Friday, May 17, 2013

Climb Guide: Mt. Pulag via Tawangan Trail

walking the unknown distance
After the knee breaking Mt. Timbac Traverse and the climb to the Avatar mountain known as Mt. Tabayoc, we rented an elf truck to bring us to our next destination  - the jump off to the highest peak of Luzon; a place called Tawangan.

On our way to Tawangan jumpoff, our truck driver and guide were so kind enough to let us see the cleanest lake of Benguet locally known as Ambulalakao Lake. Indeed it was a rewarding view. We stayed there for several minutes absorbing the magnificent beauty of nature. After taking some photos, we traced back the wooden steps that lead to the rough road where our truck was waiting. We boarded the elf truck again and off we went.

The road down to Tawangan is something. Calling it fun is understatement. It is more exciting than rollercoaster because instead of our truck tracing a secured elevated path, it was hastily going down uneven slopes with cliff on the side. One wrong move and we will be drop dead several meters below. We were torned between looking at the magnificent view of mountains and gripping by the side of the truck to make sure that we will not be thrown out by the exhilarating ride. We tried our might to do both.

The Mountain

Mt. Pulag via Tawangan - Ambangeg Trail

Major Jump-Off: Sitio Labang, Brgy. Tawangan, Kabayan
LLA: 16°34'58"N 120°53'15"E
Elevation: 2922 MASL
Hours to summit / Days required: 10-11 hours / 3 days
Specs: Major Climb, Difficulty 6/9, Trail class 3

summit of Mt. Pupulag
sample trail of Tawangan
one of the river crossings
  • (1) Tawangan Trail is one of the 5 known trails of Pulag. Others are: (2) Akiki Trail, (3) Ambangeg Trail, (4) Ambaguio Trail, (5) Lusod Trail.
  • Tawangan trail can be combined with other trails so do not be surprise if some climbers do Tawangan-Akiki or Akiki-Tawangan. The most common combination however is Tawangan - Ambangeg trail which is the commonly used during Luzon 321 challenge where the 3rd and 4th days are reserved for Mt. Pulag via Tawangan-Ambangeg.
  • Like Mt. tabayoc, the beauty of Tawangan trail lies in its mossy forest which takes up half of the ascent to the summit.
  • Tawangan trail is one of the longest trail of Mt. Pulag. Trekkers have to pass by Mt. Ludok and summit of Mt. Pupulag. Yes, technically that will be 3 mountains altogether. Some mountaineers can finish Tawangan to Pulag saddle campsite in 9 hours. In our case, it took us 12 hours to do so. our guide said that the group before us took 18 hours!
  • There are several water sources along the trail.  water source. Beyond this is another 3 hours of climbing to reach the saddle campsite and the summit.

How to Get to Mt. Pulag via Tawangan Trail

Private Transportation

  1. Head northeast and then turn right onto Kisad Road.
  2. Continue driving until you reach Shuntug Road then turn left onto Quirino Highway
  3. Continue until you reach Naguilian Road
  4. Turn right onto Bokawkan Road then continue driving until you reach Magsaysay Avenue
  5. Slightly turn left when you reach Baguio-La Trinidad-Bontoc Road
  6. Continue onto Halsema Highway then exit via the Buguias Road en route to Kabayan.
  7. You will pass by Brgy. Ballay which is situated at the foot of Mt. Tabayoc, continue driving down the rough road until you reach Brgy. Tawangan.

Public Transportation

  1. Go to Dangwa Terminal (located at city proper) or at the Slaughterhouse bus terminal along Magsaysay Avenue. Dangwa Terminal is more accessible.

Option 1 (the one we took because we did 3-2-1)

  1. Take the bus bound to Kabayan and alight the bus when you reach Ballay. Ballay is the last stop of Kabayan buses. It is the jump off for Tabayoc and the four lakes.  Buses bound to Kabayan leave Baguio City at 10 AM; last trip leaves at 12NN. It is a 5-6 hour trip. If buses bound to Kabayan are not available, take those buses en route to Baguio-Bontoc via Halsema Highway and get off at Abatan, Buguias, Benguet. There are jeepneys bound to Ballay from Abatan but only during Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday; 7AM to 12NN only.
  2. From Ballay, you can rent habal-habal to bring you to Brgy. Tawangan which is the jumpoff.

Option 2 (for Tawangan-Ambangeg Climb only)

  1. Alight Kabayan bus bound when you reach Poblacion. Here you can go to DENR for registration and briefing.
  2. Rent habal-habal to Tawangan jump-off.

  • If you plan to climb Mt. Timbac and Mt. Tabayoc first, you may rent habal habal from Tabayoc to Tawangan.
  • It is easier to go back to Baguio if you will exit Ambangeg trail instead of going back to Tawangan jumpoff.

Projected Expenses

Aircon van Manila-Baguio
Php455 x 2 (way and back)
Taxi fare to Slaughterhouse terminal
Php50 x 2 (way and back)
A-Liner Bus Baguio - Ballay
Php155 x 2 (way and back)
Camping fee
Cultural Free
Environmental /Park Fee
Guide fee Php3,000/day for every 7 pax ( Php100 per person in excess of 7)
Php3000 / number of pax

Sample Itinerary

This can be your sample IT guide if you plan to do Mt. Pulag climb via Tawangan-Ambangeg. Necessary adjustment should be done if (a.) you plan to do Luzon 3-2-1 or (b) if you plan to do commute or you do not have your own service.

Day 1
0100 ETD Manila to Baguio via Victory Liner Bus
0700 ETA Baguio City (breakfast, buy provisions)
0800 ETD Slaughterhouse to Kabayan
1300 ETA Kabayan Poblacion (Late lunch)
1400 DENR Registration/Briefing
1500 ETD to Tawangan
1700 Tawangan Jumpoff (prepare dinner)
1800 Dinner / Socials

Day 2
0400 Wake-up call / Breakfast/ packup
0600 Start ascend (packed lunch)
1500 ETA Last water Source 20 minutes to grassland
1800 ETA saddle campsite / pitch tents
1900 Dinner / socials

(if you are early you can assault to summit for sunset viewing before going to saddle camp)

Day 3
0430 Wake-up call
0500 Start assault to summit
0530 ETA Mt. Pulag summit for sunrise viewing
0700 Back to saddle campsite / Breakfast / Break camp
0900 Start Descent
1100 ETA Ranger Station
1200 ETA Ambangeg, DENR (Log-out)
1230 ETD Ambangeg / Lunch along the way
1700 ETA Baguio

Most campers usually ascend to summit first before break camp (as provided in this IT). On our case, we woke up early, break up camp, and ascend to summit. We already brought our things with us so there is no need to go back to saddle camp.  

Travel Tips

  • Bring warmer, gloves, sweater, thermal jacket; anything that can keep you warm.
  • Get a guide that knows the way and can assist you all throughout the climb. Coordinate with DENR.
  • Start early! Early enough to make sure you will not be stranded in the heart of the forest when the darkness started to embrace the surrounding.
  • Tawangan trail is limatik infested. Prepare accordingly.

Interesting Facts

The town of Kabayan is known as a cultural hotspot in Benguet being the heart of Ibaloi culture.  If you have enough time you can visit Opdas Mass Burial Cave (Kabayan Museum) and other natural wonders.

Contact Information

Permit should be secured from the Park Superintendent if you plan to climb Pulag. Making personal and unofficial arrangements with the locals is being discouraged.

For your future climb you may contact these people for assistance:

Ermita Albas
0919-631-5402 / 0929-166-8864
Mayo Ligligan
Tawangan Park Ranger
0920-505-0692 / 0926-407-9393

*Guide will be provided by people mentioned above.

Two Cents Worth of Thoughts

I personally think that trail should be kept as is in order to make it more appealing. I do not appreciate the “cleaning” (removing some trees, weeds, shrubs, and grasses) and widening that DENR or Tawangan guide association is doing in various trails. Indeed it makes the climb easier, but it lost the challenge in climbing which is actually the very essence of mountaineering.
The rewarding view after an exhausting climb

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This entry is part of our Luzon 3-2-1 climb which happened last April 26 - 30


1 comment:

  1. The mountain sights are truly amazing! It must’ve been quite an experience to see those sights in person. The trail looks slightly difficult but worth the hike I’m sure.


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