Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Mt Makiling (Sto Tomas –Arts Center) 09/18/11

N 14˚08.139’ E 121˚11.627’
3636 fasl

The first locally-made pack I used: Nomads-Conquer Achiever
If you’re expecting to read about the flora and fauna of Mt Makiling, quit this page.
If you want to read about how beautiful nature is, you won’t find it here either.
If you are a safety-first advocate, this material will just ruin your day.
If you want to know the trail class and difficulty of MakTrav, you have no business reading the remainder of this post.

Last March, I planned to retrace the route I took when I did my first solo MakTrav in 2009. But I was leading a big group then, so I decided to take the long traditional trail that exited at Agila Base. Last Sept 18, though, I was with two of my constant trail running companions (Kevin Jauod and Daniel Buyco) and a new recruit Chachu. That was the main mission—to look for that lost trail. I was lucky to find the unclear turnoff from the traditional trail on our descent on the Los Baños slope.  My heart leapt when I saw it—I was happy that after four attempts since 2009, I finally found the lost trail. The trail was clear enough during the first one hundred meters but it gradually got obscured by the thick vegetation. It all but disappeared so I had to navigate around many areas with a little help from my little GPS buddy.  Teka-tekas were primevally long and tough, which somehow reminded me of the unforgiving Mt Makiling that had recently been reopened in 2009. After three hours of backtracking and negotiating with teka-teka, limatik, we found our way out of the wilderness. The mission was accomplished and as a bi-product my companions knew hands-on how it feels and how it is to look for a trail or find your way out of an unfamiliar place.
L-R: Kevin, Chachu, Buyco, Me
In the lead were me and Kevin. At the tail, Buyco had to assist Chachu who had an existing knee problem. Whenever I looked back, I always saw at least three tiger limatiks gleefully wriggling on Kevin’s face, which again reminded me of the old Mt Makiling. Finding a trail is less difficult when you are with this perfect team. I couldn’t have been more thankful for those companions. I rarely, if ever, bring an experienced climber with me when I know the climb is going to involve unplanned moves such as bushwhacking and slitting a trail. The problem with experienced climbers is that they KNOW A LOT. When two knowledgeable individuals go together, the decision-making takes a long time and may involve either an argument or a compromise. Most often, it results in a failed mission or a lot of wasted time. When I set out on an adventure, I want all calls to be mine. I don’t want anybody interfering in the decisions I make. That’s the reason why I usually do these things on my own. Last September 18, however, I brought along two of my most trusted trail running buddies—Buyco and Kevin. They don’t claim to be mountaineers. They want to be sky runners. I have tested their skill and trust on many occasions. They were with me in the Merrell Adventure Run and in my first Cristobal traverse. With the unpleasant issues pervading the mountaineering community these days, I told them it is better to be either in sky running or trail running instead. In these fields, people are smoke-and-alcohol-free and still enjoy the beauty of nature minus the issues. Climbing is just an excuse for them to run. These two Caviteños trust my decisions. When you embark on an adventure, physical strength comes only second to psychological strength. When doing risky undertakings, you should never let doubt and fear interfere in the way you think. A companion’s fear and cautiousness can greatly distract your concentration. You have to listen only to your intuition and your knowledge of the place. That is, if you want to accomplish the mission. But if you want to be safe, don’t come with me. Check out TravelFactor’s website.
Chachu is our guest. We met him then for the first time. He is a follower of and he had expressed his wish to climb with me a few times before. He also happens to hail from Cavite, so I decided to introduce him to his fellow kabitenyos Kevin and Buyco. That day, he was introduced to what we call the Lagataw Way—no plans: just plain risk and pure trust. And this leads me to the keynote of this post.
Some people may think that I put the lives of my companions and mine at risk when we did that. But who really violates the safety-first principle more? Is it me who brought able-bodied individuals on an adventure-filled trip, or those who bring along physically and psychologically weak newbies to Mt Makiling? The safety-first principle doesn’t stop at simply following an established trail. Trust me! We were facing fewer risks during our MakTrav exploration than most MakTrav challengers. My buddies have already been introduced to trail-searching traverse treks and three of the four of us have each already done unguided MakTravs.  Some climbers using the traditional route aren’t even aware of the presence of limatiks in the mountain. Some may be aware but don’t know how to deal with limatiks. Some bring along newbies who lack water discipline (which is very important in a MakTrav). The Safety-First principle is a tricky concept. And this concept is often misconceived. Many only consider the safety of the place and overlook the incapacity of the participants. A bunch of weaklings on a safe trail face more risks than skilled explorers in an unknown land.

On the environmental impact
Some people worry that that unestablished trail to the Arts Center will soon be exploited by irresponsible climbers looking for thrill. They say there is a reason why the natural park authorities have designated proper trails. But they should not be worried. Believe me. The route we took will not be challenged by just any ordinary climber. It will remain concealed to climbers in the next three years. That’s the reason why I’m not putting here the coordinates and other details of the turnoff from the main trail. And Mt Makiling has a way to scare people. My companions even swore that they wouldn’t go back there even if given the chance. It’s a risky thing to do and only a few individuals have the balls to do it. You want to try it, sure! But if you die, that’s your fault!  
@ Philippine High School for the Arts
Our Safety-First Qualifications
Three of us have led separate MakTrav expeditions.
I have walked exactly the same trail before (when I still didn’t have a handheld GPS device).
All four of us are physically fit and can well assist an injured companion. We were moving at a relatively fast pace. We overtook all the groups that climbed ahead of us that day. We knew we had enough time and daylight
I was carrying a handheld GPS device with spare batteries. For the benefit of those who do not know what wonders a GPS device can give you, here are some pieces of information. You can view your tracks on the monitor of the device. With this, you can always retrace your steps back. In case you need to be rescued, all you have to do is find a cell phone signal and text the rescuers your exact coordinates and they’ll find you (unless your rescuers are dummy rescuers who know nothing about coordinates). A GPS device shows the contours of the perimeter you’re in. So you’ll know which area is lower, and which area has a smooth slope and which has sharp. This way, you’ll be able to determine your most convenient game plan.

A Reminder to my readers
Some of my readers feel inspired when they read about my trips. Some even do the same thing. But I write all these stuff not to be emulated. I write in order to tell a story. But I really have to remind you:

altitude profile
Covered Distance on foot
Moving Time
5 hrs 17mins
Stop Time
5hrs 23mins

UPLB exit vs Arts Center exit
Track Logs
Sto Tomas
Public Market
N 14˚06.459’ E 121˚08.758’
Sn Bartolome Registration
N 14˚06.553’ E 121˚09.758’
Entry to
forested area
N 14˚06.871’ E 121˚10.445’
First Cross

N 14˚07.104’ E 121˚10.514’
N 14˚07.388’ E 121˚10.861’
N 14˚07.379’ E 121˚10.918’
Entry to
N 14˚07.263’ E 121˚10.946’
Melkas Ridge
N 14˚07.888’ E 121˚11.077’
Los Baños
N 14˚08.139’ E 121˚11.627’
Kubo (wash-up)
Water Source
N 14˚08.972’ E 121˚12.956’
Arts Center

N 14˚09.068’ E 121˚12.957’


  1. congrats ser at nakita mo ulit ang trail..i always wanted to do a maktrav pero alam ko sa sarili ko na hindi pa ko ready.i agree na Mt.Makiling has its own ways of scaring climbers. - dom

  2. The Lagataw way --- first experienced it with sir End Jay at Cristrav, did it again at ArayatTrav... and looking forward for a more modified lagataw way adventure-filled trips - no plans: just plain risk and pure trust (but well-researched)


YOU deserve a holiday!
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