26-29 October 2010
3 Mountains, 9 Climbers
I arrived at Victory Liner Pasay City at 1900H an hour before the set ETD 2000H for Baguio. It was raining in Pasay during that time. In my mind I need the ride to pull me some rest after a previous overnight climb at Mt. Balagbag in San Jose del Monte Bulacan. Both excited and anxious about what’s to come ahead of me, I try to imagine the type of trails and the experience in my mind. This would be the first time I’ll be trying a cold mountain and so far would be the highest mountains that I’ll climb so far. We boarded the bus for 2200H and began heading Baguio. The first problem we encountered from this point, was that the Goldilocks doy-pack viands we’re not procured and it was alternatively replaced by canned goods.
We arrived at Baguio Victory terminal, boarded an FX and headed to Dangwa terminal. Besides the Dangwa terminal is “Good Taste” restaurant where we had our breakfast, and got our pack-lunch from there. Timecheck: this is around 0430H. Our leader (Melo) arranged for a van that would drive us to Atok through the Halsema Hi-way. After an hour and a half, the sun began lighting the sky and in time for us to take pics at the fabled Halsema Highest Hi-way point in the Philippines. At the back of our pictures stand the glorious Mt. Timbak our #1 mountain to climb. After here, we proceeded to the jump-off point for Mt. Timbak summit. At the jumpoff point this became the start of all our foot-journeys, we were lucky to find a house with a family who were hospitable to us in caring for our packs while we summit the vegetable riddled Mt. Timbak. The start was wide trail and the later part was we are actually walking besides the veggie farms. The summit was indicated by the mini-Calvary crosses and altar, were we took some pics and enjoyed much of the view. From that point we could see the Halsema Highest Hiway pt where we took photos earlier.
Photo credits: Dennis Co & Janie Leano
After reaching the Mt. Timbak (Singakalsa) summit, we got back to the house to get our packs then made our way to our side trip- the Timbak Mummy caves which is along the way of our route going to Lake Tabeyo. The first part of the way is through the mossy forest. The wind is damp so it was slippery. The next part of the way going to Lake Tabeyo looks like an old abandoned concrete road with rocky gaps, and along the way we went through many gates, some wooden, some with metal bars, forgot how many but I think there are around 5 gates. We also went through what it looks like an old road but looks to have given-in to the water falls and erosion.
The road to Kabayan, was all downhill.
(the above were taken from an old unfinished notes)
Day 0 – Travel to Baguio
Day 1 – Mt. Timbak (Mt. Singakalsa) Traverse from Atok to Bgy. Balay Kabayan, Benguet. Camp at Lake Tabeyo
Day 2 – Mt. Tabayoc Assault & descent to Bgy Tawangan in Kabayan, Benguet. Camp at Bgy Tawangan
Day 3 – Mt. Pulag ascent via Tawangan Trail. Camp at Pulag Camp 2
Day 4 – Mt. Pulag summit assault and descent to DENR via Ambangeg trail, Head back to Baguio and later to Manila
Melo Sanchez (Leader)
Janielle Marie Leano
Jaja Saavedra Mosqueda
To continue, I can only remember that we were hurrying towards Kabayan to take the bus that will lead us to some place and where we are supposed to go till Lake Tabeyo. It has rained heavily on us and forced some of us to take shelter. We take our rest and camped at Lake Tabeyo. That night rain poured on us still. In the morning we trekked the wet trails of Tabayoc. We are practically stepping on tree branches- moss covered, moist and cold. It was such a rewarding experience reaching the summit of Mt. Tabayoc- the 2nd highest mountain in Luzon.
We went down right away as we have a long way going towards Bgy Tawangan where we need to make our stop for the night. For me this part was the start of my suffering, I have my one knee aching which started from a misstep at Tabayoc trail. All the way from Lake Tabayoc to Bgy Tawangan I was really in pain. I’m thankful, Daryl shared one of his neoprene knee support to me and I think either Melo or Lawrence gave me a Cataflam, a medicine that will ease the knee pain. I was so lucky to have received the support from these kind-hearted and generous people.
When we reached Tawangan hall its already night. I took shower here, and it was the coldest water that I’ve ever felt, somehow all those shouting that I did made the water to be warm somehow. All the shirts that I’d put up hanging over the night didn’t seem to have dried at all. Our guide and the people we’ve met along the way were kind to us. I remember we got free veggies and we’re practically munching cabbage and carrots since our camp at Lake Tabeyo.
In the morning we prepared for our Tawangan trail trek going to Mt. Pulag. This proved to be another challenging day, I prayed all day asking God for strength to endure this till I complete this journey. In the Tawangan trail, I got acquainted with the most aggressive type of limatics. Insect repellents don’t seem to work against these. I had a souvenir limatic bite that I only discovered when it was already in its “grape-shaped” mode at the camp site in Pulag. It was at a peculiar place- the right side of my neck.
I appreciate the support given me by Melo, he has this oxygen-can that proved useful when I told him during the climb proper in Tawangan that I felt dizzy. Few oxygen intakes quickly remedied this altitude sickness. Even if I was too slow for the team I commend Melo for being supportive and taking the sweeper role among the hardcore people I’m with.
When we reached the grasslands, it was too cold, the air was blowing strongly and our sweat-wet shirts became unbearable. Our guide was kind enough to give me an oil back-rub (massage) and I was surprised to my shame that he refused the money when I offered a sum in exchange. I realized, sometimes kindness is really profound. It took some time, before I reached the others who have already settled in the camping grounds, it was already dark when I got there. I took rest immediately. I’m thankful to Janie and the others who have prepared dinner without me for this night, they prepared pasta with cheese. I just got to eat and return back to sleep. I felt like a patient, I took a dose of paracetamol because I was feeling feverish. The night was really cold and i could feel the water flowing underneath the tent.
At around 3am in the morning, Melo was calling the team for Mt. Pulag summit assault. I quickly obliged and never mind the pain. I put plastic cellophane on my foot before wearing the wet shoes. On the 1st summit team where Melo, Janie, Lawrence and myself. The others: Daryl, Janel, Jaja, Dennis & Jeff, followed later. Coldest trek ever! We were blessed with a clear view of rolling clouds from the summit. We could see Tabayoc and other mountains. Stayed for pics, and Melo prepared hot water for coffee but it seems its taking forever to boil. We settled for the warm coffee and went back to camp afterwards. Upon going down the other team alternated to the summit.
When everybody was back at the camp, one following another through Ambangeg started to trek going to the Ranger station. Here we took a little rest and shower again, the coldest water- you could see fog departing your body splash after splash. Afterwards, by jeep we went to the DENR, then from DENR, went back to Baguio. After dinner, I separated from the team to enjoy Baguio, I experienced going around Baguio buying from “ukay-ukay”, had body massage (it really felt good), had took my clothes to the laundry, it was worth it every single centavo (with all those mud-dirts) – I asked the laundry shop to weigh the clothes for the laundry fee after it dried up. Then went back to Manila.
This Luzon 321 climb, was my baptism of fire.