Mountain hiking is so appreciated nowadays that I myself felt the urge to climb the highest peak in Luzon. Towering at 2,922m AMSL, climbing Mt. Pulag is no joke. More than the needed agility to brave the steep slopes, one should be ready enough for at least five-hour walk ascent while catching up with the thin air at a cold atmosphere, and another five-hour walk and some hours of rest and taking pictures descent the mountain. Albeit its altitude and cold atmosphere, the mountain enthralls the mountaineers and hobbyists alike to climb the mountain, and if luck allows, a sea of cloud is waiting for you to be more mesmerized while biting your teeth due to sharp blows of the wind.
Before I start telling my Pulag stories, I took the liberty of plotting our path and reflecting it on a 3D map for me to able to understand further the geology and environment of the mountain. I tried to look for a plugin which could read a raw 3D version of the file I did for better appreciation of the terrain but I can’t find any. Hence, this lame picture.
The yellow line is our track which took us about 5 hours to walk ascent and around 5 hours descent. Since we’re all newbies in hike and I’m not into promising and professional hiking, we took the easiest path – Ambangeg Trail. Seen in yellow line on the image.
<note: this section will discuss how mountains are formed, you may skip this paragraph if you hate history, geology, and science>
Mt. Pulag is just among the lively and vibrant mountains in the Cordilleras. Millions of years ago, during those era when humans were still inconceivable, mountains were just two flat continental crusts separated by oceanic crust. A continental crust is like a landmass floor the earth which oceanic crust is the earth floor oceans. Since continental crusts are lighter than oceanic crust. One continental crust subducts itself under the oceanic crust thereby creating a layer of elevated landforms stretching the whole continental crust. I am not sure but I think Mt. Pulag is formed through the Kayapa fault system.
When landforms are formed, plants and birds shall form their habitat in wherever they are possible to survive and thrive. With the non-challenging seasons of the country, i.e. Wet and dry season, diverse plant and animal species have formed in the ranges. Due to its enormous altitude, the life forms have adapted to each altitude category with which they fit.
<end of Geology lecture>
People in this barangay carry a good vibe attitude. Well that’s actually a common atmosphere in provinces. Fiscal affairs are not a thing, and it’s cool.
Fronting our homestay is this beautiful, definitely organic, veggie plantation. They produce leafy veggies such as pechay and root crop such as carrots. I’m still quite awed with the strength of the old folks here. Some are almost or more than 50 I think? Yet they can flexibly squat and effortlessly sow their crops whole day.
Teasing us with a cold wind, and with an approximately of 2,300m of altitude, and a very quiet atmosphere farm, I felt the relaxing feeling I’ve been needing.
Dishes are also very local, native, and organic. Our lunch was Adobo, it was awesome. We requested for a Tinolang Manok for our 2nd day lunch and they granted it. Hihi. #perks
Our preparation started at around 11pm in our homestay. Checking every backpack we have, hiking gears – check. Candies – check. Water – check. Emergency kits – check. Flashlight – check. It was exciting and thrilling at the same time. I am not really into hiking so I know my limits and capacity. In case I cannot make it, I can simply wait at a nearby stop and wait for the descent – I thought. That calms me every hike.
After 5 hours of walk, talk, walk, rest, walk, and more walk, we finally reached the summit. Lucky enough, it was a cloudy weekend in Pulag thus exhibited a sea of cloud at the peak. Damn, it was heavenly, and legen.. wait for it.. dary! This was around 5:40-6:00 AM, just in time when sunrise was bathing on the sea of clouds.
Pictures and more pictures. Turn around. Pictures. and more pictures.
and grasslands everywhere.
Let me discuss a bit of detail here. We know that Mt. Pulag is 2,922m. But its environment has 4 different vegetation zones. As every hiker will observe, as one ascends to higher altitude, the environment changes.
I plotted the elevation with its corresponding dominant vegetation zone. The summit is basically grassland while the next category altitude is dominated by mossy forest. It is evident with the pictures below taken betwee 2,400 and 2,700 meter-elevation.
Lower altitude but within 2,400 range is still dominated by mossy forest which is characterized by cool species which I cannot name because I don’t know them. But they’re cool.
A took them randomly because they just stand out along the trail.
A lot of species of ferns are also covering the forest. Several insects are also seen in the mossy forest with mostly bugs, snails and cool organisms. (yeah, idk them yet so I called them cool.:P)
Good thing I have my powerbank to power my phone to capture all these stuff. I think I was among the tail and whip in the group. I walk slow and enjoy the view, and check the altitude.
So what are my key takeaways in the hike?
- Mountain hiking may be enjoyable because you get to hike with your friends, but it is also not a joke because it requires physical strength and power. Nonetheless, at our age, we are young and energetic, it is best to put one of our neverending energies in hiking.
- The environment is irreplaceable and therefore non-renewable resource. Imagine, it took the mountain’s flora and fauna millions years to survive, thrive, and enrich to sustain the biodiversity of the mountain’s environment. As a mountain hiker, it is best to maintain, if one cannot help, the environment of Mt. Pulag.
- The ENRO (Environmental & Natural Resources Office) is taking steps to maintain and restore the diminishing life ecosystem in Mt. Pulag. I saw their effort to information and mitigation drive, the stone guides created to guide the hikers to walk only along the trail.
- Mt. Pulag is among the surviving museum of environmental and geologic monumental feature. When you haven’t seen it yet, you must, but be wary of your responsibility to maintain the environment.
- People are the key factors to Mt. Pulag’s destruction and restoration. Locales and tourists alike may have committed mistakes in the past but they’ve already learned from it. It is good to meet the locales of Mt. Pulag environment. They are meek yet vibrant, submissive yet pursuing, and simple yet remarkable. The complete the allure that Mt. Pulag has.
Hikers won’t be hikers without them being adventurous and stray. Aside from the usual Mt. Pulag hike trip, there are some wonders – artificial and natural, that are worth seeing before going to the community in Pulag.
We took a sidetrip to Agno River and Ambuklao Dam Water Reservoir with the Ambuklao Hydroelectic Plant. It’s a massive infrastructure built during 1950’s. Imagine, this structure is half-a-century already and it still looks new and fine – well-maintained perhaps.
We also visited the hanging bridge and the drying tributary connecting to Agno River. I am not sure what happened or what is happening to this river but I think this is drying up.
Of course, this won’t be possible without my gang, my colleagues, my college friends, Jackie, David, and Eugene! Special mention to Jackie who painstakingly prepared the whole hike for us. She’s the lost twin of Mariang Makiling and lost daughter of Lam-Ang. Very strong and adventurous friend. Till our next hike.
Hipol, R. M., Tolentino, D. B., Fernando, E. S., & Cadiz, N. M. (2007). Life Strategies of Mosses in Mt. Pulag, Benguet Province, Philippines. Philippine Journal of Science , 11-18.
UNISDR. (1982). Tectonics, Seismicity, and Volcanism of Luzon., (pp. 32-39).