Mt. Pulag now open but summit still off-limits to hikers

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – The summit of Mt. Pulag, the highest peak in Luzon at 2,926 meters (9,600 feet) above sea level, is still off limits to hikers and trekkers, the provincial environment office said on Monday.

Teber Dionisio of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) office in Benguet, who is also the newly installed park superintendent, told the Philippine News Agency in a telephone interview that the Akiki Trail going to the summit is still closed to the public.

However, the park supervisor said hikers can visit the mountain as long as they pass through either the Ambangeg Trail or Babadak, where the ranger station is located. He said the hikers are only allowed up to Peaks 2 to 4 and the grassland areas.

Dionisio said a dozen trekkers are still encamped in various areas surrounding the peaks of Mt. Pulag, but only to scale or visit it.

He said some 300 hikers have registered to see the summit, but following the forest fire incident on Saturday, they can only be allowed at the three peaks but not at the summit, where seeing the sea of clouds is a sought-after experience.

Dionisio said safety was the main reason the park management decided to restrict the movements of mountaineers.

This, after a six-hour grass fire occurred starting at mid-afternoon on Saturday until about past 9 p.m. after a trekker threw a portable gas stove and its flame grew uncontrollably.

Mt. Pulag straddles parts of Benguet (Kabayan and Bokod), Ifugao and Nueva Viscaya provinces. It was declared a national park in 1987 as part of the Cordillera Biogeographic Zone.

It covers an area of 11,550 hectares and is under the management of the National Integrated Protected Areas Program of the DENR.

Based on the report of Fire Officer 2 Danilo Fagyan, a wide grassland area estimated at 1.5 hectares from the Saddle Camp Site (Barangay Eddet-Kabayan) towards the summit were destroyed by the grass fire over the weekend.

The damaged area is an hour’s hike prior to reaching the summit, famous for its “sea of clouds” during day time and a view of the Milky Way Galaxy at dawn.