|MakTrav with the Sabiterz Tribe (03/13/11)|
GPS TRACK LOGS
The Sto Tomas Trail
Sto Tomas, Batangas offers two trails that lead to the Sto Tomas peak but included in this article is the trail that has gained more popularity among recent Maktrav challengers. The Palanggana trail that starts off at Sn Bartolome Brgy hall will lead you through the Kubo (which has already fallen in) then the ‘Palanggana River’ then the Talahib Ridge and the Melkas Ridge Campsite before you reach Haring Bato and finally Sto Tomas Peak. This side of Mt Makiling is much more challenging and technical than its parkish Los Baños counterpart in that it is steep and segmented with vertiginous ridges. But the most challenging of ‘em all are the near vertical ascents on the boulders following Melkas Ridge! Ropes have been laid on three of these ascents. But on a fair day, the climb up these boulders are rewarding. With the stunning views on both sides of the ridge, you’ll learn how to appreciate vertigo! But remember to maintain good balance as the winds could get really strong in this area. If you don’t want to abort your mission, don’t bring acrophobes up this trail. Once you get past these boulder ascents, though, the Sto Tomas peak campsite can make a good take-five spot. But don’t let your guard down. There’s more challenge in store for you!
The Wild Boar Ridge
Traversing the ridge connecting Sto Tomas peak and Los Baños peak is a two-hour-long negotiation with the thick vegetation. In 2009, it was even denser that you’d have to go through, over and under those vines and ‘teka-teka’ (a thorny sort of vine) that crisscross the ridge. On a moist day, this area teems with limatik (leech). Before you know it, one of them is already in your eye, or inside your ear, in your socks or trying to penetrate the waistline of your pants or probably already past the waistline. On a dry day, the whole route from Sto Tomas to Los Baños is all but rid of these parasites.
The Los Baños Trail
The Los Baños side of Mt Makiling is ideal for tourists and biologists (that’s a euphemism for beginners). This side has rich flora and fauna. The area is canopied by a variety of rainforest trees. The ground is almost always wet. The trail is marked with station numbers (the peak being Station 30). This side didn’t show any significant physical change which could mean it is well-protected by the authorities. Let’s keep it that way! As shown by the altitude profile above, the Los Baños trail is a gently rolling terrain and therefore, long. You’ll start losing your patience once you’ve reached the Wilderness Zone marker. The wide rocky path will tire your leg muscles that you’ll start imagining Mountain Dew or Halo-halo. Don’t despair! Three or more stores offer refreshments starting at Agila Base.
During the wet season, this area is infested with limatiks. These striped tiger limatiks are more agile compared to their sluggish brown brothers in the Sto Tomas trail. They’re everywhere—perched on bushes and cartwheeling on the ground waiting for the slightest human vibrations. But more horrifying than these tiger limatiks are the snakes (mostly cobras) that abound on this side of Mt Makiling. I had a personal encounter with a snake between stations 25 and 24 during my solo MakTrav trek in 2009. Pinoy Mountaineer Gideon Lasco has more stories to tell of these snakes in Mt Makiling.
THINGS TO CONSIDER
The Sto Tomas Trailhead
The Sto Tomas trailhead is the first obstacle you have to get through in doing the MakTrav. If you’re trekking without a guide remember this:
After logging in at the Brgy Hall of Sn Bartolome, follow the road that heads straight to the hill fronting Mt Makiling until you reach the second turnoff (to the left). Make a left and this should lead you to a stream which is dry in the summer. Piles of rocks will also help you find your way here. But don’t rely on these rock piles as they may disappear in a matter of months. The steam itself changes its form from time to time due to erosion. Follow this stream until you are situated between the left end of the hill (on your right) and a big tree on the left. At this point, you’ll have to take the upward trail on the left. Follow that trail until you reach the first cross. Make a right and follow the clear trail until you reach a rock that seems like a dead end. Make a right up this rock and you’ll have to cross a dry stream which is a tributary to the steam mentioned above. At this point, the ascent gradually becomes steep until you reach the huts. If not maintained, these huts could disappear in two years’ time. Go through the huts and turn left. After about five minutes, you’ll be at the Palanggana ‘river’. Cross it and the trail continues at your right. After ten to twenty minutes notice the fork—one trail veers to the left and the other straight downward. The left trail leads to the Talahib Ridge and the other leads you down to the other Sto Tomas jumpoff. When you get past the Talahib ridge, the trail is clear. After reaching the Melkas ridge campsite, take the trail on the left. This leads up. Haring Bato is already visible at your left from the campsite. Just head for it! After this, you shouldn’t lose your way anymore, as there is only one clear trail until you reach Los Baños. At Haring Bato, there’s a very clear trail on the right side of the rock, this will lead you to a dead end. Many climbers have walked on it that’s why it’s as clear as the true path on the left that goes up Haring Bato!
Take any bus that will go through Sto Tomas, Batangas. There are a lot in EDSA. We took the 0600hrs non-A/C bus in Alabang (P50+). Get off at Sto Tomas Public Market. You can buy packed lunch and other stuff here. Take a tricycle (P50 per trip / 3-4pax). Get off and register at Sn Bartolome Brgy. Hall (P20/pax).
Going home, you can take the jeepney in UPLB to Olivarez Mall. The last trip to Manila is around 1900hrs (less than P100). If you miss the last trip, you can take a jeepney to ‘Crossing’. There are non-A/C buses there.
There are a lot of accounts of hikers getting lost or trapped in the realm of Mariang Makiling. Never underestimate this mountain. During my second ascent on this mountain, I was never able to find the entry to the Talahib ridge. Some returnees recount similar stories of aborted and foiled treks in the mountain. When this mountain doesn’t seem to allow you any entry, don’t push it! Just back down.
Get a Guide
Get a guide if you’re not very confident in your skills. But beware! Last Sunday a local guide abandoned his guests at Haring Bato telling them that the remainder of the trail was easy and clear. A responsible guide should never abandon his guests (especially in places like Mt Makiling and Mt Marami). When a guide starts telling you Kaya niyo na po yan! (You can do this on your own!) Madali na lang yan! (It’s just a piece of cake!) or Malapit na ang summit! (The summit is near.), it indicates that he is becoming impatient of your being slow or that he has to abandon you! Local guides usually think of the pay so they haughtily say “Yes I can take you there!” at the negotiation stage. When they’ve noticed that you’re slow, they’ll start showing signs. So consider these things when you get a guide. Don’t ask them how long it will take you to finish the trek! They will just boost your confidence with ‘Apat na oras lang yan!’ (It’s just gonna take four hours). Their base is always themselves—no backpacks, and with feet that have become parts of the ground. They don’t consider the fact that their guests are newbies in blue jeans, Jansport packs and Nike shoes who are not aware of how the lack of water discipline can greatly decide the course of their journey! I have trained a volunteer guide in Mt Marami. His phone is always busy now. Last Sunday, I introduced him to Mt Makiling. After one more climb in the same mountain, I can recommend him to you. A mountaineer himself, he understands the needs and weaknesses of each climber. He won’t abandon you. He may advise you to just go back down! He doesn’t charge any amount. Being able to climb a mountain is a great pleasure for him! Just cover his necessary expenses. I myself am a volunteer guide. Just hope that my weekend is free.
There are a lot of ways to keep limatiks off your skin. The traditional way is to use detergent. In my case, I put on OFF lotion when I’m about to delve into an area known to be full of these bloodsuckers. When they have sunk their fangs into your skin, don’t pull them off. Use other means in which they would voluntarily let go. For more information on these bloodsuckers click here!
MakTrav is best done on a day’s hike. Your backpacks should be as lightweight and small as possible. Overhead backpacks will make it difficult for you to negotiate with the thick vegetation. Don’t bring unnecessary stuff. Carry enough water! There is no known reliable water source throughout the whole trek except for the one in the Kubo which is a bit difficult to locate. Get your body covered. The whip of the talahib is just as nasty as the sting of the limatiks. If you mind the rain, bring along a disposable raincoat or poncho.