|Trekking through the mossy forests on the way to Aplaya Campsite|
On May 27, 2013, I together with Koi Grey and Daryl Comagon proceeded to Baco, Oriental Mindoro to climb Mt. Halcon. The highest mountain outside of Luzon and Mindanao, Mt. Halcon is a highly-regarded mountain among Philippine mountaineers, with its mix of kilometric trails, rich biodiversity, and a storied past. Before it was closed by DENR in 2006, Mt. Halcon was regarded as one of the toughest mountains in the Philippines, earning for it a classificiation of Difficulty 9/9.
That day – a Monday – was supposed to be a Day 0, because it was already 1430H when we arrived at the trailhead, secured our Mangyan guides, and registered at the barangay hall, paying P50 each. But we decided to “invest” on our Day 0 and ended up trekking until 2200H, until we decided to camp inside the mossy forest at around 1100 MASL. That evening was memorable because we were swarmed by countless limatiks, which we warded off with alcohol sprays only with modest success. I’ve been to many places with limatiks – Makiling, Tawangan Trail, Malasimbo, Natib – but Halcon is so far the most intense!
As for the trail, I would call it moderate: quite steep, yes, but quite established as well, with none of the ferocious rattan vines that ‘intensify’ some similar hikes, and also none of the convoluted “is this a trail?” trail of the Talomo-Apo Traverse before it became popular. It was only the limatik that made the trail ‘exciting’. On the other hand, the ‘nightlife’ of Halcon: the birds, the insects, the tree frogs, and the countless other creatures – kept us from falling asleep.
The next day, we started trekking at 0700H and in less than three hours we were at the Aplaya campsite, which we found to a fantastic place! The towering might of Mt. Halcon’s peaks stood on one side, with several waterfalls plummeting down its slopes – each with its distinct shape. There were peaks too on the other sides of the camp, making it feel as if we were enclosed in valley.
We were prepared to assault the summit on that day, or at least march onwards to Camp 2 or the so-called e-camp, but the guides did not enjoy the assault of the other day, and they requested that we rest for the rest of day. Since we didn’t mind spending the whole day in such a beautiful place, we agreed, and that was the end of the march of Aplaya campsite, or the ‘Stage 1’ of the hike to Mt. Halcon. The adventure continues in Hiking matters #344.