|The steep descent through grass marks the start of
the traverse from Kalisungan to Atimla
If mountains were people, then I suppose Mts. Kalisungan and Atimla are best friends – or a happy couple. These two peaks can always been seen together from various vantage points, including my very own neighborhood in Los Banos! Naturally, I’ve always been curious to check out Mt. Atimla, even as I have climbed Mt. Kalisungan several times.
During my most recent hike in Mt. Kalisungan, I requested my guide Bino to find a trail to Mt. Atimla as a traverse from Mt. Kalisungan’s summit. This is not unprecedented: I know that hiking clubs in the past have done such a traverse before, referring to the two mountains as Mt. Nagcarlan and Mt. Calauan. So it would be nice to reestablish it as a more challenging variation of a regular Kalisungan hike. A week ago, Bino informed me that he has finished the trail, and so I decided that it was time to return to Calauan.
We started early – around 0630H. This time around, the ground was dry, unlike my past two hikes up the mountain which were both quite muddy. The ascent was straightforward and it can feel very humid and hot while hiking, but in two hours we were at the summit, enjoying the view of the lakes as well as the nearby mountains: we were early enough to see Mts. Cristobal and Banahaw before they got covered with clouds.
The fun begins with the traverse to Mt. Atimla, which was totally new to me (and to all of us). The descent initially featured going down through the highly-inclined east face of Kalisungan, with the view of Mt. Atimla. Then after fifteen minutes or so, we entered a woodland that teemed with red ants; several of us got bitten. I would have ignored it had I not remembered that I was also bitten by red ants in my previous hikes up the mountain!
The woodland trail was circuitous, and Bino himself was unsure about parts of it, but eventually we reached an altitude where we could see Kalisungan isolated all other peaks — a unique perspective that shows its full glory. This, for me, is the most rewarding sight of the trek.
By 1120H, we were at the summit of Mt. Atimla, after almost five hours of trekking. As Bino put it, it looks like the summit of Mt. Mabilog, except that it is larger and the terrain is more varied. It is almost a plateau, except that it’s not very flat. Still, I think there is enough space for a small campsite. Unfortunately, there are no water sources throughout the trail – from the jumpoff all the way to the two mountains – so each of us brought 4 liters, at least.
The descent ought to have taken us to Brgy. Sta. Catalina, San Pablo, but since Bino was ‘not too confident’ about it, we decided to just head down Atimla towards the housing project in Brgy. Curba, Calauan. This took us less than two hours, and is probably the easiest access point up Atimla as a separate hike. It is unclear, though, whether it’s safe to make it a trailhead, for security reasons.
Anyway, by 1430H we were already traveling back to the Brgy. Lamot 2 trailhead by trike, and from there I went back to Los Banos. In all, I’d say that the Kalisungan-Atimla Traverse is a great variation of the regular Kalisungan hike, with more challenges and rewards. Considering how close it is to Manila, it is a welcome addition to the roster of Southern Tagalog mountains!
Thanks to everyone who joined the hike!
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