Continued from Hiking matters #187: From Tarak Peak, we headed down to Tarak Ridge and glimpsed at Manila Bay and the islands, chief of which was Corregidor. The clouds were coming up with the threat of rain, but we were undaunted: we had already negotiated Paniquian river and the Magellan Trail: the risk of erosion or flashfloods had been eliminated. Besides, if we really had a hard time, we could always revert to the regular trail.
The next destination was Mt. Skysam (Dome Peak) – a dome-shaped peak adjacent to the spine of Tarak peak where the regular trail lies. The goal was to try to climb up this mountain, which our trail master Sky Bischoho first explored (and ascended) 15 years ago. To reach this peak, one must scramble up a steep incline, with loose rocks. It was one of the most challenging legs of the day.
Along the way, we crossed through another stream and reached Skaj Falls, a narrow sliver of water whose major attraction is the cavern adjacent to it, supported by gigantic roots. Beyond this point, the trail grows obscure, yet Sky’s marks can still be gleaned from the trees. At this
Mt. Skysam was a pleasant peak, with a pleasant vegetation and open, flat, spaces. If you peer through the foliage you can see Tarak Ridge. After Skysam, the challenge was to traverse in order to connect to the regular trail. Even Sir Sky acknowledges that this is an orienteering challenge, but with his familiarity with the rivers, we were able to descend down a ridge until we reached the familiar serenity of Papaya River!
In the end, GPS readings showed that we had trekked for over 20 kilometers, which was really remarkable considering that that far from straightforward, this distance was crossed by river crossing, trail blazing, orienteering, bouldering. With the conclusion of the climb comes the conclusion of the Iron Lady’s climbs in the Philippines (2009-2011) and hopefully the beginning of more climbs with Sir Sky Biscocho in the future. Abangan!
As a postscript, the climb was the farewell hike for Iron Lady Jo Steven! She was my hiking companion and mentor for the past year, and our adventures in South Korea and here in the Philippines are truly memorable – from Ilocos Norte’s Sicapoo to Davao City’s Talomo. I look forward to climbing with her again, somewhere, somehow!