Posts Tagged ‘Mt. Pulag


Goodbye Summer?

Talk about Mother Nature changing her mind so abruptly—from sweltering heat to flooded streets literally overnight!  Wasn’t it just a few days ago when most of us were complaining with the record highs for the year, and yet yesterday many got stranded with flash floods that swept some of the roads in the Metro?  Does this mean that summer (or the dry season to be exact) is officially over?

PAGASA-DOST MTSAT-EIR Satellite Image for 2PM, 09 May 2011 (courtesy

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2010 in Pictures

2010 was the year running took a backseat from my list of activities, but in between my great hiatus there were some interesting events that transpired.  Here’s a look back at how 2010 was for me:


The highlight for the first month of 2010 was my return to running with a 50K test run of the Bataan Death March (BDM) Ultramarathon (first 50K of the actual route).

With our support crew (courtesy Gail Consolacion)

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November 11, 2008 was the day “runningpinoy” was born on the web, and now two years hence the adventure continues.

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TNF100 Philippines 2010: Prep Up

This year one of the region’s toughest ultramarathon race is back, The North Face 100.  For its 2010 edition it would be held in the Philippines’ summer capital, Baguio City (1,500 meters above sea level).  TNF100 is not your “typical” trails—the higher elevation should pose a greater challenge.

TNF100 holds a special place in my heart for being my first ever ultra.  BDM may be my longest distance-wise and fastest ultramarathon so far but TNF100 still holds my most difficult and longest race time-wise.  It’s not surprising that it comes with a 30-hour cutoff.  (TNF50 has an extended 18-hour cutoff, 22K with 4.5, and 11K with 3)


Unlike previous editions wherein the 100K can be taken as solo or relay, TNF100 now boasts a new category: 50K solo.  This should open the doors to new ultra-trail runners who want to “test” the trails but aren’t up to take on the full challenge that is TNF100.  For beginners there are also 11K and 22K categories.


Registration is ongoing at The North Face branches, ROX, and Res-Toe-Run branches but you better hurry as slots are limited: 11K and 22K with 40 slots each per branch; 50K and 100K with 10 slots each per branch.  Registration fees for 100K and 50K solo are P2,000 and P500 for 11K and 22K.  Don’t forget your provisional receipt (for race kit claiming) and 20% discount coupon upon registration.


For those who would be joining (or considering joining) their first TNF100 (or TNF50) I can only advice based on my previous TNF100 experience in Sacobia, Clark as I am not familiar with this year’s route myself.  I’ve only been to Baguio City once and I know for a fact that the elevation may take a toll to “lowlanders,” especially to those who don’t climb.  I was running for only about half a year when I finished my first ultra (with only a 21K race to boast), and I’ve only had two major training sessions that prepared me for it:

  1. Km 0 – 56 (Manila to Tagaytay)

    View from Km 0

    This ultramarathon distance long run was where I had my first marathon distance and my first ultramarathon distance.  It was crash-course training for TNF100 that served as my test of endurance as it was a 56K worth of gradual uphill.

  2. Mt. Maculot Traverse

    Team Maculet

    Not intended to be part of my training, this recreational climb doubled as such when we encountered “surprises” during our climb.  It was supposed to be an “easy” climb which turned into a very challenging traverse.

Unexpectedly another recent climb of ours now served as my altitude training:

  • Suggested Climb: Mt. Pulag [1, 2]

    First light at Mt. Pulag

    The tallest peak in Luzon at 2,922 masl, acclimatizing at this altitude would make Baguio City feel like a lowland.

For those doing their first trail run (participants of 11K and 22K), I suggest that you read about my first trail run in Batulao, Nasugbu, Batangas—TNF Thrill of the Trail 2009 [1, 2, 3, 4].


It is highly likely that the mandatory gears of last year’s events are still mandatory this year so you may want to start from there.  It is also most likely that the “self-sufficient” rule still applies, so when it comes to it you may want to shop for something like this (note that I wasn’t able to consume it all and ended up hauling a lot of it back to Manila!).



If you still feel uneasy about TNF100 or want to find out what you may expect during race day, here’s my 2009 TNF100 story:

Sunrise during 2009 TNF100

Unlike road ultramarathons you can’t really make a detailed plan on trails unless you’re quite familiar with the terrain of the route.  All you can do is take into account what is known and prepare for possible scenarios you might encounter along the way.  As what we’ve learned last year being a seasoned ultramarathoner doesn’t guarantee success and inversely even newbies can finish.  Believe, and you can achieve!  Brace yourself folks for yet another experience of a lifetime!  Stay tuned for further updates.


I Survived Mount Pulag (Part 2)

Apparently I wasn’t the only one who needs to be thawed.  At around 3AM I was hearing voices in our camp and I’m hearing water was being boiled for coffee—just the thought of hot coffee in your tummy during this freezing setting is already heaven.  I was still reluctant to get outside for coffee, but I was more reluctant to go back to sleep!

Earlier on we had planned to wake up at around 4AM and climb at 4:30AM—we feared that because of fatigue we may not be able to wake up early.  Ironically it was too cold that we weren’t able to sleep well or woke up too early.  Only a few “warm bodies” weren’t glad of the turnout of events as their sleep was disturbed.  After a while, our group leader gave in and started checking who’s awake, and so started our day.

Early morning at campsite, courtesy Carina

Assault to the Summit

Even before 4:30AM struck we were off for the summit, our belongings left at the campsite.  Despite enjoying much lighter weight mobility was still limited—our headlamps were the only light source, it was cold, the elevation was getting higher, and the ascent was getting steeper.

Break of dawn: the white spots are headlamps of fellow climbers

Still climbing to the summit…

Finally at the summit! Officially Mt. Pulag is 2,922 masl but my GPS survey reflects 2,944 masl

Our group wasn’t alone at the summit

Waiting for sunrise

First light of Valentine’s Day, or the (Chinese) New Year whichever you prefer


The mist covers the mountains below

The shadow of Mt. Pulag

My dirty and worn out Kayano 13: Mt. Pulag certified!

The sea of clouds…

…and the shadows of the mountains

Thumbs up (I’d give it two but my other hand is holding the camera :))

Back to Camp

Around 7AM hikers started their descent, and so did we.  As much as we wanted to stay we still have our camp to pack-up. 😦

By 7AM we started our descent back to camp to pack-up

By that time we could see better the route that we took early on in the darkness

A lone tree in the sky

Close-up of the lone tree

Still amazing views

Rocky road to campsite

After some brief rest and eating it was finally time to say goodbye to this lovely place.  After everything’s been packed (including the trash) it’s time to retrace our route back to Camping Ground 1, then eventually to the Park Ranger Station for lunch.

Goodbye Mt. Pulag! Until we meet again…

On the way back…

At Camping Ground 1 (2,570 masl), courtesy Pepsi

Hep! Pic-stop on the way to the Park Ranger Station, courtesy Pepsi

The sign that marks the start of the trail, courtesy Carina

By lunchtime we arrived safely back to the Park Ranger Station at Babadak where we had sumptuous lunch!  It may seem simple but out in the mountains it was a luxury as we even have cold sodas (softdrinks) with our delicious meal.


It was also here where our jeepneys service picked us up again to return us to Baguio City, but first we need to have a few stops along the way.

Protected Area Office

Before finally going back to “reality” the first thing any hiker must do is log out at the Protected Area Office.  Here you can also get your last minute Mt. Pulag souvenirs such as shirts, key chains, bonnets, etc.  You may also wash up or take your bath here.  The cold water shouldn’t be much of a problem since it’s not as cool here as in higher places.

Lazy afternoon at PAO

Note: You’d still be faced by many more kilometers of dusty unpaved roads on your way back to Baguio City so taking a bath is hardly effective

Sidetrip: Ambuklao Dam

After PAO it would be back to the supercalifragilisticexpialidocious-ly winding road but before we all fall asleep we asked our driver to inform us when we’re in the vicinity of Ambuklao Dam since we’d be passing through it.  And after alternating nap sessions and kilometers of road we finally reached the viewing area of the dam.  It was almost 5PM then.

The dam and the river; El Niño is definitely being felt in the region evident by the little water output of the dam

Our jeepney service with our loads on top

The road is already paved in this area

Baguio City

Eventually after some more time of the dizzying road we arrived in Baguio City, just shortly after sunset.  Like with running, what would you expect from hikers but to eat!

Scene from the very busy restaurant called…

…Good Taste


We were so lucky that despite being a “holiday” we were able to get some seats in this very popular restaurant.  My lucky stars must be shining on me as it was my first time in Baguio City (technically second because the first was when we got here the previous day).

Afterwards, it was a quickie to the market to buy some more “pasalubong” (souvenirs).  For me I highly recommend Ube and Strawberry Jam, the latter a bit expensive but worth every penny (if I knew it was “that” good I would’ve bought more!).

Getting around this city was pretty easy with cabs (taxi) as unlike in Metro Manila fares are very, very cheap.  This may primarily be because they don’t use air conditioning (for obvious reasons).  For those who haven’t been here note that while there may be AUV-type (FX) taxis around the rear seats are removed limiting capacity of all taxis to six passengers (driver excluded).

Back to Reality

It was a whirlwind weekend adventure for us as we successfully survived Luzon’s highest peak Mt. Pulag.  Truly this mountain can’t be “conquered” as you have to “survive” it.  Coming here at this time of the year and experiencing all that we had made this truly an adventure we won’t soon forget.  I’m so glad that the parks are taken cared of well by the government and the residents, and I hope it would stay that way for generations to come.  This will definitely be not the last time Mt. Pulag will see me, but for the mean time it’s time for us to go back to our regular lives.



I was so tired of our adventure that I honestly didn’t know what road our bus took to the Metro.  Unfortunately our bus was very much like Mt. Pulag—cold!  I was wearing just my normal tee at the time so it was another dash of misadventure for me—but unlike in Mt. Pulag I still managed to get some sleep (and had developed the talent to stay warm :)).  Note to self: always keep your jacket in handy!


I Survived Mount Pulag (Part 1)

Mount Pulag became my “date” last February 14, 2010, Valentine’s Day.  It was also Chinese New Year that day so you may say there were at least two reasons that made that weekend special.

Mount Pulag (16°35′0.86″N 120°53′0.93″E) is the highest peak in the island of Luzon, Philippines at 2,922 meters (9,587 feet) above sea level.  At such height there are many unique things you can experience, but particularly for me I was seeking once again that “winter feeling.”  Little did I know that I’d be getting much, much more than what I bargained for.

Baguio City

Baguio City is considered the Philippines’ summer capital because of its much milder than Manila weather (normally 10°C cooler) due to its high elevation (around 1,500 masl).  It is a six hour bus ride from Cubao, Quezon City, and it was our first stop in our journey.  Arriving at 4AM in the city we were greeted by gusts of chilly winds, which was around 10°C then—time to put on the layers!

(I so wanted to try that strawberry taho but I was afraid my stomach may “argue” with me so I have to postpone it for my return to Baguio a few months from now ;-))

Note: Buy your return tickets upon arrival in Baguio City to evade long queues

Kabayan, Benguet

From Baguio City we took our pre-hired jeepney service to Kabayan, Benguet.  It was a slow, few hours drive with winding, twisting, ascending, descending, and rough dirt roads.  Using the word zigzag would be an understatement to describe it (supercalifragilisticexpialidocious-ly zigzagging perhaps?).  I almost lost what’s left of dinner during the commute, thankfully we had a quick stop somewhere along the route for breakfast (although my tummy still wasn’t in the mood for some work so coffee and pandesal would suffice for the moment).

A significant portion of the road was rough and unpaved so jeepneys normally hired for this job are pretty covered to provide some shelter from the dust (but it’s not as air-tight as buses and the like).  Despite its Spartan look it packs a lot of power than many 4x4s!  It had to if it were to carry more than a dozen people carrying heavy loads up (and down) the mountains on anything but tamed roads.

Typical jeepney service to/from Kabayan, Benguet

Mt. Pulag National Park

As with most protected areas you can’t just climb any mountains as you wish—you have to register with DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) and secure permit or whatever obligations are required. It is also for your safety so that the authorities may know anytime how many people are within their jurisdiction hence it’s a step everyone should follow everywhere it is mandated.


The Mount Pulag Protected Area Office was the site for briefing and registration for this climb, and it proved to be a very pleasant experience as we were shown an informational video aside from some instructions on how we can help preserve the pristine beauty of the mountains.  We were also given emergency numbers we can contact and some helpful advice.  Before leaving though make sure you’ve paid the P200 fee per person (entrance, camping, LGU, etc.) as you need to present it to the Park Ranger Station to proceed.

Note: You may rent blankets here in case you forgot to bring one


This is required

Banners from different groups that have been here decorate the area inside and out

Park Ranger Station

After the short but pleasant briefing and registration we were off to the farthest point our service can take us, the Park Ranger Station in Babadak, still in Kabayan, Benguet.  You can say that the first step towards the summit begins here (and inversely, end) so any last minute preparation should be done here.  There’s water and restrooms here so you can freshen up before your assault.  Porters can also be hired here if you don’t feel like carrying your load towards the camping area (P250 one-way).

Ranger Station

Note: Guides are required (to help watch over the environment and the hikers themselves) who will take you to the camping sites: P500 per groups of five, additional P100 per person in excess of

Before continuing our journey we decided to have our early lunch here as Camping Ground 1 is about half an hour away, and Camping Ground 2 is around two hours further!

Starting our ascent from Ranger Station: 2,510 masl

Camping Grounds

From the Park Ranger Station (about 2,500 masl) it is still about 7.5 kilometers to the summit—a 400 meter ascent!  You can opt to head straight to the summit and hopefully catch the sunset, or like us set up camp in Camping Ground 2—roughly 2K before the summit.

This photo reminds me of a scene from the movie “Avatar”

Note: The last water source during our hike was in Camping Site 1; spring water further up the trail had dried up due to the prevailing El Niño

After about two hours of managing the trail (at picture-taking pace) we arrived at our destination for the day, Camping Ground 2 (about 2,700 masl).  From here we had a good view of the summit which is still at least 2K away and 200 meters above.

Mt. Pulag summit 2K away from camp

Approaching Camping Ground 2

A unique feature of this campsite was the restrooms both for men and women.  Although it was merely a hole in the ground, it does offer privacy and also prevent wastes from spreading everywhere.  As part of our briefing, Mt. Pulag is considered sacred by the residents and as such “nature calls” have to be addressed only on designated areas.

Hers and His

Home away from home

Inside my tent: my eeePC charging my GF405 at 2,700 masl

Temperature at the campsite dropped rather quickly with the sun slowly setting so our dinner was prepared early while sunlight was still available.  By 5PM we were already having our dinner and shortly afterwards sleep was the agenda—you can’t blame us for skipping the traditional “socializing” as the darkness of night was quickly engulfing the campsite, not to mention that the temperature at the time was already falling near freezing!

Panoramic view of our camp

High Altitude Sickness

Many of us were experiencing headaches, including myself, for quite some time since our ascent to the campsite.  Back then I thought it was just the lack of sleep that induced my headache but since many of us were suffering the same it had to be more than that.  Upon googling it up I found the culprit—high altitude sickness, normally experienced at elevations as low as 2,000 masl but more typically above 2,400 masl with headaches as one of its symptoms.  It can’t be diagnosed beforehand who will experience it and not everyone will have it.  Sleeping it proved to be a cure for me but there were still some that still had it the following day.

Camping Ground 2: 2,721 masl

Nature’s Call

It was one of my earliest bed times ever at 6PM—sunlight was almost out, and you don’t want to hang around outside where it was almost freezing and very windy (think wind-chill).  As they say, “early to bed, early to rise” and that was exactly what happened.  That night I was awakened by the need to address nature’s call.  Going outside my tent was the last thing on my mind as cold winds were violently blowing outside so I thought I’d hold it until our call time at 4AM.  We all know that if we must go, WE MUST GO!  I was shocked when I looked at my watch: 10PM—I thought it was already early in the morning!  Of course there was no possibility of holding out till 4AM so reluctantly I had to venture outside my tent.  With all the clothes I could wear, my headlamp, and all the guts I could muster, I went into the dark and freezing world outside (it was around freezing that time, no kidding!) and go to the restroom about a hundred meters or so away (remember that you should only do your “business” in designated areas here).  It was quite an experience to do such, but for braving the cold you get rewarded by nature with the most spectacular night sky I’ve ever seen!  I can only describe it to you as it can’t be “seen” by my camera: clear skies with practically no clouds with stars unbelievably so many.  Of course as much as you want to savor that moment you’d want to rush to your tent as soon as the wind blew on your face!


Sleeping when you’re tired is pretty easy—except when you’re freezing!  As the hours passed, the temperature dropped even further, eventually below zero (degrees Celsius).  Occasionally I’d be awaken by the cold and by simple adjustments I can compensate but eventually I ran out of clothes and paraphernalias to wear, I was still cold, and the temperature was still dropping!  I honestly was scared!  Not even my winter clothes I wore for winter in Ohio in much colder temperatures were enough. I realized that back then even if it was much colder I was active and awake, and spent only for a few hours max outside, not sleeping outside in a tent!  I feared that I may fall asleep and have hypothermia.  Indeed lasting through this night was survival.

Continued: Part 2

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