Tag Archives: hiking

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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Kalisungan is not a walk in the park

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Expecting a quick dayhike ala the likes of Daguldol and (as I was told) Gulugod-Baboy, imagine my surprise as I squished and squashed my way through sloping trails of mud and horse dung. Fruit flies hovered over dead banana trunks and coconut husks scattered along the way. Mosquitoes were abuzz at 3/4 of the trail. They were having a field day; and so were the red and black ants.

This is not the kind of park I had in my head. Indeed: never underestimate a mountain.

The rewards, as always, are fantastic. At the final ascent, swaying cogon grass lined the steep trail to the open summit. The peak of Kalisungan offers an unobstructed view of Calauan and San Pablo. Three of San Pablo’s Seven Lakes are visible at the left side. Mounts Makiling and Banahaw stand regal at the north and south portions of Kalisungan. There’s also Laguna de Bay and Talim Island’s Mt. Tagapo.

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Scaling the parrot’s beak

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Pico de Loro

Towering over seas of greens and blues, scaling Pico de Loro is the highlight of a climb to Mt. Palay Palay. The monolith stands imposing and dramatic amidst the plains of Cavite and the waters of South China Sea.

They say conquering the parrot’s beak takes skill and experience. It may not be for the faint of heart, but for the daredevils, the peak is surprisingly easy peasy. :) Its intimidating appearance sets off some climbers who settle for the actual peak of Mt. Palay Palay before proceeding through a steep path and crossing over to the rock.

At its base, there is a short portion where makeshift steps jut from the side of the rock and where a rather beaten rope was installed to aid the climbers. These make the climb up the monolith not too difficult. Careful steps must still be on top of mind as a slip to the right will send you plummeting a good hundreds of meters to the ground.

On top, rigid and appearing too vertical as a tower should be, the rock formation can be a good venue for rappelling. In fact, when we were there, a group was trying it out at Php250.00 per head.

Aside from the monolith, another sidetrip to complement a Mt. Palay Palay climb is a dip in the waterfalls which can be found about ten minutes off the main trail.

Accessible at two to three hours away from Metro Manila, a dayhike or a weekend in Mt. Palay Palay and Pico de Loro is easily a favorite for a quick weekend respite. To get to this part of Cavite, take a Ternate-bound bus from Manila and hire a jeepney to take your group to the DENR station and jump-off point.

Natib’s insurgent leeches

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View from Mt. Natib
 

 

Yes. Leeches. Limatiks. They have declared war on us. As if I have not had my fill and fair share of the infamous mountain bloodsuckers of Makiling, I found myself saying yes to another climb involving such a major-major concern. This climb is popular not only for its leeches, moreso for the fact that it has been declared closed (then open, then closed, then open) by the military for insurgency-related attacks by our leftist brothers and sisters.

At 1,287+ MASL, I called my mother to wish her a happy birthday and to report that I have summitted another mountain in one piece. Of course I left out the part about the insanely aggressive limatiks and the NPAs (lest I want to cap and prematurely end my budding and flourishing hobby). I also left out the portion describing the one-and-a-half hour cardiac assault to the summit, the almost 90-degree rocky roped segments and the steep and slippery forested trails.

No, I knew better than to bother her with such trifling details. :D

Mt. Natib is currently open. Prior arrangements with the barangay are however encouraged to ensure that your group has the military’s permission to proceed with the climb. Manageable for beginners, the trail to the foot of the mountain is established. It begins with a wide sloping dirt road near a farm for fighting cocks. It then transforms to grass-covered paths that take you through Pinagbutasan (literally an opening in the mountain made by an energy company for their geothermal equipment to get through) and a lunch area called “bahay kubo” (where a water source is available). Afterwards, the paths narrow to the usual single-file trail, most portions of which are lined with tall cogon grass. The foot of the mountain is reached after about three or four hours. At the final stretch, our group’s mountain guides managed the paths and installed ropes at three different segments. The trail to the summit were mostly (if not, all the way) punishing assaults through a heavily covered and cool forest. At the summit, if blessed with a clearing, there are good views of Bataan and her neighboring mountains.

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