10 Tips for Mt. Pulag First-Timers

10 Tips for Mt. Pulag First-Timers | Hiking in the Philippines

Mt. Pulag stands at 2,926 meters (9,600 ft) above sea level, making it the third tallest mountain in the Philippines and Luzon‘s highest peak. Whatever your reason for wanting to “conquer” Mt. Pulag – sea of clouds, crossing it off your bucket list, #squadgoals – we completely understand. We support you.

But because we know of a few people who haven’t successfully reached the summit, we say you should take this hike seriously. For this, we’d like to share some tips.

Expect low temperatures. Don’t skimp on the fleece.

Droplets in Mt. Pulag SummitEven some occasional hikers have to turn back because the cold is unbearable. So as early as now, be warned: The temperature can drop to zero at night, and possibly worse during the colder months.

For an overnight stay at one of the campsites, ensure that your tent is waterproof and wind-resistant. Inside, you want to set up a sleeping space that is as warm as possible.

To do this, pack an aluminum foil camping mat that can contain every inch of your body. Your sleeping bag should withstand low temperatures, and if your tolerance to cold is terrible, it doesn’t hurt to pack a light fleece blanket.

For clothing, layering is a must. See the next tip to know the basics. Don’t forget to include a pair of waterproof gloves and a balaclava or a bonnet.

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Layer up on your way to the summit.

Wearing layers of clothes is better than wearing one bulky jacket. As explained on this site, a layering system is more effective in retaining heat because “warm air is trapped between the layers acting as an insulator.”

Layers also play it safe. In different types of weather – whether it rains or the temperature drops – you have what you need. If it feels too hot along the trail, you can easily take off one layer. If you need it back again – and this is true at the summit – you can easily wear it again. That said, learn how to layer your clothes.

Here are the basics. Your base layer should be a quick-dry shirt. Don’t use cotton as cotton absorbs and retains moisture, thereby making you feel colder.

Your second or middle layer can be a wool cardigan or a fleece jacket.

Ideally, the last layer should be an anorak, or a weather-resistant parka. But if you have one of those hardshell mountain jackets, they can be a good substitute.

Pack a lightweight emergency blanket and a rain poncho.

Save for clumps of dwarf bamboo bushes, the summit is bare, so surely, you’ll be exposed to the elements. You might need extra insulation especially when arriving at the summit before sunrise. It may also rain, so a poncho is a wise investment.

It’s windy and cold at the top, and everyone will be hiding behind the bushes. For added warmth, have an emergency blanket, a heat-reflective thin wrap designed to retain your body heat.

You’ll also want to sit on the ground, so you’ll need a large plastic bag to keep you clean and dry.

Pack a pair of extra socks and change at the summit.

Unless your socks are waterproof, there’s no need to pack another pair. But why do this?

Near the summit, the vegetation changes from mossy forest to grasslands. The trail gets narrower, and on your ascent, your socks, shoes, and the lower part of your trekking pants may get wet as they brush against the dew-laden blades of grasses.

Climbing Mt. Agung soon? Here’s a packing list.

Wet wipes are your best option when the water gets too cold.

From cleaning the dishes to wiping off the mud on your feet, wet wipes are a great help especially when camping in cold weather. At the supermarket, grab a 2-in-1 pack that comes with an antibac feature. You’ll thank us later.

Follow the park’s official Facebook page.

The updates are usually weather-related, but if you have some questions, this page is helpful.

Hike one or two small mountains before your trip.

Sure, the Ambangeg Trail is the easiest among the three trails leading up to the summit. But it can still be difficult especially if you don’t have regular cardio-related exercises.

A prep hike at least a week before the climb is recommended. You can choose a smaller mountain whose trail, if possible, shares some similarities with Mt. Pulag’s. If you can find a group bound for Mt. Ulap, join them.

If you can’t have a prep hike, jog at least thirty minutes every day two weeks before the climb. Other activities that can also improve cardiovascular endurance include swimming and cycling.

Don’t expect, but hope for a “sea of clouds.”

Mt. Pulag’s famed sea of clouds is truly stunning, but catching it is not easy. It sometimes requires luck. But although luck plays a role, you can increase your chances if you book a trek from December to January, which, as explained here, gives you the highest probability of seeing this natural phenomenon.

The image below shows us at the summit above a sea of clouds, which we witnessed on my second Pulag climb (Akiki-Tawangan Trail). It wasn’t as pretty as Mt. Kinabalu‘s or Mt. Agung‘s.

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Mt Pulag Hiking in the Philippines

Invest in a good pair of hiking sandals if trekking shoes are way out of budget.

During our first Mt. Pulag climb (Ambangeg Trail), we made the mistake of wearing a pair of walking shoes. Everything was fine until we reached the mossy forest, which has a stony trail. Our shoes didn’t have a thick outsole, so my feet hurt as we walked through the rocks, which were hard and sometimes pointy.

That said, if trekking shoes or trailrunners (e.g., Salomon Speedcross 4) are way out of budget, you can opt for a pair of hiking sandals, a cheaper alternative.

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Go slow but steady.

There’s no need to rush. Take your time to examine and appreciate Mt. Pulag’s flora and fauna. Don’t run on the trail lest you run the risk of having cramps or hurting yourself.

If you plan on climbing Mt. Kinabalu in Malaysia, Mt. Pulag is a good prep hike.

Sea of Clouds Mt. Pulag