Revisiting Mt. Pulag National Park via Akiki Trail

“You never climb the same mountain twice, not even in memory.” — Lito Tejada-Flores

May 28 – 29, 2016

Dry season is about to end, and here comes the rainy months. To cap off our summer adventures, we chose to climb Mt. Pulag via Akiki – Ambangeg trail.

I am all fired up. Two weeks before the actual climb, I already started sorting my stuff to bring – even on the day before our departure! It took me quite some time finishing because I am undecided whether I will be needing some of the stuff on my list, and because it will be my first time to use a rucksack without internal frames. Using a frameless backpack do lighten my pack and it has more room for my belongings, but I really need to pay close attention on how I will arrange my gears so that carrying it would be much better. The same logic goes for internally-framed backpacks, but the things is: in going frameless, your stuff will serves as the form or frame of the pack itself. Note: It is my personal quest to go ultralight – for my beloved spine and knee joints.

Mt. Pulag, the Playground of the Gods.

It will be my second time hiking in the 3rd highest mountain in the Philippines. This time I will be venturing on the challenging trail of Akiki, dubbed as “The Killer Trail”, going to the summit and down to Ambangeg trail going to Babadak Ranger Station.

The Killer Trail

Just my two cents, I think this was dubbed as the “killer” trail because the entire trek felt like my gastrocs were about to give up anytime soon due to the steepness of its slopes. Moreover, its terrain and landscape were to die for! It’s as if enjoying every moment in this wonderful trail would be my last (definitely not, because I will definitely come back).


gastrocs – colloquial; short for gastrocnemius muscle or the leg muscle.

Of Bridges and Conquering Fears

Note: All photos were captured using LG.

Bridges – no matter how scary it is – CONNECTS.

We had our breakfast at Jang-Jang Eatery. Behind it is where the longest hanging bridge in Kabayan, Benguet can be found. It was actually my second time crossing it. I still feel afraid and giddy at the same time.

Of all the bridges I’ve crossed so far, nothing beats my fear of crossing the one located at the Eddet River. My hands were literally shaking that I didn’t get a decent picture while crossing it. I made it though. Happy kiddo!

Rich flora and fauna

From the Mt. Pulag Visitor Center (DENR), to the glorious mountain itself – a vast biodiversity can be found.

(above) found along the trail and at the summit. They say its a specie of edelweiss found in the Philippines.

Among the documented plant species found in the mountain is the endemic dwarf bamboo (Yushania niitakayamensis) and the Benguet pine (Pinus insularis).

Unfortunately, we did not have the opportunity to catch sight of several animals such as Philippine deer, giant bushy-tailed cloud rat “bowet,” long-haired fruit bat, the 185 grams dwarf cloud rat (found in 1896), and the Koch pitta bird during our trek.

The Experience

Brave souls

From the jump off point to Eddet River, the trek was easy to moderate, with some rolling terrain and rocky areas. For a three days itinerary via Akiki trail, setting camp near Eddet River is ideal for Day 1. For our group with a 2-day itinerary though, we passed by the river and continued on to our journey up to Marlboro Camp.

Eddet River

Akiki trail was indeed difficult. From Eddet River all the way to the grassland slopes, the trail seems like an unforgiving assault. Good thing it was a switchback trail, one that is in  zig-zag pattern instead of a straight trail upward a steep slope. Moreover, the pine forest and fireflies roaming at night makes the difficult experience worthwhile. I do hope my camera could capture the fireflies, but I guess some of the best moments in our life were left uncaptured.

We’re burning fires, ’til our lives are burning gold.

Mt. Pulag is also a sacred mountain and a burial ground for some indigenous people of Benguet.

This burial site is closed for tourist or mountaineers but can be seen along the trail.

Unexpected Blessings

It was a rainy evening when we made it to Marlboro Camp. I actually lose hope in having good weather ahead of us. But boy! how glad am I to see a clear sky that early 2 in the morning! We even get a chance to capture the Milky Way.

Milky Way
The Galactic Core – perfectly spotted just in front of our camp.

We started roughly around 4am on our trek from Marlboro Camp entering mossy forest all the way to the grassland slopes, and finally reaching the Saddle camp before having the final leg of our assault to the summit. It was indeed late and so most of us were not really expecting to witness the famous sea of clouds. Some even stopped and just take their time trekking, but we continued on. We may be rushing our way to the summit, but it is our goal anyway and so we continued moving forward. Glad that we were granted a beautiful display of clouds at the summit before it became covered with fog.

PuLOVE is sweeter the second time around.
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Team 1 at the summit.
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Team 1
  • I really admire the couple wearing red. I don’t know if it is selfishness to wish for someone whom I could travel with – not for a season, not for a year, but as long as our joints permits hiking mountains, swimming in the deep blue sea, or just simply being with each other for a lifetime. Maybe it is selfishness or maybe because I’m reading Norwegian Wood lately.

Going down, I can say that I am so proud of myself! For I can still remember the path we take going back to Ambangeg trail of Mt. Pulag way back 2014.

IMG_20160602_201605[1]Upon entering the short, yet thick mossy forest of Ambangeg trail’s Camp 2, I was surprised to see the positive changes it undergoes from how I remember it two years ago. This is one of the things to be proud of for the local governing bodies regulating the conservation of one of the country’s Natural Park. If I am not mistaken, a year or so, camping was prohibited in Ambangeg trail’s Camp 1 and 2 of Mt. Pulag to keep the vegetation from being destroyed by irresponsible campers. I think they have made the right decision. A positive outcome indeed.

It was also a fleeting moment for me to find that my hiking skills did improve from the very first time I started hiking – the activity itself and Mt. Pulag.

 

I’ll keep revisiting this mountain, hopefully in other trails like the Ambaguio and Tawangan too. Someday, who knows. I hope I’ll be much stronger then.

Now here’s a cup of coffee to celebrate our successful climb in Mt. Pulag via Akiki – Ambangeg trail which took us 9 hours in total to finish.

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Cheers!


📍For a sample itinerary, you may want to check Carving That Niche.

📍 Hiking Notes: Mt. Pulag

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