Mt. Palay – Palay

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Mt. Arayat: Sea of Clouds after the Storm

Clean-up Drive

Arayat, Pampanga
Major jump off: Arayat National Park, Brgy. Bano, Arayat
LLA: 15.20° N 120.742° E, 1030 MASL
Days required / Hours to summit: 1 day / 4 hours
Specs: Minor climb, Difficulty 3/9, Trail class 3

(Source:http://www.pinoymountaineer.com)

 

Of the three mountains I have scaled to date, the climb in Mt. Arayat is by far the most fulfilling one. While my two previous climb managed to etch smile to my face, this one brought joy to my soul.

For all the fun, adventures, wonderful experiences and unforgettable memories our mountains bequeath to adventurers and nature-lovers alike, just the thought of being able to do something worthwhile for our mountains as a token of appreciation elated me.

Gail, Grace, Marlon, Aaron, Lala, Arnel, Raymond, Len.

Our IT says we were suppose to meet at Jollibee Farmers Cubao at 0500H but the inclement weather prevented us from doing so. Some might have had second thoughts of continuing to the climb due to the intense downpour.

At 0700H, five of us met at Jollibee Farmers Cubao and as per advised by Aaron, we proceeded to Five Star bus station and took a bus ride to Olongapo. At 0830H, we alighted at SM san Fernando where Marlon, our ever-reliable, most sought-after sweeper had been patiently waiting for some hours. We waited for another hour before Kev and Lala joined the group.

At 1030H, the group took a Jeepney ride from SM San Fernando to Brgy. Ayala. It took us about an hour to arrive at the Barangay and after registering, we finally hit the trails.

On the way up..

We had a nice..and fun..and pleasant two-hour trek before the downpour broke into the scene and ruined the trails which slowly turned into a quagmire that solicited several slip from our cautious yet determined legs. The easy climb suddenly turned into a technical one as we reached the steep trails halfway to the summit later.

Call him Brownie

About two and a half hours had passed before we reached a trail leading to the Whiterock but decided to proceed to the summit because we were two hours behind our schedule.

Halfway to the summit was a continous 40-45 degrees ascent. The intense downpour made it more difficult as mixed of water and mud came gushing down like an army of villains spearheaded by the infamous Aquamud ready to test our will and perseverance.

Amazing twins? Grace & Gail.

Drench and exhuasted, we continued the assault until we quelled Aquamud and his army. About 1630H, we reached a steep trail. Thanks to the rope and the trees that connected it, we were able to pass through it unscathed. The summit was just a stone’s-throw-away from there.

Len & Arnel

Under moderate rainfall, we finally reached the campsite at 1700H. Most of us were shivering from hair cuticles to toe nails due to the sudden drop in temperature. We feasted on the remaining trail food under the comfort of a makeshift hut while trying to shake off both the chill and fatigue.

Lala. Modelo ng kutsara..

Marlon, Len and Aaron set up the tarp where we prepared our food for dinner. We pitched three more tents with the tarp as the nucleus so that the three tents were somewhat interconnected.

Master Aaron

After dinner, the other fellas dozed off right out while Aaron, Arnel and I spent the next hours until 0100H telling tall tales about our childhood encounters with  the supernatural beings.

Thumbs up for Marlon!

The next morning, at 0500H, after preparing our breakfast of Lucban longganisa and deep “fried pork ala tuyo ni Aaron”, I patiently waited for the skies to clear up so I could gaze upon the splendour that I had been deprived of for 2 consecutive climbs. My heart sank as the rain started to pour. Huhu! Not again! When will I ever see the grandeur the summit has to offer? Scratching my head, I headed back to the tarp where we took our breakfast. My mind was barely on my food. I could not even remember chowing down the ever salty “fried pork ala tuyo ni Aaron” as my mind wandered trying to sort out what was wrong in me that bad weather seems haunt me every time I climb.

Stunned by the sea of clouds..

We decamped at 0900H. While preparing things for the descent, something totally unexpected happened that stunned all of us. The skies suddenly cleared up and the whiteout was gone. What remained was the verdant mountain ranges and sea of clouds that seem to coronate the mountains of Arayat. It was a surreal experience to say the least. The whole shebang had been an emotional roller coaster for me that I was on the brink of breaking into tears as I stared upon the beauty of the mountains and sea of clouds around it.

We started the descent at about 0900H with smile on our faces. The weather cooperated the whole time during our descent. While on our way, not forgetting that this was a clean-up climb, we picked up every piece of garbage on sight along the way.

We managed to collect at least 40 Kgs. of trash. Aaron and I with the help of Marlon tied the garbage sack to a piece of tree pole we found in the water source. Aaron and I joined forces to carry the trash from water source to jump-off.

Photo ops before descent.

After several minutes of struggling and tumbling, I  conceded that carrying a 40-Kg. trash while trying to balance your body not to stumble was not an easy task. I lose my balance and fell down several times before reaching the jump-off due to the fact that the load was heavy, trails were slippery and not to mention that it was already dark at 1900H on a forested trail.

We tidied up at Villa Santiago resort then proceeded to Dau (via Jeepney) where we took a bus bound to Manila.

I finally arrived home at 0200H. Feeling exhausted and fatigued, I conked out with a wide smile on my face.

Conquering Mt. Tapulao

MT. TAPULAO
Palauig, Zambales
Jump-off: Sitio Dampay, Brgy. Dampay-Salaza, Palauig
LLA: 15.4833 N, 120.1166 E, 2037 MASL
Days required / Hours to summit: 1-2 days / 6-12 hours
Specs: Major Climb, Difficulty 6/9, Trail class 1-3
Features: Pine forests, views of West Philippine Sea

Preparations

With only one climb under my belt, I am not so sure how will I fare up against the trails of Tapulao. I ran, did some squats (I injured my knee cap so I quit and stick to running) and target shooting (target what??) Yeah, target shooting just in case the dreaded limatiks would do a surprise attack.

Expectations

I scoured the net for blogs and sites that featured Mt. Tapulao to get as much info as I could. The more info I have, the better it’s going to be. All the blogs I read mentioned about the long,winding and rocky road from Jump off to summit. Also they seem to shout in unison the majestic view of pine trees along the trails. I really don’t know what to expect until I set foot in this journey.

The Journey Begins

The group met at Victory Liner Pasay and board a bus bound to Iba at 12MN. We arrived at Iba after four hours.Kev instructed the tricycle driver to drop by the nearest market so we could buy needed food supplies since we were not able to purchase in Manila. At 7:45AM, we arrived at the jump-off point. After photo op and registration at the Barangay, we begun our journey. We were greeted by boulder of rocks upon hitting the trail as if warning us to back off. The first two or three hours of walking upon boulders of rocks were snoozers.

I almost fell into a deep slumber. If you happen to have a talent of sleep walking, you can do pretty well here. I thought I should have trained to sleep walk instead of the tedious running. A couple of hours had passed before we reached the first water source. We decided to pass by it and go straight to the next water source.

After 4 grueling hours of walking we finally arrived at the second water source where we ate our lunch. As we were eating,  a sight of limatik on her trekking pants made Nezza screamed for dear life! Luckily, Adam, a brave limatik conqueror came to the rescue and subdued the helpless limatik with just one mighty flick of his fingers. We continued from our sojourn at about 2PM.

The gloomy sky could no longer contain its load so heavy rains started pouring that made the trail both slippery and limatik haven. The downpour was so intense and the fog so thick I had to squint in order to have a good look of the trail. Under heavy rainfall, we pressed on for a couple of hours. All of a sudden, the surroundings seem to have changed. The canopy of trees along the trail were nowhere in sight and the sudden dropped in temperature made my legs shiver uncontrollably.

Along the trail, I noticed a tiny yellow flower and upon careful circumspection, Alas! It was actually an orchid. I was dumbfounded of the discovery that I sprinted towards a group of orchids several meters ahead, oblivious of the downpour and my shivering legs. I put my backpack down, grab my phone then took a close up picture of one of the orchids. What a spectacle! A parade of orchids with tall pine trees as the backdrop!

With a huge smile on my face, I thanked the Lord for letting my eyes gaze upon such scenery. I regained my strength so I continued to press forward towards the bunk houses. We finally reached the campsite at around 5PM, after 9 long hours of backbreaking and gut-wrenching continuous ascent. We pitched our tents near the bunk houses then tidied ourselves in the nearby waterfalls.

I went inside the tent after changing clothes and for some reasons I do not know, I went outside, picked up my backpack then yet again headed to the waterfalls . I saw a woman sitting atop a medium-size boulder intently looking to the direction of the sun that was about to set. I continued to walk towards her and to my amazement, it was Angel L. SHOCKER! Wow! How come she’s here when I didn’t even remember inviting her? I sat beside her then reached inside my backpack and took out an oven-hot all-meat pizza with super-duper-extra-cheese toppings. I offered a slice to her but she just smiled. I thought she’s on diet so I started devouring every slice of it like a refugee deprived of food for several days. As I was about to take the last bite, I heard someone calling out  my name.

Shoot!

Just then I realized I dozed off and Marlon was calling me for supper. Heavy rains continued pouring as we eat  under the comfort of our umbrellas. We called it a night at 9PM. We woke up the next day at 9AM, still raining.  After having our breakfast, we initially agreed not to climb up the High Peak. At 10AM the downpour was reduced to drizzle so Kev, Warren, Marlon and I decided to climb on. We reached the summit after 45 minutes of assault. Sadly, nobody brought a camera.

At the summit, I noticed a volcanic-like crater having a perimeter of roughly 6-8 meters. The fog was so thick you could hardly see anyone or anything beyond 5 meters. I was a bit disappointed for the lack of clearing and sea of clouds. This was my second climb and also my second disappointment. No sea of clouds, no spectacular view, just a plain, boring  whiteout.

We goofed around for 15 minutes then decided to descend. I expressed my disappointment while on our way to the campsite but Kev, while grinning, jokingly said that there was actually a sea of clouds, in fact, he said, still grinning, the sea of clouds was so vast that we were already inside of it, and that’s why we couldn’t see it.

My face lit up as I realized a deeper meaning of what Kev just uttered. So often I spend a lot of times complaining about how come others have those things I wanted the most and I don’t? Most of the times, I am so busy lamenting about the things I do not have that I often forget  to give thanks for the sea of blessings I already have.

We reached the campsite a couple of minutes before 12 noon, then started the descent by 12 noon under moderate rainfall. It was heartbreaking to note that all sorts of garbage were scattered along the trails. From cigarette butts to cigarette packs, from tomato cans to fuel drums and all kinds of plastic you could think of. I no longer wonder why it was raining that hard, to me it was the mountain..crying, begging to spare it from further desecration. I heard from the locals that the mining site is now owned by a certain Chinese company. In fact, we met some Chinese geologist along the trails doing their stuff, which led me to a conclusion, but I hope and pray I am wrong, that the mining activities would soon resume.

Kev and I reached the Barangay Hall at about 5PM where we tidied ourselves. At 7PM we took a tricycle ride to Victory Iba then went on board a bus bound to Manila at 11.30PM.

Personal Thoughts

The trail is so wide, almost like a highway sans the concrete pavement. Some parts of the trail can suddenly turn into a knee-deep river under constant heavy downpour. It is about 80-90% rocks that is infested with limatiks.

Congratulations Nezza! You made a believer out of me. I never thought a woman could withstand such agony for 15 long hours of pain and constant threat of being bitten by limatiks.

Thank you Sir Warren for letting me feel at home in your tent!

Until next climb!

Next Climb

MT. TAPULAO
Palauig, Zambales
Major jump-off: Sitio Dampay, Brgy. Dampay-Salaza, Palauig
LLA: 15.4833 N, 120.1166 E, 2037 MASL
Days required / Hours to summit: 1-2 days / 6-12 hours
Specs: Major Climb, Difficulty 6/9, Trail class 1-3
Features: Pine forests, views of West Philippine Sea

August 25-26, 2012

Link

TARAK RIDGE
Mariveles, Bataan
Jump off point: Brgy. Alas-asin, Mariveles
LLA: 14°30.357′N, 120°30′E, 1,006 MASL (ridge); 1,130 MASL (peak)
Days required / Hours to summit: 2 days, 5-6 hours
Specs: Major climb, Difficulty 4/9, Trail class 3

The moment my feet touch the muddy ground, it felt home, literally. Memories of the past came rushing into my mind way back in High School days when climbing was part of my weekly regimen. Each weekend, my friends and I would explore the mountains to find water falls where we could eat our precious “sardinas”. I come from Palanan, located in the far east of Isabela, where the mountains and the sea converge, you name all things you know about nature, Palanan has them all. (Check out my other blog solely dedicated to Palanan at www.origparanan.wordpress.com).

Going back to Tarak ridge. I would say this is my first official climb. With huge backpack weighing close to 15kgs. (too heavy eh?!) Well, spare me on this as I had no idea about the things I should bring along. I just packed and put inside my backpack almost everything that came to mind as if I was going to a hotel for an extended stay. I even brought a mattress cover that turned out to be an ugly decision.

The blogger, Kev and Marlon

I have been thinking and itching to climb for some time, so when I got this email from an office mate regarding this climb, my heartbeat kicked into high gears as if I had just managed to seal a date with Angel Locsin. We were about 20 in the email loop but guess how many fellas out of 20 showed up come climb day? 4, as in FOUR! We were only four who said yes to the challenge. I can’t blame the others who didn’t show up. They actually made the right decision. Friday night, PAGASA forecasted a typhoon signal #1 to many parts of Luzon and heavy rains started falling as if foreshadowing the things to come. Heavy rains woke me up at 5AM.

Kev, whom I prefer to call the ultimate trekking machine, was our main man. This guy got so much energy that I had difficulty keeping up with his pace. He runs every now and again which he gamely calls “ratrat”. Along the way to Papaya falls, we had this rare opportunity to meet and greet the legendary Sky (of AMCI) and his group. After refilling our water receptacles and some chit-chats with other campers at Papaya falls, we continued on our way to the summit. It was already 2PM and we were told that it’s going to take us another 3 to 4 hours before we could reach the summit. We reached the summit at exactly 5PM. Oh, did I forget to mention about the rain? Since jump-off point, heavy rains continued to pour with gusto and was getting worse as time passed by which resulted to an ugly-slippery-muddy trails.

With Chris

After setting up our tents, Kev and Marlon took care of our food for supper which consisted of rice and fried pork if my memory serves me right. The raining stopped for a little while but the wind was quite scary as it blows against the trees. The fog is so thick you couldn’t see beyond 20 meters or so. While exploring the grassland, I was awestruck by what I saw. The wind was blowing from below against the mountain and you could see the rain drops going an upward direction. We strolled for another 30 minutes before heading back to camp for a good night rest.. or so I thought. Heavy rainfall resumed and the wind seemed to be getting stronger. Just as what you could expect from a typhoon signal # 1 and we were on top of the mountain at that.

The thought of a good night sleep was gone as water started to penetrate our tent until every single thing we have inside got wet. Chris and I shared the dome type tent which was being pounded from every direction both by the heavy rains and strong wind. We sat down until morning like helpless little chicks caught in the middle of the storm. We feared the fact that anytime, our tent might get blown away with us inside while sleeping. At 5AM we ate our breakfast then after some discussions, we had decided to explore the topmost part of the summit. With the rain still pouring and the wind getting even more stronger, we brave our way to the top. It was not a walk-in-the park thing, it was very difficult to be honest as if a huge guy with a humongous industrial fan on his hands with button number 100 on was playing with us. We would bent down and reach for the grass to hold on to every time the wind blows. That scenario would go on for about 15 minutes before we reached a forested area leading to the top. We took a very steep climb passing through some knife-edge rocks before finally reaching a mini-forest filled with bonsai trees.

With Marlon

Marlon, our ever-reliable sweeper and I decided to continue to the last known explored part of the summit. After some cliff-hanging and grass-grabbing, we finally reach our last stop. I felt something weird was happening. Just then I realized that the place we’re in was very still. The wind and the heavy rains were gone. I imagined that the huge guy must have pulled the plug off his giant industrial fan. With a big grin on his face saying “Ok..ok..You bunch of persistent ones. You just made it to the top! Sadly, I did not have my camera to capture the moment. I did not bring it for two reasons: I had this weird idea in mind that bringing a camera is a girl thing and would cost me some of my hard-earned pogi points. Another reason is that my not so cool little sister lost my point-and-shoot camera weeks ago.

We rested for a moment then headed back to our camp. About 10AM when we broke camp. It took us one and a half hours to reach papaya falls. After having our lunch and relatively cleaning ourselves, we went on our way to jump off point under heavy rains which Kev and I took for one and a half hours. We had a shower at the Barangay Hall then at 5PM, we went on board Genesis bus bound to Pampanga where we had an eat-all-you-can supper at Fisherman’s Grill for free courtesy of Kev’s youthful good friend Madam Tess who looks 10 years younger than her age. She was accompanied by her gorgeous daughter named Gladys.

Here’s the best part, while on the bus, Marlon discovered blood on his shorts. With a quizzical look on his face, he begun searching for any wound. He wondered where the blood possibly came from because he was not feeling any pain. We later found out that it was due to a “limatik” bite. We laugh so hard for a quite while thinking about our friend’s misfortune until I fell into a short nap. I was awaken by a wet feeling on my side and wondered how could that be since I changed my clothes and undergarments before boarding the bus. To my disappointment, I discovered my shorts, that was originally white in color turned bloody red! Shoot “limatiks”! I almost declared World War III if not for my friends’ pleading! Lesson learned? Limatiks are not your friends.

On one hand, this adventure, though was not so much fun, humbled me as I realized how fragile human life can be. One misstep then you’re a goner. One bad move then you’re as good as dead. On the other hand, my respect for nature greatly increased. I believe that protecting our mountains is one of the noblest things we can do for our dying planet.

Until next climb!