Tag Archives: climb

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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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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Traversing 21 mountains

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I now understand why some mountaineers keep coming back. As with most Benguet mountains, the scenery going to and from Ugo is picturesque. Rolling pine tree-covered ridges, chilly temperatures, long yet slightly ascending and descending paths complete the breathtaking landscape. The tiring traverse is capped by a crossing of the 90.7-metre hanging bridge of Sitio Cayoco over the Agno River.

A major climb because of the distance to cover, one will walk approximately 15KM on day 1 from Kayapa to Domolpos and on day 2, 21KM from Domolpos (~3KM to the summit) to Itogon (~18KM from the summit). The trek commences with a 1.5-hour steep ascent to Indopit Village then progresses to a 2-hour easy trek through both wide and narrow trails. Finally, to get to the Domolpos community, a half hour tricky descent ensues. The Domolpos’ public school can be used for the night as campsite. It has a water source and a nice toilet at the back. Spending the night there beats setting camp at the cold and windy summit.

The trek resumes the next day with a relaxed 2.5- to 3-hour hike to the peak. The summit has a wide area for camping and has a marker partially hidden by bushes and trees where it is said to once have marked the boundaries of Nueva Vizcaya, Pangasinan and Benguet. Navigating the steep descent takes less than two hours and then another hour to get to the nice lunch area at the old saw mill. With two more hours to go, the trek takes you to more covered trails, farmlands and easy trails to Lusod Village and finally to Itogon Village.

With credits to Ultraman Ace, here are the twenty one names of the mountains our guide, Sir Alex, recited from memory: 1. Kabilisan, 2. Indopit, 3. Yabnong, 4. Bundao, 5. Samiento, 6. Sadngat, 7. Sadle, 8. Domolpos, 9. Ugo (2,150 MASL), 10. Bakuyan, 11. Tigingan, 12. Dyabes, 13. Timal, 14. Sumil, 15. Lusod, 16. Badjao, 17. Sadyatan, 18. Anawang, 19. Latbak, 20. Cawayan and, 21. Cayoko.

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Damas traverse

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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.

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King of the country’s mountains

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So there we were, at the peak, shivering from head to foot in the cold mountain air and rainfall. Ah, Mt. Apo – indeed the grandfather of all Philippine mountains (2,956 MASL) . Halfway into conquering him, we have already had our fair share of shifting landscapes and contrasting trail types. As nighttime bade hello, we set down our full packs and quickly assembled our tent amidst the biting wind. Good thing we had the entire peak to ourselves. We settled for a spot inside a shallow cave and hoped the tent can take the battering of the winds.

Our gracious host and guide Jezer Paro* (+63 918 7819861) is nothing short of amazing. Contacted at the eleventh hour, we were fortunate he was available and agreeable to our 2-day traverse of the Kapatagan (Davao) and Kidapawan (North Cotabato) trails. His suggested plan was to start at the Kapatagan side and climb all the way to the summit on the first day, make camp at the summit area and descend to Lake Venado and the Kidapawan trail the next day. Whereas the usual itinerary takes three or four days for the entire traverse, we opted to challenge ourselves to finish it overnight. Jezer knew the ins, outs and shortcuts of the mountain by heart. With all his tricks, we were able to cut short our ascent by an hour or two. We negotiated the ascent for a total of seven hours and 25 minutes and the descent for a staggering seven and 15.

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Tarak and its windy ridge

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My first climb for the year took me to one of Bataan’s highest points. Tarak left me with two things.

First, like a wordplay, I now understand how it got its name. The initial portion of the climb involves the usual wide trails through grasslands and flatlands. Three hours into this type of trek, you will reach the Papaya River where you break for lunch and the last water source. The second leg of the mountain’s assault leads to an exciting and almost two-hour cardiac trail. Steep and covered, you may need to hold on to branches and roots and climb using all four limbs for support. In two hours, you will arrive at the ridge where you will have a fantastic panoramic view at 1,006 MASL. Groups can choose to camp at an enclosed area before the ridge (which can accommodate roughly ten tents) or at the wider and open area at the ridge itself.

This brings me to my next Tarak lesson.

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Arayat: the case of the missing trail

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And I thought guides are supposed to know and lead the way. Up until this climb.

An ambitious dayhike traverse from the Magalang to Arayat trails ended on a rather mischievous note as we learned from the lead pack that our juvenile brothers from Brgy. Ayala on the Magalang side seemed to have lost the trail while already at the foot of Mt. Arayat.

Nevertheless, our group of nearly 25 reached Brgy. Baño at the Arayat side in under ten hours.

Through established trails to the North Peak, we traversed through an exciting ridgeline to the South Peak and continued on to a dense hunter’s trail until we got to the base of the mountain. The descent becomes a test of patience as one negotiates aimlessly through paths covered with trees, vines and roots.

It took the group only three hours to reach the first peak where one finds a communication tower and an army detachment. The peak, at 1,026 MASL, has a campsite and a great view of the flat agricultural lands of Pampanga. The Pampanga river can be seen snaking through the rice fields. After a half-hour lunch break, we resumed the climb. The trek to the second peak (1,008 MASL) takes only about two hours. We passed by White Rock before reaching the southern peak where we stopped for the customary photo ops. It then progresses to a three- to four-hour descent via the Arayat trail.

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