Mt. Pulag/Akiki-Tawangan Traverse (2,922+)

MT. PULAG (AKIKI-TAWANGAN TRAVERSE)
Kabayan, Benguet
Entry point: Akiki Ranger Station, Brgy. Doacan, Kabayan
Exit point: Brgy. Tawangan, Kabayan
LLA: 16°34’58″N 120°53’15″E, 2922 MASL
Days required / Hours to summit: 2-4 days / 9-12 hours
Specs: Major climb, Difficulty 7/9, Trail class 2-4
Features: Pine forests, mossy forests, Scenic grassland summit

BACKGROUND
The four classic trails of Mt. Pulag are Ambangeg, Akiki, Tawangan, and Ambaguio, and in the course of several hikes I have had the privilege of trying all of them. The recent years have seen Ambangeg becoming a tourist trail, and with hundreds of people on its main campsite during weekends, I think it is time to deemphasize the Ambangeg as the ‘main’ Pulag trail. Whether we like it or not, because of its easy access to the summit, people will flock there.

The purpose of this itinerary is to introduce a different Mt. Pulag experience, one that would appeal more to hikers, but in a way that is also doable within a weekend. It will be a radically different weekend: the unique trails you will pass through will span over 30 kilometers – thrice that of Ambangeg. In terms of hiking hours, we will also be looking at 10-hour days apiece, instead of the 8-hour total of Ambangeg. In terms of difficulty, I would give the Akiki-Tawangan a 7/9 compared to the 3/9 of Ambangeg.

What I speak of is the Akiki-Tawangan Traverse, a very scenic and challenging hike that combines the the steep, pine-forested trail of Akiki and the long, mossy-forested trail of Tawangan, and between them, the grassland summit – providing a Pulag experience that has instantly become one of my favorite Cordillera hikes!

The Akiki-Tawangan is also combinable with a Mt. Tabayoc dayhike on the third day, making this a much more exciting option than the Luzon 3-2-1, which involves visiting Mt. Timbak. Although Timbak is a nice place, in terms of trekking hours, I am convinced that an Akiki-Tawangan-Tabayoc is a more reasonable option.

The first part of the hike involves ascending to the summit via the Akiki Trail, which can be accomplished in one long day, or two relaxed ones. The advantage of pushing Akiki Trail in one day is that it makes a “weekend Pulag” possible with the help of chartered jeepneys. On the other hand, by creating a four-day itinerary, availing of passenger buses on both ends is very possible. Overall, I would suggest a 3 or 4-day hike; with an optional Tabayoc, time permitting.

The steep ascent requires an altitude gain of over 1500 meters and it is not recommended for people who will not enjoy such a demanding task for one day. Options include camping in Eddet River, or more reasonably, Marlboro Country which has a water source and is close enough to the summit to reach it early in the morning. There is nothing complicated about the Akiki Trail: It’s just ascents and pine trees all the way!

Past Marlboro Country, you will enter a mossy forest but this is not the mossy forest awaiting you in the hike. 2.5-3 hours from Marlboro, you will emerge into the grassland summit area of Pulag and within 30 minutes you will be at the summit.

From the summit, the Tawangan Trail is a very long but gradual descent through a mesmerizing mossy forest. If the Akiki is pine forest all the way, the Tawangan is mostly mossy, and this will go on for 7-9 hours on a descent. The only perceptible change is the increase in height of the trees as you descent – a natural consequence of varying climatic factors. Two-thirds into the trail, you will trek parallel to the Halong Creek, which doubles as a water source. When the descent is done, the village of Tawangan – with its friendly people and cozy and cheap lodge – is not far away.

For the peakbagger, climbing Mt. Tabayoc, Luzon’s second highest, is very appealing since it is just a 3 or 4-hour return hike. This entails an additional day, but also makes the itinerary more relaxed.

ITINERARY

AKIKI-TAWANGAN TRAVERSE (2 days)


Day 0
2300 Bus from Manila to Baguio City


Day 1
0500 ETA Baguio City. Take chartered jeepney to Akiki, Kabayan.
0730 Stop to register at Visitors Center
0830 Arrival at Akiki trailhead; head to Ranger Station
0900 Register again and secure guides at Ranger Station
0930 Start trek
1130 Arrival at Eddet River. Early lunch
1230 Resume trek
1530 ETA Marlboro Country
1800 Arrival at Saddle campsite. Set up camp.
1900 Dinner / socials


Day 2
0400 Wake-up call / Breakfast / Break camp
0530 Proceed to summit for sunrise viewing
0630 Start descent via Tawangan Trail
0715 Enter mossy forest line
1200 Lunch on trail
1230 Resume trek
1430 Arrival at Brgy. Tawangan. Take chartered jeep to Baguio
2030 ETA Baguio.
2200 Take bus back to Manila

AKIKI-TAWANGAN TRAVERSE (2 days) + TABAYOC DAYHIKE

Day 0

2300 Bus from Manila to Baguio City


Day 1
0500 ETA Baguio City. Take chartered jeepney to Akiki, Kabayan.
0730 Stop to register at Visitors Center
0830 Arrival at Akiki trailhead; head to Ranger Station
0900 Register again and secure guides at Ranger Station
0930 Start trek
1130 Arrival at Eddet River. Early lunch
1230 Resume trek
1530 ETA Marlboro Country
1800 Arrival at Saddle campsite. Set up camp.
1900 Dinner / socials


Day 2
0430 Wake-up call / Breakfast
0530 Proceed to summit for sunrise viewing
0630 Break camp
0730 Start descent via Tawangan Trail
0815 Enter mossy forest line
1200 Lunch on trail
1300 Resume trek
1600 Arrival at Brgy. Tawangan. Stay in lodge

Day 3
0500 Breakfast / Prepare to leave villagee
0600 Take chartered jeepney to Lake Tabeyo
0700 Sidetrip: Lake Ambulalakao
0730 Arrival at Lake Tabeyo. Secure guide for Tabayoc
0800 Start trekking
1000 ETA Mt. Tabayoc summit
1030 Start descent
1145 Back at Lake Tabeyo
1200 Take jeepney
1800 ETA Baguio City; Take bus back to Manila

AKIKI-TAWANGAN TRAVERSE (3 Days)*

Day 0
2300 Bus from Manila to Baguio City

Day 1
0500 ETA Baguio City. Breakfast then proceed to jeepney terminal/chartered jeep.
0700 Take chartered jeepney to Akiki, Kabayan. Early lunch at any stopover.
1200 Arrival at Akiki jump-off; commence trek on steep trail.
1230 ETA Ranger Station. Register. Secure guides.
1330 Start trek
1630 ETA Eddet River; set up camp.
1800 Dinner / socials

Day 2
0400 Wake up call. Prepare breakfast.
0430 Breakfast
0530 Break camp
0700 Start 3-4 hr trek to Marlboro Country
1100 Have early lunch at Marlboro country (water source)
1200 Commence 3-hour trek through montane forest.
1430 End of forest line (2600 MASL); Reach Grassland.
1600 ETA Saddle campsite; set up camp.
1730 Optional assault to summit for sunset
1900 Dinner / socials

Day 3
0400 Wake-up call / Breakfast / Break camp
0530 Proceed to summit for sunrise viewing
0630 Start descent via Tawangan Trail
0715 Enter mossy forest line
1200 Lunch on trail
1230 Resume trek
1430 Arrival at Brgy. Tawangan. Take chartered jeep to Baguio
2030 ETA Baguio.
2200 Take bus back to Manila

*Also possible to add the Tabayoc day to this itinerary as a Day 4
**Note: Weather can greatly affect travel times due to road problems or even blockages which can set you back by an entire day. Check with the jeepney driver about conditions. Sometimes they cannot go to Tawangan too early because of the mud.
PRACTICALITIES

When to go. Mt. Pulag is accessible throughout the year, but it is much more advisable to climb it during the early months of the year, for many reasons. Bad weather, for instance, may not allow the jeep to reach the Ranger Station. Also, clouds may very well obscure the fabled Pulag views, which may lead to disappointment. Moreover, rainy conditions would make it even colder. Thus the advisable time frame for Pulag is between December-early May. However, Pulag may be climbed year round and if you’re lucky you can have nice weather even in the so-called typhoon months of June to September.

Getting there. From Manila, Baguio is a 5-6 hour ride by bus; Victory Liner has hourly night trips (P460) as well as an option to take a three-across bus (P700-800). From Baguio, if you have a lot of time in your hands you can take the public bus to Kabayan (P150) that leaves at the Dangwa Terminal. If you wish to do the two-day or three-day options, it is best to charter a jeepney.

Registration and guides. The other contact is the DENR Park Superintendent for the Mt. Pulag National Park, Emerita Albas. She may be reached at +639196315402. She will contact the guides ahead of time. The Akiki-Tawangan itinerary is not included in their official list of guide fees, so you can negotiate a bit. For the two-day itinerary, I paid P2000 per guide. Mrs. Albas asked us to get two guides for security reasons, but as this itinerary is used more often, I think she will agree to just one guide for up to 7 persons. 


Camping notes. There are water sources in Eddet River campsite (obviously) and near the Marlboro country, and in the distal portions of the Tawangan Trail. Cellphone signal exists in many parts of the Akiki Trail but the Tawangan area has limited signal.

AKIKI-TAWANGAN TRAVERSE PICTURES

Proceeding to the summit from the Akiki Trail
Mesmerizing mossy forests of the Tawangan Trail
The beautiful and verdant paths of the Tawangan Trail

TRIVIA 
The blogger did the Akiki-Tawangan Trail as a two-day hike from April 20-21, 2013. This hike is narrated in Hiking matters #337-338, see links below:

MT. PULAG (AKIKI-TAWANGAN TRAVERSE)
Day 1: Akiki Trailhead -> Marlboro Country
Day 2: Marlboro Country -> Summit -> Brgy. Tawangan
Akiki-Tawangan Traverse pictures on PM Facebook

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3 Comments on "Mt. Pulag/Akiki-Tawangan Traverse (2,922+)"


Guest
Anonymous
3 years 9 months ago

doc gideon, is it advisable to take a private vehicle on this trip? and may parking ba sa jump off? ty!

Guest
Anonymous
5 years 5 months ago

good day po. baka may aakyat sa MT. Pulag this coming june 7-11, 2013, pwede maki sabay. 15pax po kame galing cebu.

Guest
Anonymous
5 years 5 months ago

astig tlga tong site na to. dame mo matututunan at magccrave ka talaga sa nature. btw, can anyone give me a breakdown of expenses if we are to take akiki trail (at least 7-10persons, transpo from and to manila, fees, guides, etc)? and are the chartered jeeps the only way to get to the ranger station? thanks!! alam nmen na madugo gastos dito kya pagiipunan nmen.