Hi! I just came back from a quick vacation and hiking trip which has been nothing short of amazing. A couple of weeks ago, I was invited by my friend, Robin, to join his hike to Mt. Ulap in Ampucao, Itogon, Benguet. I was hesitant at first because of the location and conflict in schedule (as it coincides with my fun run) but since Mt. Ulap is included in my hike list, I agreed.
Height: 1846 MASL
Location: Ampucao, Itogon, Benguet
Trek to Summit: 5 hours, 15 minutes*
Originally, I was planning to go to the Cordillera Mountains by 2016; I never thought I would be ending the year with a climb to one! Read on below to know more about my 11th hike last December 13, 2015.
As per usual, I will start with a cost breakdown and detailed instructions on how to get to the mountain.
My friends and I all gathered in Victory Liner bus terminal in Cubao and rode the bus to Baguio that left around 10:30AM. Before we reached Baguio city, we had two stopovers: one in Tarlac and one in Pangasinan. It was a long ride and I needed to change my position every now and then.
When we arrived in Baguio, the first thing that we did was to find a place to stay the night that was just within the city. After checking in and resting for a bit, we went to Cafe by the Ruins for dinner. After dinner, we had the pleasure of strolling around Baguio’s night market where I bought fleece and thermal jackets at good prices. It was hard to move around the street because of the number of people present in the area so we were not able to pass by all the stalls.
After we were satisfied with the night stroll, we went back to our rented room to get some shuteye.
We had breakfast at a nearby McDonald’s before heading to Central Plaza where the jeepneys going to Ampucao are located. When we got there; however, the jeepney was still far from being full of passengers so we opted to ride a cab to Ampucao instead. It was a smooth 45-min ride from Baguio City to Ampucao High School and Elementary School. There, we registered our names and paid a fee of Php100 each and secured our guide at Php400 for the five of us. Surprisingly, the guide that was assigned to us was a woman and we were the first group that she guided.
Everyone began with the hike right after listening to a quick orientation. The trail immediately starts with a lot of assaults that made me catch my breath after just fifteen minutes. Somewhere along the first part of the trail, we passed by a sign that shows an illustration of the whole Ampucao-Sta.Fe Ridge. There will be three peaks: Ambanao-Paoay, Gungal and finally the summit of Mt. Ulap.
We then entered the second part of the trail, the beautiful forest covered with pine trees. The breeze here is cool and fresh making the trek really relaxing even during assaults. We were so amused with the abundance of pine trees that it made us talk about Christmas. Lol. This part is also full of picture-worthy spots that made us stop every now and then to snap a couple of photos.
The forest will last for about an hour before entering the third part of the trail, the open grassland. Here, the heat of the sun will be piercing but bearable thanks to the cool breeze. And because the trail is open, our eyes were able to feast upon the stunning views of the Cordillera mountains surrounding Mt. Ulap. I think it is safe to assume that we were all at a loss for words because then, all we could say was, “Ang ganda” (So beautiful).
After another hour at the grassland, there will be a quick 5-minute assault before reaching the first peak, Ambanao-Paoay (1788 MASL). Atop, we found different sets of rocks stacked together which is said to have been done by some hikers to serve as trail signs. From this peak, a distant Mt. Pulag can already be seen which made me a bit excited for our hike here next month.
We did not stay long at the first peak to give way to the other hikers. As soon as we found a shaded area along the open trail, we stopped for a while to have our lunch. We listened as the cool breeze whistled every now and then repelling the discomfort brought about by the heat of the sun. After we were all done eating, we resumed our trek to the next peak.
When we saw big hanging rocks, we knew we were already nearing the second peak. But because there were a lot of hikers ahead of us, we decided to take our sweet time taking photos in most of the hanging rocks.
It was not long after when we reached the second peak, Gungal (1814 MASL). As expected, there were a lot of hikers waiting for their turn to take pictures on the famous hanging rock. I looked around the area and got really thrilled because finally, I was there and saw everything with my own eyes. The photos of Mt. Ulap online were already beautiful but it was ten times more beautiful in person. When it was finally our turn, I let all the members of my group go first as I snapped their photos.
After I was finished taking everyone’s photos, I ran back to have them take mine. Walking on the hanging rock made me feel a bit nervous at first because the surface of the rock is slanted (others call it “pyramid surface”) so one wrong step can send somebody down the abyss. Whew. But because I was happy to be there, the excitement overpowered the nervousness and I continued until the edge of the rock to have my photos taken.
Once we were all satisfied with our photos, we resumed our trek to the final peak, the summit of Mt. Ulap (1846 MASL). The third part of the trail involves a steep assault all the way to the top. It was intimidating to look at but my legs were up for the challenge. As soon as we reached the summit, we were rewarded with a stunning, stunning (one last), stunning view of the Cordillera mountains on one side and puffy clouds on the other. According to our guide, the reason why the mountain is called Mt. Ulap (Cloud) is because the clouds start to envelop the mountain some time between 2:00PM and 3:00PM. Good thing we were there around that time because it was a really nice sight to behold.
After resting for a while, we began our descent to Sta. Fe. The trail going down is a bit steep and the land is loose so one should be extra careful not to slip. We caught up to other groups after a while as the trail creates a few bottlenecks. Overall, it is well-established with a stair-like pathway.
The traverse route to Sta. Fe also gave us the opportunity to visit the Pong-ol burial caves. I found it a bit creepy to look at skulls so I let the others take the photos for me instead.
As soon as we arrived in Sta. Fe, we decided to bathe and fix up already even if we still had a few more minutes of descending to do from there. After fixing up, we resumed our trek and crossed three hanging bridges before finally reaching Sta. Fe highway where we took a jeepney back to Baguio City.
When we got back to Victory Liner in Baguio, we saw the swarm of hikers who just got back from Mt. Pulag. I noticed how big their bags were and I kept thinking about how I will be able to carry something that big for three days and two nights. Whew. Let’s go gym!
We bought the 11:10PM return ticket to Manila and while waiting, we had dinner at a nearby bulalo place and bought goodies from SM Baguio to take home.
- Start the trek early to reach Gungal peak before noon and get a good view. Clouds usually start to cover the area a little after noon.
- According to our guide, hikers are not allowed to reserve a guide in advance. The barangay will assign guides on a “first come, first serve” basis
- Ampucao-Sta. Fe ridge should not be confused with Philex ridge because they are different and Philex ridge can be seen from Ampucao-Sta. Fe ridge
- Do not just sit or stand on any hanging rocks along the trail because some are said to be unstable
- Prepare your legs for a lot of assaults
- Do not look down and observe caution. The trail is mostly beside cliffs.
- Watch out for cow and goat poop present all throughout the trail
Here is the video that summarizes our hike up Mt. Ulap:
10:30AM – ETD Cubao to Baguio (Php450)
1:00PM – Stopover at Tarlac
1:30PM – ETD Tarlac stopver
3:20PM – Stopver at Sison, Pangasinan
3:50PM – ETD Pangasinan stopver
4:50 – Arrival at Baguio City. Go around.
6:00AM – Breakfast at McDo
6:25AM – ETD McDo to Ampucao Highschool and Elementary School (Php500 via taxi)
7:10AM – ETA Brgy. Ampucao. Register (Php100) and secure a guide (Php400)
7:30AM – Start trek
9:35AM – ETA Ambanao-Paoay peak. Take photos.
9:45AM – ETD Ambanao-Paoay peak
10:15AM – Lunch
10:30AM – Resume trek
11:30AM – ETA Gungal peak. Take photos.
12:00PM – ETD Gungal peak
12:45PM – Arrival at Mt. Ulap summit. Take photos.
1:00PM – Start descent
2:30PM – ETA Sta. Fe. Fix up.
3:50PM – ETD Sta. Fe
4:05PM – ETA Sta. Fe highway. Wait for jeep to Baguio City
4:55PM – Jeep back to Baguio City (Php50)
5:35PM – ETA Baguio City. Go around.
11:10PM – Bus ride back to Manila (Php460)
4:05AM – Back in Manila
Grateful for our kind and hardcore guide, ate Merriam, and her cat backpack for keeping us entertained and well-informed about Mt. Ulap. She was my first female guide and we were the first group she guided. Yiiee!
Weekend well spent! Thank you once again to “the organizer”, Robin, for inviting me to this hike. Thank you to my personal paparazzi, Jen, for always taking the perfect candid shots. Really happy that I was with BBB again for this one because there was never a dull moment. Looking forward to more summits next year!
Finally, thank you to my other hikemates: Jared, for bringing my SLR and taking lots of photos and Julius (a.k.a Boy), for not giving up on the climb! Good job on your first mountain!
Mt. Ulap is really the perfect Cordillera day hike and training ground for other advanced mountains. It boasts great landscapes and scenery making some hikers, including myself, fall in love with it. Happy to have hiked such a great mountain for my year-end climb!
See you again in 2016, mountains!
Thank you for reading!