Mt. Pulag 2015: Four Years and Counting.. (part 4/4)

Akiki: The Bird’s Trail

Named after a bird which had long been unseen on the trail, climbing Mt. Pulag using Akiki, one should expect an uphill climb.

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I had climbing buddies taking the Ambangeg Trail and it would have been fun to be with them but I wanted to discover the hidden allure of Akiki, see the more pristine side of the Cordillera ranges. I accepted the challenge, went solo and met interesting people.

READ: MT. PULAG IN 2014

The Akiki trail is known as the killer trail and for those who chooses to climb Mt. Pulag using it, cast aside that steroetyped description because the trail offers a lot more.

The trail would thrill your senses. It indulges and captivates with its view and sound of Eddett River, it let’s you sway with a hanging bridge long forgotten by the government, it would send chills running through your spine at the sight of skulls displayed at a burial site (under a huge rock), it would make you gasp for air, you shall be left mesmerized by the ridges dotted with pine trees, be entertained by the cows and much, much more.

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The zigzag trail was designed to lessen the uphill climb. On the first leg of the climb, the sun was mercilessly beating upon us, slowing our ascent. It made me consume water like a water-deprived camel.

But it was good catching up with Iggy, talking about photography and whatnots. He pointed out good views and good resting areas and it was good to laugh while catching ones’ breath.

I can now understand that kind and interesting man I met during a climb who insisted on having a conversation in the middle of that grueling ascent.

READ: MOUNTAIN CLIMBING WITH YOUR SPECIAL SOMEONE

An unmerciful forest fire had razed most of the pines and since pines are good tinder, the fire consumed a whole area. At a certain elevation, we reached the fern land. It is where the pine trees had survived and now nestles an area covered by ferns. I can almost imagine a fairy appearing any minute and asking for my three wishes.

Next to be discovered is the Marlboro country where a few cows were left to graze as the fern land disappears, giving way to an earth covered with pine needles and cones.

One baby cow looked so friendly I was able to pet it but maybe his mom got jealous she slowly walked towards me, I hurriedly continued on my way and left them in peace.

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Walking another set of uphill, the pine trees became slender and grew taller, reaching at least twelve meters in length and Camp 1 came into view.

After more than four hours of assault, seeing Camp 1 is like seeing an oasis in the middle of the dessert. Everyone on the team must have felt relief.

Night descended early and we all succumb to the comforts of our tent and sleeping bag.

*****

Leaving the pine trees behind and continuing the trek the next day, we came upon the mossy forest rich with fauna unique of that mountain.

At a certain elevation, the grasslands came into view and the mist started to settle. It was a walk in the clouds. My cap went with the wind signaling that we are now within the proximity of Mt. Pulag.

The distinct line between mossy forrest and grassland
The distinct line between mossy forrest and grassland

That wind blew throughout the night and the fog descended on the jam packed camp site the locals call the Saddle. I slept through it all, woking up when the alarm went off – it is time to summit.

Grudgingly, we took off but the mountain didn’t give us what we came for. It gave us heavy mist and a swirling wind that if not careful, could displace you about a meter or two.

*****

Soaked, I was cold to the bone. My left hand was numb as it bulges like dough. My mind was starting to panic and I had to do a five minute breathing excercise to calm down and focus.

It was a weather I’ve never experienced before on this mountain and I realized that Mt. Pulag can be moody too like a woman, I couldn’t help but remember Sir BenDom’s poem.

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I closed my eyes and whispered my wish through the swirling winds and to the ears of the gods. I stood for a moment, feeling the droplets on my face and listening to the howl of the wind.

I dreamt of hot coffee and cup noodles.

But along the way I had to stop and admire the beautiful flower beside the trail. I am glad it is now back and in full bloom regretting that I could not snap a photo. My heart soared with joy, seeing that same beauty – constant and unchanged.

READ: LADY M (MOUNTAINEER) IN LIFE AND LOVE

Along the trail, I passed by some pretty guys who were resting beside the trail. Their skin and faces still untouched by the harsh sun.They offered their trail food (which I politely declined), responded when I said the customary ‘good morning’ greeting and I recieved several cute smiles (one even had a dimple he looked adorable). They obviously don’t carry the look of hardcore mountaineers (I’m not stereotyping here but you know a mountaineer when you see one especially if you meet him in the mountains).

On the funny side of the coin, bringing pretty faces up the mountains is one of the few good things social media contributed to mountain climbing.

I can’t help but remember a slogan on a shirt I saw recently online “Hindi lahat ng gwapo/maganda nasa patag, meron din sa bundok”. So next time you climb, make sure to spot one.

Well, I also saw several patsy boys (dragging their feet), some children not below 8 years old and their mommas. I saw some of those fancy climbers wearing fancy clothes. And sadly, the culture of exchanging greetings had somehow disappeared. Climbing Mt. Pulag had now became a fad.

Taking a photograph with Pinoy OutdoorGears (POG's)
A photograph with Pinoy OutdoorGears (POG’s)

Arriving at the Ranger station, I found the place teeming with climbers, porters and guides. Business is starting to peak as the climbing seasons starts. And looking around, the place now sports souvenir shops and newly built homes while at DENR, an ads for a mountain resort was up.

We all are left to wonder what would 2016 looks like.

The Ambangeg Trail had became easy with the stone pathway which starts on Camp 2 and stretches for at least a 200m or so allowing two people to walk side by side. It had now truly became the Executive Trail.

Next thing we knew, a cable car will be delivering people to Camp 2. Mountaineers will be replaced by tourist. The sacred mountain desecrated.

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Respect Mt. Pulag! Is the resounding shouts of those young children from the different tribes living around and within the National Park. May it resonates and be embodied by each climber – newbies or veterans alike.

Because where would the gods of the Cordillera’s play?

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