Mt. Ulap is still CLOSED.
Mt. Ulap is one of the recently known mountains in Benguet located in Itogon, to be particular. It has three peaks namely Ambanao-Paoay, Gungal and Mt. Ulap summit per say which is 1,846 meters above sea level (MASL). It has 3 out of 9 difficulty with 1 to 3 trail class making it a beginner-friendly mountain. Its features include grassland, pine ridges, scenic views of the Cordillera mountains and burial caves. However, these caves are out of the trail and only few had a chance to visit.
Everywhere your eyes would lay upon is a sight of pieces of heaven, indeed! The view is just so breath taking most especially the golden rolling hills in the morning and the sea of pine trees over and above you; not to mention the sea of clouds in the morning that you’ll see in a distance. Usually, hikers go to the entry point at Itogon and traverse to Sta. Fe. Those who choose to only hike it for a day finish it for 6-8 hours depending on their pacing.
The Mt. Ulap Experience
My group decided to go there for a day hike last December 29, 2016 – a weekday, which is actually a good time for visiting it since only few usually go hiking on weekdays. The tour guides told us that people spend hours falling in line just to take a picture on the famous Gungal Rock. We left Cavite at 10:00 PM and arrived at the jump off at around 3:00 AM. It was really freezing when we rolled the windows down! Some even bought gloves and beanies which were just cheap but of good quality crafted by the locals.
At the jump off which is at the Barangay hall of Itogon, we registered our names and paid our environmental fees. We were also given two tour guides since there were 16 of us. It was raining cats and dogs when we arrived so they lend us some ponchos. The rain subsided at around 4:00 AM and that’s when we started our trek.
It was quite dark so it is a must to bring flashlights if you are to start the trek that early as well. We arrived at around 4:30 AM on that two boulders and watched the sun rise.
Mt. Ulap’s Ambanao-Paoay
After spending half an hour admiring the beauty of the canopy of the clouds and the Cordilleras, we resumed our trek to the first peak, Ambanao-Paoay. It took us an hour and a half to reach the first destination. It was not that tiring because the temperature was low but the air was too thin making it at times, hard to breathe that we had stop to steady our breaths. The sun has fully risen when we reached the first peak where we had our breakfast.
After few minutes we resumed with the trek because the next destination stoked us more than ever! There were assaults going to Gungal. On our way, the fog enveloped us which made it a little hard for us to go through because we can’t see what we’re walking on at the middle of the assault. We were disheartened at first because there was no clearing. But then…
We stopped again and saw some of our friends taking pictures despite of the thick fogs. When we approached them, we found that they were taking picture with something like sea of clouds which is quite rare in that mountain.
The Pines atop Mt. Ulap
After like several minutes of trekking, the sky cleared and my friends started going nuts and were shouting out of joy. We were taking ‘Into the woods’ photos when they frantically called us over. We ran to them and see for ourselves what they were going loco about and we were just struck and in awe of what we have seen. It was a picturesque view of a landscape – of Benguet and Baguio. It was drizzling when we arrived in there and then a rainbow appeared which made the view more surreal. The sight was too beautiful that I was not able to take a picture of it. It’s something that you can stare at all day. Several steps from there are boulders where you can take awesome hiking goals photos. Here are some!
Mt. Ulap’s Gungal Rock
An hour of trek from that point is the famous Gungal rock. It seemed flat in pictures. But when we went near to it, it’s something slanted and some would not dare go to it because it was a cliff down there. There was no clearing when we arrived and it saddened us. We waited and took selfie instead with the cows. lol. After few minutes, the sky cleared and again, we were struck by the view making us lost in the reverie. One by one, we went to the edge and took pictures. Luckily, we were there earlier than the other groups that we didn’t have to fall in line for quite some time just to be able to take a picture on it.
This spot where I’m standing was where we waited while some were taking pictures at Gungal Rock. This spot’s a killer. But view’s sick awesome, too. After trekking for another hour or two, We reached the summit where we had our lunch. It was 10:30 AM when we arrived at the 3rd peak. The sun was up but not as scorching as it usually is at that time of the day. Maybe it’s because of the temperature in Benguet working. The view was, as cliche as the word, amazing! It’s worth all the tiresome trek!
Traverse and Descent
At 11:00 AM, we started descending. There were four of us who are used to trail running during the descend so the four us went ahead. But then, we halted for a while for my heart fell in love with ‘that’ tree. From then on, it has become my favorite spot in Mt. Ulap.
It took us 15 minutes to one of the boulders where remnants of once a real human skeleton lies. We waited for our friends right there staring at the bones intently trying to decipher what parts are those.
When they came around, we asked our guides about it and they told us that those were few of what’s left because some people who go there take some and bring them home (WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED WITH TAKE NOTHING BUT PICTURES PRINCIPLE?) When we felt like we had enough rest. We ran down the trail again for another 20 minutes and reached the trail’s end.
The Signs of Hope
In Mt. Ulap if you see these trails and bridges, smile for you are only 25-30 minutes far from the finish line!
While waiting for them, the four of us showered and freshened up. We were also able to settle ourselves down and slept at the van whewn they came. It was around two in the afternoon when everyone finally made it down and freshened up.
Baguio Side trip
When we were complete, we headed to Baguio for the side trip. We arrived at around three in the afternoon and bought souvenirs for those whom we left at home. It was my first time as well to go to Baguio during that time! It was kinda cold, yes. But not as cold as how people describe it. Maybe because there were too much people and vehicles around too. We only visited Mines View Park. We even tried the Igorot costumes which is actually one of my bucketlist! Aaaaand of course! I really looked for a legit strawberry taho and tried it!
It was supposed to be fun but we were so weary from the hike and there were too much people so we decided to go back to the van and rest. We left Baguio City at five in the afternoon and arrived at Cavite at around 11:00 PM.
Shall you want to stay for the night for a different camping experience near Baguio City, you may want to check on Valleypoint Campsite in Tuba, Benguet.
How to Get There
1. Ride a bus going to Baguio from Cubao or Pasay nearby MRT; fare is at Php 500.00 to Php 750.00 approximately depending on the bus type and liner. Travel time is 5 to 6 hours depending on the traffic
2. From Baguio, ride a jeepney with a ‘Philex Mines’ signboard. Fare is at Php 40.00 and the trip will take you almost an hour
3. Get off at Brgy. Itogon and walk your way straight, some 300-400meters, to the Barangay Hall for registration
4. Register and get a tour guide. Registration fee is at Php 100.00 per head. Guide fee is at Php 400.00 for a day.
Since you will be coming from Sta. Fe on your way home, wait on jeepneys bound to Baguio from Phinex Mines.
Things to Remember when visiting Mt. Ulap
- There are two campsites in Mt. Ulap. One is near Ambanao Paoay and the other is few hills down Mt. Ulap’s summit.
- There’s no water source in either of the two camps so you have to bring some just in case you plan to stay the night.
- Cellphone signal isn’t a problem, actually. I remember posting a photo on Facebook while trekking. Few spots though do not have good signal.
- During our hike in 2016, there were no souvenir shops but there was a store near Sta. Fe. But this May 2017, when I returned for a hike in there, there were at least 3 stores selling souvenirs like shirts, ref magnets, keychains, etc. Just please avoid haggling because it’s not easy to bring those stuff up to the mountains.