February 7, 2016
While I don’t usually go for “social-media mountains,” Mt. Ulap was already on my list since it’s opening last year. Finally after much delay, I was able to finish it.
Ever since the Gungal rock formation (which i mistakenly thought was Philex ridge) was posted on Facebook, it has attracted mass hikers weekly. Wanting to finish the mountain before it gets too crowded, I settled on a hike for early 2016.
It was a rainy Saturday evening when we boarded our rented vans bound for Ampucao, Benguet. There were 3 vans, with 16 hikers each. 48 hikers all in all in our group with more groups to come (not counting those already in the mountain).
Fortunately, the rain stopped once we reached Pangasinan. We had a quick stopover for breakfast and quickly made our way to the registration area at Ampucao Elementary School.
We got down at Benguet to the cool air, surpassing even the aircon of the van. Wearing just sandals, I missed my socks back home. Good decision, Jai. After registering and securing guides, we separated into little groups and started the trek.
The trails of Mt. Ulap have the traditional beauty of Benguet mountains. Some views reminded me of our Mt. Pulag climb, albeit a lot easier. Rolling hills full of ascents and descents welcomed us.
Views of nearby mountains and the cool air made the trek very picturesque and bearable. Both forest trails and open grasslands were a beautiful sight to behold.
After a few hours of absorbing the view, we reached a high hill with the Gungal rock formation just past it. And from far away. I can already see the people flocking on the rock.
To be honest, I was a bit underwhelmed with Gungal. After all the hype from facebook, I expected it to be, well, grander. And it wasn’t as eye-popping as I thought it’d be. Blame my high expectations. Nevertheless, the natural rock formation was still something worth noting.
The plan at first was to only stay at Gungal, but being stubborn mountaineers, we decided to just hike up the summit and return while the others were still lining up.
The summit trail was a pass through a tiny valley; one solid descent followed by the final ascent. Slowly, we made our way up until we reached the summit marker and the tiny world tree.
Of course, being the summit, we took lots of pictures. The nearby peaks were engulfed in clouds and they looked awesome indeed.
The summit was a sight to behold, with the clouds both below and above us. There was a moment when the fog swallowed us and there was nothing to be seen but the trail a few meters ahead. It became clear why the mountain was named as such.
Not staying too long, we went back to the Gungal rock formation to finally line up for pictures. Fortunately, other members of our group were already the ones having their pictures taken and we were able to fit in before the next group.
After pictures, the group decided to do a traverse instead of a backtrail. The traverse trail to Sta. Fe passed through, you guessed it, the summit. So imagine my face when I realized we were gonna go through the summit trail again.
Well okay, we had no choice but to go through the summit ordeal again. On my second time on the summit, we had our lunch break. After eating, we descended on the traverse trail, passing the campsite.
The descent via traverse trail was shorter but waaaaaay steeper than the backtrail. I called this trail the “Ikika Trail” because it had a similar feel as the Akiki trail after Eddet river, only in reverse. Plus there were steps made by the locals which made it a bit convenient.
It was a steep descent, lasting an hour or so before we reached the first tindahan, were we had a quick rest. We then passed another tindahan, this time with a place to wash off. Being a true mountaineer, I didn’t bother rinsing off. Embrace the natural scent of nature (to the dismay of my van-mates).
After that, it was a quick trek to the Sta. Fe jumpoff where our vans were waiting.
Sadly, Baguio city is now overcrowded, eapecially with the long weekend taking place. So we got stuck in traffic (EDSA lang??) and didn’t get to go to Minesview Park anymore. We just stopped for a bit to buy pasalubong and were on our way back to Manila.
(Timekeping by rosnof.wordpress.com; read her Mt. Ulap experience here)
- 22:25 ETD Cubao via rented van
- 02:00 ETA Leeza’s Restaurant, Breakfast and buy packed lunch
- 02:45 ETD Leeza’s Restaurant
- 04:40 ETA Brgy. Ampucao, Register and secure guides
- 05:40 Start Trek
- 07:55 ETA Gungal Rock Formation
- 08:35 ETA Summit part 1, Photo ops
- 09:00 ETD Summit
- 09:40 ETA Gungal Rock Formation, Line up for photo ops
- 10:30 ETD Gungal Rock Formation
- 11:15 ETA Summit part 2, Lunch and photo ops
- 11:50 ETD Summit, Start traverse descent
- 12:35 1st Tindahan, Buy snacks and rest
- 13:20 2nd Tindahan, Wash up and rest
- 14:40 Sta. Fe jumpoff, Van to Baguio
- 19:25 ETA Leeza’s Restaurant, Dinner
- 20:15 ETD Leeza’s Restaurant, To Manila
- 12:10 ETA Cubao
Expected Budget: Since this was an organized hike, I paid P1300 for an all-in package. I recommend having a safe budget of at least P1,500 for a DIY trip.
- Climb on weekdays, if possible. There is a lot, a LOT, of people lining up for pictures on the Gungal rock formation. It’s basically the Pico de Loro’s monolith of Benguet.
- The temperature while climbing was erratic, from cool mountain air, to mildly scorching heat. Prepare accordingly.
I didn’t really get to appreciate the rock formation because there were just too many people at the time, but it was still an experience for me. I didn’t get to climb up rocks as much as I wanted to, but jogging the rolling hills of Mt. Ulap brought back the feeling of trail running and it got my adrenaline pumping still.
Thank you, Ate Hannah, Ate Grace, and the rest of Summit Adventurers for the wonderfully organized hike. I enjoyed my hike with them to Mt. Lubog last time and I will always continue to hike with them as long as my schedule can fit it.
Also thanks to all the new friends that I met along the trail and in the van. It is such a good feeling to meet people with the same interest.
It was good to be back outdoors! I’ve been spending my weekends on fun runs and I missed the mountains a lot. Being high again feels so good.
Keep safe and travel more!