Sunday, March 02, 2014

Mt. Batulao - Old Trail to New Trail

As my 4th summit for the year, I was invited by my friend Allan to climb Mt. Batulao in Nasugbu, Batangas last March 1, 2014

Mt. Batulao is actually one of the more famous mountains that are recommended for beginners. Planning a dayhike to Mt. Batulao is very easy considering its proximity to Metro Manila, being located just after Tagaytay City. One just have to go to the bus terminals at the Coastal Mall or in Cubao, Quezon City, and ride the bus going to the towns of Nasugbu and/or Lian in the province of Batangas.

Mt. Batulao
One taking the public bus must alight at the Evercrest golf course (same as the area where Chapel on the Hill and Caleruega are located). Just inform the bus conductor beforehand that you are going to Batulao and they will surely know where to drop you off. There are eateries along the highway where you can have your breakfast for about P60.00 and buy food for lunch. This is also the area where you can take a bath and refresh yourself after your hike.

You may opt to walk from the highway to the trail, or hire tricycles for P120.00 that would take you as far as about 2 kilometers into the trail. Hiring tricycles is advised in case you want to save time and energy as this will surely make you save at least 30 minutes of your time.


Our customary prayer before each climb

The Peaks of Batulao
There are two main trails up Mt. Batulao, aptly called The Old Trail and The New Trail. In case you are doing a traverse of all the peaks of Mt. Batulao, I would recommend that you take the more challenging Old Trail. However, if there are newbies in your group, or would just want to hike up the summit, then climbing Batulao through the winding New Trail is advisable.

As for us, while I still consider most of us as newbies, we took the Old Trail as per advise of our friend Allan.

Once you arrive at the cleft where a hut is also located, the trail going down on the left is the Old Trail while the trail forward leads to the new trail. This area is located just below Peak 1, so if you have already reached Peak 1, it only means that you are already traversing the New Trail.

At the Old Trail, the ravine will be on your left side and the trail continues to wind down until you pass by several bamboos and banana trees. You shall thereafter pass by a spot where a mango orchard is located. Just follow the trail until you reach the first house, it is where two boys (they usually man the spot according to their mother) would offer you fresh buko and soda (Mountain Dew). This is a very good spot for you to rest since wooden chairs are also found here.

From that rest stop, you will again pass by another house and the trail shall continue on a brief descent until you reach a dried-up river (the marker here is the presence of a bamboo bridge). Just remember that after the house, the trail goes down to the right and not straight to the east.

Bamboo Bridge

Look for the boulder near the bamboo bridge as this will show you the right trail. From here, there is a brief assault until you reach Camp 1.

Camp 1 is the camping area at the Old Trail. You shall be required to pay a registration fee of P20.00. There is also a toilet available for a fee and a makeshift souvenir shop offering t-shirts for P250.00.

Camp 1

The makeshift hut cum souvenir shop

From Camp 1, the final assault to the summit (hardest parts of the climb) starts. Camps 2 to 5 are really very near each other. Hence, they may still be considered as somewhat part of Camp 1. I consider the assault from the "solitary tree" to camp 9 as the hardest and most dangerous part of the trail. This part of the trail will likewise introduce climbers to the more technical aspects of mountain climbing as one's resolve to reach the summit (especially the newbies), will be put to test.

You will likewise be exposed to the harsh rays of the sun from hereon until you reach the other camp site in Peak 8 considering that after the "solitary tree", there are really no trees that will offer the slightest shade to you even for just a moment (unless of course you choose to pass by the forested area on the western side of the peaks). Also, this is where the trail starts to get so dusty.

In the roped segment of the Old Trail, you may choose to use the rope and rappel or climb ala Spiderman on the rocky portion at the left side of the wall. As for me, I chose to be Spiderman for a moment. It is also possible to do the Spiderman stuff on the right side of the wall but it is more dangerous since the ravine is on that side of the trail.

One of the last trees in the area before the "solitary tree"

Allan is waiting for us at Camp 8

Assault from the Solitary Tree (Camp 8)

"The Solitary Tree"

Maintain that 2-meter distance

 At the summit, you will be greeted by a 360-degree view of the hills and mountains of Batangas and Cavite. Balayan Bay, Mt. Maculot, Mt. Talamitam, Mt. Banoi, Pico de Loro, and Taal Lake, among others are readily visible. There is also a "7-11" at the summit where you can buy halo-halo, fresh buko (from the fruit), and soda (Mountain Dew).

The Summit is likewise known as Camp 10

Panorama at the summit

Tagaytay Ridge...the Skyranch is visible on the upper right portion of the photo
Allan's signature jumpshot

Close-up view of the peaks

Jump shot

Happy to reach Camp 10

I was here...immortalized

We reached the peak after almost 4 hours of trekking, considering that we had to wait for the other mountaineers passing through the roped segment at Camps 8 and 9.

After spending about an hour at the summit, we descended via the New Trail. But of course, we still had to take some pictures and be true to our tag as "The Picture Group".

Allan doing a jump shot at one of the peaks, leaving us all in awe. (Kids this is dangerous)

As we make our way down the summit, I was left amazed by this trail runner who virtually glided and drifted on the trail. And upon Allan's prodding, we did the same.

While there is fear that you might slip and sprain an ankle, or worse, fall down the ravine, doing some trail running would really uplift your confidence and even save you some extra energy since you are letting gravity do its job (yes, doing it on the ascent is a different matter).

After 40 minutes, we finally arrived at the Peak 8. It is here where another campsite is located. We were again required to pay P20.00 registration fee and write our respective names in another log book.

We chose to stay at the hut located farthest to the registration area. There were also other mountaineers cooking their lunch. As for us, we bought our lunch at the store along the highway, and of course, there were eggs and adobo that Allan cooked. Mind you, we even had some bottles of Red Horse Beer...waahaa.

"7-11 cum Souvenir Shop"

Camp site at the New Trail with a view of the Peaks of Batulao

After a very long rest of 2 hours, we decided to descend from Peak 8. The rolling terrain and the intermittent winds made the heat of the sun more bearable.

We only had brief rests on the way down because of the open trail. Finally, we decided to rest and buy halo-halo in one of the huts (7-11), and oh man, I don't know if I was just so tired or it was just the terrible heat, but that halo-halo is one of the best treats I ever had as it felt like rain after a very dry summer.


Until next time...

Cogon all around ubiquitous even at the summit...and that is what separates Mt. Batulao from other mountains

The trails of Mt. Batulao really offers a very good hike. Aside from that, it also showcases magnificent views. It really felt very satisfying to know that you are looking at the world in a different view. Moreover, seeing a number of potential / novice climbers conquering their fear, and enjoying their moment of triumph just makes you feel braver and stronger.

Thank God I always feel at home in the mountains. For now, I leave below some more pictures of this mountain "Bato sa Ilao".


The Hut where we whiled away time.

Mt. Talamitam

A different view of Mt. Batulao

L to R: Nathan; Geovanni (Juvi); Lorie; and Jaimel

One last glance...we'll be back


Tramping Diaries 005 (003.001.014)
Mt. Batulao
Nasugbu, Batangas
Jump-off: Evercrest Golfand Country Club
Minor Climb (4/9 as per
811 MASL
Highlights: Rolling and winding terrain, traverse to/from Old Trail/New Trail, roped segments, rock climbing, open trails

Itinerary (please be reminded that we did not use public transportation so make the necessary adjustments)

Old Trail to New Trail

0400    ETD (McDonalds Broadway)

0600    ETA Evercrest / Breakfast along the Highway
0645    Start trek (we hired a tricycle to take us deep inside the jump-off point)
0815    Arrived at the split / cleft (take the trail on the left side going down)
0830   Arrived at the rest stop (1st House in the Old Trail) (had to wait for the others here)
0915   Arrived at Camp 1 (Register)
1000   Reached Camp 8 (Prepare for final assault to summit from the Solitary Tree)
1100   At the Summit
1145   Descend to Peak 8
1230   Arrived at Peak 8 (register and have lunch)
1430   Descend from Peak 8
1545   Arrival at the 2nd Hut after the split (Halo-Halo time)
1630   Continue descent to jump-off point
1715   Arrived at the residential area (Parking area)
1815   Finished wash-up at the houses along the highway
1830   ETD for Manila

*History. The name Batulao was derived from "Bato sa Ilao" (translated as rock in the light). Actually, there were two conflicting stories that I have heard about this. 

One was when I attended this Leadership Seminar made mandatory by our school to every organization. A local that I've talked to said that "Bato sa Ilao" was derived from a yearly phenomenon where the sun would set directly between the two main peaks of the mountain.

The other account is from the local we talked to during our hike who said that in the past, lights were supposedly seen by locals along the mountain every Holy Week. According to him, they do not have an explanation for this phenomenon but allegedly, they now hardly see any of these so called lights.

*Guides. Guides are readily available (most of them are children aged between 11 to 15). It is advisable to hire one for first-timers or if there are a lot of novice climbers in your group.

*Transportation. On your way back, there is a jeepney that would offer to take you to the highway. Then there is a queue of tricycles available to take you to the highway. I don't know how much they charge since we did not avail of their services.

There are parking spaces along the way before the jump-off point. The parking space near the residential houses charge P50.00 for the whole day. I don't know if the rates are the same for the other parking areas.

*Essentials. Should you wish to take a bath, there are houses where you can wash-up. the standard fee is P20.00. You can find them after the jump-off or even along the highway.

After a dayhike, mountaineers usually drop by nearby Tagaytay for coffee and a light snack or a sumptuous dinner of bulalo and crispy tawilis.

*Budget. Since we made use of our own vehicle for this climb, it is only possible for me to provide an estimate of P600.00 to P700.00.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Mount Pulag - via Ambangeg Trail

Scaling the summit Mt. Pulag has been in my bucket list even way before I seriously ventured in mountaineering. Stories about the legendary sea of clouds and virtually freezing temperatures made me more determined to climb Luzon’s highest peak.

Mount Pulag (taken from the Ambangeg Trail)

Mount Pulag
Honestly, the thought of finally summiting Mount Pulag this 2014 never entered my mind until Allan broached the idea to schedule a Valentine’s Day Climb. The inquisitive part of me made me research about the Mountain and the different trails that lead to its summit. Good thing, we were scheduled to negotiate the Ambangeg Trail in going up Mt. Pulag.

Summit Marker

Since it was peak season, our efforts to reserve slots at the DENR went for naught. We were informed that all of the available slots for the period January until the 1st week of March were already reserved by tour operators who cash in on the immense popularity of the mountain. In that case, we were not spared and were consequently forced to avail the services of a travel operator, lest we wanted to decimate the excitement and anticipation that were brewing within us.

So Valentine’s Day came, and our meeting point is at the Victory Liner in Cubao, Quezon City. Since we were scheduled to leave for Baguio City at 9:30PM, we had to rendezvous 30 minutes before the said expected date of departure.

Inside the Victory Liner bus
Considering that it was my first time to ride a bus for a long trip in a long while (or was it the thrill and anticipation of what is in store for us?) it was really an effort for me to get some sleep. There were 15-minute stopovers in Tarlac City and Sison, Pangasinan, and we finally arrived in the City of Pines at 3:30AM.

Still feeling some drowsiness, we were next herded to the jeepney that will take us to and from the jump-off point in Bokod, Benguet. These jeepneys heading to Mt. Pulag are visible at the gas station at the back of the Victory Liner Terminal, there is also a convenience store (7-11) in the area. I am not aware if it is true but we were told that the jeepneys are allowed to carry 15 passengers only.

It was already 4:30 when we left Baguio and headed to Bokod. While I knew that we shall negotiate the fabled Ambuklao Road, I was still surprised by the rollercoaster ride that came next. We were like literally tumbling like bowling pins for about an hour. I felt some relief when we finally arrived at the roadside canteen where we are scheduled to have our breakfast.


Just in time for breakfast

Agno River

One of the 1st batches to arrive...morning is yet to break in
After spending an hour at the rest stop, we went on our way. The mighty Agno River ushered us deeper into the grand Cordillera. We passed by the impressive Ambuklao Dam, and after about thirty minutes, we finally arrived at the DENR Station.

As it was peak season, the mandatory briefing was conducted by the DENR Ranger in batches. Everyone is required to register here and to listen to the lecture about topics that shifted from the rules and regulations in the Mt. Pulag National Park; to the harsh environs up the mountains; to the basics of mountaineering. There is also an informative video after the lecture.

Ambuklao Dam

Ambuklao Lake

Agno River


L to R: Hunny, Gani and Bogs

Briefing at the DENR

We were again up and about in no time, riding the very same jeepney that negotiated its way to higher ground. Although the roads from the DENR to the Ranger Station were so steep, it nevertheless presents a chance for some top-loading, like some of our companions did. Splendid views continued to greet us until we arrived at the Ranger Station after more or less 45 minutes. It was already 12:15 noon when we arrived at the Ranger Station so we dig in for lunch.

Jump off Point / Ranger Station / Parking Area for the Jeepneys

At the ranger station, one is required to secure the services of guides. Porters are also available but are optional. Incidentally, the Ambangeg Trail is known as the easiest of all the trails leading to Mt. Pulag. This is probably a very good explanation why more and more people (not really hikers or mountaineers) climb Mt. Pulag. This likewise resulted to a lot of tour operators who organize such climb.

For guides and porters

Ready to Rumble...

L to R: Jaime, Allan, Lennon, Bogs, Ais, Me, Gani, Paul

We started to trek at around 1:15PM. At first, the road is well-paved concrete but as we pass by the vegetable terraces of Bokod, it soon gave way to a dirt trail. In this area, the view is already breathtaking. It is also here that you will find the pine forest. Arguably, this is also the hardest part of the Trail

Some hikers particularly those who do not want to exert much effort hire motorcycles (habal-habal) that would take them deeper into the trail. The cost is P150.00 per person/one-way.

And the trek started...

Just after the residential area

Dirt Road

The Jump off Point deeper into the trail
After an hour and 20 minutes, we finally reached Camp 1 (2:35PM). This is a very good place to rest. There is also a nearby water source should you wish to refill your water bottles.

The trail goes up and then down...and then up again until you reach Camp 1

Pine Forest

Camp 1

L to R: Jaime, Allan, Bogs, Lennon, Gani, Bobby

After Camp 1, the mossy forest starts. The trees in this part of the trail are more like lifesized bonsais. With the heavy packs that we carry, coupled with the thinning air as we get higher in altitude, we decided to take it easy and be true to our tag as “Team Relax”. Besides, we decided that we are going to settle at Cam 2 instead of the Saddle Camp considering that most of us are novice climbers. At least we have all the opportunity to take photos as we rest along the trail.

Mossy Forest
Water Source near Camp 1

Bonsai Garden


Don't know what that peak is...

This is how defined the Ambangeg Trail has become...even the locals use the trail in going from one Barangay to another

After 45 minutes, we passed by the 2nd water source. The temperature here is considerably lower as the cool wind breezes past the mossy forest. After 10 minutes, we finally arrived at Camp 2 Extension.

Camp 2

On to Camp 2 Extension

We are going higher

Camp 2 Extension

The mountains teem with dwarf bamboo

The structures in the far middle part of the photo are the latrines.

Incidentally the summit of Mt. Pulag is still a 1-hour hike from Camp 2. It is likewise not visible at Camp 2 as there are other peaks that block the view. Nevertheless, there are other things campers may do like give in to the tempting hike offered by the nearby peak referred to as “Baby Pulag”.

Happy Shiny People Laughing....

As for us, we just enjoyed the scenery. We even explored the other side of the campsite. For now, I will leave you with photos of some of the interesting flora that we saw along the way.

Eggplant at the DENR

Tramping Diaries 004 (002.014-015.014)

Mt. Pulag (Ambangeg Trail)
2922 MASL
Jump-off Point: Ranger Station, Bokod, Benguet
Major Climb: 3/9 (not so much of the hike but because of the weather conditions)
Highlights: Luzon’s highest and Philippines’ 3rd highest; Sea of Clouds; subtropical weather conditions, pine and mossy forests

*History. Mt. Pulag was once known as Mt. Pulog.

*Trails. Ambangeg is sometimes referred to as the “Executive Trail” to Mount Pulag. Other trails include the Ambaguio Trail, Tawangan Trail and the Akiki Trail, which is also known as the dreaded “Killer Trail”. There is this Eddet Trail which would ultimately overlap with the Akiki Trail.

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