It was reported a few days ago that a Belgian, Bert Peeters, and four Filipino companions: lawyer Gari Bernal, Angelito Agustin, Luzviminda Lopez and Narciso Gumangan were rescued in Isabela together with their guide, Nonie dela Pena, a Dumagat. The group was on their way in a Sierra Madre Traverse via Mt. Cresta, the highest point in the Palanan-Divilacan area, when a swollen Abuan River stranded their group. They were rescued by NolCom after seven days of trekking in what was described as an “immediate response”. Considering the logistical and material difficulties of our armed services, they deserve commendation since they’re always there whenever a rescue of trekkers is needed. Thankfully, there were no casualties in this incident.
From a mountaineering perspective, the trekkers were on the right track, pursuing a beautiful destination, only that perhaps they took a more perilous trail to reach the other side of the range. For the past twenty years, a Sierra Madre Traverse has excited (and drawn) a lot of trekkers, particularly foreign trekkers, but somehow this wave of interest has not caught up with mainstream mountaineering, though I know of some mountaineers who are keenly interested in pursuing this, particularly the Aguinaldo trail. If I have time I intend to pursue the Sierra Madre Traverse this year.
Martin Pachner, an Austrian trekker I’ve corresponded with, used to share with us his experiences in doing a number of Sierra Madre Traverses. He specifically warned about the dangers of river crossing. For the benefit of enthusiasts who will pursue this track in the future, I will post his information in PinoyMountaineer.com very soon.