MTS. SIMAGAYSAY-TUMARID TRAVERSE
Solsona, Ilocos Norte
Major jumpoff: Brgy. Lomboy (?), Solsona
LLA: 1402 MASL (Simagaysay); 1560 MASL (Timarid)
Days required / Hours to summit: 3 days / 8 hours (S); 12 hours (T)
Specs: Major climb, Difficulty 7/9, Trail class 2-4
Features: Pine forest, Traverse trail, River crossing
One of he western gateways of the little-explored Northern Cordillera range are the twin mountains, Mt. Simagaysay and Mt. Timarid. Located in Solsona, Ilocos Norte and bordering Apayao province, the twin mountains’ names are Ilocano in origin, the former meaning ‘comb’ and the latter meaning ‘sharp’ – truly an apt description as will be experienced by mountaineers who will climb through its steep, pine-surrounded slopes which call to mind Mt. Ugo and comprise one of the highlights of the trail.
But there is more that makes this destination a compelling climb. The first part takes the climber up what is known as the ‘Plateau’, a vast expanse of elevated pastureland around 300 MASL, scenic for its views of Ilocos Norte and historic for the World War II battles that allegedly took place in its strategic location. A more palpable treat in the Plateau are the duhat trees that provide a delicious trail food as a buena mano in the expedition.
Beyond and above the Plateau, grassland slopes ensue, with rolling hills that evoke the grassland summit of Mt. Pulag; only that the grass here are fiery green and the environment, contrary to Pulag’s chilling cold, can get scorching hot with the absence of tree cover. You can orient yourself with the mountains, with Mt. Kilang lying NNE and Mt. Burnay SSE. Only after three or four hours of climbing will you reach the true foot of the first mountain – here a dense, highland forest envelopes the team, after which, after a total of eight hours from jumpoff, the peak of Mt. Simagaysay will finally be reached.
At the summit of Mt. Simagaysay is a wide campsite, overlooking Ilocos Norte, with mighty Laoag river snaking across it and South China Sea beyond. Surrounded by pine trees and endowed with the same cool clime of Ugo and mid-elevation Pulag, it is truly a lofty and pleasant campsite.
The next day, the adventure continues with a traverse from Simagaysay to Timarid – easily a half-day endeavor. Brace yourself for ridges that once again call to mind Mt. Ugo: steep, surrounded by pines, and with breathtaking views. This trail is interrupted by a trail-less forest that leads to Timarid summit, but from the summit to the distal end of the ridge takes about another four hours. Finally, at the tip of the Timarid ridge the trail branches off into two: the right leads to the elusive and majestic Mt. Sicapoo, the never-been-summitted highest point in the Ilocos Region. The left turn is no less of an adventure as it leads to Gasgas River and its numerous stream crossings.
If there is stil time on the second day, one can commence the descent and watch the pines transition into tropical forests, and finally into the lowland streams of Gasgas River in a crossing worthy of Apo’s Kidapawan Trail. Although completing the stream crossings and reaching the nearest vilage can less than half a day, the streams can turn forbidding and dangerous, with flashfloods occuring even in sunny weather, due to highland rains in the mountain range. No less than 18 streams are to be crossed, and without assistance or prior experience this could be very challenging.
In 2009, the blogger joined the first group of mountaineers to climb the twin mountains (Mt. Simagaysay FA July 13, 2009; Mt. Tumarid FA July 14, 2009); as well as the first to perform a traverse. The ONE Degree Mountaineering Group based in Laoag, Ilocos Norte organized this first climb led by Archie Pinzon. This itinerary is a product of this exploratory effort.
1800 From Manila take bus to Laoag (P600)
0600 ETA Laoag; Take jeep to Solsona
0700 Register at Solsona Police Station
0745 ETA jumpoff; finalize guides
0800 Start trek
1200 ETA foot of Mt. Simagaysay peak
1530 ETA Mt. Simagaysay summit; set up camp
1800 Dinner / socials
0600 Breakfast / Break camp
0700 Commence traverse to Mt. Timarid
0900 ETA Mt. Timarid summit
1200 ETA Sicapoo Junction; Lunch
1300 Turn left for the descent to Gasgas
1600 ETA Gasgas River; set up camp
0600 Breakfast / Break camp
0700 Commence river crossing
1200 End of trek; Take tricycle to Solsona proper
1300 From Solsona, take jeep to Laoag
1400 ETA Laoag; late lunch; city tour
1900 Take Manila-bound bus (P600)
Logistics. Right now, there are no mechanisms in place for do-it-yourself contacting of guides in Solsona. Instead, you can make contact with the ONE Degree Mountaineering Group and they can help you make arrangements for firstname.lastname@example.org.
Transportation. From Manila to Laoag, a number of buses ply the route including Maria de Leon, Farinas Trans, and Florida Bus Lines. These liners have terminals in Espana along Lacson St. Fare is around P600 one-way as of Aug. 2009
Special concerns. Perhaps the most dangerous part of the traverse is the descent via Gasgas River; caution must always be observed before attemptin the crossing. If inclement weather is upon the team, the may choose to make Timarid summit the endpoint on early morning of Day 2, then turn back to the entry point, returning to Mt. Simagaysay or its slopes as Day 2 campsite.
Temperature is cool, 13-20 degrees, at the summit of Mt. Simagaysay. Cellphone signal is present in Day 1 and Day 2 of the itinerary but absent in the traverse side of Timarid Ridge all the way to Gasgas River.
The blogger carelessly and unfortunately lost all his pictures of the traverse when his camera phone fell down the waters of Coron in July 2009. The only two existing photos are posted here together with the pictures of the ONE Degree Mountaineering Group.
This climb is the third of a series of explorations pursued by the ONE Degree Mountaineering Group. The first two, Mt. Palemlem and Mt. Linao both in Adams, have previously been featured in PinoyMountaineer.com. Their itineraries will be posted soon.