Mountain and Me: Mt Pulag

The Mountain: It’s in every Filipino traveller’s checklist of mountains to summit – Mt Pulag, at 2922 masl, the 3rd highest mountain in the Philippines, and the highest in Luzon. Although this mountain is visited by hundreds of people every day, only a meager percentage attempt to summit it through its steepest trail named Akiki, where 70- degree assaults and chilling terrain changes await the brave. From December to February, the temperature at the summit can drop to single digits, and winds can push back ascending hikers at its grasslands. Despite the big challenges of nature, Mt Pulag rewards the hikers of Akiki with breathtaking views of the Cordillera mountain range, a highly diverse flora and fauna, and if lucky enough on a clear night, an explosion of stars above the Saddle campsite, followed by a beautiful sunrise over a sea of clouds.

Me: I hiked Mt Pulag on a cold January weekend as part of my preparation climbs before heading off to Mt Kinabalu in Malaysia. I booked an Akiki tour on Trail Adventours which allowed climbers to meet up and hike together. I got to meet really cool people from beginners who were just taking a vacation in the country, to professionals who have summitted Mt Pulag through the Akiki Trail for more than a dozen times. It was a 3D2N trek. We started at 10 in the morning and ended at 4pm at Marlboro Campsite on the first day. On the 2nd day we breezed through the Mossy Forest from 9am and arrived at the Saddle Camp at 12nn. From there we made a 20-minute summit assault to catch the sunset. Then on the 3rd day, we headed back from camp to the summit to catch the sunrise. At 9am we already packed up all our things, descended through the much easier Ambangeg Trail, and arrived at the jump-off point just in time for lunch. This climb is one of my most memorable, not just because it was more challenging than any my previous hikes, but also because I felt a real connection with nature, which even includes friendships with the people I was climbing with.
Day 1: Akiki Ranger Station to Marlboro Camp: 3 hours to the Eddet River, then 3 more hours through the dreaded Pine Forest – a 70-degree assault.

The bridge across Eddet River
The Marlboro Campsite

Day 2: 1.5 hours through the Mossy Forest, then 1.5 hours at the picturesque rolling hills of the Grasslands.

Once we got out of the Mossy Forest, this was our view at the grasslands
The Saddle Camp as seen from the trail to the summit
Camping at the Saddle Camp feels like camping on the clouds. In the afternoon, the sea of clouds seemed like they were approaching us.
Sunset at the summit

Day 3: 2 hours down the Ambangeg Trail. Experienced hikers could actually trail run this part all the way to the Jump-off point.

The sunrise comes late in the Saddle Camp
The view of the grasslands at the Ambangeg Trail

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