Friday, April 29, 2011

BAKUN TRIO (Lobo-Kabunian-Tenglawan)

The Carrot Rock @ Mt Tenglawan (2008)
Bakun in the Benguet northwest offers one of the most breath-taking mountain scenes in the country. The town features three mountains each with its own beauty and spectacle. Mt Tenglawan, which can be accessed via Sinacbat features the Carrot Rock which is similar to the monolith of Pico de Loro in Cavite, only more dangerous to climb. Mt Tenglawan’s trail is a combination of the talahib trails in Batulao, the rainforest of Mt Makiling, the pine trails of Akiki and the mossy forest of Mt Napulauan. Mt Kabunian features the Thriller Trail and the imposing boulder formations along the trail. Mt Lobo, which is the highest of the three, offers a very good 360-degree view at the summit. When it’s foggy, Mt Lobo can only offer a Mt Cristobal or Mt Makiling type of trek doubled. Both Mt Kabunian and Mt Lobo can be accessed via Bakun Central (Poblacion).
The Thriller Trail of Mt Kabunian
Taken singly, each mountain may be equal in terms of challenges and risks. Mt Tenglawan has the vertiginous talahib trail and the slippery and steep pine trail. Mt Kabunian has the knee-shaking Thriller Trail. Mt Lobo has a long continuous 50-degree ascent. Taken all together in one journey, this could be one of your toughest climbs even if you hire a jeepney to transport you from one jump-off point to another. Only few people do a Bakun Trio Expedition due to lack of reliable information among other constraints. Even though I had already done a Bakun Duo in 2008 I still had to do intensive research before I was able to coordinate with the local officials. PLANNING (research + coordination) is very essential in doing a Bakun Trio.
Time and the tourism officers are the main constraints in doing a Bakun Trio. There is only one daily trip to Sinacbat from La Trinidad and vice versa. Both trips are at 0600hrs or 0630hrs. The same is true with the La Trinidad—Bakun Central route. If you miss these trips, you may have to waste one more day or you could waste more money hiring private transportation to Halsema Highway or Baguio. Please be considerate enough not to use public transportation if your climb size is above 5pax. The buses could barely accommodate the locals and their goods. There isn't enough room for your big backpacks. Hiring a jeepney is another thing to consider. Drivers charge P10k-P17k for a 3-day service. The tourism officials in Bakun are not new to commercial tourism. Unlike the rest of Benguet, the fees are high in this town. Coordinate with the barangay officials beforehand and do it in SMS. Don’t delete them. They often change the terms when you get there and you’re helpless. They won’t let you leave Bakun if you don’t pay the ‘appropriate’ fees. But in general, the people in Bakun are as nice as those in other parts of Benguet.
Mt Lobo summit

OUR ACTUAL ITINERARY

Day 1 (Mt Lobo-Kabunian)
April 21 (Thursday)

0145hrs
ETD for Baguio @ Victory Liner bus terminal (Pasay)
0800hrs

The lucky hour of misfortune. Arrival @ Baguio. The bus @KM5 going to Sinacbat beside Petron gas station (across from Jollibee) left at 0600hrs. The bus bound for Bakun Central left at 0700hrs. We were lucky to catch this bus at Shilan in Acop, which is already around 10km away from Baguio, thanks to the taxi driver who immediately agreed to take us there. There is only one bus that plies each route. My bad! I was the last to arrive in Baguio. Dennis and Andy arrived at 0245hrs and Christian at 0300hrs. There were no ‘pasaways’ in the group—just me. But it pays to have the number of the bus driver or the conductor. I was constantly talking with the bus driver on the phone telling him to wait for us while we travelled by cab. Luckily they were changing tires that time so we were not much of a disruption to their journey. We got there just in time but we had to do the ‘topload’ since the bus was already full. The bus was really tall so we were always on the lookout for electric cables and water hoses that threaten to clothesline the passengers on the roof. In the middle of the trip Christian and I had to squeeze ourselves inside the bus.
1030hrs
Brunch @ KM62 stopover. Check out their Al’s Rice. For P95 you have a big fried chicken, chop seuy with crispy pata strips and a big serving of rice topped with a sunny-side-up egg. Avoid their pancit canton in summer. It’s really good but we found two flies that camouflage as black pepper in it. FYI Benguet is infested with flies in summer! We had one crispy pata to-go for P270 (good for 5pax)
1430hrs
Arrival @ Bakun Central. Courtesy call and registration at the Tourist Assistance Center. Please indicate every amount you pay in the logbook to avoid further ‘complications’. Change costume. We got a guide for Mt Lobo for P400. You can buy your supplies in Bakun Central. They’ve got fresh bangus, C2, pork, cold cuts, Lucky Me pancit canton in all flavors and just about anything you would need in your climb…anything except booze! There’s a town-wide liquor ban in Bakun. They sell their 4x4 gin bulag (which they refer to as San Miguel) clandestinely for P200.
1600hrs
Start Trek (up Mt Lobo)
1800hrs
ETA Mt Lobo summit. Picture2x
1815hrs
Start Descent
1930hrs
Back at Bakun Poblacion/Central. Dinner
2140hrs
Start night trek to Mt Kabunian half-way waiting shed.
2320hrs
Arrival @ waiting shed. There’s a little water source beside the waiting shed. We paid our guide P600. Our guide left us here. Just ask your guide for directions for your summit assault the following day.
2400hrs
Lights out


Day 2 (Mt Kabunian Summit Assault and Waterless Night 2)
April 22 (Good Friday)

0600hrs
Wake-up call; Breakfast. Break camp
0840hrs
Start summit assault. Many locals use the trail to access Bakun Central from Kayapa and vice versa. It may not be safe to hide your backpacks along the trail or around the waiting shed. In our case we brought our packs up to a spot which we could see throughout the remainder of the trail to the summit. If you want you can carry your packs all the way to the summit!
1020hrs
Arrival @ a cottage with a makeshift bed. There is a strong water source a little below the cottage. The trail bifurcates at the cottage. The continuation of the trail leads to Kayapa. The trail veering to the right leads to the summit.
1030hrs
Arrival @ Mt Kabunian summit. The summit is marked by a fallen pine tree.
1045hrs
Start Descent. Get backpacks on the way down.
1200hrs
Back at the waiting shed camp site. We waited for the sun to be hidden by the clouds
1300hrs
Resume trek
1400hrs
Arrival @ Kubo III. Late lunch
1530hrs
Resume descent to Bakun Dam (locals refer to it as ‘planta’). This time you’ll be trekking on huge tubes which locals call ‘tunnel’. At an abandoned control station, stop following the tube. Take the cemented steps to the right.
1630hrs
Arrival @ Bakun dam. Get trail water and camp water here. Start steep ascent to New Zealand campsite
1740hrs
Arrival @ New Zealand campsite. You may wish to camp here or a little further on at Junior Kubo.
1900hrs
We had our waterless dinner and socials. There were no people in the houses and the stream is dry during summer. The socials was still fun though with “I’ve been waiting for you” on the background. Stargazing until everybody stopped talking and dozed off.

Day 3 (Mt Tenglawan)
April 23 (Black Saturday)

0530hrs
Wake-up call; No Breakfast. Break camp
0800hrs
Start steep ascent. Follow the clearest uphill trail beyond Junior Kubo.
0845hrs
Water source. This may be a bit difficult to access at night. My companions took some rest here.
0950hrs
Arrival @ waiting shed along the road. Follow the road northwards (to your left when facing the waiting shed). Take 5
1045hrs
Bahay ni Ate Merlyn. Party-party brunch.
1300hrs
Resume trek to Lupunan.
1345hrs
Arrival at a waiting shed. This is an intersection. My companions took a rest while I searched the area. The road to the left leads to Sitio Lupunan. Following the road downhill on your right for 30 minutes will lead you to Sincabat. We made a left and headed for Sitio Lupunan. 
1400hrs
Arrival @ Sitio Lupunan. The last house with a cubical water tank is owned by a kind man. We left our backpacks at his house and brought along our assault packs. There is a water source halfway to the summit.
1420hrs
Start trek to Mt Tenglawan. Only the first phase of the trail could get confusing but listen carefully to the tips and directions of the locals and you’ll get to Mt Tenglawan even without a guide. A reasonable guide fee for us would be P500. For slowpokes, add a little more to pay the guide’s boredom and impatience. The guy who volunteered to guide us quoted a price higher than is due his effort (P700). We declined. I decided to lead the trek since I had walked that trail two years before. First fork take the right; second fork take the left (smooth downhill roll)…the trail is covered with white stepping stones; ignore the minor right turns…follow the white stepping stones until you reach another right turnoff. This leads up. Take this right turnoff. After ten minutes, you’ll be trekking on the dangerous talahib trail. This really narrow trail is on a steep slope of Mt Tenglawan. One miss and you’ll roll down. Be careful with the holes on the narrow trail. After about thirty minutes, you’ll be in the ‘Makiling trail’. Then you’ll come across a huge boulder with a nipa lean-to. On the other side of the rock is the entrance to a small cave/tunnel. Follow the trail beyond the rock. Ignore the trail that veers to the left off the main trail. Then  you'll reach the water source—a small brook of really clear cool water.
1545hrs
Water source (brook). After the water source, you’ll be on the Akiki pine trail. Be careful with the pine needles that cover the ground. They’re more slippery than mud. The trail is not noticeable on the ground but the cuts on the trunks of pine trees will be your guide on this steep trail. After the Akiki pine trail, is the Napulauan mossy forest. After 15 minutes, you’ll exit the mossy forest and be welcomed by a very awe-inspiring sight of the campsite and the carrot rock. 
1630hrs
Arrival @ Mt Tenglawan camp site and summit. Picture2x. You may want to climb the carrot rock but be extra-careful. This rock poses more vertigo and danger than Pico de Loro’s monolith.
1640hrs
Start descent. You wouldn't want to trek in the dark.
1800hrs
Back at Sitio Lupunan. Dinner
1930hrs
Start descent to Sinacbat. Notify the barangay officials of your arrival so they can prepare your lodgings. You could spend the night at the place of one of the kagawads or at the multi-purpose hall or at an empty house owned by an official’s relative.
2000hrs
Arrival @ Sinacbat. Wash up. Socials
2300hrs
Lights out

Day 4 (Homeward bound)
April 24 (Easter Sunday)

0530hrs
Wake-up call; Breakfast.
0630hrs
Departure for La Trinidad. This is the only trip to La Trinidad
1000hrs
Snack @ KM62 stopover
1230hrs
Arrival @ KM5 La Trinidad (Benguet Trading Post). Take the cab to SM Baguio
1300hrs
Lunch and post climb party party at Syblings Nook (SM Baguio rear terrace). No lines here. Good food for good price and really cold beer!
1500hrs
We went our separate ways


EXPENSES

Description
Amount in PhP/pax
Victory Liner Bus Ticket P455 x 2 (to and from)
910
Taxi fare to Shilan, Acop (P160/4pax)
40
Bus fare (Acop to Bakun Central)
170
Registration @ Bakun Central for Mt Kabunian and Mt Lobo
50
Guide fees (P400 for Lobo + P600 for Kabunian) /4pax
250
Registration @ Sinacbat for Mt Tenglawan
100
Bus fare (Sinacbat to KM5)
160
Total
P1680
Safe Amount
P2500

Contact numbers
KM5—Bakun Central bus driver
0928 448 3509
KM5—Sinacbat bus driver
0907 976 9890 / 0949 367 0779
Bakun Centrak Brgy Captain
0909 525 9454
Sinacbat Brgy Captain
0910 449 3657

one final look with my buddies Andy Pandaan, Christian Kalaw and Dennis Hisanan (2011)

Ideal climb size: 5pax max.
Training climbs: two consecutive weekends of any combination of two of these treks: MakTrav; ArayaTrav; Tarak Ridge; Mt Pulag Akiki-Ambangeg.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

KAILANGAN MO BANG MAG-BMC (Part 2)

sa Dila-kado ng Mt Maculot
Ipagpaumanhin po ninyo at natagalan bago ko nadugtungan ang serye ng mga paalala para sa mga nagbabalak pa lang umakyat. Medyo naging abala ang inyong lingkod sa iba pang mga bagay na may kinalaman din sa pamumundok.
At itutuloy ko na ang pagtalakay sa BMC. Naiparating na sa inyo ang kasagutan ng isang anghel—isang puristang mamumundok—sa katanungang ‘Kelangan mo bang mag-BMC?’ Heto’t pakinggan ninyo ang sagot ng isang tila suwail na mamumundok.

Kelangan mo bang mag-BMC? Simple lang ang sagot ko diyan…at ilalahad ko ito sa apat na puntos:
Unang Punto
Ano ba ang nauna, ang BMC o ang mountaineer? Palalawigin ko pa ang katanungan…Ano ang nauna ang BMC o ang responsableng mountaineer? Para sa kaalaman po ng lahat, ang Mt Guiting-guiting na isa sa pinakamahihirap akyatin na bundok sa Pilipinas ay naakyat sa kauna-unahang pagkakataon nila Ginoong Edwin Gatia nang walang BMC. Ang tuktok ng Mt Apo ay unang naapakan mahigit isangdaan taon muna bago pa man ipanganak ang BMC. Samakatwid, hindi dahil wala kang BMC ay hindi ka na makakaakyat ng bundok! Ang totoo niyan, mahigit nubenta porsyento ng mga kabundukang inaakyat ng mga mountaineers sa Pilipinas ay unang naakyat bago pa man naisipan ng isang tao na balangkasin ang BMC.

Pangalawang Punto
Walang masama sa BMC. Sa katunayan, mas maigi kung may BMC ka bago ka pa man umakyat ng bundok. Pero para sa akin, nagsisimula ang BMC sa tahanan. Kung baboy ka sa bahay ninyo, kahit sampung ulit kang balibaligtarin ng BMC, walang magbabago sa’yo! Ang malinis na tao, sa lungsod man o sa kabundukan ilagay, malinis pa rin kasi sadyang ayaw niya sa dumi! At hindi niya kailangan ng BMC para maging malinis! Walang kwenta ang pagyayabang mo na inaalagaan mo ang kabundukan kung durara ka sa EDSA! At ipagyayabang mo sa akin ang bulsa mong puno ng upos ng sigarilyo dahil sa pagsunod mo sa isang alituntunin ng BMC na huwag magkalat? Babaliktarin ko ang bulsa ko, wala kang makikitang upos kasi hindi ako nagyoyosi!

Pangatlong Punto
Nagsilipana sa kapatagan ang mga mountaineers na akala’y diyos na sila at nakapag-BMC na sila. Ibinabandera ang isang kapirasong certificate para ikubli ang tunay na katauhan at para maturingan ng lahat na responsible sya at isa siyang ‘ganap na mountaineer’! Wala kang kwentang mountaineer kung gagamitin mo lang ang pagtatapos mo sa kursong BMC sa pagyayabang. Hindi porket nakapag-BMC ka na ay may karapatan ka nang sigawan ang isang taong nagto-toothbrush sa ilog at ipahiya sa ibang tao. Bago tayo naging mountaineer, naging tao muna tayo. Ang tao, nagkakamali at marunong umunawa. Wala kang kwentang tao kung hindi ka marunong umunawa. Di bale nang hindi maging mountaineer basta tao pa rin. Balik ka sa grade one at tapusin mo muna ang kursong GMRC bago ka mag-BMC.

Pang-apat na Punto
Kung tuluyang kilalaning opisyal na pamantayan at patakaran ang BMC sa pamumundok, pagkakakitaan lang ito ng ibang mga indibidwal. Di magatatagal at gagawing compulsory ang pagdaan sa training (na may kaulukang matrikula) bago payagang umakyat sa bundok! Huwag nating hayaang mangyari ito!

Ano uli ang tanong? Kailangan mo bang mag-BMC? HINDI kung gagamitin mo lang ito sa pagyayabang. HINDI kung hindi mo ito kayang dalhin sa kapatagan at kalungsuran. At HINDI kung gagawin mo lang itong hanap-buhay!

Sa susunod na post po ay ang hatol ni Lagataw.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The 2nd Annual HUNGDUAN CLIMBATHON

Hapao Rice Terraces
Skyrunnig is a very young sport in the country! For a run to be considered a skyrun, the maximum altitude in the race should be at least 2000masl. Right now, the Philippine Skyrunning Association is spearheading the promotion of the sport in the country!
with my blockmate JC Pineda the PSA event organizer
Last Saturday (April 16), I joined a race for the first time in my life. It was the 2nd Annual Hungduan Climbathon. I learned about the race just five days before the event. It said it would cover 21km of mountain terrain in Hungduan and I had just come home from a 21km traverse hike in Mt Arayat (April 10)! April 12 I had to go on my tri-weekly run in UP and I got my right calf and left foot injured. With the help of my physical therapist friend my left foot was fixed but I could still feel some pain in my right calf on the day of the climbathon. But the show must go on as they say! And at Hungduan, it came to me as a surprise that the race would be held in Mt Napulauan. This mountain had always been one of my dream climbs in the country. The mountain has lush vegetation evident in the mossy trunks of the bonsai trees that cover the mountain. The jump-off itself, Hungduan and the Hapao Rice Terraces is already a destination in your journey!
The first phase of the race was a 1.5k run on a dirt road to avoid a bottleneck situation at the entry into Mt Napulauan. There were ten local racers (male and female) and 17 non-local runners. At GO, everybody ran except me! I walked leisurely behind with the organizers, one of whom was JC Pineda, my blockmate back in my BS Applied Physics days in UP.
I was the last to enter Mt Napulauan
At the trailhead to Mt Napulauan I was the last (27th) racer to commence the uphill trek. And this was the time I showed ‘em what I got. At the risk of sounding arrogant, I can say I am a strong uphill trekker, even stronger when I am not injured! It felt good to keep counting as I went up! I managed to overtake 3 locals and 13 non-local racers. The last person I overtook was a marathoner from Manila who belongs to the 40-and-above age bracket! That was already around 7500 feet above sea level. Just about a thousand feet to the summit! At that point, I only had three non-local racers to overtake, two of whom were champion adventure racers Marcelo Bautista and Thumbie Remigio who finished 2nd and 5th respectively. After I managed to establish a safe 100-meter distance between me and the old guy, I caught sight of two female local racers and one more racer from Manila. I decided to climb faster because I had the maximum momentum that time. My momentum increases whenever my nasty trekking technique succeeds. I pressure the climbers ahead of me by thumping behind them for a while as if saying “Hey can’t you get any faster?” When they start panting, I overtake them! Moreover, my handheld GPS device told me it was only less than a thousand feet to the summit and I expected everybody to be really fast downhill runners! In my effort to catch up with the racers ahead of me, I slipped and my injured calf got cramped! Damn! 
dragging my legs to the summit
I remained at the spot where I got injured, resting and stretching for more than thirty minutes as four of the climbers I had overtaken stopped by to offer assistance. It was a rule in the race to stop and offer help when you come across an injured racer. But I didn’t want to hold them up so I always told them “Cramps lang to! Kelangan lang ng konting pahinga…una na kayo ser!”. One of them was kind enough to give me Hydrite tablets. That was my best spot in the race—11th. With Divine intervention, I found two sticks on the trail which I used as I dragged my right leg up to the summit which was very elusive. You’d think one three-sixty-degree spot was the summit only to know that you’d still have to trek to another bogus summit. 
the medic massaging my right calf at the summit
At the summit, a medic massaged my cramped calf for thirty minutes and she told me to really slow down on my descent. I had to because my leg wouldn’t let me run! But when three racers ran past me, I had to gather all my adrenaline and courage. I decided to increase my speed and before I knew it, I was running downhill as if I was skiing with two sticks! I managed to overtake two climbers on the way down and I finished the race in a little above six hours and with a very painful right calf!
I came from that peak
After the race, the participants became friendlier to each other and everyone had his story to share! And each story was flavored with sense of fulfillment and a promise to race again! They were a bunch of cool (and smart might I add) experienced racers and climbers. Some of them have experienced alpine altitudes like Kilimanjaro and most of them have raced in the TNF100 and the annual Kota Kinabalu International Climbathon. It felt good to be in a group of serious and healthy racers—a little shift from the smokers and drinkers in the local mountaineering community that I sometimes climb with. That day, I didn’t see anybody smoke! But don’t let this line discourage you! You can also do it! As I have previously mentioned in this blog, I am just an average Joe trying to test my limits and learning more from LIFE! Enjoy LIFE! Climb HIGH! Run the SKIES! See you in the next Skyrun!
my Hungduan Climbathon track log
the altitude profile of the race

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Two Dogs and a Chicken on Charles Darwin

the white doggie breast-feeding the spoiled chicken
Climbing mountains is tough! But if you just open your eyes you'll know that each mountain has some interesting story to tell! My most recent climb in Mt Arayat (April 10) taught me something about PEACE and ORDER. Animals (and people for that matter) normally compete for food! And most of the time we are slaves to a survival-of-the-fittest type of society. But two dogs and a chicken emancipated themselves from this pagan law! We were having lunch at Sinukuan Peak while the two dogs and the chicken were busy with their second-hand meal under our table. We would throw morsels to them and no fights nor angry growls ensued from their playful scuffle. The rule was simple: whoever catches the morsel owns it. The loser just waits for the next pitch! Well, that applies to the two dogs. The spoiled chicken, being the weaker and slower between the two species, is given a special privilege. She is allowed to snatch pieces of meat hanging out of either dogs' mouth. I wish people could be like this little family of animals in Mt Arayat! I wish we could learn how to GIVE WAY and UNDERSTAND.
And that's how they live in peace and order at 3385 feet above sea level. But I hate to break your hearts, but the military personnel domesticating these animals said the chicken is scheduled to be butchered within this month! Very soon, the dogs won't know it's the meat of their little two-legged friend that they're scrambling for! George Orwell must have gotten his inspiration from a similar scenario!

ARAYAT TRAVERSE (Magalang - Arayat)

photo courtesy of Sir George Ang

Mt ARAYAT (3385 fasl), is an inactive stratovolcano located between the towns of Arayat and Magalang in Pampanga. This goddess proudly presides over the vast plains of Central Luzon. In Philippine folklore, Mt Arayat is known as the abode of the deity Sinukuan. The locals of Magalang actually refer to Peak 2 as Sinukuan peak. The lower southern peak in Arayat is popularly referred to as Peak 1. Volcanic activity and erosion resulted in the formation of a collapsed crater that opens to the west-northwest direction. Landslides continue to change the appearance of the ridge (which is the upper lip of the crater). White Rock (an andesitic dome) is found in the amphitheater-like crater before you reach Sinukuan peak from Magalang. The Arayat side features the Pinnacle Peak which the locals of Arayat refer to as Torre! Between the Pinnacle Peak and Peak 1, there is another dome which is a favorite among climbers when taking pictures.
taken in 2009 (the roots have now been cut)
The mountain has been closed a few times due to insurgency problems. Although it is more peaceful now, the friendly military personnel at Sinukuan Peak still don’t throw caution to the wind. They’ll have you log your names and numbers. They’ll check your packs and then they’ll run a little interview which often turns into a casual friendly chat depending on the nature of your answers.
The Mt Arayat National Park Authority (forest ranger station) is located in San Juan Baño, Arayat, Pampanga. They most often require you to hire a guide and charge you entrance and optional camping fees. The rates may vary according to the mood of the park ranger and/or your diplomatic skills. The clear but ‘bouldery’ trail is a gradual ascent from the forest ranger station to Peak 1. This may take two to four hours depending on the load carried and the capability of the climber. There is no known water source except for the ranger station. There is a wide campsite at the peak which can accommodate twenty 2-person tents or more. 
peak 1 campsite
This flat campsite is under the shade of rainforest trees. Follow the trail to the east and you’ll find the view deck that offers a breath-taking panorama of the vast plain of Central Luzon and the grand Pampanga River that snakes through it. The trail to the west leads to the ridge which ends at the summit (Sinukuan Peak).
Brgy. Ayala in Magalang, Pampanga is my preferred entry point. The people here are much nicer than the people in San Juan Baño which climbers have loved to call Brgy MagUlang as opposed to MagAlang on the other side of the mountain. You are just required to log your names at the Brgy Hall in Ayala and the army camp. No fees or guides required. From the Brgy Hall, you’ll follow a road that leads to the entry into the National Park. Ask the locals for directions. Half of the length of the road is concrete. This road is open and could exhaust you on a sunny day. We were lucky to have been able to hitch a ride from a local priest for half the length of the road. At the DENR marker, take the uphill trail that leads to the left. After about five minutes you’ll see the White Rock. Just head for that! Mostly ascents and no steep descents. There is only one clear trail. The only fork you’ll encounter is near the White Rock. The 100-meter trail to the right leads to the Rock while the trail to the left is the start of the steep ascent to the summit. 
campsite at Sinukuan peak
At the summit, there is a tower manned by military personnel. This facility is solar-powered. The military personnel have set up huts outside the tower compound for their use but they let you have your meals and rests there! No campers are allowed in the fenced compound. The summit campsite can safely accommodate ten tents. Just don’t pitch your tents too close to the cliff.  The trek from Brgy Ayala to the summit may take 3 to five hours and there is no known water source.
a view of Sinukuan peak from the ridge
Traverse climbs have become popular in Mt Arayat. Last Sunday (April 10), I guided four Facebook contacts through the more popular Brgy Ayala to San Juan Baño route. I first did this trek in 2009 as training for my G2 trek. Finding the trail, especially at the ridge, used to be tricky but since traverse treks started to gain popularity, the trail has become clearer except for the part where you’ll have to do a steep descent on the left (east) side of a boulder. I didn’t use this descent before but a group of climbers coming from Brgy San Juan Baño who happened to be there at that spot insisted that it was the right trail. I tried to navigate around the rock but what seemed to be a trail on the right side of the boulder only led to a perilous access to the continuation of the ridge (which was blocked by the boulder). So I followed the group’s advice. The mountain will always put the right sign at the right time if you mean no harm to her. That same group tied silvery blue ribbons throughout the rest of our journey so it became much easier to recognize the trail. The white doggie from the military facility also accompanied us up to that boulder. She wanted to come with us but she was too scared to go down the steep way beside the boulder. She reluctantly went with the other group back to the summit where she came from. I really wanted to keep the dog. After the steep descent, you’ll have to negotiate with the loose soil up an eroded wall. This ‘landslide’ part is the toughest challenge you’ll have to face in a traverse trek in Mt Arayat. You should know how to recognize reliable handholds and footholds on this steep fifty-meter ascent or else it could cost you your life! After this, the trail becomes really easy until you reach Peak 1. The continuation of the trail leads to the south off the campsite at Peak 1. The trail to the east leads to the view deck as previously mentioned. 
the view deck overlooking the vast Central Luzon plains and Pampanga River
The descent to the park ranger station may take one and a half hours of running and hopping. When you’ve reached the ranger station, you’ll be asked to log in. In case they ask for a registration fee, P30 is OK. Two years ago, I had to lie that we had already paid at Magalang. Last Sunday, the ranger station counted my group as part of the Sabiterz Tribe who climbed via San Juan Baño that day. We caught up with them near the ranger station. Two hundred meters after the ranger station, you’ll come to a public resort with a couple of swimming pools. You may wash up here. Around five pm, there are fewer ‘extortionists’ left there. The trade-off: around that time too, the bathrooms close and the water supply start to get shut off. The last trip from Arayat, Pampanga is around 5pm. It’s good to catch this trip. Y’see the two bus companies are in tight competition. They have brought down the fare (A/C bus) from around P100 two years ago to a little more than P50 now. If you miss the last trip you’ll have to take the bus at San Fernando.

Friendly Reminder to Fellow Climbers
In my two Magalang-Magulang traverse treks, I was able to dodge the fees at DENR Ranger Station in San Juan Baño. Be cautious in asking for directions there. Every answer has a price tag in this place! When you ask for directions don’t let them accompany you. Do it verbally. People who INSIST in accompanying or helping you always think of your monetary value. Shove them off politely by constantly saying ‘Tenk you po! OK na po!’ When you’re looking for a bathroom to bathe in, don’t let them guide you to some seats. Seats have corresponding prices there. Just insist that you are looking for THE bathrooms and not just a jet of water coming out of a tube stuck to a wall! The bathrooms have some ledges where you can put your stuff and sit on free of charge. Beyond 5 pm, these bathrooms are closed but if you know how to do ‘diplomacy’, they’ll open them for you. They charge just P5 per person. AVOID the STOUT WOMAN with a big mouth. She is one of the authorized guides and assistants in the resort. She will insist her services on you but just politely get rid of her.

ITINERARY
Ayala, Magalang — San Juan Baño, Arayat (Day trek)

Day 1 (March 28, 2011)
0400hrs
Assembly @Victory Liner Pasay
0430hrs
ETD for San Fernando
0545hrs
ETA @ San Fernando. Take the jeepney to Angeles City
0615hrs
ETA @ Angeles City. Breakfast @ Jollibee. Final buys
0715hrs
ETD for Magalang, Pampanga!
0740hrs
ETA @ Magalang. Take the tricycle to Brgy Ayala
0800hrs
ETA Brgy Ayala. Log in. Change Costume
0830hrs
Start Trek
1010hrs
ETA @ White Rock
1110hrs
ETA @ Peak 2 (Magalang). Lunch. Petix
1250hrs
Resume trek (to the ridge)
1430hrs
ETA @ Peak 2 (San Juan Baño)
1630hrs
DENR. Log in
1650hrs
Swimming pool. Wash up
1800hrs
Take the tricycle to Arayat (poblacion)
1820hrs
ETA Arayat Poblacion. Take the jeepney to San Fernando, Pampanga
1900hrs
ETA SM Pampanga. Dinner
2100hrs
Take the bus bound for Manila
2230hrs
Home sweet home

Trek Distance: 20.9km
Moving Time: 3hrs 44mins
Stop time: 4hrs 30mins
Total trip time: 8hrs 14mins
Moving ave: 5.6km/h
Total ascent: 4073ft
Max Elev: 3385fasl
Magalang elev: 3385fasl
Magulang elev: 3284fasl
Brgy Ayala, Magalang: 65fasl
Pool @ Magulang: 373fasl
White Rock: 2488fasl
Denr Arayat: 418fasl

Expenses
Pasay to San Fernando (Victory Liner): P115
San Fernando to Angeles City (jeepney): P23
Angeles to Magalang (jeepney): P20
Magalang to Brgy Ayala (tricycle): P50/trip
San Juan Baño to Arayat Poblacion (tricycle): P50/trip
Arayat Poblacion to San Fernando (jeepney): P25
San Fernando to Manila (A/C bus or Van): P120
Total: ~P336
Safe Budget: P700

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