MT. IRAYA (1,009 +)
Major Jumpoff: Sitio Banaraw near Basco Airport
LLA: 20°27’58″N 122°0’35″E, 1009 MASL
Days required / Hours to summit: 1 day / 3-4 hours
Specs: Minor climb, Difficulty 4/9, Trail class 1-3
The northerly mountain of the Philippines, standing majestically in the enchanting islands of Batanes, the “mountain of winds”. Its position at the northern part of Batan island gives its summit a commanding view of the northernmost parts of the country, and the ocean. This view, however, is made elusive by the perpetual cloud cover that only gives way to a full view of the mountain on rare occasions.
Mt. Iraya is a very important landmark for the Ivatans, and is steeped in legend. Elder Ivatan folk say that whenever someone dear to the people departs, a ring of clouds forms around the mountain. Also, the elders speak of old eruption of Iraya, and points to the holes near the summit as the crater from which lava and steam spewed out. Culture aside, its geographic presence is imposing; it is seen throughout the whole island of Batan and elsewhere in the northern seas. Its rise of 1009 MASL, directly from the sea, is explained in terms of volcanism. According to geologists, Iraya is one of the 22 active volcanos in the Philippines, with its last eruption occuring in 1454.
The trail to Mt. Iraya is forested and at times steep. From the jumpoff just beyond the Basco airport, there is an early, 30-minute assault, followed by a 1.5 hour trek through a dense forest, which is replete with flora and fauna, especially birds. Snakes are also said to inhabit these areas, but they are not poisonous. Beyond this forest is the “Shoulder Campsite’ – an excellent viewdeck and a possible campsite. Here, trees give way to giant reeds (Miscanthus sinensis) locally known as vyawo. The final leg is the steep assault of the summit, lasting 30-45 minutes. Hold on to the reeds as you climb. At the summit, which is a ridge directing north, you will definitely feel the refreshing touch of the wind.
According to the Ivatans, if the wind is coming from the north, most likely the view is obstructed with clouds, but the east wind is good and clears up the sky. Also, they add that the best time to climb Iraya is during the ‘mini-summer’ in September — the only time when Mt. Iraya is devoid of clouds. In this blessed event, views would include that of the Pacific Ocean (E), Itbayat Island and hill-like Dinem Island (NW), South China Sea (W), the entirety of Batan Island with Mt. Matarem the most prominent point (SW), and beyond it, Sabtang Island. But at whatever time of the year, a climb to Mt. Iraya is memorable and as enchanting as the beautiful province in which it stands.
0600 Proceed to jumpoff just beyond the airport
0630 ETA jumpoff; start steep trek
0700 Rest station; enter forest
0830 Arrival at ‘shoulder campsite
0900 Commence summit assault
0945 ETA summit. Enjoy the views (or winds!)
1030 Start descent
1230 Back at jumpoff; head back to your hotel
For guides to Mt. Iraya, contact Mang Romy at +639169026712. You can also arrange guides at your hotel. Prices play around P1000/tour which includes guide and transporation from your hotel. Technically, a permit is required from the DENR but since you pay the same fee anyway when going to Batanes, it is no longer enforced.
Due to the perpetual cloud cover, moisture in the upper reaches of Iraya is high and the trails can get muddy, so prepare accordingly. Cellphone signal is present at the summit and most parts of the trail. If on an extended stay in Batanes, you may want to consult with your guide when’s the best day to climb, to maximize the experience and see the fabled but elusive views of Mt. Iraya.
Other trekking possibilities in Batan Island include Mt. Matarem and a traverse of the southern towns of Mahatao, Ivana, and Uyugan.
This article was written in Basco, Batanes, on the day the blogger climbed Mt. Iraya: April 23, 2008.