Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Surviving Mount Pulag

It has been unusually cold during the past few weeks. News that the temperature at the Pulag summit reached zero was quite disturbing for me. You see, I love summer. I love the beach. I love the sun. I pretty much don't care for the cold. I only tolerate it coz I get to wear my extensive collection of coats (I own too many for our climate). Needless to say, it set off the 'doomsday prepper' in me. In the end, while lying inside our tent waiting for sleep to come, I found myself wearing a thermal shirt, 2 layers of fleece jackets, a north face jacket (with fleece lining still) with hood and a thin waterproof/windproof jacket, thermal leggings, regular leggings, trek pants, 3 pairs of socks, 1 thick pair of fleece gloves, 1 fleece bonnet and 1 headware scarf worn as a baklava.
Now, i wasn't really wearing all that during the 6-8 hour trek to the campsite. You'll need your thermal shirt and leggings only after sundown when the temperature will start to drop pretty fast. You'll mostly be wearing a baselayer or dri-fit shirt and a light jacket throughout the trek.

But first thing's first, if you were to ask me if I found the climb to be easy, I would say not really. Pulag is afterall the highest peak in Luzon. It looks quite easy looking at pictures but somehow didnt feel that way. I consider myself quite a fit person (I work out regularly) and never expected to struggle as much as I did. And we did the easier of the 2 trails, Ambangeg! Most times, all I can hear is the heavy pounding of my heart (not exaggerating). I suppose it's the weight of our bags and the thinner air that made the difference (excuses maybe?).

So some questions you need to ask and do if you're thinking of climbing pulag for the first time:
  1. Do you want to hire a porter? You and a few friends can actually pool your heavier stuff and hire a porter to carry it with you. By stuff, I mean your tents, cooking gear, etc. You can just choose to carry a bag with your hydration, jacket, essentials, etc.
  2. Are you physically prepared? Taking the stairs to your office at the 10th floor daily for 2 weeks will help some ;-)
  3. Are you prepared for the cold? It depends which time of the year you're going. If it's summer already, you wouldnt have to bring as much. But if the forecast says it will be below 10 degrees, you will need at least 3 layers of clothing. Thermal shirt and leggings for me is a must. It need not be expensive I bought ours from greenhills for 450 pesos per set and it was pretty effective. Just dont expect it to have moisture wicking technology.
  4. How much water should you bring? My hydration pack can carry up to 3 liters of water. I also carried a 1 liter water bottle. I was able to consume it all plus 1 liter which I refilled from a spring water source. There are a couple water sources located near camp 1 and 2 so if you have some puritabs, maybe you wont have to carry as much water as I did.
  5. Where's the restroom? Fortunately, Pulag has several latrines set up. But then, if you really need to go and a latrine is nowhere in sight, do it off the path.
  6. Which camp will you spend the night? Our group chose to stay at camp 3 which is also known as 'saddle camp'. It is around 2 hours away from camp 2. The advantage of camping at saddle camp, it is nearest the summit so you wouldn't have to wake up 2 hours earlier and trek in the dark from camps 1 and 2.  

 Other things to expect/remember:
  • The jeepney ride from Baguio to the ranger station is around 3 hours long. The road is winding and you will get dizzy so better take something 30 mins before the ride (dizitab/bonamine).
  • If you plan to take the bus back to manila, compute what time you will get back the next day and buy your tickets already. Otherwise, you'd have to consider falling in the 'chance passengers' line. It's really not advisable for big groups to do that. Just to give you an idea, my boyfriend and I tried to buy our tickets when we got back to Baguio from Pulag at 5pm but the available ticket is for 5am already. So our only option was as chance passengers and we got accommodated by the 7pm bus.

It will be hard but it will be worth it. Watching the sun rise high above a sea of clouds (literally!), is really a unique experience. I can't wait to try  the Akiki trail (aka, killer trail) next time. I promise to be more prepared then.

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