Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Mt. Purgatory Traverse/Mt. Pack-Mt. Komkompol (2,290/2,329+)

MT. PURGATORY (MT. PACK-MT. KOMKOMPOL)
Bokod, Benguet
Entry point: Japas Jumpoff, Bokod
Exit point: Brgy. Ekip, Bokod
LLA: 2290m (Mt. Pack); 2080m (Mt. Purgatory); 2329m (Mt. Komkompol)
Days required / Hours to summit: 2-3 days / 4-5 (Pa); 5-7 (Pu); 9-11 (K)
Specs: Major climb, Difficulty 6/9, Trail class 1-3
Features: Pine forests, mossy forests, Views of Benguet mountains
Article history: Created January 1, 2013

Note: This article is under construction.

BACKGROUND
Nestled between two of the major Cordillera mountains - Mt. Pulag and Mt. Ugo - are the lesser-known but very beautiful peaks of Bokod, Benguet. In the past year, the municipality of Bokod with various hikers joined together to establish a trail going through these peaks, forming what is now called the 'Mt. Purgatory Traverse'. This article is based on my hike up the mountain from December 28-29, 2012.

Doubtless, it is the evocative power of its name, Purgatory, that arouses curiosity and ultimately draws hikers to see what this hiking trail has to offer. Mt. Pack, one of the, if not the highest peak in the trail, is the one that mapmakers highlight, and perhaps Mt. Komkompol, being of the same height as Pack. However, it seems to be the locals' wish for the whole trail to be labelled the 'Mt. Purgatory Traverse' and so we will adopt this naming, with the caveat that we wish for the whole trail to be seen as a circuit rather than a single-peak traverse, similar to the versions of the Kibungan Circuit.

The first part of the Mt. Purgatory Traverse involves an eight-kilometer hike from the Japas jump-off to the summit of Mt. Pack, 2290 MASL. The trail features pine forests and mountain roads that, had they been established enough, would have enabled jeepneys to pass through. It is very much reminiscent of the early parts of the Amgbangeg Trail, or Mt. Ugo. After 5 kilometers, the trail will transition into mossy forest, and become a bit steep though well-established throughout. 

From Mt. Pack, it takes 2.5 kilometers to reach the peak or viewpoint called 'Mt. Purgatory'. It used to be a  relay station during the American period; and it was the Americans assigned there who found the cold, forbidding weather to be akin to 'being in purgatory', leading to the christening of the peak as such. However, it did not seen to be a distinct mountain from Mt. Pack. Near Mt. Purgatory, the village of Mangisi has a campsite where hikers on a three-day itinerary usually stay.

From Mt. Purgatory, the trail goes on through the mossy forest, which at times seem endless but whose beauty is enthralling enough to sustain your interest and keep going. Finally, you will reach Aponan junction, which has a waiting shed, and if you head left, the Bakian Elementary School is very near, and this for its part is the traditional campsite for a two-day hike.

Past Bakian, the alternation of pine and mossy forests continue, and in the former, clearings and viewpoints offer the opportunity to glimpse at some of Benguet's prominent peaks: Mt. Sto. Tomas (W), Mt. Timbak (NW), the looming presence of Mt. Pulag (N), and southeast to Pulag, Mt. Salingsing (NE), a possible bridge between Purgatory and Pulag in what would be a fantastic traverse.

Eventually, the hiker will reach Mt. Komkompol, the final peak in the range. There are actually two other named 'mountains' or 'peaks' in the maps issued by the municipality but they are more of viewpoints rather than actual or distinct mountains.

From Komkompol, the trail is mostly pine trees. Amazingly, the trail is well-established throughout the entire 'traverse'. However, the final 4-5 kilometers requires you to walk through a rough road that is almost (but not quite) accessible to jeepneys. At the end, the jeepney will take you back to Bokod proper, and then back to Baguio City.

In all, because of its beautiful pine forests typical of the Cordilleras and an unusually long stretch of mossy forest unusual for the other treks in the area, the Mt. Purgatory Traverse is a highly-recommended trek in Benguet, and paves the way for possible, future long distance connection to and from Ugo and Pulag.

ITINERARIES

TWO-DAY PURGATORY TRAVERSE

Day 0
2200 Take bus to Baguio City

Day 1
0400 ETA Baguio City. Take chartered jeepney to Bokod
0600 Breakfast along the way
0800 Arrival in Bokod / Registration / Orientationn
0900 Start trekking
1200 Lunch along the way
1300 Arrival at Mt. Pack
1430 Arrival at Mt. Purgatory
1630 ETA Bakian Elementary School / Set-up cam
1800 Dinner at campsite; socials

Day 2
0530 Wake-up call
0630 Breakfast / Break camp
0700 Resume trek
0900 Arrival at Mt. Komkompol
0930 Start descent
1200 Arrival at Pethal / Agno River.
1300 End of trek at border of Brgy. Ekip*
1400 Exit Bokod, Benguet
1700 ETA Baguio City. Dinner.
2000 Head back to Manila
0400 ETA Manila

THREE-DAY PURGATORY TRAVERSE

Day 0

2300 Take bus to Baguio City

Day 1
500 ETA Baguio City. Take chartered jeepney to Bokod
0700 Breakfast along the way
0900 Arrival in Bokod / Registration / Orientationn
1000 Start trekking
1200 Lunch along the way
1400 Arrival at Mt. Pack
1430 Resume trek
1630 Arrival at Mt. Purgatory; set up camp
1800 Dinner at campsite; socials

Day 2
0600 Wake-up call
0700 Breakfast / Break camp
0830 Resume trek
1200 Lunch at Bakian Elementary School / Mt. Bakian
1300 Resume trek
1500 Set up camp in Mt. Tangkaw
1800 Dinner at campsite; socials

Day 3
530 Wake-up call
0630 Breakfast / Break camp
0700 Resume trek
0800 Arrival at Mt. Komkompol
0900 Start descent
1200 Arrival at Pethal / Agno River.
1300 End of trek at border of Brgy. Ekip*
1400 Exit Bokod, Benguet
1700 ETA Baguio City. Dinner.
2000 Head back to Manila
0400 ETA Manila

*Note: Depending on the season, weather conditions, and the type of jeepney that you have arranged, it is sometimes possible for the jeepney to drive through the 4-km. rough road and thus expedite your trip by an hour or so.

PRACTICALITIES: MT. MAKILING TRAVERSE
Transportation
ENTRY
Public Public (1) Bus, Cubao or Pasay to Baguio City [P460, 6-7 hours]
(2) Rented jeep or van to trailhead [P6500 for up to 15 persons or P3500 for 7-9 persons, 2.5-3] or public bus from Baguio to N. Vizcaya via Ambuklao [~P110/person, 3-4 hours]
Private: NLEX>SCTEX>TPLEX>Marcos Highway or Kennon Road>Baguio City then take road to Kabayan via Itogon until you reach the junction to N. Vizcaya. Turn right and get off at Bokod Municipal Hall  
Registration
At the Municipal Hall. P100 registration fee + P20 camping fee for every night spent in the mountain. P500/group fixed donation to the Elementary School where it is possible to spend the night (see above).
Note: Mandatory advanced reservation; walk-in climbers may not be entertained 

Climb Certificate: Available upon request, P50 per certiciate. Send names beforehand, during working days.
Guides are available for P500/day, with 1 guide to 7 hikers as suggested ratio by the Bokod Tourism Office. Supplementary addition of P100/hiker for up to 9 hikers per guide. Porters also available with the same rate and can carry up to 25 kgs. 
Tourism Office (Bokod) -09104125816 or 09074466444 (Monday to Friday, 0800-1700H)
Campsites
Melkas Campsite (wide); Camping not allowed in Peak 2 or other parts of the Wilderness Zone beyond Los Baños Stn. 11
Water sources
Kambingan (Stn. 2; 30 minutes past trailhead) but none beyond until the Los Baños side
Cellphone signal
Present in some parts of the trail including the campsite 
River crossings
None
Roped segments
None
Yes in the forests
None
Rattan
None
Hiking notes 
Exercise caution while crossing Melkas Ridge; trails in LB are wide and marked with station numbers; backtrack if trail doesn't fit this description. 
Sidetrips
Hot springs in Bokod; other nearby mountains include Mt. Pulag and Mt. Ugo
Alternate trails
There is a possible traverse to Cabayo village which can potentially connect this trail to the Grand Cordillera Trail. 
Yes (5-7 hours to Mt. Purgatory; 3-5 hours down)
From Manila: 2500-3000 

MT. PURGATORY TRAVERSE PICTURES
The pine forest trails are very typical of the Cordillera mountains.

Mt. Pulag is very prominent north of the trail, with Mt. Salingsingan
offering the possibility of an exciting traverse.
The tiny Bakian Elementary School and its grounds can  serve as campsite
for a two-day itinerary.

Prominent Benguet mountains like Mt. Sto. Tomas are visible from the trail.

The blogger at the viewpoint the locals call 'Mt. Purgatory'.
TRIVIA
Although Mt. Pack, Mt. Purgatory, and Mt. Komkompol have all been climbed by hikers and locals in the past, credit for the present spate of hikes following the itinerary mentioned here goes to the municipality of Bokod and various hikers who joined the initial hikes. PinoyMountaineer thanks Max Lucentales III for sharing information about this hike and answering some of my queries about the mountain.

From Max: "Mt Pack is named after Governor William Pack, who was the governor of the Benguet province in 1901. Mt. Purgatory was coined by an American logging supervisor named Durham Hale Bennet of Benguet Consolidated as he encountered difficulty in the area prompting him to coin it as “being in Purgatory."

In terms of mountains climbed, PinoyMountaineer recognizes two separate mountains within the Purgatory traverse: Mt. Pack and Mt. Komkompol. The Mt. Purgatory Traverse was my yearend hike for the year 2012. This hike is narrated in Hiking matters #317-318.

3 comments:

Ron said...

How cold is the temperature at the campsite during the night? Is it comparable to the temperatures at the saddle camp in Mt.Pulag? Is thermal wear a must? We're going to do this Mt. Purgatory traverse on the 27th.

Thank you in advance sir!

Anonymous said...

Hi Sir,
It will still dependent to the weather of that day.
Just some cold weather clothing can do it.

Thanks
Gerald
Team Ganado

markBAyhon said...

We are able to climb on the reverse side. We went to Mt. KomKompol first and then Mt. Tangbaw where we slept and decend back to brgy Karao. Based from our guide there are four summit on this trail.. from Japas jump off 1. Mt. Pack, 2. Mt. Purgatory, 3. Mt. Tangbaw 4. Mt. Komkompol (hardest trail as said by the guide but you will find most of the good sight seeing and views here again mentioned by the guide.)

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