Benguet, Philippines – I was awoken by my roommate in the middle of the night. She asked if I felt the earthquake. Groggy, I mumbled something and went back to sleep. Next thing I know, we missed our waking up time, causing us to miss the 6 AM jeep to Ampucao by a few minutes. And that’s how our Mt Ulap Reverse adventure started.
Waiting by the sidewalk, contemplating whether to eat breakfast at Jollibee, turned into half an hour of waiting. By the time the jeep arrived and left, our stomach was grumbling, We really should have eaten breakfast.
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So we tried to lessen our hunger pangs with green tea KitKat that Aki brought from Japan. Hopefully, that will tide us over until Ampucao.
Upon reaching the entrance near Ampucao Barangay Hall, we were amped up. Luckily, there were a few vendors near the registration area. With the registration finished, I hurriedly bought boiled eggs and we’re on our way.
Our guide, Josephine is even younger and of smaller stature than us. So I asked her how many times she has already climbed Mt. Ulap. And she answered with a simple word – countless.
Reassured, we walked back to the highway until we reached the jump-off point. It was around 10 to 15 minutes of brisk walking. The cemented path uphill was a shock to our system. An intense warm up. Only then we did realize that we didn’t stretch before the hike.
It was a series of assault after assault and very few descents until Ambanao Paoay, the first summit. My poor knees were screaming. But the views were definitely awe-inspiring.
I ran out of adjectives resorting to saying “ang ganda” (it’s beautiful) every time I was amazed.
Rows and rows of pine trees lined our way and the steep cliffs of the mountainside. The winds were quite strong up at the first summit and there was nothing to hold on to. The clearing and the hills reminded me of Batanes. Even more so when we saw a herd of cows grazing just after Ambanao Paoay.
Mt. Ulap | Benguet Didn’t expect to see cows along the trail of Mt. Ulap. This scene reminds me so much of Batanes because of the rolling hills and the cows grazing. Good thing the cows were friendly! Our guide said they usually chase hikers ? . . . . #PSwanderlust #Benguet #MtUlap #Philippines #bundokph #mountainph #vpinoy #tripbefeatured #cebtravels #airasiaph #woogoph #flypal
As usual, my jelly legs were ever present so the steep descent from Ambanao required me to ask help from our guide. Or else, I would have been tumbling down the hill like Jack and Jill.
From there the terrain got even rockier. It was a different scenery from the ones we have passed by which were full of trees. The earth was also dotted with cow dung. We were like playing “patintero“, taking care not to step on cow shit.
We trudged on, passing by two smaller rocks on the mountainside that could pass off as smaller versions of the most awaited Gungal Rock.
The wind was getting colder. The dark clouds looming yonder. Thankfully, upon reaching an even more rocky terrain, our guide declared that we are here.
Here referring to the most popular spot in the mountain – Gungal Rock. We were overjoyed. True enough, the ever famous rock is jutting just beyond the towering rocks.
People were already taking pics near the edge of the rock and some were waiting patiently for their turn at the bottom of the jutting rock, away from the sight of the cameras.
When it was my turn, I didn’t expect that the walk to the edge wouldn’t be as easy as the others made it seem. With the wind blowing hard and nothing to hold on to, I pleaded one of the Rangers to help me reach the edge. I tried so hard to stand at the edge but my jelly legs wouldn’t cooperate. This time, the body wasn’t as strong as the will.
Mt. Ulap � Benguet Hello from the other side! ?? . This is the highlight of our hike, the famous Gungal Rock. Standing at 1814masl, we reached this spot via a rocky terrain after the grassland slopes of the first summit, Ambunao Paoay. We were quite lucky that there was no queue when we got here. But the wind was strong and reaching the edge of the rock without taking extra care can be fatal. Good thing there were rangers present to discourage the daredevils and to assist climbers who want to have their pics taken near the edge. Jelly legs, I tried my best not to take a peek below. My knees couldn’t take it so I just sat down. Reaching the Gungal Rock was enough of an achievement for me. Conquering my fear of heights one day at a time. . PS. Thank you 15k followers!!! Hoping to engage with you more! Happy travels always! ??? . . . #PSwanderlust #WorldCitizenPassport
After a few clicks, I couldn’t wait to get back on the stable and level ground.
We took our lunch near the entrance to Gungal and shortly after that, started our way back the trail. We decided against a traverse that time because we were pressed for time. The rain clouds were closing in, and the mist making it colder up in the mountain.
The steep ascent earlier now turned to be steep descent as well, making the most impact on our knees. Trying my best not to slide down the cliff, my hyperactive brain thought of comparing hiking to love. The higher you climb, the higher you fall. That while it was all excitement going up, going down is the harder and more painful part (or at least in my case). Guess I tend to get emotional when faced with imminent danger.
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In between water breaks, we took the time to just take in the feeling of being surrounded by nature. Trying to slow down our heavy breathing with our sweat trickling down our faces. Appreciating that precious calm that can be sometimes so elusive in our daily lives.
And as we reached the roadside, we asked ourselves.Was it all worth it? Heck yeah.
So thank you Mt. Ulap, for a worthy travel experience, and to meeting new friends. Til we meet again.
Akiko in her victory pose
Mt Ulap Reverse Timeline:
7 AM – Lakandula St, Baguio (in front of Jollibee) – Jeep to Itogon
7:45 AM – registration at Barangay Hall
12 PM – leave Gungal Rock, start descent
1:45 PM – roadside, wait for jeep to Baguio
Mt Ulap Quick Guide:
How to get to Mt Ulap from Metro Manila:
- Take a bus going to Baguio from Pasay, Cubao, etc.
- Ride jeep to Ampucao, Itogon (or Philex Mines) at Lakandula st.
- Get off at Brgy. Ampucao
- Walk to Barangay Hall for registration
- Registration fee: Php 100 per head
- Guide fee: Php 400 per day
What to Pack: water, trail food, jacket, flashlight/headlight (if you’re going to start before sunrise)
Mt Ulap stats:
Elevation: 1846 meters above sea level (masl)
Difficulty: 3 out of 9
Trail class: 1 – 3
Number of peaks: Three – Ambanao-Paoay, Gungal, and Mt. Ulap summit
Features: grassland, pine ridges, views of Baguio and Cordillera
Other attractions along the trail: burial caves, hanging bridge (Sta. Fe traverse)
Do you hike? What was your most memorable mountain?
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