a journal on hiking and traveling around the Philippines

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Five Mountains in Luzon For Solo Hikers

If you have taken a Basic Mountaineering Course, one of the things you will be taught is to  climb with a partner for safety reasons. But sometimes, a companion is unavailable and you find yourself craving for that liberating rush to engage in a solitary mountain adventure.

As Luzon (and the rest of the Philippines) is abundant with mountains that are ideal for solitary hikers, it’s difficult to conjure an excuse why you should pass up the chance to experience the summit on your own. 

Here’s a list of several tried and tested hiking destinations. Each can be climbed in a day and with the exception of Mt. Tarak, will not take you more than 3 hours to reach the summit as long as you're in good condition. 

These were selected for the quality of trails, safe atmosphere, convenience of travel from Manila and with proper research, the services of a guide (although advisable) are unnecessary. (Just a friendly reminder to my fellow hikers to adhere to the LNT Principle by heart when you visit these mountains and do not leave any garbage behind. Keep in mind that these list  was shared to extend the appreciation for nature, not to draw big disruptive crowds. :) ).

1. Mt. Timbac (Atok, Benguet)
– At 2,717+ MASL, it is believed to be 3rd highest point in Luzon, after Tabayoc and Pulag. The trails are mostly on concrete while some parts are rocky. You won’t really need hiking shoes here. It starts at a hilly portion of the road where you can find yourself catching your breath on the first 30 minutes as you're already at a high altitude where air is thinner. Popular jump-off is at KM. 55 of Halsema Highway which can be reached by riding one of the buses to Bontoc or Sagada from the terminal in Baguio near the slaughter house.


2. Mt. Maculot (Cuenca, Batangas) – is a favored destination for mountaineers who are training for more challenging mountains. The trails though established are quite steep on most parts. The views of Taal Lake at Rockies, a high point in the mountain often mistaken as the summit, are breathtaking. As you emerge from the last few meters of a tiring assault,  the path to the summit is to the right, where views are obscured with thick foliage  while Rockies is to the left. If you want to spice up your climb, though it's a bit more strenuous,  ascend from the Grotto to the summit and make Rockies your final stop. 


3. Mt. Ampacao (Sagada, Mountain Province)
The regular trail starts from the Ambasing Elementary school. There you can easily ask for directions as you make your way up. The terrain is rocky and wide. As you approach the summit, you will feel magnetized by the view of mountains where clouds converge. Watch out for the boulder view decks at the side of the trail, where you can meditate and take great shots. You can also do a traverse to Lake Danum, a popular spot to watch the sunset (but better avail the services of a guide from the tourism office as there are several trails leading down).


4. Gulugod Baboy  (Mabini, Batangas) – highly recommended for people who enjoy both the mountains and the water. The summit features views of the ocean and other mountains such as Mt. Daguldol, Maculot & Batulao. 

After the climb, you can check in one of the resorts across the jump-off. Philpan Resort, is the mountaineers' favorite. Here you can pay for entrance and use their facilities to wash or better yet, swim in the ocean! Overnight accommodation is also available and you can try to negotiate for the rates when it's off the summer season. The resorts in Barangay Anilao also features a lot of diving & snorkeling spots and is considered as a haven for underwater sports enthusiasts. 

Photo courtesy of my friend - Diana
For those who are looking for a bit of a challenge, we have :

5. Mt. Tarak (Mariveles, Bataan) – Located inside the mountain is its ridge where most hikers choose to end their ascent because this is where the great views are. On a clear day, you can see the rest of Bataan, Corregidor and Manila Bay. 


From the Five Star terminal in Cubao,  board a bus to  Mariveles and ask the conductor to let you off at Barangay Alas-Asin. From where you will alight, take the road to your right and upon reaching the end of the road, turn left. In less than an hour, the trail will lead you to a couple’s hut where you have to register (no fixed fee but donations are welcome).

The trail is easy to follow. However, you will encounter a landslide where you need to cling to a rope attached to boulders to get to the other side. After that, you can easily make your way up Papaya River which is a clear and cold water source making it an ideal camping spot. The next portion of the trail gets trickier. You need to watch out for trail signs (3 small rocks on top of each other) leading upward. The last 15 minutes to the ridge has overgrown weeds, as high as a person and challenging to negotiate but with patience and presence of mind, you will eventually find your way to the clearing.


Having the freedom to change your plan as often as you can, dictate your pace, trek as slowly as you want or even run are some of the perks of solo hiking. You are also more inclined to socialize and talk to others you  normally ignore when you’re with company.

Of course, one must not ignore its risky aspects such as having no one to instantly available to assist you if you get into trouble so extreme precaution must be undertaken. Please check out tips here.

Whether with a companion or on your own, with a positive mindset, believe that it’s going to be an awesome adventure! Akyat na sir/ma’am! :)

*Sir/Ma’am is mountaineer speak when referring to people they encounter along the way.

DISCLAIMER:
Although these mountains are generally safe as hiking destinations, one must always take the precautions when traveling. Best advice I can give is to talk to the locals before proceeding, be mindful of your surroundings, always tell someone of your whereabouts and go with your gut feeling. Once you sense danger, retreat! Adventure will be here for eternity but our lives can be taken in a heartbeat.

RECOMMENDED RESOURCE ON HIKING ITINERARIES :
www.pinoymountaineer.com

I’d like to thank my friend Ramon Jorge for contributing to this list. JZ was the recipient of 3 awards at the 2011 Nomads Peak Mountain Climbing Race which included : First to Summit 30,000 Ft. ASL Award (2nd wave),35 Mountains/ Summits/Peaks in 7 Days Award at Ranked 2nd Highest Climber (2nd Place) as to elevation (2nd Wave Climbers). Congrats bro!

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