Bakun trilogy

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To kick off the new year, our mountaineering group embarked on a challenging trek, which on hindsight, when I think about it now, set the pace for our upcoming climbs in the first half of 2012.

Series 1 took us to the famed Bakun Trio: Mt. Tenglawan (1,940 MASL), Mt. Kabunian (1,700 MASL) and Mt. Lobo (2,000 MASL). What usually is finished in three days, we did in only two. With the inspiration of the Philippine skyrunners’ itinerary, we conquered all three mountains over one January weekend.

Day 0
19:00 Depart Manila via Victory Liner (Php450.00)

Day 1
01:00 ETA Baguio
02:00 ETD Bakun, Benguet
07:00 ETA Brgy. Poblacion, Bakun (registration fee is Php150.00 per head)
07:30 Breakfast, leave things at the old municipal hall, prepare for trek
09:00 Start Mt. Tenglawan trek (guide fee is Php800.00 for a group of 5)
15:00 ETA summit; scale Carrot’s Rock
16:00 Resume trek
21:00 ETA Brgy. Poblacion, Bakun

Day 2
03:00 Wake-up call; breakfast
05:00 Start Mt. Kabunian trek (guide fee is Php1,100.00 for both Kabunian and Lobo)
09:00 ETA summit
09:30 Resume trek
12:30 ETA Brgy. Poblacion, Bakun
13:00 Lunch
14:00 Pack up, load things (jeepney) and prepare for last trek
15:00 Start Mt. Lobo traverse
18:00 ETA summit
18:15 Start descent
20:00 ETA Brgy. Dada, Bakun; wash up
21:00 ETD Baguio

Day 3
02:00 Arrival in Baguio

There are lots of possible itineraries for a Bakun Trio climb. With a three- to four-day schedule, a mountain can be trekked in each day in no specific order. To finish all three in one weekend however, it is advisable to climb Tenglawan on the first day and then proceed to a Kabunian and Lobo (traverse) the following day.

The jumpoff point and base camp is at Brgy. Poblacion of Bakun, Benguet. A brief orientation is introduced by the barangay chairman. Registration and payment of fees are settled at the barangay hall. Securing of guides are also coursed through the barangay. Poblacion makes available for mountaineers’ use their old municipal hall building (it sits atop a hill) for overnight accommodations. It has two big rooms cum library, a kitchen and a big reception and dining hall (by my estimate, it can accommodate about fifty persons). A public toilet facility with running water and separate stalls for men and women is available outside the municipal hall (near the stores).

Supplies and cold drinks are readily on hand at Poblacion. Aside from that, the locals can cook meals for the group (albeit steep in price at Php1,000.00 per meal, the hot dishes are delicious and plentiful).

Although there are public buses going to the barangay, to get there, it is best to charter a jeepney for the 5-hour ride from Baguio to Bakun (and back). It is faster and more convenient especially if you are going as a big group.

Tenglawan, being the lengthiest and most challenging, is recommended to be climbed first. Trekking time (on daypacks) from Poblacion and back is nine to twelve hours. The trek starts with a steep descent through partly covered fieldways and two hanging bridges. It then progresses to the usual narrow paths through farmlands and rice terraces. There are portions of wide rough roads passable to vehicles (two waiting sheds provide respite from the heat). From thereon, the trail has no cover and is mostly exposed. It gets uncomfortably hot around midmorning going into midday.

The last leg of the assault is steep and surrounded by pine trees. Pine needles cover the paths and make for a very slippery descent. The moist soil and wet leaves explain the presence of the dreaded limatiks. The summit is reached after 45 minutes (to one hour). It is flat and can hold about five tents comfortably. Mountaineers are treated to another delight with the Carrot’s Rock. The monolith or rock formation can only be reached by crossing a ridge through Tenglawan’s summit. There is a metal cross at the peak put up by the locals of Bakun for the Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish.

The return trip distance from Poblacion to the summit is said to be more than 21KM long. There are two water sources along the trail, with one located within a community (Beyeng) and the other at a creek by the final assault to Tenglawan’s summit.

Kabunian has the most scenic and postcard-like views of the three. Trekking time from Poblacion is four hours for the ascent and three hours on the way back. There are two water sources along the trail with only one appearing to be potable (located less than ten minutes from the summit). The trek commences with a seemingly endless stairway walk through Poblacion’s community (I stopped counting at 500) and the crossing of two hanging bridges. After a short walk through tree-covered paths and flower-lined concrete steps, a marker heralds the entrance to the foot of the mountain.

The path to the summit consists of narrow concrete steps snaking and jutting out of the sides of the mountains. Seemingly carved out of rocks, some trails are so steep it requires extra caution (and the help of hand rails) to pass through it. The views while on top of the open paths on the mountain ridges are beautiful. Benguet’s greenery and landscape combined with the blue skies are breathtaking. There are no trees along the trail but the summit is an exemption. From afar, the top of Kabunian is lined with trees that make for a quick respite from the heat of the morning trek.

The distance from Poblacion to the summit and back is about 15KM. It is best to start in the early morning to beat the heat of the noontime sun on the way back.

Lobo has the easiest trail class and is the last to be summitted in the trilogy. There are two possible entry points to the mountain: Poblacion proper and Dada (thirty minutes away by jeepney from Poblacion). Considering climbers’ fatigue, the traverse from Poblacion to Dada has a trekking time of three hours to the summit and two hours for the descent. It starts with a 15-minute walk through a cemented road and then progresses to an all-the way ascent through mossy trails, a hanging bridge and vegetable farmlands. There are no water sources along the trail.

The final trek to the summit is marked by a small wooden gate. From there, it will take fifteen minutes to navigate towards the solid rock peak. The traverse to Dada is straightforward and fairly easy through wide rough roads (trucks ply the route to get to the farmlands). Upon reaching the jumpoff point, it will take fifteen more minutes of passing through houses to get to the main road.

The distance from Poblacion to the summit and then Dada is approximately 12KM. If ease is in mind, a Dada backtrail is recommended over the Poblacion route. Coming from Poblacion, the chartered jeepney (with the group’s load and bags) will wait at Dada where the group can also wash up before the long trip back to Baguio City.

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