I will give it to you straight. Steep. Yes she had fabulous views at the peak, refreshing river crossings and the thundering drop of Ubod Falls, but, what stuck to me about Damas is her killer ascents and knee-busting descents.
The guides may insist the slopes are gradual, but they are not. With the jumpoff being at an elevation almost as high as the mountain’s peak (685+ MASL), the trail starts with an almost one hour sharp descent through slightly covered grass paths leading to a river crossing. It then progresses to a two-hour ascent all the way to the summit.
There are two saddle campsites and one at the summit itself. Each area can comfortably hold about five to eight tents. The views at either of the campsites offer clear sights of neighboring mountains (like Tapulao and Arayat) and the Tarlac terrain.
The traverse to Ubod Falls takes an average of three to four hours through more cogon-lined paths and steep trails. There are a number of roped segments to make the way down and up easier. Fifteen minutes away from the 100-foot Ubod Falls, you will pass by a smaller one through which you will have to negotiate the final roped segment.
After the side trip to the falls, the traverse continues through another hour of steep ascents. There is supposedly an easier route via the river, but by some stroke of fate (and apparently on grounds of safety), the guides gave us the cardiac trail. Finally, the last two hours of the trek will be through carabao and farmland trails. At the barangay, you can take a quick wash-up at one of the residents’ houses before boarding the ride back to Tarlac City.
Our actual itinerary:
04:00 Depart from Manila via private vehicle
06:30 ETA Sta. Ignacia, Tarlac
08:00 ETD for Camiling via bus
08:45 ETA Jollibee Camiling
10:30 ETD for San Clemente, Tarlac via rented jeepney
11:30 ETA Dueg Settlement
12:00 Lunch at kubo/resthouses
13:00 Start trek
16:00 ETA summit campsite
07:00 Break camp
08:00 Start traverse
11:30 ETA Ubod Falls
13:30 Resume trek
16:30 ETA Brgy. Papaac, Camiling, Tarlac
18:30 ETD for Tarlac City via rented bus
19:30 ETA Sta. Ignacia, Tarlac
20:00 ETD for Manila
21:15 ETA Hacienda Luisita
24:00 ETA Ortigas