|Behold the Cordillera: view as seen from Mt. Pulag's summit|
It's only 5:30 AM. It's cold, windy and dark. I was walking behind our local guide along with Carlita, a German backpacker. The guide soon exclaimed "Eto na! This is it!". We made it to the top of Mt. Pulag. The rest of our group was somewhere lagging behind. From our vantage point at 2,922 meters above sea level, we could see a long trail of headlamps headed our way - pretty much everyone else who woke up in the pre-dawn darkness just to get to the summit in time for sunrise.
For a few minutes, the three of us enjoyed solitude as the first to make it up there. Soon that will change.
|Waiting for sunrise|
I was shivering as I got out from my tent. Talk about temperature hovering only at 5 degrees Celsius! Very much like New York winter weather. Everyone else in my group was up and ready, wearing jackets, gloves, bonnets and head lamps. A local guide was leading us. Miguel and his sidekick Agot was staying behind to prepare breakfast. We were the first group to leave camp, moving in single file in the darkness. Up above us was an inky black sky glittering with stars that will soon get outshone by a rising sun.
The trek to the top from Camp 2 is about 2 kilometers, taking about an hour and a half. In the darkness the surrounding beauty can't yet be appreciated thus only increasing my excitement for what lay ahead. The trail is so well-established it didn't even bother me walking with just headlamps illuminating the path. I adopted the fast pace of both our lead guide and Carlita that in just an hour, the three of us reached the peak. We sat surrounded by a cluster of dwarf bamboo, effectively shielding us from the bone-chilling winds while waiting for the rest to arrive.
What makes Mt. Pulag's summit really unique is its grassland features. Without towering trees, we got unimpeded views of several mountains on the massive Cordillera range. The lead guide started enumerating to me the various peaks visible from up there including the highest section of the infamous Halsema Highway (road leading to Sagada/Bontoc up north). We could even see Camp 2 where we came from and another campsite used on the more challenging Akiki trail. The views were priceless and no photos could ever justify them.
Our guide motioned our time was up and we needed to go down. Breakfast was waiting. It took us half the time going up to get down. Back at Camp 2, Miguel and Agot served us a mean breakfast of Purefoods hotdogs (how I miss them!), meat loaf, fried eggplant and fried rice. Now fully refueled, we broke up camp, shoved back our tents and sleeping bags into our backpacks, and prepared ourselves for the descent back into Babadak Ranger Station.