I’ve climbed more than a dozen different mountains, and everyone knows I’m by no measure an addict. I’ve done repeat climbs of the same mountains from Luzon to Mindanao, oh, I actually I’ve never done Visayas, yet!, and I’d climb more if I could. So perhaps it wouldn’t seem surprising if a climb can get kind of stale. Well, everything about the climbs could evoke a wide array of emotions. It made some of my friends as first timers swear to never subject themselves to anything like it again. Some people I know of also seem like they’ve left their homes for good for the mountains. But think, when the climb’s over and I’m on my way back, it’s sad to realize that it’s a little bit of the same excitement, just on a different place.
So color me amazed, as just last week as we were dead tired going for several hours already on our woefully steep descent of Mt. Ugo last week, when I got to suddenly realize something I never thought I’d think. “Holy crap, I do love this mountain!”
This is not an IT post. There are a lot of guides out there already geared for that. In fact, we heavily relied on Gideon’s Pinoymountaineer, and also, Bani’s experience to get us through. So this is just our own personal experience with Mt. Ugo.
November next month marks the fifth year since we last did Mt. Apo. It was a memorable climb, but we all obviously wanted to do it for the bragging rights. During that five year span, a lot of new people have come to experience and enjoy climbing, so much that everyone seemed even more active with their climbs. I, hogged with my own schedule could not keep up, so when the plan to climb Mt. Apo was initiated, I decided not to join anymore. The new Apo climb would be tougher, so the group worked on a 1 year plan to slowly build up everyone’s strength. Mt. Ugo was slated for September this year, but due to conflicts, got bumped off twice. It was finally settled as a traverse climb on October 19-20, 2013.
We left Victory Liner, Kamuning on the 10PM Solano bus, Friday, October 18, 2013. All 16 of us. There were no first timers. Everyone was briefed that it would not be an easy climb.
I didn’t sleep well the day before, so I did my best to catch some before the long day. At 5AM, we reached Aritao and waited for our jeep.
It was already chilly at Aritao, Nueva Vizcaya
Our jeep took us on an hour long ride to Kayapa, Nueva Vizcaya. We did breakfast and bought packed lunch. In no time, we were already on our way to the trail. We started at 745AM, 1120 MASL.
At Kayapa, Nueva Vizcaya
Our itinerary was succinct. First part of the trail will be hard. Just after the first 150 meters of ascent we had to do an obligatory rest.
The rest of the trail would go on like that. I had to carry my 35lb pack up 30 degrees for several hours. We didn’t mind stopping every now whenever there was a clearing. The view did a lot to soothe everyone.
Three hours in to our steep ascent, we finally reached Indupit Village. I had to lift my soaking shirt and sighed with relief. It was at least an hour of rest for my aching shoulders! The place was slowly enveloped with clouds, and with the clouds came the rain. One of the old locals invited us to her house, where we got to eat our lunch.
Roaming around the village were friendly dogs and greyish cats. They circled around everyone as they tried to beg for scraps. I had my eyes fixed on a man by the fireplace using it to warm himself. I also instantly realized why the cats were grey instead of white.
An hour after reaching the village, we finally decided to set off for the next village. Bani promised that the rest of the trail would be far easier. So far everything went as he had explained and expected, except for the lack of views. It was his fourth time to climb Mt. Ugo, and it was just his first time to see the Kayapa trail enveloped in clouds. Honestly, I didn’t care that much as I didn’t know really what I was missing.
The rest of the trail to Sitio Domolpos
Cows were everywhere the trail. One seemed too interested on us that it followed us for kms. Pigs also littered the trail. Where there are cows and pigs, there’ll be manure. For the rest of the trail, we were skipping and avoiding cow and pig shit and I found it amusing. In just a few hours though, we finally caught glimpse of the village and the school we’ll be staying in. It was a sight to behold.
Sitio Domolpos was situated at a valley between mountains, where it partly enjoys some protection from the cold winds. We descended around 250m to reach the village, and it pained me, knowing we’ll have to climb it back again the next day!
Village finally in sight, around 20 meters below
The school looked surprisingly well maintained for something that’s severely off the beaten track. It was not by any means advanced, but it was not dilapidated as we come to expect from other far flung schools, as depicted in the news. The room we will be staying in was around 40 square meters large. We hurriedly cleaned the room and set up our sleeping beds and prepared for dinner. Everyone else lined up for shower. After several climbs, having this kind of experience after a long climb feels like hotel luxury already. Coupled with the fact that we didn’t have to sleep in tents, but in a closed room brought too much happiness. So for the night, we just prepared dinner and went on with our socials. Sir Nap wasn’t allowed that time to talk about ghost stories however. I guess he didn’t have to. The place was already creepy by itself.
Inside the classroom
We ended the night completely satisfied with what we’ve accomplished for the day. I took the opportunity to snap one group picture before we went to sleep.
Nope, no ghosts in the room!
The next day, everyone woke up at 2AM. By a little past 3, everyone was already eating breakfast and by 4, we were already prepared to leave. Everyone was hopeful we could catch the sunrise at the peak, but Bani assured us that the catching it during ascent to the peak would be more than enough. Little by little as we climbed 500m to reach the camp site, and the summit, we were treated to even greater views. I had to think of more ways to define spectacular.
The sun caught us while we were on the very steep final part of the assault. The sun lit up the place. Everything turned golden, and it was such a feast for the eyes.
Catching the sunrise at the trail
Trail was this steep!
At just over 2 hours since leaving the village, we finally reached the camp site. A group was there, surprised to have seen us. We spent more than an hour feeding our cameras with everything we could point it to. Such, as, mountain cows at 2100 meters! If it only had the sea of clouds of Mt. Pulag, then it would’ve been perfect.
Obligatory group shot!
Of course, we also had to proceed a little more to go to the actual summit. As any guide would detail, this mountain only came to prominence with the crash of an aircraft in the 1980s. At the peak, at 2150 MASL, lay a tombstone commemorating those killed by the incident.
Summit at 2150MASL
Reaching the summit meant that it was all down from then on. Bani had earlier warned us of the very steep descent, and that we should be helped by trekking poles. There would be markers too, as the trail down to Itogon is used for trail running. What came next was truly, a grueling 15km hike down. We may have also underestimated this feat, since we ate breakfast at around 3AM and it would be hours till our scheduled lunch.
ROX left markers like this. Here’s the 15km marker. There are markers every 0.5 kms.
Undeterred, we went through the trail, stopping every now and then to eat whatever’s left of our trail food.
Parts of the Kayapa trail
It was this part of the Itogon trail that will be forever stuck in my head. Everything reeked of luscious green. It reminded me of a very grandiose version of the first part of Akiki, prior to reaching Eddet river. There was nothing like it at all! We breezed through the ever winding trail where green pines were everywhere.
We also all hurried for km 8, where we were all scheduled to take our lunch. We reached the spot at around 8 hours since we started from the school. After heating our food, we were treated to the best fucking tasting corned beef I’ve ever eaten in my life. I, along with everyone, was that hungry!
We rested for a bit before proceeding again. By this time, we agreed to relax the pace. I don’t know who the hell joked about the presence of stores where we could buy cold coke at the village by KM 7. At around the 5km mark, I was so hungry again that I was eating, would you believe it, guavas that could be picked from the guava trees that littered the path. Maybe we would’ve chomped on pomelos too, just as it had littered the Kayapa trail.
The rest of the trail was a breeze. Everyone was dead tired, but none are complaining. Honestly, with trails like this, what’s there to complain and whine about?
I love the mountains!
We finally reached the Itogon Village, and we were finally greeted with a store selling real cold coke. Guess it was also the best tasting coke I’ve had in a while. The store was also only a km away from the end of the trail, and the Itogon trail had one feature up its sleeve: a hanging bridge.
Creaking hanging bridge!
Finally, after 12 hours since we left the village, we reached the end of the trail, where our jeep was ready to fetch us. It was the longest descent I’ve done. The jeep took us to the Barangay hall where we took showers, drank free kapeng barako, and fetched our congratulatory certificates. From there, it was just an hour to Baguio.
The jeep took us to the Barangay hall where we took showers, drank free kapeng barako, and fetched our congratulatory certificates. From there, it was just an hour to Baguio.
Dona and I got on the 8PM bus, and were back at Manila at 2AM, already Monday, the 21st of October. It was one for the books. I never thought I’d fall in love mountain climbing again, until I did Mt. Ugo.
With aching shoulders and legs, I already can’t wait to be back.