Bucket List Philippines Travel Guide

First Timer’s Guide to Climbing Mt. Pulag

Every year, I like doing something new. So, I decided to conquer not just any mountain but the playground of the gods, Mt. Pulag. However, I was unsure if my less-than-enthusiastic hiking background would measure up. Despite my initial doubts, I embraced the challenge. In this post, I’ll share my journey as a first timer in Mt. Pulag.

It’s essential to note that this post reflects my experience camping at camp 2, which may differ from experiences arranged by tour operators. As most package tours are typically scheduled on weekends, you’re likely to stay in one of the homestays in Kabayan, Benguet.

mountains surrounding a dam
mountains surrounding Ambuklao Dam

Hiking Mt. Pulag

Mt. Pulag stands as the third highest peak in the Philippines, soaring to 2,928 meters above sea level. This majestic mountain features sea of clouds, vast grasslands, enchanting mossy and pine forests, and serene dwarf bamboo-covered slopes. In response to the ecotourism concerns due to continued influx of visitors, rules for climbing Mt. Pulag changed significantly in the last couple of years.

my travel buddies and the monster jeep, West Virginia

First Timer’s Preparation for Mt. Pulag

Honestly, I was a little worried because my experience in mountain climbing was limited to short and easy treks like in Osmena Peak, Cebu. Not only that, I don’t have the necessary hiking gears and survival kits. I don’t even have a hiking shoes. Thanks to my mom’s ukay ukay finds and borrowed stuff from my friends. These gave me about 75% chance of surviving the extreme temperature in the mountains. Lol!

at the DENR office

Day 1 (Journey to Camp 2)

Baguio City to the Ranger Station

We arrived in Baguio City at around 4 in the morning. After breakfast, we rode a monster jeep that took us to the DENR office. The whole trip was rough, and the zig zag path was unbearable. Good thing, the fantastic views of the cordillera mountains and the river offered a magnificent respite.

After a brief orientation at the DENR office, we continued the journey to the ranger station. When we arrived, there were a lot of mountaineers gathered around the place. We had lunch, and we immediately prepared for the climb.

a group of young people preparing to climb the mountain
Our group picture before the start of climb from the Ranger Station

Ascend to Mt. Pulag Camp 2

The journey up to the camp 2 was rewarding and exhausting at the same time. There was no heavy rainfall along the way, but the trail was challenging for first timers. I was expecting a walk-in-a-park climb, but certainly this one was not. This was supposedly the easiest trail. Lol! Thank God I prepared for this climb. I ran every weekend for two months to condition myself. 

There was no amazing sunset colors because of the thick clouds but this picture turned out great.
man in the mountain

I decided not to take tons of pictures just so I can savor the moment. I promised myself that I would preserve this experience well in my memory. Though I was exhausted, I still managed to stop and marvel at the views. It is not every day that I get to see this wonder. 

We reached Camp 2 extension at around 5 in the afternoon. I was dead tired that I wanted to sleep in our tent right away. Travel Factor coordinators prepared our dinner as soon as we get there. They know we were hungry and exhausted.

two friends inside a camping tent
my friend Beb and I shared a tent

I fell asleep after eating. I woke up in the middle of the night because of my urge to pee. The problem was I am afraid to go out alone. I don’t know where the hell was the latrine. I went out and walked a few meters away from the tents and did what I had to do. Sorry, Mount Pulag. My bladder can only take up 1 liter of urine.

Day 2 (Sea of Clouds and Sunrise at Mt. Pulag)

The Summit Assault

There are four major trails up the summit: the Ambangeg, Akiki, Tawangan and the Ambaguio trail (from Nueva Vizcaya). For beginners, the Ambangeg trail is the best option. We got up at around 3 in the morning. This way we will reach the summit in time to witness the famous sunrise and sea of clouds. I was praying hard because I know the weather up there is extremely unpredictable. The month of March is considered as the start of summer but getting a bad weather, and zero visibility are not impossible.

a group of mountaineers
the group waiting for the sunset and the sea of clouds

Everything around us was pitch black. The hike was tough, as usual. We hike on rocky, wet, slippery and steep ground. The headlamp was really of great help because your hands will somehow support your balance. I struggled on the first hour. It was extremely cold and dark. I wasn’t able to wear my glasses because I think it will be useless when it gets foggy. My eyesight is poor when it is too dark.

a group of mountaineers in Mt. Pulag

We finally reached the summit after two hours. We could see the sea of clouds and the stars through the dark skies. Unfortunately, an hour had passed but there was no sunrise. It started to rain and I almost cried. We were there, close to heaven, but we did not witness the majestic sunrise and the sea of clouds. The odds were not in our favor.

Descend via Ambangeg Trail

With temperature plunging as low as 5 degrees Celsius,  TF coordinators instructed us to trek down to the campsite. The local tour guide said that the weather looked bad, so we had to leave if we don’t want to freeze to death. I didn’t want to leave yet because I was hoping for the rain to stop. But it didn’t.

We arrived at the camp back from the summit after almost two hours of trekking. Fog was covering the entire area, no sunlight and the temperature was excruciatingly cold. We had breakfast, and we packed our things. At 9 in the morning, we were instructed to break camp. The goal is to LEAVE NO TRACE.

I was disappointed but still grateful to Mt. Pulag. I was inspired by its vastness, grandeur and beauty. Though I did not witness the sunrise and the sea of clouds, this was one of the most memorable moments in my life. At least now I have more reasons to come back. Mt. Pulag, please wait for my revenge climb!

Things to Know Before You Go

Can beginners climb Mt. Pulag?

Yes, beginners can climb Mt. Pulag, especially via the Ambangeg Trail, which is the most popular route for those new to mountain climbing. It offers a relatively manageable ascent and provides a rewarding experience for those seeking to explore the beauty of Mt. Pulag. It’s crucial for beginners to be adequately prepared, physically and with the right gear, and to consider the weather conditions for a safe and enjoyable climb.

woman in the mountains

What is the difficulty level of Mount Pulag Akiki trail?

The Akiki Trail to the summit of Mt. Pulag is renowned for its challenging nature, earning it the nickname “killer trail.” Classified as an “expert” level climb, this trail not only tests your climbing skills but also provides an opportunity to immerse yourself in the rich biodiversity of Mt. Pulag.

Can I Climb Mt. Pulag Without a Guide?

Climbing Mt. Pulag without a guide is not an option. Guides are an integral part of the permit process, ensuring your safety during the ascent and descent. Even for seasoned climbers, the presence of an experienced guide is mandatory. Mt. Pulag’s trails differ from well-marked paths in places like Taiwan, South Korea, or Japan; instead, they are community trails leading to diverse locations, making a guide essential for navigation.

When is the best months to climb Mt. Pulag?

The best months to climb Mt. Pulag are typically during the dry season, which runs from November to April. This period offers more stable weather conditions, reducing the likelihood of heavy rainfall and providing clearer views. Keep in mind that weather conditions can vary, so it’s advisable to check for current conditions and updates before planning your climb.

By Project Gora

Hey there! My name is Milet Miranda, and I'm a full-time corporate employee during weekdays and a traveler during weekends (and get the picture). I'm a foodie at heart and I love joining food tours. When I'm not traveling, you'll find me walking my dogs or biking around my neighborhood.

12 replies on “First Timer’s Guide to Climbing Mt. Pulag”

Oo nga, sana matiempuhan nyo na sa pagbalik nyo. As of now wala pa kaming napag-usapan due to other trip line-ups, hehe, pero definitely babalik din kami for a revenge!! It's a must until we get to capture the sea of clouds 🙂

Thanks to your wide angle lens Lloyd! 🙂 Sana may sea of clouds na pag balik namin. May revenge climb din ba kayo nila Jap?

Good read Milet, this post really gave justice to our adventure. Thanks for including some of my photos, they blended very well, hehe. In your return, you should know where the latrines are :))

Waah Thank you Kara! I'll go back to Pulag this May, hindi ako susuko para sa sea of clouds 🙂

Hi Milet, even if it rained during your trek to the summit, you still have some great shots at the Camp 2 extension and from the first day. Congrats on surviving Mt. Pulag! 🙂

Nice article about Pulag! I hope to climb this mountain when I visit the Phils again,

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