Mt. Ulap (Ampucao-Sta. Fe Ridge) in Itocon, Benguet offered quite a few firsts for me – cold-weather hiking (in the PH at least), camping at the base of a summit, and at 1856masl, it’s the highest local peak I’ve reached so far.
We traversed this “Mini-Pulag” last weekend, when the temp reached at least 10 degrees Celsius (but felt like a 6), and there was a dense, delicious fog that permeated the trail. (“Forks!” said Justine. I completely missed the Twilight reference).
Getting lost on the way to the jump off was a blessing in disguise, because we had the entire trek from Ampucao to camp site all to ourselves. Only caveat was that it got dark fast and some of my friends had to finish their hike in the dark.
We also dutifully rose at 4am the next day to enjoy the sunrise and take as many photos as we want at Gungal Rock for a good hour before other campers started queueing up.
For those planning to tick this off their bucket list as well, I offer the following tips:
- Opt for the two-day itinerary, and schedule your jump off after lunch. We heard stories of people literally lining up in the smaller parts of the trail and particularly at Gungal Rock; we were glad to miss it.
- What to expect on the trail: gentle slopes, cows, surprising mini-gardens that almost look deliberately planted, plenty of good spots to rest, sip water, enjoy the views
- Some people would get excited at the prospect of camping and cooking their own food, but I suggest bringing ready-made meals in light packaging instead (good mountaineers practice The 7 LNT Principles after all!). You bring your own trash down and you don’t want to be gingerly holding out a reeking garbage bag while attempting to clamber down the steep traverse to Sta. Fe.
- On weekends, the houses that offer showers at Sta. Fe would also be crowded the day after the hike. We refreshed at Burnham Park (!) instead – for P50 you get a hot shower.
- I survived without thermals, but if you’re lamigin bring some just in case. But mostly make sure your tent is rainproof and you’ll be pretty cozy!
- Breathe in, enjoy the clear, crisp mountain air, appreciate the sprawling views, and fall in love.
Enjoy our photos!