Category Archives: Luzon

Irid and the limatik attacks

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What comes to mind when I am asked about Mt. Irid is not the numerous river crossings nor its monolith summit; rather the infestation of leeches or the local limatiks. These bloodsuckers literally abound and made their presence felt during our trek to the Sitio Sadlac base camp.

An Irid adventure begins with a two-hour jeepney ride from Cogeo, Rizal to Sta. Inez in Tanay. Remote and with really bad roads, the trip to Sta. Inez was mostly bumpy with the jeep rumbling through lots of river crossings. Once there, the jeep will drop you off at the barangay hall where you will register and pay the barangay captain a courtesy visit.

The first day takes mountaineers to Sitio Kinabuan and Sitio Sadlac. The locals in Sitio Kinabuan are more familiar with the trail to Mt. Irid. On top of the guides secured from Sta. Inez, a guide from Sitio Kinabuan will also be hired. The base camp is at Sitio Sadlac. There is a modest bunker in the sitio where mountaineers spend the night before the morning trek to Mt. Irid.

IridThe trek to the sitios begins with an easy walk on wide trails. It has a gradual incline and has more than ten river crossings (I personally stopped counting after 10). Depending on the season, mountaineers may need to go through waist-deep levels. The tributaries are wide and extra caution must be taken in all crossings. During the wet months, limatiks infest the trails. By the riverbed, after going through the river and by the rocky paths, the leeches are likely to be found clinging on your shoes and pant legs.

The next day, the real climb to Mt. Irid begins. The trail was for the most part an ascent. The paths are lined with dense vegetation. The trees were towering with moss, roots and vines hanging off them. Limatiks are not as present in this portion of the climb as it was in the ascent to the base camp. As the summit is approached, there are rock walls and portions where going through and over the big rocks are encountered. At the final section of the assault,  the jagged sharp rocks of the summit is reached. A plastic sign marks the peak of that part of the Sierra Madre range.
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Malindig dayhike

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Mt. MalindigRising at 1,157 MASL, Mt. Malindig is the highest peak in the province of Marinduque. A quick and easy hike, it starts with a level trek through the locals’ backyards and a field of coconut trees. Next is a mild ascent through the pasture lands. Without any tree cover, it becomes cumbersome in the midday to midafternoon heat. Aside from the cows grazing idly by the trail, hikers would also need to watch out for the itchy “lipa” plants (and trees). A little stream is crossed before going up to cogon-lined trails leading to the military outpost.

Hikers enter the forest line after the brief stop and courtesy visit at the outpost. Felled trees and mossy roots adorn most part of the trail. After about a half of an hour ascent, the summit of Malindig is reached. Heavily covered by trees, there is no view of the neighboring towns and islands from the peak. Rather, there is a campsite at the summit where at most ten (10) tents can be set up.

A Malindig dayhike itinerary looks like this:

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A double traverse

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Mt. AmpacaoIn slippers and wearing minimal sun protection, we had a quick trek to Lake Danum traversing to a hike to Mt. Ampacao (1,889 MASL) during our Sagada trip. Easily accessible by foot from the town center, we started by registering at the Sagada Municipal Hall and getting a local guide (Php600.00).

The trek to Lake Danum was a breeze. You pass through concrete pavements leading to Besao which eventually becomes a dirt path. Lake Danum is a gem in the middle of the mountain town where picnics and camping overnight are allowed.

The traverse to Mt. Ampacao starts from a partially obscure offshoot from the main trail. The weather is cool and pine trees dot the single path. It winds through the hills and offers a view of the town center along certain portions of the trail. After about half an hour, you reach a grassland called the “ranch”. At the “ranch”, cows graze and you get a panoramic view of Sagada and its neighboring towns. Twenty minutes from the grassland, a cellphone tower marks the summit of Mt. Ampacao. This is the highest point of Sagada, Mt. Province.

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An epic dayhike

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Mt. Guiting-Guiting by katie_buenaobra

At 2,058 MASL, the mighty Guiting-Guiting may not be the highest I have summitted but it is by far the longest I have ever traversed in a “day”.

Usually a 2- to 3-day itinerary (on the climb alone), we opted to do a dayhike as a challenge to ourselves and since primarily, as a prolific mountaineer-friend puts it, we are scrimping on (and we simply cannot afford!) vacation leaves. Throw in the long ferry rides to and from Romblon and your trip easily extends to a week.

If interested in a dayhike traverse of Mt. Guiting-Guiting (G2), the only person to coordinate with is Sir Remy Robiso (+63 921 7322462). He may assist you in securing a climb permit and arranging for a tricycle or jeep to pick you up at the port. The guide fee for a G2 climb is Php1,500.00 (regardless of whether you do a one-, two- or three-day trip).

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Flat tops

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Masungi Rocks by katie_buenaobra

The Pinagpatong Rocks form part of the Masungi Rock Formations which lie along the Sierra Madre Mountain Range. Located in Barangay Cuyambay in Tanay, Rizal, the rock formations occupy a vast portion of the barangay’s greenery. Easily seen from the main highway, there are two points to reach the rock formations. The more popular of the two is through the Garden Cottages Subdivision wherein at the jumpoff, 600 concrete steps take visitors to the peak of the rock formations.

Saving that route for another weekend, we ventured through the other entry point. After paying the barangay officials a courtesy visit and securing their clearance, we headed via rented motorbikes towards the jumpoff at Sitio Tablon.

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Above the clouds

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This was where all the madness started. I fell in love with the mountains. And they loved me back.

Mt. Pulag stands at 2,922 MASL and is the highest peak in Luzon. Known for its picturesque cloud formations when atop the summit (dubbed as the “sea of clouds”) and for temperatures dropping to minus 0 degree Celsius, Pulag is by far the most popular hiking destination in the country. It has four (4) known trails: Ambangeg, Akiki, Tawangan and Ambaguio. The first (of four trails) I have already tried, Ambangeg is definitely for the beginners compared to Akiki’s steep portions and Tawangan’s lengthy trek.

Climbing Pulag requires coordination with the local Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ protected area superintendent (PASU). The DENR Pulag National Park can be reached through PASU Mering Albas at +63 919 6315402. After reserving the entry date of your group, secure a chartered jeepney. Jeepney assignments are now arranged through the DENR-CAR. Our group’s preferred jeepney driver though is Mr. Guillermo “Emong” Cayat. Since Kuya Emong is already overseas, he has recommended a colleague, Mr. Israel Haban. His contact number is +63 930 6031150.

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Ashed yet stoked

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Blessed with fair weather, the weekend trip to Mt. Pinatubo and its famous crater lake was yet another open invitation to sunburn and the occasional heat stroke. Intensified by the desert-like terrain covered in volcanic ash, the heat struck harshly as the sun rose to its midday glory.

The Pinatubo experience starts with a 4×4 jeep ride to the jump off point. After a quick stop at the Philippine Air Force checkpoint, the one-hour ride takes tourists and mountaineers alike through wide expanses of open lands left by the deadly “lahar” or pyroclastic flows of the 90s. There are only a few patches of areas covered in grass (and these were sighted at the start of the ride only). Towering land formations line the paths and provide the much needed shade at some points. The 4×4 skillfully maneuvers its way through portions of the O’Donnell River and over big loose rocks spewed by the volcano.

There used to be two jump off points where the actual trek commences: a 15-minute trail and a 2-hour trail. Since the “Pinatubo skyway” was not passable due to the beating it took during last year’s strong typhoons, all treks take the long route (note: per the local guide’s estimate, the skyway may be opened by April 2012 if and when the workers finish; last 2009, during the author’s first trip to Pinatubo, there is a skyway fee of Php500.00 for each 4×4 jeep). The longer trail follows the course of the O’Donnell River all the way to the crater. The trail has no cover and becomes very hot as the day progresses. Ash, sandy soil and even loose rocks complete the picture. Trekkers go through a lot of stream crossings that provide a contrasting relief to the heat of the trail.

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Assault all the way

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“Difficult Route”: the sign going to the Mt. Pulag National Park Akiki Trail Visitors’ Center forewarns. The third (of four trails) I have tried, Akiki is indeed challenging compared to Ambangeg‘s easy trail and Tawangan’s lengthy trek.

The Akiki trail starts with a 5-minute stair climb from the drop-off point to the ranger station. As with all Pulag climbs, the DENR-CAR (through Pulag park superintendent Mering Albas +63 919 6315402 and Akiki ranger Heron +63 908 7578319) needs to be informed of any group’s entry into the Park. Payment of fees and securing of guides are arranged either at the DENR Office or at the Akiki visitors’ center. Both open at 7:00 AM. Because the group had an early start, the fees were settled at the Akiki visitors’ centre.

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A lot of everything

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Of trails.
Of mud.
Of river crossings.
Of cows.
And their dung.

Known for the towering rocks forming its pillar-like summit, Mt. Marami (405+ MASL) also has a monolith aptly called Silyang Bato. Located at Maragondon, Cavite, the mountain can be easily reached via a three-hour public commute from Metro Manila. From the bus drop off, walk about two blocks to the terminal of the jeepneys bound for Magallanes. If going as a big group, you can split the costs of renting the entire trip up to Barangay Ramirez.

The itinerary starts with an easy trek on wide dirt roads. After half an hour, the first river crossing is encountered. There will be three or four more crossings afterwards, two of which are via rickety wooden bridges. The rest of the way is no different than the usual trek through carabao trails, farmlands and cogon-lined paths.

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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.

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