit me. I remembered the day that I dreamt of climbing Mt. Pulag, I was in my office chair in Cebu, and I was blog-hopping when I came across this marvelous photo of a travel blogger under the sea of clouds. Right then, right there I told myself to do the same. I never get to expect that I will be able to do it as soon as now, but maybe destiny made a way for me. I was lost for words. Me being on top of Mt. Pulag is a confirmation that dreams do come true. It was one of those magical little moments that I will never ever forget.

on our way down the summit
on our way down the summit

After about an hour of indulging ourselves with one of nature’s beauty we decided to trek our way down. We reached the camp, fixed ourselves, ate some more then went to trek all the way back to the Ranger Station. During our descent, I took the time to trek on my own. On my way, I was giving away our left over trail food to hikers and locals. A simple thank you from a local kid whom I gave pieces of jelly ace and power bars did touch my heart and brighten my day. That time, I also took the opportunity to think of things and reflect on how far I have come. All this time, I kept on chasing my bliss, and it was only then that I realized that there is no way to happiness – Happiness is the way.

TEAM GANADO! Thanks for the successful dream climb.
Thanks for a successful dream climb.

The whole journey before, during and after the trip taught me a lot of things, opened doors to new experiences, helped me forge new camaraderie and made me realize that my heart is indeed designed to travel and conquer any heights. I may have went back to Manila with the same problem, but this time I know that I have had a much more lighter heart. That trip was all that I needed, to reassure me that I am on the right path.


24 Comments Add yours

  1. Manong Unyol says:

    napaka swerte sa sea of clouds 🙂

    1. Kenneth says:

      Ang ganda that time, perfect timing yung akyat namin sa sunrise. I hope I can come back and experience the Aikiki Trail.

      1. JG says:

        Hi! Your blog packs a lot of good info! May I ask when is the “perfect timing” (season and timeline) for climbing Mt. Pulag? Thanks in advance!

      2. Kenneth says:

        Thanks JG!

        Perfect time would be around February to May (Summer time). You can also catch the sea of clouds during November – December though it is during this time that the weather is much more colder.

        You’re welcome Sir!

  2. Gerald says:

    Hi Sir Ken,
    We can arrange 1 day, 2 days and regular 3 days Akiki Trail may be by December time frame.

    1. Kenneth says:

      Sure Sir Ge! It would be better to experience Pulag with a new and a much more challenging trail.

  3. it must have been destiny indeed. not all climbers can witness the sea of clouds. hope i can revisit this soon and experience pulag under a good weather. hehe

    1. Kenneth says:

      If you want Sir you can come with us this December if things go well according to our plans.

  4. Good thing you have erased this out from your bucket list. It is still in mine.

    1. Kenneth says:

      In time you’ll be able to conquer that mountain and tick all of the things in your bucketlist one by one.

      Dream on, fellow dreamer 🙂

  5. jazzle says:

    how much did you haggle for the porter and the local guide fees?

    1. Kenneth says:

      For the porter, we paid Php500 and for the local guides, what we did was we pay per head and that was Php100 each.

      :This is for Ambangeg Trail

  6. iAn says:

    hanggang ngaun, dream climb ko pa rin yan..ahaha

    1. Kenneth says:

      I know that you know that you can also make it happen 🙂

  7. nobs says:

    I am excited too, it will be my first time ever trek, and it’s Mount Pulag, my cousin asked me to join him this February 2014, do you think i’ll be able to catch the same glimpse of clouds? The picture you posted are extremely looking good. I don’t want to expect a lot. Please advise me. Thanks for you blog.

    1. Kenneth says:

      Hi Nobs!

      You’ll love it there. And yes, February’s a good time to see the Sea of Clouds. Maybe the only advise that I can give you is to prepare yourself with the cold. I’ve heard Baguio’s experiencing 8 degrees Celsius now so expect for a much more colder temperature in Pulag. Also, try top loading on your way to Ranger Station, the experience is an adventure itself. Say my regards to the spirits there in Mt. Pulag. I hope to hear from you soon with regards to your experience.

      Thanks for the kind words by the way 🙂

      1. nobs says:

        Nice to hear from you.

        I’m still checking out some clothes to wear. I’m out of shoes too, yet I have enough time to overlook for those stuff, I hope you can share some suggestion. 🙂

        Also, I noticed that you only have a light bagpack.. Is that god for 2 days? I hope yopu don’t mind. And Yes! I’ll definitely try Top loading.

        Is there a way I can reach you on FB?

        Thanks, I hope everything is doing will with you.

      2. Kenneth says:

        Hi Nobs,

        I’d probably discuss to you over Facebook about the clothing and shoes suggestion, you can try to message me on my Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/MrBratpacker/366890320071940?ref=hl.

        Yes, I do travel light when I go trek a mountain and my bag’s already good for two days. I only brought with me one jacket, five shirts and three shorts if I’m not mistaken when I went to Mt. Pulag.

        I’m excited for your first trek in Pulag. And congratulations in advance for making that dream happen.

  8. nobs says:

    Sure, not a problem.

    You may add me already. i’m at work today and I can’t take a slide to FB. hehe. Simply search for snobnobs or Nobs Ereno.

    I followed you at Instagram.

    Thank you, have a great day ahead!

    1. Kenneth says:

      Done. Don’t have access to Instagram now, will check it later.

      You’re welcome.

  9. Rizel says:

    Hi Sir Kenneth,
    I just want to ask if what website do you suggest kung san ako/kami makakapagreserve ng tour.
    Pero nung kayo po, nagpareserve po ba kayo ng tour nung pumunta kayo sa Mt. Pulag?
    Thank you.

    1. Kenneth says:

      Hi Ms Rizel,

      I honestly don’t know websites or tour organizations that offers the best and cheapest way to Mt. Pulag. Yung iba kasi masyado ng mahal for me to recommend and I think it’s not fair. In my case, I was invited by Kuya Ge, a mountaineer I met at Mt. Arayat and he arranged everything for our group. Nakikisabit lang talaga ako sa mga akyat.

      I’m sorry if this doesn’t help you much.

  10. ruvie says:

    What exact date of april po kayo umakyat? 🙂

    1. Kenneth says:

      I think it was April 12-14. 🙂

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