Mt. Ulap Eco Trail - Top Tips Before You Go

Mt. Ulap Eco Trail – Top Tips Before You Go

Mt. Ulap’s close proximity to Baguio City, its relatively easy Ampucao-Sta. Fe trail, its bearable foot traffic, and its magnificent views – not to mention Gungal Rock – make this mountain an ideal non-Rizal hike for beginners. It also makes a good prep hike for a Mt. Pulag, a Mt. Ugo, or even a Mt. Kinabalu climb.

The whole trail can be completed in less than 8 hours depending on your speed and fitness level, but you can choose a 2-day itinerary and spend a chilly night in one of the mountain’s camping grounds.

Here are some tips to heed before hiking Mt. Ulap this weekend.

[Credits to my bundok friends for the images.]

Bring an umbrella, a UV protection jacket, or a bottle of your favorite brand of sunblock.

Occassionally, you’ll hike along shaded pine trails especially in the beginning, but many sections are open. Even the peaks, including the summit, are bare.

While it’s tempting to forego these hiking essentials because of the cool weather, it’s wise to be protected at all times.

Here’s what we mean.

Mt. Ulap Eco Trail

Hike early to avoid the crowd converging at Gungal Rock.

Gungal Rock is the highlight of the Eco Trail, so expect other groups to flock into and spend a lot of time at this IG-worthy landmark. Depending on their number, a group of hikers can take at least 20 minutes taking pictures and braving the heights of the rock. If your group is third in queue, expect to wait at least an hour.

This can be a concern because save for one pine tree, the place is basically shade-less. It’s therefore a good idea to start early so that you can have Gungal Rock by yourself.

Watch this video of Gungal Rock to know what to expect.

Downhills can be slippery because of loose rocks.

You might need a hiking stick. If you don’t have any, there are wooden sticks on sale for 15 or 20 PHP at the start of the trail.

If you easily get height-sick, you can avoid the summit and Gungal Rock.

Going up the summit isn’t the hard part. It’s the descent that makes you dizzy. Skip this part by taking the trail that goes around it, leading to the camping grounds.

If Gungal Rock is too much for you, you can choose not to do what everyone else is doing. A few meters from the rock, there’s another spot that is as IG-worthy. All you have to do is find the perfect angle. Take a look.

Mt. Ulap Benguet

If you want a more challenging hike, start at Sta. Fe.

At the Ampucao side, expect a gradual uphill climb. But at the Sta. Fe side, expect to start with a steep ascent that lasts for 2 hours.

Watch.

Cow dung is everywhere. Don’t forget wet wipes or a hand sanitizer.

You’ll have your lunch along the trail, so a hand sanitizer is a must-have especially if you’d like to take shots like this one.

Summit of Mt. Ulap

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

Bukit Nanas Kuala LUmpur

Layover in Kuala Lumpur? Check Out Bukit Nanas

In February 17, 2017, we had a 20-hour layover in Kuala Lumpur, so we decided to make good use of it and check out Bukit Nanas. Based on research, the place is now called the KL Forest Eco Park, which is just a few meters from the KL Tower (Menara KL).

Bukit Nanas is truly a gem. Although not at all challenging and only affords views of nearby buildings, the well-maintained trail can be a good warm-up for an upcoming hike. The forest has an impressive 200-meter canopy walk, a spacious campsite, and even an herbal garden. With a leisurely pace, we spent about an hour exploring most of the trails.

This mini hike was supposed to be in preparation for our Doi Inthanon and Phu Chi Fa climb in Thailand, but as it turned out, we over-prepared.

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Our Walking Route

We’d been to KL twice before, so getting lost wasn’t a worry. Since we had much time to spare, and we knew based on other travel blogs that Bukit Nanas is a quick nature walk, we planned to do a lengthier route to include some popular places in the city.

Here’s the plan.

1. Take the bus from KLIA2 to KL Sentral.
2. From KL Sentral, hop on a train to KLCC and resist the temptation to even say hello to the Twin Towers.
3. From KLCC, walk towards Bukit Bintang through the connecting bridgeway.
4. From Bukit Bintang, walk towards Bukit Nanas.
5. Take the same route in reverse. As a reward, take a picture with the Twin Towers.

According to Maps.me, the whole route was about 8 km. NOTE: It’s possible to take a shorter 1.8-km route from Suria KLCC to Bukit Nanas.

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Our Itinerary

13:30 – Got off at KLCC station, then headed towards Pavilion Mall in Bukit Bintang.

14:00 – Reached Pavilion Mall; took our time to look around; dropped by Brands Outlet Store but didn’t find anything we like; turned around and headed towards Pavilion again; took a picture of Coach’s window because we thought the display was super creative; check out top-reviewed hotels within KLCC and Bukit Bintang

14:46 – Arrived at KL Tower; surprised that it was an “attraction complex” (e.g., Upside Down Hsouse (see image below), Eco Forest, Zoo…), but we were only interested in Bukit Nanas. We didn’t know where it was, so we asked around. The girl we talked to said we needed a ticket, but we didn’t have to worry because it was free. We did what she said.

Image: KL Upside Down House KL Tower

KL Upside Down House KL Tower

15:05 – We found the forest, situated only a few meters from the tower. When we got inside, though, there was not a single person in sight, not even a ranger. The entrance looked deserted and unwelcoming, but we let ourselves in, and then examined the ticket. What was it for? The ticket says “FREE FOREST TOUR.”We saw a few double-decker buses earlier; perhaps the ticket was for one of those? We kept the ticket just in case. Later, we found out that there are three main entrances to the eco park. We got in through this entrance (see image below).

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Image: Entrance of Bukit Nanas

Entrance of Bukit Nanas

Image: Bukit Nanas Ticket KL Forest Eco Park

Ticket Bukit Nanas

We didn’t follow the sign that says “MAIN TRAIL ENTRANCE.” Instead, when we saw the hanging bridges, we couldn’t contain our excitement. We later discovered that these bridges are part of the forest’s CANOPY WALK.

The walk wasn’t long, but a few of these bridges, especially those suspended the highest, got us height-sick. We have to say though that these bridges aren’t that high. Compared to houses, the highest of them are the height of a 3-storey house.

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Canopy Walk Bukit Nanas

When we were done with the bridges, we just let our feet wander off and take whatever trail they’d stumble upon. The trails we took were…

– Penarahan Trail
– Merawan Trail
– Jelutong Trail
– Bamboo Walk

We also managed to reach the campsite at 15:34.

16:09 – Back at the entrance; we retraced our steps back to KLCC.

17:30 – Took a picture with the Petronas Towers.

Short Note About the Trails in Bukit Nanas

The park has several well-maintained trails that you can explore. These are wide enough for one person, and each is paved with a different material.

– Penarahan – tiles
– Merawan – crushed rocks / gravel
– Jelutong – hardened clay soil
– OKU – a concrete ramp

Penarahan Trail Bukit Nanas Bukit Nanas Merawan Trail
Jelutong Trail Bukit Nanas Oku Trail

It’s impossible to get lost as long as you stay on the paths.

At the campsite, you can sleep in one of the open houses, but bring an insect repellent. Mosquitoes are everywhere.

Mount Kinabalu from Airplane

Our Slow But Steady Grind with Gunung Kinabalu

Successfully summiting Mt. Kinabalu crosses off one of the mountains in the so-called Asian Trilogy checklist. In this trilogy that includes Mt. Fuji (Japan) and Mount Jade (Taiwan), Kinabalu is the highest with an elevation of 4,096 masl.

In June 2015, an earthquake took a heavy toll on the mountain. The park had been closed for several months until authorities opened Ranau Trail, a two-part hike that stretches over an 8-km distance. The first part, which covers 6 kilometers, is a 4-hour ascent from Timpohon Gate to KM 6 (Pendant Hut/Laban Rata). The second part, the more exciting of the two, starts at the base camp all the way to Low’s Peak.

In August 25-26, 2016, we joined an all-Filipino group of 8 hikers – 3 women and 5 men, aged 26 to 42 – on an organized 2D1N itinerary. It was our first mountain adventure outside the Philippines.

It was a successful climb. Expectations, if there were any, were exceeded.

[NOTE: Images on this post are from our friends.]
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“Slow But Steady” is the Way to Do it

On the day of the climb, the operators promptly picked us up at our hostel in Kota Kinabalu. We were whisked in a van and arrived at the Park’s Headquarters about two hours later. After all the permits and ID tags were secured, we enjoyed a 10-minute ride to Timpohon Gate, the starting point.

At Timpohon Gate, right before we started the climb, our middle-aged guide Aling had a fair warning. “Slow but steady,” he said. That meant no running or walking too fast.

He went on to explain that it’s a tried-and-tested strategy against AMS and pulikat (cramps) – two inconveniences that every hiker would want to avoid at all costs. We should also refrain from taking too-long breaks because “we want our muscles to be warm at all times.”

It was three months prior to the Kinabalu hike when we first learned the importance of keeping a slow-but-steady pace especially during ascents. That was during our Akiki-Tawangan hike (Mt. Pulag) with another group.

We realized that applying this approach has at least three benefits.

First, since there’s minimal strain on both the lower and upper extremities, you don’t feel tired easily. That means you can keep going, taking breaks only minimally. Second, you’ll minimize muscle soreness after the climb. Third, and most importantly, you’ll reduce your chances of incurring an injury.

When Aling’s briefing was over, the other guide, a shy twenty-something lad named Tino, took over the reins and led us to the first leg of the hike.

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Ascent to KM 6

The first ten minutes was literally a walk in the park, but for a team of speedy hikers, the slowness of the pace was unbearable.

Back in the Philippines where the highest point is pegged at less than 3,000 masl, AMS is a strange concept, so although no one spoke among us, we knew that everyone was anxious to walk faster.

Still, we all knew better than to disobey.

Two weeks before the climb, we gathered as much information as we could about the trail. From the blogs, we learned that Ranau is laden with flight after flight of wooden steps, which instantly made a negative impression on us. We prefer our trails to be as rugged as possible, so imagine our disappointment the first time we came face-to-face with these wooden installations.

At least we’ve been warned, we said to ourselves as we stepped on the wooden planks.

As the group pressed along, we surveyed the trail hoping to find something unfamiliar, but there was nothing un-Philippinelike about the surroundings. From the ground up, it was basically tropical.

The only time we got excited was when a group of squirrels and a strange bird kept us company while taking a break at one of the huts, or punduk in the vernacular.

As the altitude changed, so did the flora and the views. They got more exciting. It also got chillier, and as we were about 500 meters to KM 6, it started to rain.

We carried on despite the cold. Then at about 2:30 in the afternoon, we arrived at our destination.

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At KM 6: Pendant Hut

We were given an hour to get some rest before our Via Ferrata briefing. It was too cold to have a walk outside Pendant Hut, but the views from the windows kept us busy. There was also free coffee.

“Is that a waterfall?”

“The fog’s too thick.”

“Are those Donkey Ears?”

The briefing ended shortly before 6 pm, just in time for dinner. Although Laban Rata was just a few steps away from Pendant Hut, going there was torturous because of the biting cold.

At 8 pm or so, we were tucked in our bed, trying our best to catch some sleep. Unfortunately, the cold did not make it easy for us. It probably took us an hour before we finally dozed off.

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It’s so Beautiful Up Here!

Waking up at 1 in the morning in Mount Kinabalu was a real challenge, but the excitement overpowered the cold. We assembled in front of Pendant Hut where Aling, our guide, was waiting. After a quick reminder from him – yup, slow but steady – we turned our head torch on and began walking.

The trail started with wooden stairs, and then about thirty minutes later, it changed into a more rocky, adventurous terrain. At one point, we had to climb up a rock face with the aid of a rope. It felt dangerous, but we liked the thrill of it.

At 4:30 in the morning, we reached KM 8.5. We decided to stop there to wait for the sunrise.

Barely five minutes into waiting, it got irritatingly cold again. It was torture, and we wished we walked a bit slower. There were no stars nor moon to keep us company, so we busied ourselves with whatever “view” our head torch gave us.

At the hint of first light, our friend took out his camera, and we started shooting solo pictures.

After the photoshoot, we continued our journey towards Low’s Peak. As we inched closer to the top, the skies got clearer, and everything we saw took our breath away. From the granite slabs to the clouds, Mount Kinabalu did not disappoint. It was beautiful.

Of course, we took our time to enjoy and appreciate this one-of-a-kind beauty. When it was time to go, we left happy, victorious, proud, and teeming with confidence.

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