Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Mt. Bloomfield (787+) in Puerto Princesa, Palawan

MT. BLOOMFIELD
Puerto Princesa, Palawan
Major jumpoff: Sabang Beach, Puerto Princesa
LLA: 10°11′47.8′′N 118°52′19.2′′ E, 787 MASL (+787m)
Days required / Hours to summit: 1 day / 3-4 hours
Specs: Minor climb, Difficulty 4/9, Trail class 1-4
Features: Ultramafic forests, scenic coastal views
Article created: August 19, 2014
Last updated: August 19, 2014

BACKGROUND
One of Puerto Princesa's beautiful mountains, and one that is conveniently accessible to visitors of the famed Underground River, with its trail starting from Sabang beach itself, Mt. Bloomfield offers the unique opportunity of trekking on a mountain that lies within a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The trek starts from Sabang beach itself, and after a brief march through agricultural lands, the trail quickly turns rocky, until you reach the purely ultramafic slopes that lead up to the mountain. As is the case elsewhere in Palawan, these rocks are actually nice to walk through, and are not very slippery.

A view of the sea that faces Sabang beach quickly emerges, and follows you even after you enter the forest. Stunted trees, akin to those of Mantalingajan and Victoria, cover the higher reaches of the mountain, allowing hikers a 'sneak preview' of what it feels to be hiking in Palawan.

At the Eagle's Ridge, an excellent viewpoint right before the summit, the views are stunning. Mt. St. Paul, the mountain which houses the Underground River, rises like a behemoth to the north, and behind it, Cleopatra's Needle, the highest mountain in Northern Palawan. Amazingly, even the distant Mt. Capoas in Malampaya Sound can be seen, if you follow the western shoreline. (Past the Eagle's Ridge, there is a quick but steep ascent to the summit proper, which is covered with trees and doesn't offer much of a view.)

Mt. Bloomfield gives outdoor enthusiasts a great reason to spend the night in Sabang, after an Underground River tour. Certainly, hikers used to seeing Philippine forests would find it way more interesting than the Jungle Trail. Also, the hike is just 1.5-2 hours away from Puerto Princesa, making it an attractive dayhike for locals. Either way, Mt. Bloomfield with its amazing scenery and great ultramafic trails makes for a rewarding day in Palawan.

ITINERARIES

DAYHIKE
From Puerto Princesa

0530 Take shuttle van to Sabang
0715 Arrival at Sabang. Register at the Park Office.
0730 Start trekking
1100 Arrival at Eagle's Ridge
1130 Arrival at summit. Head down to the Lunch.
1300 Start descent
1530 Back at trailhead. Tidy up
1600 Take van or jeep back to Puerto Princesa (last trip: 1800)
1800 ETA Puerto Princesa.

OVERNIGHT (WITH JUNGLE TRAIL AND UNDERGROUND RIVER)
From Puerto Princesa
*Note: It is necessary to make prior arrangements for the Underground River permits as well as the guide/s for the Jungle Trail.

Day 1
0530 Take shuttle van to Sabang
0715 Arrival at Sabang. Leave things at your hotel; Register at the Park Office.
0800 Start trekking via the Jungle Trail
1000 Arrival. Commence Underground River Tour.
1200 Head back to Sabang by boat
1300 Late lunch.
1400 Relaxing afternoon in Sabang.
1800 Dinner / socials

Day 2
0500 Start Mt. Bloomfield trek early in the morning
0830 Arrival at Eagle's Ridge. Enjoy the views.
0900 Summit assault.
0930 Back at Eagle's Ridge. Start descent
1200 Back in Sabang. Lunch / Tidy-up / Checkout
1400 Take van or jeep back to Puerto Princesa (last trip: 1800)
1600 Back in Puerto Princesa

PRACTICALITIES: MT. BAHILE
Transportation
from Puerto Princesa
Public (1) Shuttle van: San Jose Terminal to Sabang [140 pesos; 1.5-2 hour]

Private Take the Puerto Princesa North Road and follow directions to Sabang. You can park at the main parking area near the Puerto Princesa Underground River office.
Registration
At the PPUR Park Office in Sabang
[No fees as of Aug 2014]
Forest rangers of PPUR can potentially act as guides, but availability is not always assured (Suggested rate is 500 pesos/guide/day)
 Jessa Garibay (volunteer coordinator): + 639272285321
Campsites
The summit itself can potentially act as campsite, but with space for just a few tents
Water sources
None identified
Cellphone signal
Weak at the trailhead, stronger from 400m upwards, sporadic at first, but brisk at the summit
River crossings
None
Roped segments
None
None
None 
Rattan
None 
Hiking notes 
This is a very new hiking destination so many changes may still happen in the itinerary and in the process of going up the mountain.
Sidetrips
The Jungle Trail and of course the Underground River (see itinerary above). Additionally, the hike itself can be done as dayhike that is part of a multi-day Puerto Princesa hiking trip. 
Alternate trails
Possible traverse to the southwest face of the mountain in Brgy. Cabayugan.
Yes (3-4 hours to summit; 2-3 hours down)
400-600 pesos (Dayhike)
1500-2000 (Overnight including Underground River and basic hotel stay in Sabang)

MT. BLOOMFIELD PICTURES
Mt. Bloomfield and the other mountains of Puerto Princesa (G. Lasco, 2014)

Ascending through the ultramafic rocks of Mt. Bloomfield (G. Lasco, 2014)

View of Mt. St. Paul, the mountain that houses the famous
Puerto Princesa Underground River (G. Lasco, 2014)
The blogger at Eagle's Ridge, 700 MASL (J. Garibay, 2014)
TRIVIA
An account of the blogger's hike up Mt. Bloomfield is narrated in Hiking matters #406.

Mt. Bahile (747+) in Puerto Princesa, Palawan

MT. BAHILE
Puerto Princesa City, Palawan
Major jumpoff: Rural Agricultural Center, Brgy. Salvacion
LLA: 9°59′7.87′′N 118°44′32.3′′ E, 747 MASL (+700m)
Days required / Hours to summit: 1-2 days / 4-6 hours
Specs: Minor climb, Difficulty 5/9, Trail class 1-4
Features: Ultramafic forests, unusual fauna, scenic views of east and west coasts of Puerto Princesa
Article created: August 18, 2014
Last updated: August 18, 2014

BACKGROUND
Palawan is known as one of the last hiking frontiers in the Philippines, but you need not go far to experience what the island offers. Mt. Bahile, for instance, is just 30 kilometres away from the city proper of Puerto Princesa, making it one of the closest mountains to the airport, and therefore a good candidate for a dayhike for people who are traveling in Palawan.

In some vantage points, Mt. Bahile is overshadowed by its larger companion mountain, Mt. Tapyas, with which it is connected by a saddle which is over 500 MASL, giving Bahile itself a prominence of only 200 meters with respect to Tapyas. From the trailhead in Brgy. Salvacion, however, the altitude is less than 40 MASL, giving the mountain a respectable 700-meter altitude gain.

Mt. Bahile is a little-explored mountain, and hikers must brace for rattan thorns for a good portion of the trail. However, it is a very rewarding hike, with the ultramafic rocks and forests characteristic of most mountains in Palawan. Then, there is the rich wildlife - from the mountain's many viewpoints one can spot eagles, and in the forests, woodpeckers, hummingbirds, and many other avian species. During our trek, we spotted two snakes - a pit viper and a mock viper. Surely, there were many more our untrained eyes failed to notice!

Because of its location, the scenery is fantastic. From Mt. Bahile, one can see Palawan at its most slender - with only a few kilometres separating Sulu Sea, represented by Honda Bay, and South China Sea, represented by Ulugan Bay. Islands on both sides enthral, particularly the vari-shaped ones of Honda Bay, each with a colourful name. At the summit, Cleopatra's Needle, monarch of Puerto Princesa's peaks, stands proudly to the north, while on the clear day, the cluster of Thumbpeak and Beaufort are also appreciable. Meanwhile, Mt. Tapyas looms to the northwest - inviting hikers to attempt a traverse in what promises to be another exciting hike in Palawan!

MT. BAHILE ITINERARY

DAYHIKE FROM PUERTO PRINCESA

0530 Take van or chartered multicab/vehicle to trailhead
0700 ETA Rural Agricultural Center, Brgy. Salvacion
0730 Start trekking
0900 ETA ultramafic rocks
1200 Arrival at summit. Lunch.
1300 Start descent
1630 Back at trailhead. Tidy up
1700 Take van or jeep back to Puerto Princesa
1800 ETA Puerto Princesa.

PRACTICALITIES: MT. BAHILE
Transportation
from Puerto Princesa
Public (1) Sabang- or any northbound jeep or van from Puerto Princesa  [40-50 pesos; 1 hour]

Private Take the Sabang-bound road. Follow through from the junction in Salvacion, and make a left turn at the Rural Agricultural Center. Follow the rough road for about 500 meters to reach the trailhead. 
Registration
None as of Aug 2014 
At least two locals have gone up the mountain and can guide, but availability is not always assured (Suggested rate is 400 pesos/guide/day)
 Ronald Amada (volunteer coordinator): + 639106946227
Campsites
Balatikan campsite (13°40′18.1′′N 121°11′39.4′′ E, 548m)
Water sources
At the ultramafic rocks (9°58′37′′N 118°44′31.7′′ E, 380m)
Cellphone signal
Absent at the jumpoff 
Present from 300m upwards, sporadic at first, but brisk at the summit
River crossings
Nothing significant 
Roped segments
None
None
Present 
Rattan
Abundant 
Hiking notes 
This is a very new hiking destination so many changes may still happen in the itinerary and in the process of going up the mountain.
Sidetrips
The hike itself can be done as dayhike that is part of a multi-day Puerto Princesa tour. 
Alternate trails
Possible traverse to Mt. Tapyas but still undocumented 
Yes (4-5.5 hours to summit; 3-4 hours down)
200-500 pesos


MT. BAHILE PICTURES
Illustrated picture showing Mt. Bahile in relation to the other
mountains of Puerto Princesa (G. Lasco, 2014) 
Hiking up the ultramafic rocks of Mt. Bahile (G. Lasco, 2014)
At the summit of Mt. Bahile with Ulugan Bay and Cleopatra's Needle
at the background (G. Lasco, 2014)

TRIVIA
According to Puerto Princesa environmentalist Jessa Garibay, the word 'Bahile' comes from the Spanish 'baile' - dance -  because it used to be a place where festivals were held by the indigenous Tagbanua people.

An account of the blogger's hike up Mt. Bahile is narrated in Hiking matters #417.


Monday, August 18, 2014

Hiking matters #417: Mt. Bahile, a hidden gem in Puerto Princesa, Palawan

At the summit of Mt. Bahile in Puerto Princesa, Palawan with Ulugan Bay
and Cleopatra's Needle at the background
PUERTO PRINCESA, PALAWAN - After a hiatus of over a month, I finally had the opportunity to climb in Palawan again, and my sixth mountain in the province turned out to be another special one: Mt. Bahile, located in barangays Salvacion and Bahile, which lie along the road from the city proper to Sabang. This mountain is connected by a saddle to the larger Mt. Tapyas - a potential traverse - and the two mountains are visible in the City Baywalk, somewhat reminiscent of the Banahaw-Cristobal pair.
Joining me in this hike were my friends Dr. Arnaldo Favila, Jr, a Puerto Princesa-based orthopaedic surgeon, PSU college student Julius de Vera, sisters Jessa and Kate Garibay, and Ronald Amada, who also guided us in Mt. Beaufort when I had just arrived in Palawan (see Hiking matters #405). Though there are several possible entry points, we started a hike at Rural Agricultural Center in Barangay Salvacion - a roughly 45-minute drive from the city proper.
'

After an initial walk through a relatively flat woodland, the trail passes through a delightful section of ultramafic rocks - in the same vein as the nearby Mt. Bloomfield (see Hiking matters #405) -  and gives way to (largely) ultramafic forests. Because the trail goes on a western bearing, Honda Bay would usually be behind you when you trek - together with its beautiful islands. This combination of scenery and forest makes it, in some ways, a Mt. Bloomfield and Mt. Beaufort rolled into one.

The wildlife is amazing - we saw some birds and a couple of interesting snakes in the trail. The first was, as per Dr. Brian Santos, a Bornean keeled green pit viper (Tropidolaemus subannulatus), and the second was an equally colourful common mock viper (Psammodynastes pulverulentus). I am sure we would have seen others, had our eyes been trained.


The summit is foreshadowed by the return of the ultramafic rocks on your feet, and at almost exactly 1200H, we reached the summit, clocking 747 MASL at the top. Though the skies were overcast, we were blessed to have splendid views of Honda Bay to the east and Ulugan Bay to the west, as well as the majestic Cleopatra's Needle to the north.
After an hour of relaxing and lunching with the scenery - and dragonflies that over around the peak - we started the descent, which took faster, the only challenge being the rattan-surrounded parts that also menaced us during the ascent. 
We were back at the trailhead by 1630H. Along the way, I took mental note of the mountain in Magarwak that Jessa did and highly recommends as an easy hike. By 1800H we were having an early dinner at one of my favourite restaurants in the city, Ka Inato, which has become a traditional post climb venue for us. Mt. Bahile turned out to be another great hike in Palawan, and I'd like to say thank you to my Palawe├▒o friends for joining the hike! Till next time!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Mt. Tibig (563+) in Lobo, Batangas

MT. TIBIG
Lobo, Batangas 
Jump-off point: Hulong Banalo, Lobo
LLA: 14.0408 N 120.8011 E 563 MASL
Days required / Hours to summit: 1 day / 1.5-2.5 hours
Specs: Minor climb, Difficulty 2/9, Trail class 1-3
Features: Scenic views of Verde Island Passage and Southern Batangas
Itinerary created: August 15, 2014
Last updated: August 15, 2014

BACKGROUND
Lying in the slopes of Mt. Banoi rises Mt. Tibig, a small but very scenic sub-mountain of the range that is an easy and refreshing hike in the town of Lobo, Batangas. Taking just one or two hours to climb, the mountain is comparable to Gulugod Baboy or Maculot in terms of difficulty, with a terrain that is highly reminiscent of Banoi itself or nearby Mt. Daguldol: agricultural woodlands, a bit of a forest, and then a grassy, ridge-like peak that faces the Verde Island Passage, just as Tarak Ridge faces Manila Bay.

The trail is surprisingly well-established from the trailhead to the summit, starting from a rough road in the village of Hulong Banalo. From this road, the initial part of the trial may feel steep but the brevity of the trail itself compensates for this trail gradient by allowing hikers to take their time. A nipa hut in Sitio Tibig serves as a landmark, past it, there is some more woodland that quickly gives way to a talahiban in the tradition of Kalisungan and Tagapo. One can see the connection to Mt. Banoi - a sloped northwesterly face that opens up the possibility of a traverse.

At the summit, the centrepiece of the views is Verde Island and the passage that bears its name. To its south lies Mindoro, including the chief of its mountains, Mt. Halcon. Then, to the north of the passage stands the other mountains west of Lobo: Pulot Itaas and Pinamucan, both of which little is known in terms of hiking, but is full of potential. Some rocky perches are scattered in the summit area, making for nice viewpoints. As in Tarak Ridge, the winds are coastal and refreshing. As a standalone dayhike, a relaxing overnighter, or part of a longer Lobo mountain trip, Mt. Tibig is a highly recommended mountain to climb in Southern Batangas.

ITINERARY

DAYHIKE

0300 Take bus to Batangas City
0500 ETA Balagtas, take two jeepney rides to Lobo, Batangas
0700 ETA Lobo, Batangas. Register at police station. Breakfast.
0800 Take tricycle to Hulong Banalo
0830 ETA Hulong Banalo; secure guides; prepare for the hike
0900 Start trekking
1015 ETA Nipa Hut (Sitio Tibig)
1100 ETA summit.
1200 Start descent
1300 Back at Hulong Banalo. Take trike back to Lobo poblacion
1400 ETA Lobo poblacion. Take jeepney back to Batangas City
1530 Back in Batangas City. Take bus back to Manila
1800 ETA Manila

PRACTICALITIES: MT. TIBIG
Transportation
Public (1) Bus, Cubao or Buendia to Batangas City [170 pesos; 2.5 hours]
(2) Jeep, Balagtas to Lobo Jeepney Terminal [20 pesos; 25 minutes]
(3) Jeep, Jeepney Terminal to Lobo poblacion [56 pesos; 1 hour]
(4) Tricycle, Lobo poblacion to Hulong Banalo [120 pesos/trip/3 persons; 30 minutes]

Private Head out to Batangas City via SLEX-Star Tollway then take the road to Lobo, Batangas. From the poblacion, follow the coastal Lobo-Ilijan-Batangas City road then make a right turn at Banalo Elementary School and the follow through the rough road until you reach the last basketball court. Approximately 3.5 hours travel time.

Registration
(1) Logbook at Lobo police station
No fees are collected at the moment.
Available: Kuya Gabino (500 pesos for the dayhike)
 +639264916824 - Kuya Gabino
Campsites
The summit itself can serve as campsite
Water sources
None in normal course of trail 
Cellphone signal
Absent at the jumpoff 
Present from 300m upwards, sporadic at first 
River crossings
Small stream near the trailhead, but nothing major
Roped segments
None
None
Minimal
Rattan
None
Hiking notes 
This is a very new hiking destination so many changes may still happen in the itinerary and in the process of going up the mountain.
Sidetrips
Lobo beach; Mt. Tibig can itself be a side trip of a more substantial Lobo hiking trip alongside the peaks of the Lobo-San Juan Mountain Range (see more information in the Mt. Tibig blog by Ramon Gayas, Jr.)
Alternate trails
Possible traverse to Mt. Banoi, as well as a 'Tibig Range Circuit' (see more information in the Mt. Tibig blog by Ramon Gayas, Jr.)
Yes (1.5-2.5 hours to summit; 60-45 minutes down)
900-1200


MT. TIBIG PICTURES
Illustrated map showing Mt. Tibig in relation to its parent mountain, Mt. Banoi
as well as the peaks of the Lobo-San Juan Mountain Range
The blogger at the summit of Mt. Tibig with Lobo beach at the background

Inside the woodlands of Mt. Tibiig

Approaching the summit through the grassy slopes

View of Verde Island
View of Mts. Pulot Itaas and Pinamucan - the two other major peaks of
the Lobo-Batangas City Mountain Range

 TRIVIA
The blogger's hike up Mt. Tibig on August 9, 2014 is narrated in Hiking matters #315.

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