Sagada, Mt. Province
Major jump-off: Ambasing Elementary School, Brgy. Ambasing, Sagada
Altitude: 1889 MASL (386 meter gain)
Days required / Hours to summit: Half day, 1.5 hours
specs: Minor climb, Difficulty 2/9, Trail class 1,3
Rising above the highland town of Sagada, famous for its natural and cultural wonders, is its highest point, Mt. Ampacao. Laden with pine trees, this mountain offers a beautiful overview of Sagada. It only takes 90 minutes to reach the summit on average pace. The ‘ranch’, a viewpoint two-thirds up gives beautiful views of nearby villages and mountains, especially on the western side, where one can already see the mountains straddling Ilocos Sur and the Abra-Mt. Province boundary. The panorama includes Mt. Polis (SE), Bessang and Mt. Tirad, site of the famous Tirad Pass (E) and Mt. Sipsipitan (N).
The two important landmarks in the mountain is the ranch and the summit. Apparently, the typical guided tour only reaches the ranch, after which tourists are led to Lake Danum. As a result, the ranch is mistook by some as the summit. Actually, another 20-30 minutes is required to reach the true summit, marked by the Smart cellsite. Here, the views are likewise that of the western panorama. In all, Mt. Ampacao is a refreshing, easy trek and a must-visit for mountaineers who are in Sagada.
Mt. Ampacao-Lake Danum
0200 Walk down to elementary school at Brgy. Ambasing
0220 Take rough road up; start trek
0300 ETA Ranch, take pictures.
0330 ETA summit; snacks
0400 Start descent
0430 Back at Ranch. Take trail to Lake Danum
0530 Sunset viewing at Lake Danum
0600 Return to town proper by foot or by rented vehicle
0630 Back at Sagada proper
It is very easy to secure a guide for Mt. Ampacao at the guide office near the junction of Sagada’s two main roads (in front of Masferre house). P600 is the standard rate for a guide, good for 1-10 persons. However, the trail is easy to follow and a guide is not necessary. Just follow the road to the ranch, and beyond the ranch there there is a branching footpath to the left, marked with a wooden ‘gate’. Take this trail and follow the electric wires as a guide. It only takes 20-30 minutes to negotiate this assault, and before you know it, you’re at the summit. If taking a guide, it is best to clarify whether you will be taken (and whether you will be allowed) to the summit. It is also an option to rent a jeep that will take you to the jump-off, and also take you back to the town from Lake Danum. This however is only necessary if you are pressed for time. The Sagada Genuine Guides Assocation blogsite is a helpful reference for contacts, prices, and updates.
Mt. Ampacao is recommended only as a sidetrip to a Sagada adventure. It is typically a 3D/2N trip starting off from Manila via Bontoc (Cable Bus Tours, 2030hr departure, P500+) then a jeepney to Sagada (P35). In Sagada a variety of lodging places are available, ranging from P150-P400/person/night. The suggested return trip is via Baguio City (Lizardo Bus, hourly departures near town hall till 1300hr, P237).
Rafael, caretaker of the Smart cellsite atop Mt. Ampacao, says hailstone showers occur during the cold months. He also says that lighting struck the tower once. Migratory birds are hunted in the mountain with the traditional bird hunting way, called “ikik”.
Sagada is a cultural goldmine and a true mountain haven. Lots have been written in the Internet about it. In summary, just being in the place is a nice experience, at 1502 MASL the climate is very cool and soothing. Must-visit places are Sumaguing Cave, Bomod-ok waterfalls (the Big falls), Lumiang Cave, Echo Valley, and the Hanging Coffins there. The rest are not that remarkable. The culinary experience of Sagada must also be experienced- favorites include the Yoghurt House, the Log Cabin at St. Joseph’s, and Masferre’s. The pinikpikan is the delicacy to try: it is chicken with a “special preparation”. Also noteworthy are the native wines of Sagada (P120 per bottle). They have various flavors: lemon, persimmon, duhat (native plum), strawberry, blueberry, pear, etc. Mountain tea comes very cheap at P10 per packet. Sagada is truly a wonderful, breathtaking place!