Saturday, May 7, 2011

I Survived Mt. Pulag, Episode I

the summit

9-11 April 2011. Benguet.

It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves. – Edmund Hillary

I have always been fascinated by mountains and their grandeur. But my love affair with them started when I was awestruck and humbled by their imposingly majestic stance during my trek to Mt. Pinatubo in June 2009. Since then, there always has been a desire to continue this love affair. I have scaled Mt. Maculot in Batangas in January 2010, and the Great Wall of China via the Secret Wall Tour in September 2010. This year, I fell in love with Mt. Pulag.

Mt. Pulag is located in Benguet, Philippines. It has an elevation of 2,922 meters above sea level, or 9,587 feet. I joined a group for my climb to the mountain for Php3,500.00/person, which covered the following:

  • Bus fare to and from Baguio (Victory Liner);
  • Round-trip jeep transfer from Baguio to jump-off point;
  • Dinner on the first day, and breakfast and lunch on the second day
  • Entrance fee, camping fee, and green tax/Local Government Unit fee
  • Bag tag, Certificate of Conquest; and
  • Camp director and first aid/medic service fee

The group left Manila on 8 April 2011, Friday, at 8 o’clock in the evening. We greeted the cool air of Baguio at around 2 o’clock in the morning on 9 April 2011, and waited for our jeep ride to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Office for our registration and orientation. This orientation is a must, and climbers are not allowed to continue with the hike without this orientation. I thought it was necessary so visitors will know that Mt. Pulag is a sacred ground for the indigenous people surrounding the place, and that it is not merely a tourist spot for people like us who woke up one day wanting to scale any mountain. Anyway, the group reached the DENR Office at around 7.30 in the morning after we got lost on our way there, having made a right turn on some dirt road, only to discover that it was not the turn we wanted to make. We had our breakfast in a cafeteria along the way to the Office, and we also bought our packed lunch here. These particular meals were on the climber’s own account. The ride to the Office could be nauseating, and I did get queasy so I sweet-talked the medic who was with us if I could possibly transfer to the front of the jeep. He obliged. After the registration and orientation, we once again boarded the jeep for the Ranger Station, which was the climb’s jump-off point. The trip to the Ranger Station was a series of uphill climbs and turns on a dirt road so we were caked in provincial dust by the time we reached the jump-off point.

The group had lunch at the jump-off point. There are sheds lining the place where climbers can have their lunch and rest for a bit before the arduous climb. Climbers who wish to avail of porters can do so at the Ranger Station. I got myself a porter for Php500.00, two-way (which means he’ll be carrying Dora, my backpack, to and from the mountain). Fed and watered, the group started the trek to Mt. Pulag.

mt. pulag peak, 7.5 km

The group reached Camp 1 at around 12.30 in the afternoon. I recharged my batteries by devouring on my trail food which consisted mainly of chocolates and gelatins. After a few minutes, the camp director decided that it was time to ascend once again. We reached Camp 2 at around 4 o’clock in the afternoon. It was in this area where we pitched tent. Camp 2 was covered in mist when we arrived, and the biting cold had me seeking the warmth of my tent until nightfall.

Images from the trek:

to camp 1

to camp 1

blueberry

to camp 2

to camp 2 

camp 2

camp 2 

It rained that night. As I listened to the drops angrily beating on our shelter and the cold wind furiously howling that it felt like the tent I was camped in would get uprooted any minute, I recognized the signs of climate change sickness. I remembered the instruction during the orientation to acclimatize at Camp 1 should the sickness occur, but in the middle of a stormy night, acclimatization was not an option. I just gulped in huge volumes of air, and prayed that my self-medication will help. In between gulps, I prayed to the Virgin Mary to let the storm pass. I must have slept gulping and praying, because the next thing I knew, our guide was waking me up to start the ascent to the summit. The only sound I could hear were of my fellow campers getting ready for the climb. The rain has stopped. I whispered a silent prayer of gratitude.

-jrlee