|The imposing peaks of Mariveles as viewed from the other side of the rim|
Continued from Hiking matters #386: We started descending from the crater rim at around 1100H, hoping to have lunch by Bakwat River, on the upper reaches of the crater, which is vast and should actually be called a caldera. Between the rim and the river, however, the forest-covered ravines have to be negotiated – involving an altitude loss of almost 500 meters. It was a great exercise in footwork, balance, and the pick-a-branch game where the loser ends up holding a thorny branch – not a very nice penalty.
Of course, the stakes are much higher in the Mariveles Range. Just last year nine mountaineers got lost, mistaking, from Tarak Peak, the traverse trail to Pantingan for the traverse to Paniquian River. Once you are deep into the range, especially when you are inside the crater, you are at the mercy of the elements. This is what makes the range quite exciting: even though it’s less than three hours away from Manila, it gives the sense of wilderness that is not found in other nearby mountains. The descent from the rim to Bakwat River compares favorably with the descent to Basinan campsite on a Talomo-Apo Traverse (see Hiking matters #204).
It was already past 1300H when we arrived in Bakwat river, where we had late lunch. By this time our pace has considerably slowed. We resumed the trek an hour later. The ascent as just as steep as the descent, and at one point Kuya Rey even installed some ropes to assist us in going up. But for all its steepness, the trail is never too overgrown, and there weren’t any rattan or lipa – making the trek actually pleasant.
Some people speak of ‘three rules of mountaineering’ which goes like this: “It’s always taller than it looks, it’s always further than it looks, it’s always harder than it looks”. These rules came to mind when we were ascending from the crater. Instead of a direct assault to reach the peak, there were lots of ups and downs before the final ascent.
It was already past 1600H when we reached the ridge areas, and at this point, as we emerged from the forests, the view became fantastic: to our left we could look down on the vast crater, and to the right, the view of Mariveles and West Philippine sea. Bataan Peak – from a distant sight ahead – became a towering figure behind us.
At around 1700H we reached El Saco Peak, at over 1300 MASL the foremost peak of this side of Mariveles. We took our final group photo here (see last photo below). From El Saco Peak, it would still be another hour to reach Tarak, and it was already getting dark by the time we reached Tarak Peak.
By the time we reached Tarak Ridge, the scenery was aglow with the city lights of Bataan and Metro Manila. The breeze was cool, but not fierce; there were many stars and the gibbous moon cast a faint glow on the mountain: It was a beautiful evening – one in which I wouldn’t mind trekking.
Past Tarak Ridge, we entered the forest which is also quite steep – but is much more established than the rest of Mariveles – lots of branches to hold on to – and is thus almost like a cool down exercise. At one point I took a nap, my head nestled between two large roots – while I waited for my companions. I was well stocked with food, aware of the magnitude of the hike, and I had some snacks at Papaya River – always a nice place to be when in Tarak Ridge.
The trail from Papaya River back to the trailhead felt long – with endless swaths of woodland. But I was reassured when I finally came upon the wide, rough road which signalled the end of the trail. By midnight, we had reached Nanay Cording’s place. By the time I had fallen asleep in one of the bamboo benches there, we had been trekking for 20 hours – not my personal record for the longest trekking day (I spent 25 hours in Kilimanjaro and 24 hours in Mt. Ragang), but certainly one of the most exciting ones.
I will make an itinerary for this hike, which is poised to be what MakTrav was in 2008: A worthy challenge that pushes the boundaries of a single day. Thank you to Kuya Rey for guiding us and I highly recommend his services. I also thank my hiking companions for the enjoyable hike. We also remember Sky Biscocho whose devotion to the Mariveles Range has made possible the continued appreciation of mountaineers of the beauty and adventure it so excitingly offers.