The Very First Climb: Where it all began

Oct. 28, 2005; 9AM: From Baguio, we took the Norton buses going to Kabayan, Benguet from the station at Magsaysay Avenue.

With me are my friends Edward and Russell. It is to be a 4-hour trip on rough roads.

Flat tire? It's no longer a surprise. Such things always happen. In fact I somehow expected it already, as I have learned it is part of the experience.

Where we got our flat tire

This is the Ambuklao Dam, releasing the force where that mighty river we saw earlier seemed to have come from.

The whole trip may be rough, but the fantastic views of the mountains, and seen here, the river, offered a great respite

Kainan sa Inidian: This is where we are eating right now. We’re all quite hungry, esp. me, as we didn’t get to have a meal in Baguio. (and yet I have the energy to take this pic)

Before we hit the road again, a few pics in the area. Marker: Sad to say, they have dynamite blasting here. (finally, that's me on the right :) )

One thing we didn't get to do this time: Toploading. In true-blue backpackers-speak, it's the first class way to travel.

DENR Protected Area Office, Ambangeg, Benguet: Jump off point of any climb to Mt Pulag via the Ambangeg ‘Fun’ Trail. Here you register, pay fees, and hear the orientation. They sell the ‘I survived Mt Pulag’ shirts here. But do buy only after you’ve survived. :)

From the DENR office, it is a 4-hour hike to the Ranger station. Luckily, we chanced by a group of hikers from Sabit Mountaineers who still had space in their jeepneys. They allowed us to hitch.

Russell and Edward already looking tense about the road ahead.

These are the friendly Sabit Mountaineers.

Guess what happened? Like I said, transport problems are always a part of any mountain trip. One of the jeepneys ahead of us could not go on further, and since the road just had one lane, we all had to do the rest of the way by foot.

Russell: It’s alright, we had intended to hike this one to begin with. The 20 minutes or so headstart was just a bonus.

Edward: Ayoko maglakad! (I don’t wanna walk!)

Believe me, the hike was to be a better experience. You get a better chance to appreciate what’s around you.

You would have surely missed this if you were in the jeep as you’d be too busy holding on to anything in that rodeo-ride.

Break! They shouted.

We became an unofficial part of the Sabit Mountaineers, and we followed their protocols. It was a great experience as we learned more about good practices when on a climb. Stay together, have a leader, no overtaking, identify yourselves through a distinct color per team, and go on only at your own pace.

When taking a break (usually 3 minutes at a time), put down your bags, sit down, fix your shoe laces if need be, answer the call of nature, eat, drink...

...or have your pictures taken.

Our Sabit group.

Look up, there, far away up there, that’s where we’re going. I think. If not that, then the one behind it.

Another break.

One thing you should never do is bring a tent you haven’t even tried assembling. Russell is carrying the 4-person Coleman tent I bought from Chicago.

Once in a while, stop and marvel at the views.

Then call a break.

Then hit the road again.

Lots of muddy, slippery trails, so be careful.

All 3 still alive. Good sign.

About 2 to 3 hours into our hike, we finally see ‘civilization’. I can’t believe people decide to live this high up.

With views like this, then again, why not?

Are we closer to heaven yet?

A cow poses gamely for the camera.

One more pose.

A final pose.

Rus brings out his Lomo to capture the scene.

A hiker stops to catch his breath.

Off we go again...

Are we there yet?

Break! Edward still in high spirits. :)

A steep hike.

Out of the bushes.

A mightier view from up here, certainly.

Fantastic silhoutte pic by Rus.

Mood check: Edward still in high spirits. Rus is tired, or is he?

Could it be the Sassy Girl tree?

Flowers. Mountain. Clouds. Sky. What a great canvass!

Finally, after 4 hours of trying hike, the Ranger Station. With everybody tired and hungry, we all decided to rest for the night here.

Russell. In the dark.

Edward. In the spotlight.

Oh yeah, I forgot to say that they have no electricity here.

Mang Samuel, the Mount Pulag head guide who also mans the Ranger Station, gives Rus, Edward, and me a briefing on Mount Pulag, the rules, and an explanation of where the fees we pay go. He also helped us arrange for a quide for tomorrow’s hike.

Blinded by the flash. After this, we went to sleep on the floor of the Ranger Station, cramped in a corner near the kitchen door.

Oct. 31, 2005; 1AM: We got up by 1AM to start ourselves off again on the way to Mount Pulag summit. This way, we can reach the summit just right before sunrise. Meanwhile, some Blairwitch type pics of me...


and Edward.

With everything around you in pitch black, it was a tough first hour hike on unseen tough, rocky, wet, slippery, muddy, grassy steep ground. But before long, we reached the first camping site where we took a 5-minute break.

In another hour we reached the grassland where some groups from last night proceeded to, to camp.

This is the second camp, reached an hour and a half from the first camp.

We only lingered shortly.

It was still dark everywhere, though in the distance you see far off mountains with many lights. Possibly it was Baguio.

The path we were taking now were mostly grassland now.

By this time, it is easier to get tired. We are energized by drinking water and a bite of Snickers bar.

Edward rests on the grass, clearly sweaty and burnt out. It’s been really challenging.

Oh no, sunrise is coming! Better hurry to the peak!

More colors now...

Much brighter now...

A walk in the clouds...

All I can say is WOW...

The morning sun’s first hello...

A hint of a smile...

A burst of sunshine...

Russell and Edward still on their way up. Too excited to see the sunrise, I went too much ahead of them, closely keeping pace with our guide.

Casting shadows...

The early birds...

A cloud does not know why it moves in just such a direction
and at such a speed, it feels an impulsion....
this is the place to go now.

But the sky knows the reason and the patterns behind all clouds,
and you will know, too,
when you lift yourself high enough to see beyond horizons..

- from "Illusions, The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah"

No higher land in sight... Just you and the clouds...

Where angels play...

This photo would have been much better without that dark cloud right there, but... I’m not complaining. :) It’s already pretty as it is. Just look at the effect on the clouds and mountains below it.

No trees in sight, just rolling hills made green by dwarf bamboos.

Edward and Russell are getting closer...

On top I am greeted by my friend Chrisgel (right) from UP Buklod-Isip. He happens to be with the Sabit Mountaineers. A future environmental lawyer.

Finally, I am joined by my 2 best buddies in the world at the summit of the island’s highest peak, the country’s 2nd. What a privilege.

Edward... contemplating how he’s gonna go back down.

Russell... weaving words in his head on the poetic beauty of the heavens. (aside from planning his next camera shot)

Me... grateful to the Mountain, inspired by its grandeur, and thankful for another dream knocked down. Seeing the clouds blanketing the mountains and the sun coloring it with yellow and orange, all I could whisper to myself is: So this is what Mama and Papa sees everyday! And here, I feel very much closer to them.

The sun is up alright!

The west side of Mount Pulag.

Russell’s back side

Lovely rolling hills

Time to eat breakfast – of loaf bread, cheese cake, Snickers, corned beef, and liver spread.

Above the clouds


The 3-Man ALON Team: Tristan (that’s me), Russell and Edward.

Edward: Nah, it was peanuts!

Russell: I think I’ll come back!

Tristan: So will I!

Sun is already too high up, time to go down.

Those tiny white flowers add charm to the hills.

That was the peak!

A little farther now, but that’s still the peak on the upper right corner. (see the tiny people on top?)

Mount Pulag: Conquered. (still see the tiny people?)

One of the best views the rolling hills; picturesque ain’t it?

Would this make a good postcard?

Of course we all had to have a pic with this view. :)

Reminds me of ‘Seven Years in Tibet’. Amazing shadow work by the sun!

Can you hear the soundtrack?

A jolly time getting down...

Nothing to it, the terrain is still quite flat.

Even easier if the path winds down, a little help from gravity.

Twice OK.

Ulk, hope we don’t have to go up that one to get through.

LOST: Could that be the way?

Break muna!

Alright, if you say so.

Could this finally be the Sassy Girl tree? :)

Entering the dark and mighty forest...

Oops, a little clearing...

Back in the dark forest, fetching forest water to drink. (it’s safe)


SM Bonus Kornik

Dead yet still reaching for the sky: This can’t be the Sassy Girl tree, could it?

Another break...

... to inspect our poor shoes.

I love my Nike.

Which shoe is the dirtiest?

A good hearty laugh -- as a pat on the back, for a job well done, and as a sign of acceptance, for our many personal foibles discovered along the way.

We will always be brothers, and always of the same frame.

Finally, the ranger station, and getting ready to go.

One last time.

The former Summit marker at Mt. Pulag. It was later removed because it violated what it purpotedly promotes: “Take nothing but pictures. Leave nothing but footprints. Kill nothing but time.”

If you wanna come up to Mount Pulag, register with the Protected Areas office of DENR by calling the Superintendent at 09203013932. Best to arrange a ride from Baguio, to the DENR office, up to the Ranger Station and back down. Contact Mang Roger at 09208068656. For more questions and other stuff, just post a comment.

Thanks for dropping by! :)


Deng's Outdoor World and Travel said...

hi, talagang na enjoy nyo ang mt pulag ah! hehehe.. yep one of the beautiful mountain we have.

Pero sir, sabi nun iba na mountaineer specially alphanist, No body conquer mountain, they just a survivor. hehehe.. anyway congrats ulet po sa inyong 3!!

I hope makasama o magkita tyo sa bundok

Anonymous said...

hi tristan,

its cool.. i like your photos....

proud to be sabitmountaineer....

kris said...

yeee... i'm excited. will be there this friday!

Unknown said...

ang galing!!!! nakakainggit naman... wow!

Janeve Ali

Veni Rieko said...

I came upon your site while i'm browsing for Mount Pulag info as we plan to make a trek in summer. This is a very good site for your photos and insight. I shall keep them in mind. Hope you get to walk more with your best buds!

Bayrover said...

The pictures narration is simple but very impressive! Modest and heart touching. Maraming salamat for sharing.
I wish someday I could go there too. Mt. Pulag here I come ;-)

- hello from Indonesia -

Yoshikuzu said...

Bro.. Hope you enjoyed our place. You are always welcome here..

Treklife said...

hi, a friend PM me the link of this site and indeed our photo was used here without any courtesy mentioned. I know there's no bad intention and I have buddies in climb before who do business just like yours but please next time kindly indicate the source of each photo you guys are using and put some courtesy.


Here's the image:

Leon Gore said...

Hi Guys

Am 50 years old and am still dreaming of climbing Mt. Pulag, it's been a dream and am not quite sure if the day will come to realize this. The closer I can get to Mt. Pulag and to appreciate it's beauty and grandeur is through your pictures. I hope you wont mind me stealing some of . . but I will definit ely give credit to whom credit is due. I could be nice if you can put your watermarks for credits and allow us to grab some of it. So am asking you kind permission to grab a few and use it as backdrop for my own blog. .hope you wont mind..
Leon Gore

Anonymous said...

Fantastic pics. I love the Seven-Years-In... view. And yes, I can almost hear the soundtrack. I have usually spent hideaways looking at the view below (fishes) - but these pics made me think how it could be up there. You've come a long way, Mahar! By the way, I've not seen pics of our Sagada trip on, with the ubiquitous banner and all, are we supposed to see it?

Tristan said...

Dear friends: Thanks for all the generous comments. I appreciate them. When I started this blog, I had only wanted it to chronicle my experience at Mt Pulag for the first time. Since then, I have been to Mt Pulag 5 more times! (can you believe it?) . And so many other things have happened which I will probably blog about elsewhere. Anyway, thanks for visiting this blog. BTW, if you'd like to go on other trips with us, visit us at or

@Rommel: Apologies for using your image without proper attribution. Will correct that shortly. It was a really great pic; thanks for allowing me to use it (even if your implied consent is belated, hehe). :) You should join us on our trek next week! I haven't obtained the copies of the Sagada pics from T or B; will post them everywhere once I get them. :)

Anonymous said...

Good to see the redesign of MPA blog site. is there a way for the post to be cut in half, i.e. "read more" sort of, so that the homepage loading speed can be kitten quicker? Thanks and more power!

Tristan said...

Thanks for the feedback, Babe. :) I have listened to your feedback and have implemented it. Hope it's better.

Romeo said...

Definitely gonna head up there this summer. Looks like you guys had a blast.

Anonymous said...

Nice hike ... hopefully there are no NPA's

Miss Dalida said...

i was doing a little research about mt. pulag cause i'm planning of doing something adventurous and wow!!! as in super wow! i like how you told of your hike. ganda rin ng scenery. picture perfect. nasubukan ko ng mag-hike sa mt. pinatubo at naisipan kong sumubok ulit. i'm not a sesoned hiker/ mountaineer and naisip ko kung medyo safe ba ang trek for beginners and novices like me. hope you can share some info. thanks. :)

One Makata said...

Aakyatin rin namin toh! Late this year or maybe early next year!!!

Ruel said...

I Like your pic captions.. fun to read.. I hope I can reach Mt Pulag too in February, 2012..

WanderGirl said...

thank you for sharing the pictures and the experience. this is one of the things in my bucket list. i am more inspired to climb mt pulag in april. i hope to walk on the clouds like you and your buddies did.

Roch said...

our group has plans of conquering Mt. Pulag on April..your blog just made me more excited about the trip.. :)not only do i find it fun and enjoyable, but the views above made me so much amazed..the pics you've taken are magnificent.. :)

Unknown said...

Nice photos like a real adventure! Witty and informative. We got excite for our Mt.Pulag trip on March 5, 2012! Woohoo! And to thinks its already March 30! We're a little worried though 'cause we read an article that it would be a little rain. (And it is also a little downhearted if we don't get to see the "See of clouds view thing".) Oh well! But with your pictures we just don't get but to look forward for our trip! Thanks for sharing your adventure!

Anonymous said...

Sir, I'd like to ask permission po sana to use one of your pics for our certificate. We'll be climbing mt. pulag this april. Salamat sir! (In advance) heehhe

Mt. Pulag: Adventures Above the Clouds said...

Thanks to all your kind comments. May all your journeys be blessed.

Anonymous said...

wow! hi tristan, russel and...? yun basta kaung 3. Me(Anne) and my friend Hannah did the same! we walked the 10 km? from DENR office to ranger station. you were right, twas worth it. so much fun along the way, so much sweat na di mo na kailangan maihe! hahha!! you guys inspired us and yes we did it... last apr 14-15 2012. mountaineering groups n ksbayan nmen were asking why we walked that trail (10 km) we said we were inspired by your trip. hahaha! so credits to you guys!! balik tau sa Pulag ibang trail naman!!

Anonymous said...

I had some thoughts about going (bec of my weight problem) but after seeing your pics, drove me into pursuing it. Need to get my body ready for this. Thanks for sharing your experience. Will definitely look forward seeing the scenes you saw myself.

Anonymous said...

para kong umakyat ng pulag :)

Mt. Pulag: Adventures Above the Clouds said...

To Anonymous #1, thanks for saying you and your friends were inspired to take our original trail (from DENR). Really fun, right? If people had more time, that's what I'd really recommend everyone do. I hope you continue to chase more adventures. (And it's Tristan, Russell and Edward, BTW.)

To Anonymous #2, yes, it is worth the losing weight for. :) Wish you success in that, and may you find yourself at the summit soon. :)

To Anonymous #3, thanks for your comments. It does feel like actually going to Mt. Pulag just reading it. That was the point, so that it is easy to re-live the experience. May you find yourself at the summit too soon. :)

Anonymous said...

Excellent blog on your experience in climbing an amazing part of your country. I plan on doing the climb as well. Maybe be the 1st Canadian hehehe. I loved your pictures and love your country and people very much.

Marx4387 said...

Very nice. I think you just got me into climbing!

Anonymous said...

Great pics sir!...we are planning to go there this coming march 2013, im so excited!

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed your pics. Thanks for sharing them. Me and the entire family with a 2 year old baby wish to visit Mt. Pulag this October. Is it possible to drive up to the Ranger's camp in a van?

Is there any appropriate accommodation there for a 2yr old baby?

Mt. Pulag: Adventures Above the Clouds said...

hi anonymous, it is possible to drive up with a van, BUT i wouldn't recommend it. best to hire a jeep (or join our tour) driven by a local as they know the terrain better which is VERY important. we've seen a 2-yr old brought there before, he was fine - but make sure he is properly insulated (It gets very cold and wet in october) and you're prepared to carry him throughout the hikes. there are no accommodations to speak of there - you camp in tents. pls read up on our FAQs so you know you're well-prepared for the climb. thanks!