22 December 2015

Mt. Pulag Roundup

For some time, mountain-climbing had somehow become the focus of my existence to the exclusion of everything else. It’s that intensified ambition and uninhibited dream that forced me to reach those loftiest points eventually piling up the numbers to at least 30 peaks, to date. The hunger to climb had really been blunted by those bunches of small satisfactions adding up to something like addiction. And one of the culminating climbs to top them all, the proverbial icing to the cake, was that one cool of a climb to no less than the playground of the northern gods – Mt. Pulag.

Climbing Mt. Pulag is no less than a dream come true. I am quite sure that my dream about Pulag was not mine alone, and that others are aspiring in climbing this most-coveted-northern-peak-in-the-realm-of-terrestrial-exploration, as well. With the mountain’s sheer overwhelming mass, backed with a great deal of architectural grace, I dreamed of ascending it myself after my first Mt.Maculot climb last January 2013. And for almost two years, that certain wanting remained a buried-but-burning desire. Until one day an opportunity to conquer it finally knocked leaving me no choice but to accept the invite. Oh boy, some desires really die hard. Good sense be damned.

Ascending Mt. Pulag is a long but a lovely process. The itinerary for this climb requires much time and effort as one will need to steal away some time from the daily grind; in my case, work. So sorry work :) The road rage to Baguio alone and then to the tail-end Benguet slopes, entail some hours off the sched. But then  everything’s worth it; the process itself is something valuable enough in expense of a few days off. The whole experience -- from the top-load ride, nature treat of wondrous mossy forest sights, the infamous sea of clouds, and so on, were some of the prizes waiting for the bite.

The Mt. Pulag National Park is not exactly a walk in the park. Surprisingly, it’s not the hike per se that made the climb hard. Aside from the hefty outlay of cash that the climb demands, the most difficult part of the hike was actually the huge temperature drop during the rest of the night. True enough, during the past two years I called myself a hiker, I had undertaken more difficult stints than this one – been trapped and lost in the midst of a stormy climb to Malipunyo, buffeted by a hundred knot winds while doing a solo ascent to Mt. Zion, and plastered with other frangible atmospheric rimes on several other occasions. But walking up Mt. Pulag is an experience unique on its own. And upon rethinking about it, it’s not entirely an easy feat after all. But with proper mindset, attitude, and training prior to the climb, everything should turn out fine.

It’s not really expensive. Don't get this wrong. I'm not contradicting myself. Well I am but I'm not. What I actually mean is, I only mean half of that. It’s true that it’s relatively more costly than all the other hikes I did in the past, but the cash it wouild cost is still justified. Being a certified insane thrift, I’m more of a diy person, and not a huge fan of travel agencies with those offered tour packages. But this one is an exception. With all the rush and hassle and effort that goes along with the whole planning, it’s just fair to spend a little more than the usual. 

The whole experience is a humbling one. The culture of climbing is sometimes a mix of competition and machismo, and this is already pointed out in several publications. As I see it, some mountaineers and hikers are concerned with impressing one another, with endless comparisons on which and how many mountains they have climbed so far. I should know, because the first time I dreamed of conquering Mt. Pulag I objectified it as a bragging right, who won’t be proud to be on top of the highest point in Luzon anyway. But then, finally reaching its peak made me feel otherwise. The previous night’s cold showed us how little and weak we could be. And just to state the famed line.. we are nothing but some tiny specks of dust.

It isn’t all about the sea of clouds. And it’s not always the peak that’s the best. When I finally plodded up my last few steps to the summit, I had that tingling sensation, up until I found both of my feet nowhere higher to climb. But it’s actuallyu not the peak that’s the best part, it was the descent that made me appreciate it more – especially the views across the trails that we failed to have a good look at while aiming for that top spot. 

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