Mt. Timbak (2717m) in Atok, Benguet is doubtless one of the most important mountains in the Cordilleras, being the highest of the mountains along Halsema Highway and the range that it straddles. It is the third highest mountain in Luzon, next only to Pulag and Tabayoc. These distinctions make a trip to Timbak a worthy excursion, even if the hike itself is very easy, taking just fifteen minutes or so.
Last Saturday I accompanied 18- time Halcon climber Cynthia Sy – a living legend – and my childhood friend Jenny Aggangan, in what turned out to be my third visit to the mountain. My first was on a rainy day in 2007, and my second was in 2013, on the day of Pope Francis’ election (we heard the news while at the summit, courtesy of a local farmer’s radio).
To get to Mt. Timbak, one has to take any Halsema-bound jeep, bus, or van from Baguio and get off at the waiting shed at KM. 55 that leads to Timbak Elementary School, then walk up the road. Or, as in our case, rent a vehicle to take you all the way up the road, past the elementary school, and within 15 minutes of the summit.
We were accompanied by young trail runner Josiah, who lives in Lake Tabeyo. He told me about his father Santiago, the guide up Mt. Tabayoc, and his recollection of my visit to their place in 2008, in what turned out to be one of the inaugural hikes up the true summit of Tabayoc (see Hiking matters #10).
At the summit of Mt. Timbak stands three crosses and other religious figures. It would have been an excellent viewpoint for Tabayoc, Pulag, Purgatory, and Ugo — indeed the Central Cordillera spine – but it was a cloudy day and we didn’t see them, but the views of the Halsema Highway and occasionally of Mt. Sto. Tomas was still nice.
Aside from the views, the attraction of Mt. Timbak is seeing a ‘slice of life’ in the highlands: upland vegetable farming, friendly locals tending to their daily routines, and cool mountain air (it is probably one of the coldest residential areas in the Philippines). Our ‘real’ hike would have to wait for two more days – an Akiki-Ambangeg Dayhike (see Hiking matters #441) but the visit to Timbak was still well worth it.