Thursday, January 8, 2015

Pawiks, Pagong scale Cordillera’s 4-3-2-1 mountain loop

I was just cuddling my guitar at home when one of LOGSAC members Henry Gapula (Pagong) brought to me a pair of Columbia trekking shoes which I bought for 1 peso (hehe, pati shoes may 1 peso promo na) in Manila. I was delighted to see the new hiking partner as it entailed some more mountains on deck, hopefully my footwear mate when I pursue my climb sooner this year in Indonesia.

Meanwhile, Pagong’s instant home visit allowed me to ask for details about their Luzon climb last December 26-30, 2014. “It was an extraordinary experience as it was our first time (with Noel Bartolome, a.k.a Pawiks) to do a quadruple traverse and it was also my first climb outside Mindanao,” said Pagong in an enthusiastic manner. The climb, according to him, was perhaps one of the bests because it featured four beautiful destinations in the Cordilleras, two perennial mountain climbing hubs and two less-visited heaps.

More popularly known as Luzon’s 4-3-2-1 which represents the fourth, third, second and first highest mountains in Luzon based on their official elevations, all these mountains are put together in a single location, allowing mountaineers to have easy access for climbing in a single climbing period. The mountains are Mt. Timbak, Mt. Tabayoc, Mt. Al-al and Mt. Pulag. Each mountain also has its own feature and as far as I know, all these were climbed by the LOGSAC duo effortlessly (char, hehe).

With Pagong and Pawiks describing each mountain and with my online research results (I have no idea of the mountains except Mt. Pulag) I can safely say that their expedition was worth the try.

Their first stop was Mt. Timbak. With an elevation of 2,717 masl, this mountain is the shortest among the four but it actually placed as the ninth highest mountain in the Philippines. At the summit of Mt. Timbak is the mini Calvary where three crosses were planted, making it the only one of its kind in the country.  Another significant scene of the mountain is the cave of Timbak mummies. According to Pagong, it could have been different for him had he allowed to take pictures of the mummies but it was their top policy not to allow guests to do such.

Mt. Tabayoc was their second mountain destination. It is the second highest mountain in Luzon and fifth in the country standing 2,842 masl. Its rich forested area which belongs to the Mt. Pulag Natural Park (MPNP) has made it an interesting mountain to scale in Luzon other than Pulag.

The third part of their epic assault was Mt. Al-al, a new summit in MPNP jurisdiction which was just officially opened for trekking and mountaineering last April 2014 prior to the Holy Week season purposely to decongest Mt. Pulag. Very evident of being newly-opened site is its unspoiled trail and breathtaking mossy forest. Mt. Al-al measures 2,740 masl and considered as the fourth highest in Luzon and is nestled in between Mt. Pulag and Mt. Tabayoc.

Their last push (definitely not the least) was Mt. Pulag. Of course, who wouldn’t have known of this mountain being dubbed as the “playground of the gods” because of its terrible landscape and amazing sea of clouds, not to mention the adorable sunrise and sunset? As Pagong would put it, Mt. Pulag is somehow another kind of mountain also known for its very cold temperature. When they reached the summit, they saw several snow formations up there. And then they suddenly burst into coldness, so cold that Pagong utilized four layers of clothing in the evening. Their scaling of Mt. Pulag was via the easy Ambangeg Trail, the same route of my climb of this mountain last November 2010.  

When I talked to Pawiks, he said if there was one thing that he was thankful about during the climb; it was definitely the good weather all period long. “We really had a nice clearing of the sky in all four mountains we climbed.” That’s a consolation when climbing four major summits. We also had a company or very kind persons from Luzon and that made the climb unforgettable.

In behalf of LOGSAC, I would like to congratulate Pawiks and Pagong for making yet another milestone. The club will always be proud of you guys. Just be sure to be humble all the time and I am sure more mountains will be waiting for your presence.

In your lives and mine, there will be rough trails ahead but somehow there will also summits waiting to delight us always at the end of every trek. One thing is certain therefore, the trails give meaning to the summit. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

Sibulan-Mt. Apo Trail hosts Conquer’s Yearend Climb

The last episode of Conquer Outdoor Equipment’s “Hitting the Trail (HTT)” was held in Mt. Apo on December 26-28, 2014 using the Sibulan Trail of Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur.  It was part of the company’s drive to scale mountains all over the Philippines which is usually done all year round in a monthly basis featuring different mountain every month. 

Delegates from Luzon was composed of eight regular HTT mainstays while there were ten trekkers from Sta. Cruz who joined the expedition, with two rookies joining us in John and Tiffany. Other participants joining me from Sta. Cruz were LOGSAC members Julius Biala, Jonas Florencondia, Tinikaran Outdoor Shop owner Oliver Enot and St. Joseph Runners members James, Jeffrey, Jermel and Romeo.

Just like my previous December climbs, this climb was challenged by the continuous downpour especially since prior to the climb a Low Pressure Area was spotted somewhere in Mindanao region that eventually led to the occurrence of a tropical storm. Unfortunately for those first-timers coming from Luzon, their chase for a sunrise or sunset in the country’s highest peak was spoiled. We were instead welcomed by a very strong winds and rain and when we reached the peak the temperature hit beyond the level where our bodies nearly gave up.

We stayed in Tinikaran Campsite 1 on our first night. We had a gradual pace in Day 1 but we shifted gear on the second and third days because of the rain. On the contrasting surface, there was something good that the climb had given me. As I have always been saying, Mt. Apo is a major climbing destination and part of the things that has to be enjoyed includes the weather, the trail and the company and these were exactly the ingredients that shaped a distinct experience of that memorable event.

I have hosted several Mt. Apo climbs in the past as team leader but this climb is something beyond the usual. I was flattered by the good comments uttered from the Manila people, saying the climb was by far one of their most memorable climbs because of the good organization and coordination and the technical personnel handling it from Sta. Cruz.

Post-climb dinner
To Conquer Outdoor Equipment, thank you for this opportunity and we hope to have you climbing Mt. Apo once again in the future. Recognition is also due to Sir Oliver Enot who sponsored the post-climb dinner held at Tajos Beach Resort.