That Playground Called Pulag - Mt. Pulag via Ambangeg

Specs: Major Mountain - Minor Climb | 3/9 | 2,922+ MASL | Trail Class 1-2
Mount Pulag travel guide
Mount Pulag dubbed as the "playground of the gods"
First, we want to thank the Pinikpikan Outdoor Club for helping us make this trip possible. Special mention to Sir Paul Louie Serrano for being such a wonderful and accommodating host. Not to mention Paul’s talent in photography! This team’s one of the best!

Many of you are asking, how can I reach Mt. Pulag's summit? Is there any travel guide to Mt. Pulag? Itinerary for Mt. Pulag? Is Mt. Pulag a hard climb? and so on. This blog will help you answer most of your questions in mind!
Majestic view in Mt. Pulag
Majestic view in Mt. Pulag
Okay, so I bet you’ve already heard of this one. “Playground of the gods”, “Luzon’s highest peak”, “Philippines 3rd highest”, etc. This mountain is on top of the list among the favorites in the Philippine mountaineering realm.

Despite its towering height and the fact that it's the third highest mountain in the Philippines at 2,922+ MASL, Mt. Pulag has been one of the most go to major mountains even by noobs in the business. Thanks to its so-called “Celebrity trail”, otherwise known as Amba-amba or, officially, Ambangeg trail, the mountain has been classified by many as a major-mountain-minor-hike challenge. Yes, and we are not just referencing those “harkor” and well-experienced fellas, even some friend of ours who took it as their first climb admitted that it's not that challenging as expected. We think somehow in one way or another we'd agree with them. Again, that easy breezy trail wasn’t given its “celebrity” status for nothing. With its not-so-”harkor” features such as long walk-in-the-park, flat and well paved trails with almost neatly stone-paved portions (similar to the military roads of Scotland), a so-so steepness and even the presence of well built restrooms, even a novice hiker can definitely give it a quite low to medium rating in terms of difficulty. 
Pitch black Ambangeg Trail
Pitch black Ambangeg Trail

With all honesty and void of any form of discrimination - for us, Makiling is way tougher to climb than this Northern beauty. Some would even say in utter judgemental tone, “inaakyat nga yan ng mga artista eh (tv personalities and celebrities have even gone to its majestic summit)”. Though we do not agree with their false and negative generalization and stereotyping (celebrities can’t do outdoors or extreme stuff), we think the closest acceptable point here is that it’s so accessible that nearly anyone, even inexperienced lads can easily breeze through it. 
Here's a clue on how cold can it get in Mt. Pulag
Here's a clue on how cold can it get in Mt. Pulag
In fact, every year thousands of adventure-hungry feet walk, run and climb this famous national park (by virtue of Pres. Proclamation No. 75 of 1987). Bottom line - going there is as easy as 1, 2, 3. Hell, we'd even choose to climb Pulag than experience traffic in EDSA on a daily basis. Call us crazy and unrealistic but Manila’s traffic itself looks surreal for us.

So, why do people go and visit this place anyway? What’s in it for them? Well, first, the weather in the region where this towering beauty can be found is quite an experience in itself. The temperature in Mt. Pulag can reach zero or subzero levels, especially from December to February. That’s why it’s highly advisable for hikers to prepare for the cold weather. You can climb Mt. Pulag though at any given time. Best to check the weather forecast though as rainy conditions would make its weather even colder. And, mind you, there are already instances of unfortunate events caused by hypothermia.
Mt. Pulag - Camp 2
Mt. Pulag - Camp 2
To add, a quote from Pinoy Mountaineer’s take on its trail:
"In the entirety of the trek to the grassland, there’s only one moderately steep part, taking just a few hundred steps. Actually, the trail is very relaxing and enjoyable, with the cool weather and the encounter of various faces of the mountain (pine trees, montane forest, grassland). At the montane forest, you will catch the first glimpse of Mt. Pulag's summit, which has a hue of golden brown.

There are a few campsites to choose from: Camp 1 is still within the mossy forest area; in Camp 2 the grassland is just beginning (2600+ MASL). There is also another campsite which goes beyond the summit, on the way to the Akiki trail. This is the saddle campsite (Camp 3) and is preferred by those who want close proximity to the summit. Camp 2 is the most advisable campsite, with a close water source, latrines, nice views, and more manageable weather conditions. However, the saddle campsite, being very the near the summit, takes you as close to the sky as possible. Either way, brace yourself! Temperatures can really plummet to near-freezing levels. Ranger Station to Campsite 2 takes around 3 hours. From this camp, the summit assault is typically done either late afternoon (for the sunset) and very early morning (for the sunrise). The trail beyond this point offers unparalleled grassland landscapes, with the grand array of the Cordillera mountains as the backdrop. The dwarf bamboo grass that envelope the slopes is a wondrous presence. After an hour of trekking, you will finally reach the summit, that is, the highest point in Luzon."

REGISTRATION AND FEES

  • Ever heard of the rule “thou shalt not underestimate a mountain”? Well, you got it right. Though considered a minor hike, you still have to submit a fit-to-climb med cert prior hike and it’s a must. 
  • Then, you have to attend a mandatory orientation and registration at the Visitor’s Center (PHP225/pax). 
  • Here’s the catch - like the famed United Airlines, the mountain has its instances of being “fully booked” due to its popularity and the high volume of happy feet taking its trails (especially during peak season). Now, you don’t want to be dragged out of a rocky trail, do you? So it’s highly advisable to contact the Protected Area Superintendents (PASU) prior hike or, best, avoid weekends or peak season climb. 
  • DENR-PASU Contact #: +63 9196315402 
  • Guides: PHP1,000/10 pax or PHP500/1-5 pax (PHP100 per additional person) 
  • Note: You have to communicate and secure guides prior to the hike.


CAMP ITINERARY

  • Ranger Camp - Camp 1: 2 hrs 
  • Camp 1 - Camp 2: 2 hrs 
  • Camp 2 - Camp 3: 1 hr 
  • Camp 3 - Summit: .5-1 hr

WATER SOURCE

There are only one about 100 meters from Camp 2 though we strongly advise you bring your own instead of depending much on it. Some people say a lot of crazy, freaky stories about it so yeah, just pack some to be safe.

(PRO TIP: Try not to breath using your mouth. Breathing through it will cause your throat to dry up.)
Stunning view at Ranger Camp
Stunning view at Ranger Camp

LIMATIK ALERT

Good news because those little bastards don't exist here.
Summit at 0400 hrs
The glorious summit of Mt. Pulag
The glorious summit of Mt. Pulag
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