My Mt. Pulag experience was intense. Intense for my poor legs and intense for my heart, literally and figuratively. My favorite and the funniest part was the blowback of my underestimating the climate and the trails of Mt. Pulag.
Baby it’s cold outside ♪ ♫
I knew the temperature in Pulag could hit below zero. I knew it could get much colder at night. I knew because I had been warned. I, however, had been overconfident. I come from a relatively cold town. I have endured the cold and wet weather in Baguio City with one piece of jacket. I’m in a tropical country that has never seen snow. How much colder could it get up there?
On the drive up to Benguet, I was wearing regular leggings and a long sleeve shirt. When we reached Dennis Molintas Memorial Hospital in Bokod, Benguet to get our mandatory medical certificate, I donned my oversize jacket. Once we reached the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) regional office in Ambangeg for registration and orientation, I grabbed a cute Pochacco fleece scarf from the roadside stalls of local sellers. When we arrived at Ambangeg Ranger Station to set camp, I could feel faint quivering in my hands and chest.
The place was beautifully foggy! The people looked pretty with their naturally glowing red cheeks brought about by the climate they live in. Am I in Iceland?
At first, I and my college roomie, who was my companion this time, were resolute on using only garbage bags as groundsheets inside the tent. Later on, we grabbed an insulating sheet for rent in one of the local stores and borrowed one fleece blanket from our group leader. Later in the night, that insulating sheet and that blanket were going to be life savers.
Unfortunately, one blanket was not enough for two roomies. We were scrambling for the blanket. In the end, I positioned myself by my roomie’s feet, close to the bags which helped warm me up a little, and curled up inside my oversize jacket like a hedgehog. Shaking like a leaf, I slept restlessly.
I was thankful when our leader started banging on people’s tents, which meant it was time to get up and prep for the early morning hike. We got up around 12:30 AM, gobbled up some creamy hotdog macaroni soup, and set out to trek.
It’s the climb ♪ ♫
After the first few minutes of upslope trekking, my chest started to pound rapidly and I had difficulty breathing. I thought I was going to faint but willed my legs to keep walking as I didn’t want to get left behind. I know, it was crazy. Every time there was an upslope, my heart began to race and I had to struggle to control my breathing. Luckily, it got better as we got farther. But I wished I had actually trained before the climb. I had previously trekked to Mt. Batulao in Batangas a few years ago and it was child’s play. Mt. Pulag, on the other hand, is not Luzon’s highest peak for nothing.
Mt. Pulag actually has four peaks, Peak 1 being the highest and where you can find the legendary wooden “Welcome” sign post. After about three hours of trekking, we settled at Peak 3 to wait for the sunrise.
It was exciting and refreshing. While the sun was taking its time to reveal itself, I took the time to shut up, while everyone else was busy engaging in group selfies, and appreciate the surroundings. We were surrounded by Mt. Pulag’s trademark of sea of clouds. If we actually analogize it to the sea, this time was at low tide because the sea of clouds was a bit far away from us but nonetheless did not fail to amaze us at all. The surrounding ridges were like rocks sprouting out of the beach during low tide. Looking from a distance, the grassland seemed so soft; for some reason, it reminded me of Bohol’s chocolate hills.
Taking pictures was a funny struggle. Everybody was wearing thermal gloves to fight the heat, but we had to take them off if we wanted to take photos using our touch-screen phones. My hand was turning pale and numb, but it would be such a waste to not take photos. The magnificence of the sunrise on top of Mt. Pulag was a memory I wanted to remember in my photos.
At 6:45 AM, we started the trek again and reached Peak 1 after almost an hour. The sun was already shining brightly above the clouds yet we could still feel the icy chill in our skin. Once again, there was nothing else better to do than take in and appreciate the gift of nature. Before trekking back down, we fell in line to take a mandatory photo with the “Welcome to Mt. Pulag” sign post.
We endured the pain in our legs and feet and continuously trekked downhill for the next two or three hours. It was okay, although whenever there was an upward slope, even the slightest, we automatically stopped for a break because every time, it made us feel the exhaustion.
So I face the final curtain ♪ ♫
After the trek on the long wet and muddy trail, we definitely had to clean up. If I had a choice, I would rather not get in the shower. But with all the sticky cold sweat inside my sweater and all the mud on my legs, I knew I could not bear the filthy feeling.
There are shared bathrooms right at the camp, but don’t expect them to have a heater. I jumped all around after my first splash of water. After a few minutes, my hand turned pale white and I couldn’t really feel much anymore. I couldn’t tell for sure if I still had soap on my body because I couldn’t feel it!
I went out of the bathroom shivering—but satisfied. It’s time to go home, and I’m going home refreshed!
Tips and tricks for first-timers on my next post! ☺