Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Climbing Log 2008


Numbers indicate "Hiking Matters" narratives; MB indicates publication in Manila Bulletin with hyperlinks whenever possible. Mt. Palamigan, being a totally unremarkable climb, did not merit an article in PinoyMountaineer.com; there were a total of 30 climbs, including 12 major ones and 4 international climbs.

01/12 Mt. Makiling via Sto. Tomas
01/19 Mt. Batulao
01/26 Mt. Pulag/Ambangeg Trail
02/12 Mt. Kanlaon via Wasay Trail

Monday, December 29, 2008

My Top 10 climbs of 2008

2008 proved to be a momentous year for mountaineering in the Philippines; we are seeing more and more mountaineers going for fresh and challenging destinations. It is reassuring to see that almost every month, a new mountain or trail is discovered or rediscovered; PinoyMountaineer is committed to supporting this wave of exploration in the coming years.

Personally, 2008 was a very productive year for me. Choosing the ten best climbs proved to be a difficult task, especially with such strong contenders like my twin climbs in Batanes; my twin climbs in Nikko, Japan; a whirlwind climb up Mt. Calavite in Mindoro, and a traverse of Mt. Cristobal. Yet of 30 climbs I made, I had to choose these 10 climbs which were the most memorable of them all. Thanks to everyone who made these adventures possible!

1. Mt. Pulag: Bokod, Benguet (January 26-28)

I organized a Pulag trip for my brods on the last weekend of January. The very cold temperatures were thawed by the glorious views that greeted us on the summit the next day.
Featured in Sunday Inquirer Magazine, March 3, 2008

2. Mt. Kanlaon: Mambucal, Negros Occidental (February 9-11)

Although the climb ended in disaster - volcanic activity forced my brod Yousef and I to camp at Hardin ng Balo and descend the next day - it was my first Visayan climb and I loved the forests of Kanlaon. The giant almaciga trees and the unique fauna of the mountain made up for the lack of summit views, and the sidetrips to Mambucal Mountain Resort and Guimaras Island were great bonuses.

3. Mt. Mantalingajan: Rizal, Palawan (March 2-9)

My most difficulty climb took an entire week including the travel time from Manila. The arduous, three-day trek just to reach the summit demanded so much physical and mental energy from me especially since the climb was a solo expedition. A day of canopy walk was followed by a day of scrambling on the Knife Edge. Interacting with the Tau't Bato tribe was good for my cultural appetite - but I was religious about my 2000H curfew, afraid of a fate similar to Reyster Langit's. He and I were both guided by one and the same person.
Published in Manila Bulletin Travel, May 2008.

4. Mt. Guiting-Guiting: Sibuyan Island, Romblon (March 22-25)

G2 and me, together at last - such was the theme coined by the fun group of climbers I joined (led by Sir Emman Palacio) in the trip. Reaching the summit after the technical trek from Mayo's Peak was truly a memorable achievement, made greater by the rains which always drowned our summit hopes. Every bit of this trip was fun: from the half-day long travel by ferry to the sidetrip in one of Sibuyan's beaches. I brought marble home for my Mom as pasalubong.
Narrated in Hiking matters #2.

5. Mt. Amuyao Traverse: Barlig, Mt. Province (April 4-6)

At the height of summer, the wide, pine-laden trails from Barlig was a very cool experience. The summit views the next day were beautiful too - and although the succeeding part was very difficult - we pushed well into the night. At least, the sight of Batad's famed rice terraces made it all worth it.
Narrated in Hiking matters #4.

6. Mt. Ugo Traverse: Kayapa, N. Vizcaya (April 15-18)


Fellow UPMed Outdoor Society members Julian and David joined me in a traverse of Mt. Ugo. We started out in Kayupa, camped in Domolpos, then did the rest of the trip to Brgy. Tinongdan in Itogon the next day. However, when we arrived in Tinongdan, everyone was drunk to the hilt; without any transportation to take us to Baguio, we decided to join the fun and we were treated to the kinilaw na kambing - the local delicacy - plus rounds of Coke and San Miguel. Back in Baguio, we sidetripped Mt. Sto. Tomas and feasted on Pizza Volante.
Narrated in Hiking matters #5.

7. Mt. Tabayoc: Kabayan, Benguet (May 22-24)

What should have been a fantastic duo of a Tabayoc climb plus a Pulag via Tawagan ended up in a disaster amid a torrential rainshower; yet at least the Tabayoc part was salvaged, achieving for us Luzon's 2nd highest: that and the lakes as well. Instead of climbing Pulag from Tawangan, we trekked to Tinoc, Ifugao - inadvertedly fulfilling a Benguet-Ifugao traverse before heading to the City of Pines, where Mt. Sto. Tomas and Ironman lay ahead of us.
Narrated in Hiking matters #10.

8. Mt. Fuji: Japan (July 1-2)

My English friend Shimmel and I climbed Fuji-san at the first day of the climbing season, nightrekking our way amid the chilling temperatures and an excited crowd to welcome the sunrise at the highest point of the "Land of the Rising Sun". A medical emergency involving one of the climbers separated us but we both summited, and we celebrated with at our favorite kaiten-zushi bar back in Tokyo.
Narrated in Hiking matters #16; Published in the Sept. issue of Manila Bulletin Travel.

9. Tirad Pass: Gregorio del Pilar, Ilocos Sur (December 5-7)

The historical value of this trek could not be underestimated, and when National Artist F. Sionil Jose recommended it, I wasted on time in checking it out, accompanied by my brod Julian and mountaineering friend Jan Pambid. We were up for a cultural, visual, and adventurous reward. We camped in the marker that commemorates the death and valor of del Pilar, and we trekked along the Old Spanish Trail until reaching the border of Quirino town the next day - before heading back.
Narrated in Hiking matters #36.

10. Mt. Kinabalu: Sabah, Malaysia (December 23-26)

The weather forecasts warned of thunderstorms and rain, but we were undaunted. The reward was a great Day 1 and we enjoyed the great environments up Laban Rata - and an even greater Day 2 when we summitted and beheld the massive granite peak of Kinabalu. The sunset and sunrise in between were equally spectacular. Indeed, my Christmas climb with family was a very happy ending for a year filled with adventure.
Narrated in Hiking matters #38. Published in the Jan. 2009 issue of Manila Bulletin Travel

Friday, December 26, 2008

Hiking matters #38: Christmas in Kinabalu


KOTA KINABALU, MALAYSIA - Merry Christmas, everyone! I've just returned to our hotel in KK after a climb up Mt. Kinabalu with my father and younger brother. We have been looking forward to this climb for months, and fortunately, the weather cooperated, enabling us a great ascent up Laban Rata on Dec. 24, and a beautiful, breathtaking assault up Low's Peak very early on Christmas Day.

Mt. Kinabalu, Malaysia's first World Heritage Site, did not disappoint. As our taxi headed to the Kinabalu Park, the mountain loomed very impressively; its peaks an anarchic surge above the clouds. Upon our arrival at the park entrance, the organized staff went over our reservation and we were assigned a guide who took care of the rest of the procedures. Our plan was to climb up Timpohon then go down the Mesilau trail.

For the first day our destination was Laban Rata, a three-storey guesthouse around 3200 MASL. It is a 5-6 hr. hike; since it was our first time we decided to relish the park's environments. There were a lot of colorful birds and playful squirrels on our way up. The flora, too, was. Although steep, the trail was supported by wooden tracks and railings. Your progress, both horizontal and vertical, was updated by posts and rest huts -- all of which are complete with toilets.

We finally reached Laban Rata after 5 hours of relaxed hiking. It was bustling with activity; many countries were represented: France, Korea, Czech Republic, US, Germany Japan, Singapore, and of course, Malaysia. Before heading to our room, I did not miss the opportunity to take pictures of the sunset. And then, the famed buffet dinner at Laban Rata ensued; I stuffed myself with a lot of the lamb chops. It was, after all, our noche buena. Outside, the temperature was already 9 degrees C.

Very early the next day - climbers woke up to the greeting of Merry Christmas and preparations for the night trek. We started at 3 AM; half of the time the trail was roped, though most of the time it wasn't really necessary to hold on to them. In the end there were no longer any trees; even the stunted ones have been reduced to occasional shrubs that grow in the edges of the slabs of granite.

We reached the massif just as the sun was rising. Finally! The grandness of the summit area of Kinabalu cannot be described in words; it is a surge of massive granite; gray against the blue sky; grand above the tropical forests of Borneo. The array of rock calls to mind Mt. Guiting-Guiting, but this is twice the elevation. The views of the nearby mountains was fine but the runner up to the title of highest, Mt. Trusmadi, does not come close at over 2400 MASL (they say it is a challenging climb though and I am interested to check it out in the future).

Even though Mt. Kinabalu is a tourist destination, where everything is ordered and the , it is still a challenging climb, with steep trails, chilling temperatures, and an almost 2300m altitude gain.

The very summit is just one square meter of a cement block to step on, and two markers proclaiming the site to be the highest point in Borneo, with an elevation of 4095 MASL.

Later today we will be coming home. Mom will be waiting (too bad she wasn't able to make it). Will write more about Kinabalu (and post pictures) when I get back.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Mt. Cristobal Traverse Trails (1,415+)


MT. CRISTOBAL/TRAVERSE TRAILS
Quezon and Laguna

Entry point: Sitio Parang, Brgy. Sta. Lucia, Dolores
Exit point (1): Sitio Awas, Brgy. Sta. Elena, San Pablo City
Exit point (2): Brgy. Tala, Rizal, Laguna
Exit point (3): Brgy. Malaya, Nagcarlan, Laguna
LLA: 14.064° N 121.428° E, 1470 MASL (600m gain)
Days required / Hours to summit: 1-2 days / 4 hours
Specs: Major climb, Difficulty 6/9, Trail class 3-4

TECHNICAL BACKGROUND
To unify the diverse information about a traverse of Mt. Cristobal, PinoyMountaineer features all the variants of the Cristobal Traverse - including the regular Cristobal climb - in one definitive page, covering the main trail system which consists of the three major landmarks: (1) Montelibano's House; (2) the crater; and (3) Jones' Peak. In order to compare and contrast the three, we are creating a master itinerary that starts off from Dolores - in spite of the fact that most conventional climbs start off from the exit points. We are recommending Dolores as an entry point because of its fast access to the crater, and a more established guideship system in Sta. Lucia/Kinabuhayan. For a more rudimentary article about Mt. Cristobal, please see the previous article.

Jones' Peak, which is the highest point of the Cristobal Trail system, has been identified as the summit of Mt. Cristobal; this is incorrect. The true summit of Mt. Cristobal is southeast relative to Jones' Peak; it is higher by over 50 meters and is unfortunately inaccessible at the moment. Hence, PinoyMountaineer will prefer the eponymous naming of the peak (after a mountaineer who got injured in the steep descent). Since this is also the best viewpoint in the whole trail, we are recommending the Jones' Peak be the final destination of the regular Cristobal climb (instead of the crater).

From Jones' Peak, the trail diverges into three branches: the first major turn northward leads to San Pablo City and Brgy. Tala, Rizal (same trek up the village chapel as Tayak Hill). Take note that the seeming distance between Brgy. Tala, Rizal and Brgy. Sta. Elena, San Pablo if you consider the highway is accounted for by the centripetal orientation of the towns. The outer circle (the highway) may be long but within the mountain itself, Dolores and the Laguna towns are very proximate.

Meanwhile, the trail continues to Brgy. Malaya in Nagcarlan. This trail is usually established during summertime when folks from Nagcarlan climb up the mountain to visit the fiestas in Dolores - and vice versa.

How is the traverse trail like? Here is the rough breakdown:

Dolores -> Crater (4 hours): As described in the original Cristobal page, the first hour consists of ascending to Montelibano's House. Just follow the cement path up and you'll end up in the house; be courteous to the caretaker and ask permission to get water if you need it. Don't be afraid of the dogs. Here, the views of Dolores and Lucena including Tayabas Bay are nice. Then begins the almost nonstop ascent to the crater via a forested trail, the zenith of which reaches a moss density akin to Mt. Makiling. The crater, of course, is also a picturesque place albeit flooded in many an occasion. This leg is discussed in greater detail in the previous Cristobal article.

Crater -> Jones' Peak (30 mins): Some trekking within the high points of the crater area is done; the highlight of the trail is the wide path in the elevated campsite that is picturesque and reminiscent of grander mountains such as Mt. Apo and Mt. Napulauan. Then, the forest will give way into a labyrinthine path across cogonal fields - leading to the highest point in the ridge and the trail system, Jones' Peak. From Jones, the views are spectacular, featuring the entirely of San Pablo with its Seven Lakes; northward it is bounded by Mts. Kalisungan and Atimla; Mt. Makiling is also visible further; westward lies the large presence of the Malipunyo Range. It is truly a geographic vantage point; the best viewpoint for the Seven Lakes.

Jones' Peak -> Green Mountain (3.5 hours) Here lies the most difficult part of the trail, involving a steep descent from the peak. You will have to cling on to cogon - and some segments are roped to assist climbers. Beware of the rattan thorns - as well as the very noxious lipa plants that grow alongside the trail. At the same time, be vigilant for any of the fauna you might see. Still at large are monkeys, wild boar, and snakes in this area of Cristobal. There are also a variety of beetles and other fauna here. The forest will soon give way to the green fields bounding Rizal and San Pablo, but instead of going down, following the northeast, straight trail leads to Nagcarlan.

Sidetrip possibilities exist for each destination: for Rizal, Tayak Hill and the Terraza Verde Resort; for San Pablo, the Seven Lakes themselves; for Nagcarlan, Bunga Falls, and for Dolores, Sta. Lucia Falls and perhaps the curative spring of Brgy. Kinabuhayan.

All said, the Mt. Cristobal Traverse ranks among the more formidable Southern Tagalog climbs, and going for the traverse is must-try for a complete Cristobal experience!

MASTER ITINERARY

Day 1
0900 ETD for San Pablo
1200 Lunch at San Pablo plaza
1300 From market, take jeep to Kinabuhayan
1400 ETA Sitio Parang (jumpoff); Start trek
1730 ETA crater campsite
1800 Dinner / socials

Day 2
0600 Breakfast
0700 Break camp
0800 Take traverse trail
0900 ETA Jones' Peak (1415m)

BRANCH ITINERARY FOR SAN PABLO (+5 hours)
1000 Start descent from Jones' Peak
1300 ETA Green Mountain; Turn left to Brgy. Sta. Elena
1500 ETA Sitio Awas; tidy up at Bukal (natural spring)
1700 Take tricycle to highway
1800 Dinner in San Pablo
1900 Take return bus to Manila

BRANCH ITINERARY FOR RIZAL (+5.5 hours)
1000 Start traverse from Jones' Peak
1300 ETA Green Mountain; Turn right to Brgy. Tala
1400 ETA Brgy. Tala chapel; optional sidetrip to Tayak Hill
1600 Start descent to Rizal town proper
1700 Take jeepney to San Pablo town plaza
1800 Dinner in San Pablo
1900 Take return bus to Manila

BRANCH ITINERARY FOR NAGCARLAN (+6.5 hours)
1000 Start traverse from Jones' Peak
1100 Keep right instead of continuing descent
1400 ETA Brgy. Malaya, Nagcarlan
1500 optional Bunga Falls sidetrip
1700 Take jeepney to San Pablo town plaza
1800 Dinner in San Pablo
1900 Take return bus to Manila

BRANCH ITINERARY FOR DOLORES (+4 hours)
1000 Start descent from Jones' Peak
1030 Back at Crater Campsite
1300 Back at jumpoff
1400 optional Sta. Lucia Falls sidetrip
1700 Take return jeepney to Dolores then San Pablo
1800 Dinner in San Pablo
1900 Take return bus to Manila

SPECIAL CONCERNS
Transportation. Lucena-bound buses from Cubao and Buendia all pass by San Pablo City. As of December 2008, the fare is around P140 up to San Pablo 7-11. Actually from any point of San Pablo you can take a trip to the jeepney terminal to Dolores, which is just behind the public market. Fare is P30; From Dolores, take a tricycle to Sitio Parang, Brgy. Sta. Lucia.

Aside from the crater and forest campsites, Jones' Peak is also a possible campsite though it would be good enough only for two or three tents. Winds are very strong at this point. There is no water source in the campsite, however: the last water source is Montelibano's House and the first water source on the other side are either the chapel at Brgy. Tala; the spring in Brgy. Sta. Elena; or Brgy. Malaya. However, there is little risk for dehydration as most of the trail has excellent forest cover.

Take note that the crater can become a swamp in the rainy season; if so, two nearby small campsites can accommodate tents. Strong winds plus high elevation equals a cold and windy night when camping, so prepare accordingly.

Cellphone signal is non-assured in the crater campsite, but is strong in Jones' Peak and most parts of the traverse trails.

A contact number for doing the traverse trails is still Kuya Lito of Brgy. Kinabuhayan; he can guide you around the Cristobal Trails; just specify your itinerary. He may be reached at 09214647618 (2013 updated number). No permits are necessary to climb Mt. Cristobal but we are appealing to all mountaineers to preserve the pristine state of the mountain.

TRIVIA
The usefulness of the hated plants and thorns of Cristobal is a marvel. Rattan thorns that cling on bags, clothes, ears, and skin are actually used by locals as a trap for birds and bats - and the lipa leaves have proved their effectiveness against Japanese soldiers who unwittingly used the innocent-looking leaves to wipe their asses during World War II. The indescribable pain caused to say that "In Dolores, even grasses fight against us!". As for mountaineers, the treatment for lipa exposure is actually the sap of the plant itself.

RELATED POSTS
The author's experiences of Mt. Cristobal Traverse are narrated in Hiking Matters #37 and Hiking matters #351.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Hiking matters #37: Cristobal Crossover


After Tirad Pass, my next adventure was a traverse of Mt. Cristobal, from Dolores, Quezon - to - of all places - San Pablo City! Yep, we did not cross to Nagcarlan or Rizal, but to the city of Seven Lakes. Joining me in this climb were my friends in UP Med. And of course, my longtime guide, Kuya Lito of Brgy. Kinabuhayan, was with us.

We arrived late in Dolores, but then we lost no time in ascending to the crater. It took around 3.5 hours - with some nighttrekking involved. I don't need to tell you the details of the crater campsites - I'm sure it is familiar ground to many mountaineers. It had been raining the whole month, so the crater was a swamp, but it spared the proximal campsite where we set up our tents.

Fortunately it was a sunny day - and a moony night (full moon is always a blessing when you climb). But by 0300H the next day, the clouds started to fill in the blanks, and by the time we woke up, it was raining hard. The temperature dropped to around 17 C, and we didn't want to leave the tent! But we had to -- it would be a long day still and further delays may threaten our return to Manila for medical school.

And so the real adventure actually began when undertook the traverse. From the crater campsite, we took the north path, up the elevated campsite, and after following the trail for thirty minutes, we reached what is known as Jones' Peak - at 1415 MASL the highest point in the entire Cristobal trail system (the summit, at 1470 MASL is still higher but it is not accessible).

At first, the peak was just like a flat piece of ground but when the clouds opened up, we were enthralled by the view of the entire City of San Pablo - and all the seven lakes (WNW) plus of course the other mountains in the area, namely Mt. Kalisungan and Atimla (NW) and even Mt. Makiling (NW). Malipunyo loomed to the west, and beyond Laguna Lake on the other side - the urban plains of Laguna and Muntinlupa could be gleaned.

After Jones' Peak, we plummeted down a very sharp descent, clinging to cogon grass for support. At times, ropes were in place for safety purposes. Thank you to the guys who put them in place (and thanks also to those who put the yellow and red ribbons as trail signs). Somewhere down the road, the trail diverged into various subtrails leading to Rizal and Nagcarlan; we headed to the leftmost branch which serendipitously took me to my hometown! It was still a laborious trek in steep trails, made more difficult by the rattan thorns, but there was the visual reward of seeing the Seven Lakes in front of you. We spotted a young monkey jumping from branch to branch; a snake hanging in one of the trees; and some wild boar tracks.

Then after the forest ended, the tayak grass appeared - with bananas - and we reached a scenic, almost Cinco Picos-like Green Mountain - a pilgrimage spot which looks very much like Tayak Hill (there is a hut atop). But when I asked where we were, it turns out that we had landed in Sitio Awas, Brgy. Sta. Elena in San Pablo City! Still, it was another 1.5 hours of descent before we finally reached the road. I treated my pals to crispy pata in Max's San Pablo for a job well done!

This is my 26th climb of the year. One or two more climb to go and I'm ready to end another year of adventure. Watch out for a detailed itinerary of the Mt. Cristobal Traverse to be posted soon in PinoyMountaineer!


PINOYMOUNTAINEER IN MT. CRISTOBAL

PinoyMountaineer Charity Climb I: Mt. Pulag (2,922+)


PinoyMountaineer Charity Climb I: Mt. Pulag (2,922+)
Ambangeg Trail, Kabayan, Benguet
Climb schedule: February 7-8, 2009
Meeting place: Victory Terminal - EDSA Pasay 0000H
Climb director: Gideon Lasco

Slots available: (29/54)

BACKGROUND
For the first time, PinoyMountaineer is organizing a climb for the twofold purpose of gathering readers of the blog and other mountaineers together and supporting charitable endeavors ranging from donating medicines to the Kalanguya tribes in Mt. Pulag to helping improve the conditions in PGH Pediatric Wards.

The choice of Mt. Pulag, via the Ambangeg-Ambangeg trail, reflects the emphasis of the annual climb: this is not hardcore climbing challenge, but an easy trail with beautiful views - undoubtedly Mt. Pulag is one of the best loved mountains by Filipino mountaineers. Interaction among the participants is highly encouraged.

Everyone is welcome to join the climb and support this event.

TENTATIVE ITINERARY

Day 1: February 7, 2009
0000 Assembly at Victory Liner - Pasay
0030 ETD for Baguio
0630 ETA Baguio; breafkast
0800 ETD for Mt. Pulag by jeep
1100 ETA Visitors' Center; orientation; lunch
1130 Symbolic turnover of donated medicines
1200 Ascent to Ranger Stn.
1300 Start trek
1700 ETA Campsite
1800 Dinner / socials

Day 2: February 8, 2009
0400 Early assault for summit sunrise
08000 Back at campsite
1200 Back at Ranger Station
1400 Head back to Baguio City
1700 Back in Baguio
1800 Dinner
1900 Head back to Manila

SPECIAL CONCERNS
Budget: The budget for the climb is P3,000. Inclusive are:
Roundtrip aircon bus fare Manila-Baguio vv.
Roundtrip jeepney ride Baguio-Ranger Stn vv.
Park and camping fees
Guides and medical personnel
Climb shirt, ID, certficites
Contribution to various charities
Meals/food NOT included*

*Due to different preferences in food and the logistical difficulty, PinoyMountaineer is giving everyone the liberty to prepare and have their own meals and trail food throughout the trip.

Logistics: The group will be divided into groups, for which volunteer team leaders will be assigned.

Beneficiaries: PGH Pediatrics wards c/o Mu Sigma Phi Service Committee
Kabayan, Benguet Health Office c/o Mt. Pulag National Park
T'boli Evangelical Health Clinic, South Cotabato

*Climbers may elect to give additional support to the donors by depositing an amount in excess of the P3,000.

WHO CAN JOIN THE CLIMB
Everyone can sign up for the climb so long as the slots are still available. Beginners will be allowed but they will have to be matched with the number of experienced participants.

HOW TO JOIN THE CLIMB
First step: Fill up the application form and send to info@pinoymountaineer.com. Each individual must have a separate application form. Please DO NOT send applications unless you are certain of participtation. Applications are NON-TRANSFERABLE.

Successful applications will be notified by email within 12 days.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Tirad Pass Traverse - Sagada (1,312+)


TIRAD PASS TRAVERSE - SAGADA
Gregorio del Pilar, Ilocos Sur

Entry point: Poblacion, Gregorio del Pilar
Exit point: Polacion, Quirino, Ilocos Sur
LLA: N 17.08.43.5; E 120.38.02.4; 1312 MASL (HP)
Days / hours required: 2 days / 2 hours (shrine); 8 hours (traverse)
Specs: Major climb, Difficulty 5/9, Trail class 1-2, Historical trail

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
Tirad Pass is one of the most memorable places in Philippine history. The year was 1899. In just over a year - the First Philippine Republic was established and independence proclaimed against the Spanish Empire against all odds - only to be confronted by another colonial power - the United States of America.

With just a month bfore the turn of the century, Aguinaldo and his men were in retreat. They had gone northward, and finding themselves in Ilocos Sur, they had no choice but to escape to the mountainous Cordilleras for refuge. However, with the Americans fast gaining on them, the heavy task of repulsing the "Texas Regiment" fell upon one of the youngest generals of the Philippine Republic, Gregorio del Pilar. His mission was not victory; it was enough that he would buy enough time for Aguinaldo to escape -- at the price of his own life.

Historians and locals alike recall the heroic: On the fateful day of December 2nd, 1899; the five-hour melee took place in the lonely mountain pass, described by American war correspondents as the "battle above the clouds". In a twist of events reminiscent of the Spartan defense of Thermopylae, a local named Januario Galut betrayed the defenders and showed to the enemy an alternative trail - enabling the Americans to circumvent the Filipino defenses. At the end of this "Lonely Trail", a sniper perched himself on a hill (now known as the Sniper's Knoll) and from there, he shot the 24-year old del Pilar, killing him. All but eight of his sixty men suffered the same fate - death - but Aguinaldo and the hope of freedom has been saved.

The marauding Americans looted the personal effects, leaving all "but his glory" . In his diary was found these words: "I am overwhelmed by the fate that awaits me and my men, but I am honored to wdie for my country." Thus were the words in the final night of the general's life; and he wrote thus in Illengan Cave - "the cave of rest" - until now still offering refuge to passing travellers and mountaineers.

MOUNTAINEERING BACKGROUND
The Tirad Pass Traverse - Sagada cross country Trail is one of the "Great Cordillera Traverses"; and it was a favorite by the earlier generations of mountaineers. During the 1980s and 1990s, a lot of mountaineers took the full trail, and different clubs had their own itineraries. However, for unknown reasons the trail has lost its popularity. Yet, because the trail is continually used by the locals, it is still surprisingly well-established, and as of Dec. 2008 when the blogger took the Tirad Pass trail, it is still in excellent condition.

ITINERARY
Tirad Pass Traverse - Sagada

Day 1: GDP -> Marker
0300 From Pasay or Cubao, take bus to Candon, Ilocos Sur
1030 ETA Candon. Lunch, purchase supplies
1300 Take jeep to Gregorio del Pilar (P75)
1500 ETA GDP; courtesy call, register
1530 Start ascent via Tirad Pass
1730 Arrival at Gregorio del Pilar Shrine; set up camp
1800 Sunset viewing
1900 Dinner / socials

Day 2: Shrine -> Quirino
0700 Breakfast / Break camp
0800 Start traverse to Quirino
1000 ETA Long's campsite (boundary between Quirino and GDP)
1500 Arrival at Quirino Poblacion
1600 Set up camp at elementary school
1800 Dinner / socials

Day 3: Quirino -> Besao -> Sagada
0700 Breakfast / Break camp
0800 Head to Besao
1300 ETA Besao; lunch; take jeep to Sagada
1500 ETA Sagada; take lodging
1800 Dinner in any of Sagada's restaurants

Day 4: Sagada Exploration
0700 Breakfast
0800 Explore Bomod-ok Waterfalls
1200 Lunch
1300 Explore Sumaguing Cave
1800 Dinner

Day 5: Mt. Ampacao
0700 Head early for Mt. Ampacao
0900 ETA Mt. Ampacao summit
1100 Back
1200 Final lunch in Sagada
1300 Take jeep to Bontoc
1400 ETA Bontoc
1600 Take Cable Bus Tours to Manila

Day 6
0200 ETA Manila

*This is an interruptible itinerary; you may choose to terminate the trek in any day with the following entry points: Day 2 (1600 Take rented jeepney to Candon 1900 ETA Candon; head back to Manila); Day 3 (0700 Take regular jeepney to San Fernando, La Union 1100 ETA La Union; lunch; head back to Manila) Day 4 (1300 Take bus to Bontoc or Banaue; 1600; From Bontoc or Banaue; take bus to Manila)

TIRAD PASS TRAVERSE TRAIL MAP


SPECIAL CONCERNS
Transportation. It is possible to rent a jeepney from Candon to GDP or vice versa, but the rental cost is quite expensive (P1800/way); it is even more expensive to rent a jeepney from Quirino to Candon. The much cheaper alternative, especially for small groups, is to adjust the itinerary according to the regular jeepney trips. Jeepneys leave Candon to GDP at around 1300H daily, and they return to GDP at 0700H, daily as well (P75 either way). From Quirino, there are trips to San Fernando, La Union; Candon; and nearby towns: they likewise leave early in the morning.

Logistics. It is best to coordinate your trip first with the tourism officer of GDP, Mr. Macario Burgos. He may be contacted at +639265331076. There is a registration fee of P25/person for the park. Guides may be offered to you but they are actually not needed as the Tirad Pass trail is very easy to follow.

Cellphone signal is present in most parts of the trail. The last water source in GDP is just 15 minutes upstream from the shrine - there is a waterless hiatus of 4-5 hours before reaching the first water source in Quirino

RELATED POSTS
The blogger's climb in Tirad Pass is narrated in Hiking Matters #36.

Hiking matters #36: A note from Tirad Pass


TIRAD PASS (by hand) - So this is it; the place where the "Battle above the Clouds" was fought; where the 'Boy General', Gregorio del Pilar, and his sixty men staked their lives for freedom. One cannot help but feel that this is a walk through history, more than a major climb.

The winds are coastal and fierce; it reaches us from South China Sea, which we can see beyond the towns of Ilocos Sur (W). Meanwhile, del Pilar's statue is immovable.

The Tirad Pass trail - a traverse trail from Gregorio del Pilar to Quirino - is actually a very nice, well-maintained trail, perhaps one of the oldest trails in the Philippines, and still being used by the locals. The jeepney ride to GDP from Candon yesterday was exhilirating; we had the cross the river more than a dozen times! And that, amid a Manalmon-like background.

We spent the night just above the del Pilar's shrine; although the elevation of 900m is no reason to wear a jacket, the fierce winds were chilling.

Today, we will follow this trail onwards to Quirino where there is a town fiesta; but alas we will have to turn back to GDP because there's only three of us and chartering a jeep will cost a fortune. Oh, if only there was time we could go onwards to Besao then Sagada.

But I am very glad I've finally reached Tirad Pass. I will blog about this later..

This note was written from a piece of paper from the registration logbook at Tirad Pass National Shrine on Dec. 7, 2008.

Monday, December 8, 2008

PinoyMountaineer Annual Climb I: Mt. Pulag


PinoyMountaineer is pleased to announce the first annual climb that will be organized by the blog, an open charity climb up Mt. Pulag via the Ambangeg Trail on February 7-8, 2009. Everyone is invited! I am personally leading this climb with mountaineering colleagues and I look forward to meeting everyone who will join this hike for a cause.

So I hope you will calendar this climb and save up for it! Details are now posted in this link. Please be guided accordingly.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Mt. Bungkol Baka (551+)


MT. BUNGKOL BAKA
San Jose, Tarlac

Major jumpoff: Sitio San Pedro, Brgy. Iba, San Jose
LLA: 551 MASL
Days required / Hours to summit: 1 day / 3-4 hours
Specs: Minor climb, Difficulty 3/9, Trail class 1-3

Information and pictures for this article were provided by the Tarlac Mountaineering Club. The exploration of the trail is attributed to the UP Mountaineers. PinoyMountaineer thanks TMC and Sir Dax Simbol and for making this article possible.

NOTE: This is an obsolete itinerary. It has been succeeded by the San Jose Circuit itinerary where the latest information and updates on this mountain are available. Please visit the successor article.

BACKGROUND
After we featured of the Tapulao Traverse trail from Mayantoc, Tarlac, we are pleased to release an itinerary of another hiking destination in the province, Mt. Bungkol Baka in San Jose. Literally meaning "cow's hump" - the name is descriptive of the mountain's shape and suggestive of its pastoral importance as a grazing place for cattle. The mountain is within the homeland of the ethnic Abeling people -- you will have a chance to interact with them for their men are the ones who serve as guides/porters for this trek. The Abeling are similar to the Aeta - but their hair are not curly, and they have sharper noses.

The trek takes 3-4 hours, and is quite benign. The first leg involves some river crossings, then a bamboo forest ensues, followed by the assault to the summit - a brief, "Maculot-like" hike. The beginning of this assault is marked by a guava tree. At the summit, you will be treated to a view of the nearby towns; notable landmarks to see include the San Jose Dam and Ngile River. You may encounter cows grazing - in keeping with the mountain's name. All said, the mountain is a benign climb - and a fresh destination.

ITINERARY

Day 1
0400 Assembly at Avenida or Cubao bus terinal
0700 ETA Tarlac; take tricycle to jeepney terminal at public market
0715 ETA public market; buy supplies; take jeep to San Jose (1hr)
0900 ETA San Jose (Iba) terminal; register at brgy. hall
0915 Hike to Sitio San Pedro, secure guides
0930 Start trek
1045 ETA Sitio Ongyan - rest
1100 Resume trek
1200 Lunch at Makalaskas creek (last water source)
1400 Resume trek
1500 ETA Bungkol Baka Peak; set up camp
1800 Dinner / socials

Day 2
0530 Sunrise viewing / Breakfast
0700 Break camp
0800 Start descent
1100 Back at San Jose, take jeep back to Tarlac City
1200 Lunch at Tarlac City
1300 Take return bus back to Manila
1700 ETA Manila

SPECIAL CONCERNS
Transportation. It should not be hard to find transportation to Tarlac City - there are buses from Avenida and Cubao plying the route. From Tarlac City, the fare to San Jose is P65 but it is also possible to hire a jeep to take you there for P1,500.

There are limatiks at the Makalaskas area, and climbers are advised to wear long-sleeved shirts to prevent scratches from weeds and thorns. Cellphone signal is present throughout the trail.

Tarlac Mountaineering Club is happy to assist mountaineers who wish to seek help in logistics for this climb. For inquiries and comments, you may contact them at tarlacmc@gmail.com.

BUNGKOL BAKA PICTURES

The slope of the mountain is surrounded by rice fields.


The peak area has a nice view of the surrounding towns.


The peak of Bungkol Baka is rocky and has a distinct shape.

TRIVIA
The UP Mountaineers led by Buboy Francisco were among the first groups - if not the first - to discover the mountain as a mountaineering destination.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

AMCI's Great Outdoor Sale on Dec 13-14


The Great Outdoor Sale of AMCI is a promising source of mountaineering stuff for the Christmas season and beyond. Visit the Sale from Dec 13-14 (10am-6am) at 7403 Bernardino St. (near JP Rizal), Guadalupe, Makati City. For more information, contact Niel Dagondon at niel@dagondon.com.

Mt. Apo/Sibulan-Kapatagan Traverse (2956+)


MT. APO (SIBULAN-KAPATAGAN TRAIL)
Davao del Sur

Entry point: Brgy. Sibulan, Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur
Exit point: Brgy. Kapatagan, Digos, Davao del Sur
LLA: 7°0′30″N, 125°16′33″E, 2,956 MASL (#1)
Days required / Hours to summit: 3-4 days / 14-16 hours
Specs: Major Climb, Difficulty 8/9, Trail class 2-4

by Julius Paner, Mindanao Correspondent
PinoyMountaineer.com

BACKGROUND: WALK ON WILDERNESS
Sibulan Trail of Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur is one of the entry points to Mount Apo as officially declared by the Protected Area Management Board. A memorable adventure awaits you as you rediscover the trail where the first successful climb to Mt. Apo peak was led by Don Joaquin Rajal, a Politico-Military Governor of Davao with Datu Manib of Sibulan as their guide, dating back to year 1880.

River crossing warns you up as you start the trekking activities, although Tibolo route is an option during rainy days. You will have to cross the river fifteen times and along the way you will see the abandoned dam where time and Mother Nature nurtured the man-made structure as it is now perfectly adapted to the scenery. Trekkers have to climb over the walls of the dam using sturdy vines on the sides as ropes.

Tarzan-like swing can also be tried to cross the rampaging water although the stretch of water maybe crossed by foot.

The school campus of Tudaya Elementary School serves as the first holding camp. While staying in sitio Tudaya, we invite you to go beyond your imagination as you explore the awesome spectacle of Tudaya Falls. It has an estimated 300 feet high that drops to a 50-meter diameter pool. When you go behind the rampaging waterfall you can understand why tourists describe it “as if she is watching a movie in a wide screen where computer-generated nuclear bomb explosion is shown but the difference is that the doom is the farthest thing in one’s mind as lush vegetation abounds, forever battered by the driving wind and mist.” The spray of swirling droplets generated by the strong falling waters get you WET ON WATERS.

Learn the culture of the Bagobo tribe, and witness the WORKS ON WEAVING the abaca clothing as their treasured traditional arts. You can also join their Tribal Day celebrated every last week of October.

Takamuri Campsite of Sitio Colan serves also as your base to pitch your tent. You can view the magnificent gorge of Mt. Apo early in the morning till 9:00 in the morning likewise in the evening if weather permits. To add to your wholesome adventure, you may take a dip at Mundo Apo Hot Spring with its curative attributes.

Tinikaran Holding Camps 1 and 2 are optional places to take your rest within the forest. In case you arrive beyond 3:00 in the afternoon, it is advisable to proceed to the peak the following day for your safety. At Tinikaran, nature welcomes you with the birds chirping in symphony with the swaying of trees and an offer of the sweet wild berries. If you are fortunate enough, you can also have the citing of the Philippine Eagle.

Gain your strength with the nature hug. Your third day brings you to breathtaking expedition as you begin to ascend the boulders of Mt. Apo. On the side is the crater where you will see the sulfur deposits.

When you reach at the peak, your vigorous exercise will surely be rewarded when you seemingly feel you’re on top of the world.

On your way back, an Almaciga century tree is the common landmark that you are still within the Sibulan Trail. If Mother Nature permits, you will be brought to the “Garden of Eden” perfectly landscaped by nature with white sand, wild plants and flowers. You will cherish into your heart the WEALTH OF WONDERS.

Dare Sibulan Trail, the strenuous but challenging route….An experience foe lifetime, the adventure, culture and nature.

SIBULAN TRAIL MAP


ITINERARY
SIBULAN-KAPATAGAN TRAVERSE


Day 1

0500 ETD (Davao City to Darong)
0600 Motorcycle Ride to Sibulan Barangay Hall
0700 Briefing/Orientation
0800 ETD to Sibulan River
0900 Start river trek (Lunch along the way)
1400 ETA at Tudaya Falls
1600 Tudaya Elementary School Campsite
1800 ETA at Takamuri Campsite

Day 2
0500 Wake Up Call (Prepare Breakfast and Packed Lunch)
0700 ETD from Takamuri Campsite to Garuk
0800 ETA at Garuk
1100 ETA at Tinikaran Holding Camp 1 (Lunch)
1300 ETA at Tinikaran Holding Camp 2
1700 ETA at Mount Apo Summit

Day 3
0500 Watch Sunrise and Panoramic Views
0700 Prepare Breakfast
0800 Breakfast
0900 Peak Hopping
1200 Lunch
1300 Trek Down to Lake Venado
1500 ETA at Lake Venado

Day 4
0600 Wake Up Call (Prepare Breakfast and Packed Lunch)
0800 ETD from Lake Venado
1100 ETA at Almaciga Century Tree Holding Camp
1300 ETA at Garuk
1400 ETA at Colan
1500 ETA at Kapatagan
1800 Back in Davao City


ARRANGING A MT. APO TRIP
Mt. Apo, as the highest mountain in the Philippines, attracts a lot of attention from hikers all over the world. PinoyMountaineer.com can help visitors arrange a trip to Mt. Apo. We can secure hiking permits, English-speaking guides, porters, and even tents and camp foods, as well as design itineraries based on your schedules. Depending on your specifications, we can contact local guides or even link you with local hiking clubs. A 2-day, 3-day, 4-day, and even a 5-day Apo are also possible, and there are several trails to choose from. Just emailinfo@pinoymountaineer.com for details.

SPECIAL CONCERNS
To give you an idea on the expenses, the following are the expenses incurred during an organized trip: Registration Fee: PhP 500.00; Exit Fee (At Kapatagan) : PhP 200.00; Tour Guide Fee : PhP 500 per Day (With Free Meals); Porter’s Fee: PhP 300 per Day (With Free Meals)

Note: A porter carries maximum load of 15 kilos and charges an additional 10 pesos/kilo/day in excess of 15 kilos. A fraction of the day of the porter’s services, either on the first or on the last is considered whole day.

You may contact the contributor of this itinerary for more information: Mr. JULIUS R. PANER, Sta. Cruz Tourism Office: Cel #0920-8567991; e-mail: trekjulpanz@yahoo.com.

MT. APO VIA SIBULAN TRAIL PICTURES

Encamped at Tinikiran - home to a beautiful forest


Interacting with the Bag0bo tribesfolk makes the Apo trek a cultural experience as well.


One of the more breathtaking - and challenging - part of the Apo trek is 'the Boulders' that lead to Mt. Apo's summit

TRIVIA
This is the third Mt. Apo traverse trail described in PinoyMountaineer, the first two being Kidapawan-Magpet and Kapatagan-Kidapawan.

MT. APO TRAILS
Mt. Apo/Kidapawan-Magpet: Davao + North Cotabato / 2956m (#1)
Mt. Apo/Kapatagan-Kidapawan: Davao + North Cotabato / 2956m (#1)
Mt. Apo/Sibulan-Kapatagan: Davao del Sur / 2956m (#1)

Julius Paner, Mindanao Correspondent for PinoyMountaineer

PinoyMountaineer is pleased to introduce Sir Julius Paner as our correspondent for Mindanao. A veteran mountaineer, he is coordinator of climbs up Mt. Apo as a tourism officer of Sta. Cruz Municipality, Davao del Sur; he is also the president of the Local Government of Sta. Cruz Adventure Club (LOGSAC) and Membership Commitee official of the Mountaineering Federation of Southern Mindanao (MFSM).

Sir Julius will have a monthly column in the blog, entitled "Boulder Face". With his knowledge and experience in Mindanao mountaineering, we hope to expand our coverage of mountains and hiking trails in Mindanao. For this month, Sir Julius' contribution is an itinerary of Mt. Apo via the Sibulan Trail.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Valungid Peak (160+)


VALUNGID PEAK
Bo. Chavayan, Sabtang, Batanes

Jumpoff: Opposite Chamantad sanctuary, Bo. Chavayan
LLA: 160 MASL
Days required / Hours to summit: Half-day / 30 minutes
Specs: Minor climb, Difficulty 3/9, Trail class 4

BACKGROUND
The elusive and distant island of Sabtang in Batanes is one of the most beautiful places in the entire archipelago. Villages of stone houses - such as in Chavayan and Savidug - are in themselves enchating, but they are even made more so by the backdrop of grand coastlines, facing the waters between Pacific Ocean and South China Sea, as well as the rocky hills.

The customary tour of Sabtang includes, as its first stop, the Chamantad Marine Sanctuary, at the arc marking the entrance to Brgy. Chavayan. PinoyMountaineer is introducing a short but very nice trek as a great addendum to this stop. The destination is called valungid Peak, and it is just at the opposite side of the road relative to Chamantad. This hill is rocky and meadowy at the same time, with plants called voyavoy beautifying the place. The highlight of the climb is scrambling up the rocky face of the peak. Sometimes you have to pass between two boulders. The winds are fierce and deafening and the views magnificent; in spite of the low altitude (160 MASL), the feeling is as though you are on the highlands.

At the summit, marked by a rock which is reminiscent of Pico de Loro closer to home, the views are tantalizing: you can see the roads winding along the western coast of - culminating in Bo. Chavayan; and prominent in the views are also the other hills of Chavayan,. To the east is Batan Island with Mts. Iraya and Matarem; and directly below you is the Chamantad landscape. Both literally and figuratively, the Valungid hike heightens the Sabtang tour, and for mountaineers, this brief trek is highly recommended.

ITINERARY
Valungid Hill is just a thirty minute hike from Chamantad Marine Sanctuary. Although grand, the overwhelming landscapes of Sabtang is essential to the experience and thus the itinerary for this destination will fall under the main "Batanes for Mountaineers" article to be posted shortly in PinoyMountaineer.com

SPECIAL CONCERNS
Some rock climbing/scrambling experience is required when attempting a climb of Valungid Peak. Whereas Chamantad beneath does not have cellphone signal, Valungid has good reception. Must-brings include a windbreaker for the fierce gales and gloves for the G2-like rocky face.

VALUNGID PEAK PICTURES

Scrambling up the rocky face of Valungid Peak is the main adventure.


The voyavoy plants deck the slopes; here the view is that of the scenic Chamantad Sanctuary.


Views at the peak include the western side of Sabtang, facing South China Sea, and the winding coastal roads leading to Chavayan.

TRIVIA

Nomenclature: No pre-existing data for names has been detailed, so PinoyMountaineer is taking the liberty of provisionary nomenculature. we are preferring Valungid Peak since it is the local name according to village elders. The spelling follows the correct Ivatan.

I was told by village elders that the PALMC did an earlier, 30-man exploration of Sabtang as a mountaineering destination way back in 1996.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Hiking matters #35: Back to Batanes / The hills of Sabtang


BASCO, BATANES - I'm sure a lot of people are still on the trail - or on the road right now. Fortunately for me, I got the long weekend off - my first free weekend in four months - and I decided to return to Batanes, accompanying my blogging partner Ivan Henares. All 70 minutes of the SEAIR flight went smoothly, and it is a true delight to be back here in the "Land of Winds".

It is cooler now compared to the hot, humid week I spent here just this April. And Iraya - the mountain of winds - has been unusually clear for the last three days; I was really tempted to climb it once more. But I came here as a form of retreat, to relax, and I had to content myself with less adventurous pursuits. We bicycled around Basco; we visited former Education Secretary Florencio Abad in their scenic, stately estate; and we toured Batan and Sabtang. The set meal of lobsters and native Ivatan fare was again delightful - but the boat ride across "the meeting of the Pacific Ocean and South China Sea" not so much.

My only bonus as a mountaineer was my personal discovery of new hiking trails in Sabtang. First destination: the locals say it is called Valungid Peak opposite the beautiful Chamantad Marine Sanctuary. The view from the peak is tantalizing! I will write about this when I get back to Manila. I also took the trails up the other hils of Chavayan, which included the famed Mt. Sleeping Beauty. The local - and preferred name for the maiden is Valungot Peak, and I'll post an itinerary on this peak as well. The vilage elder said that the first group that took interest in the mountains of Sabtang was PALMC back in 1996. One of these days, I should ask them about their own discoveries.

Sabtang is really a nice place for mountaineering and camping. And here in Batan, of course, there is Mt. Iraya and Mt. Matarem. Then there is Itbayat - the northernmost inhabited island in the Philippines, but it is inaccessible at the moment. Next time!

Meanwhile, we're off for pizza and pasta at Casa Napoli, the famed and only Italian restaurant in these parts. And for a finale, traditional Ivatan massage. Tomorrow I'll be back to Manila and the hospital, but today I'll enjoy this vacation while it lasts!

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