Camp Under the Stars
We reached Camp 2 earlier than expected. Around 2:30pm. Peak Pursuits already had the camp set up. Sleeping bags and colorful malong neatly placed inside the tent. I shared my tent with fellow photographer enthusiast Jason in a large 2-door Mountain Hardwear tent. A warm bowl of champorado for snack and a cup of coffee was served before we retreated back in our tents to catch on sleep. A downpour lasted the whole afternoon. I just wished all the rains would pour now so we would have a clearing the next day. We had nowhere to go but just sleep as it was already getting colder. I’m glad we had a quality tent as we didn’t have problems with rain getting in or the ground getting too damp.
I heard the call for dinner. Piping hot sinigang and pesto pasta was served in our designated dining area of the camp. And as the night gets darker we reveled when the clouds cleared and the multitude of stars showed up. We had a blast taking night photos as we might not any have chance later. In the mountains, the weather can be erratic since the summit have its own micro-climate. Everyone was satisfied and got ready to retire for our call time for the morning summit assault.
On the Playground of the Gods
I had to exert great effort to pull myself up from my sleeping bag. It was cold and the yearning for longer sleep was great. But I was excited to see the summit. Especially, seeing we have good weather this morning. I could hear my companions get ready inside their tents. I chewed on one of my energy bars to get some needed fuel. By 3:30, we were on our way.
I decided to pick-up my pace and went at the front of the pack. I wanted to take pictures of the clouds under the moonlit night. I noticed the stone path on the trail again which wasn’t there before. Then the trail would heave and flow up the grassland and continue to ascend. At some point Ram-mon took the lead, I followed his steady steps. Confident as a guy who know his mountains well. When I looked back I noticed we were already far ahead. A line of headlights still far back. Ram-mon knew I wanted to get there early and he delivered. On what used to be an hour to a half summit assault, we got there earlier. Around 4:45am. The wind lashed vehemently with a punch of cold at the summit, making us take shelter behind the dwarf bamboo trees there. Unfortunately, the clouds were low that time I couldn’t do what I intended for my photography. But I’m still thankful for the good weather and far on the horizon is the sea of clouds. As a surprising treat, Ram-mon served us warm coffee at the summit. That’s a plus for the Peak Pursuits PH service!
Slowly, people arrived one by one. Ram-mon suggested we go to a different spot to avoid the crowd heading at the peak. I found my way in a slope by the dwarf bamboos. For some reason, my speech was slurring. I wasn’t sure if it was the cold or the excitement. I do felt my face getting numb and my fingers having a hard time half-pressing the button on my camera. The excitement inside me was building as I saw the sliver of light forming. It’s the way for the sun to say it’s coming. And everything was a glorious display of nature. The sun rising behind the clouds. It sounds simple but no words can depict its majesty.
The Dreamy Grassland
As excited I was at the summit, I was also excited to see the grassland. For me it was one dreamy landscape of beautiful swells held in time. Long shadows bringing out its buoyant shapes. I do notice part of the trail is now a mess with multiple paths running parallel on some parts. Probably of hikers trying to make a trail of their own where it should be only one on this parts. I’m glad the familiar lone tree I remember 14 years ago is still there. I saw another young pine tree growing to be its companion.
Descending a mountain is always a challenge to keep your momentum. Admittedly, as confident as I was with my footing, I slipped once. Though I don’t look at it as embarrassment but a badge of honor. An experience I just smile proudly about. Like the jokes my companions shared as we descended on the trail. Our laughs eased the burden of the long trek back to Badabak and adds good memories to take home from this journey as well.
Our Mt Pulag climb is organized by Peak Pursuits PH. Follow their Facebook page fb/PeakPursuitsPH for more adventure escapes from climbs, surfing and yoga retreats.
Important information when climbing Mt Pulag
- DENR is only allowing up to 500 trekkers daily
- There is a strict 20-member per team/group
- Climbs are now by reservation only. Contact Mt Pulag National Park Office via 09291668864
- Climbers are required to bring their Medical Certificates stating that they are fit to climb
- Camping is not allowed on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays
- There’s a park fee of Php 175/person and a Php 50 camping fee per person
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.