Mount Pulag via Akiki Trail

The Heartbreak Trail

Why am I here? Why am I doing this to myself? I could be at home comfortably reading my books and not driving my heart to death right now

Those are the  questions and thoughts that were bouncing all over my head while I was ascending the 1000-feet vertical assault of the Akiki trail known as the killer or heartbreak trail. Even the promise of a nomination for membership for Boulder Monsters (an outdoor activities club), if I finish the climb valiantly, is NOT motivating me at that point. Then Rach, my sister at heart and climb buddy, stopped to have a breather (we weren’t talking to each other for the fear of accidentally breathing our lungs off while climbing) and said: “That. That’s the reason why I’m climbing my way up this trail right now.” As she pointed to the majestic picture only nature can provide.

View from the other side of Eddet River, after the bridge
The 1000-ft vertical assault of the Akiki Trail known as the Heartbreak or Killer Trail

But I know you’re not browsing through this blog to read my woes. So you may be asking yourself, what is this girl’s deal? Why can’t she just take the Ambangeg trail if she would like to see the Mt Pulag summit and not whine about it? Now, for the people who are not really familiar with the different trails leading to Mount Pulag Summit, let me discuss them briefly: Ambangeg trail is the easy trail (3/9 difficulty level) and the most commonly taken by the park visitors. Akiki and Tawangan trails (6/9 difficulty level) are the more difficult ones and usually take 3 days and 2 nights to traverse. And then there’s the Ambaguio trail which is the longest trail (7/9 difficulty level), the jump off being in Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya. Here’s a comparison of the Ambangeg and Akiki Trails visually:

Akiki Trail
Ambangeg/Babadak Trail

You can also read more about arranging a climb, DENR Visitors’ Center fees, Mountaineering Etiquette and gear checklist HERE.

At the DENR-PAO. Photo courtesy of Monty Dimen Bautista
At the Akiki Ranger Station. Photo courtesy of Monty Dimen Bautista

Required Fees

DENR Protected Area Office (PAO)

P 100.00 (USD 2.15) –  Registration Fee

P 50.00 (USD 1.10) – Camping Fee

P 30.00 (USD 0.65) – Cultural Fee

Additional Fees at the Akiki Ranger Station

P 50.00 (USD 1.04) – Municipal Fee

P 1,800 (USD 37.36) – guide fee for 1 to 7 climbers (Akiki-Ambangeg climb), P100 (USD 2.08) per extra person

P l,500 (USD 31.13) – porter fee for 15 kg , P100 (USD 2.08) per excess kg





0400  ETA Baguio City
0500  Chartered jeep to Kabayan, Benguet
0800  Breakfast along the way
0900  ETA at DENR-PAO for Briefing/Orientation and Registration.
1000  Chartered jeep to Akiki Rangers Station
1200  ETA Akiki Rangers’ Station. LUNCH. Arrange for Guides and Porters.
1330  Start of trek to Eddet River
1700  ETA Eddet River (pitch tent/set-up camp)
1730  Prepare Dinner (socials)
2000  PM Lights Out

First Night Camp: Beside Eddet River. Photo courtesy of Monty Dimen Bautista

Day 2

0400  Wake up call. Prepare breakfast.
0500  Breakfast
0600  Break camp.  Leave No Trace.
0630  Start trek to Marlboro country
1000  Have early lunch at Marlboro country (water source)
1200  Commence trek to Mossy Forest
1400  Grassland (2600 MASL)
1600  Saddle campsite (Camp 3); set up camp.
1700  Dinner. Socials
2000  Lights off, minimize noise.

Before the Marlboro Country stop. Photo courtesy of Monty Dimen Bautista
Second night camp at the Saddle or commonly known as Camp 3. Photo courtesy of Monty Dimen Bautista

Day 3 

0430   Wake up call. Prepare light breakfast.
0500   Breakfast
0530   Trek to Summit.
0600   Mt. Pulag Summit.
0700   Heavy Breakfast. Break Camp. Leave No Trace.
0800   ETD Start descent to Babadak Ranger Station.
1100    ETA Babadak Ranger Station. (Refresh and bathe) .
1130    Lunch
1230   ETD back to DENR-PAO.
1400   ETA DENR-PAO (log out), ETD to Baguio City
1700   ETA Baguio City

When I Thought It  Was Insurmountable

It may be the same mountain. It may be the same destination as when I took the easier trail, but  I will not be able to get the same realization. Looking at all the majesty of the place from where we were at that point? Not everyone gets to see it. I realized that THAT was the reason why I did it. Not everyone will have the gumption or inclination to do it. Not everyone were gifted with the health to be able to physically do it.   Not everyone will have the feeling of elation and wonder of viewing everything that I’ve seen from the top of the mountains because they won’t even shed an iota of their energy by thinking of climbing it in the first place. And while climbing that vertical assault, it gave me that sense of realization and reminder that I was just a speck on the grand scheme of things. That  the world is a much bigger place. That the world is such a vast space yet it does not have any for my pettiness and small-mindedness. That sometimes, I become so blinded by the most inconsequential things in life that I often forget that I am but a part of a much bigger world. Those thoughts gave me the heart to do the climb.



The Sea of Clouds at the summit. Photo courtesy of Erich Reyes

So yes, that’s why I climb mountains every start of the year. A bitter cleansing, if you may. To find a better perspective in life, to refocus my energy and think about the better side of life and living.




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