Tuesday, November 22, 2011

MT IGCURON

Valderrama, Antique
October 29-30, 2011
At the shoulder of Mt Igcuron
Mt Igcuron is a rock wall presiding over the town of Valderrama in Antique. Unfortunately, for any mountain in Valderrama, no matter how inviting it is, it always ends up being relegated either as a plan B or a side trip to the mystical Mt Baloy that dominates the horizon beyond Valderrama.  At least to the zealous adventurer! That is the sad story of a mountain whose beauty surpasses that of most mountains around Manila.
Photo courtesy of Chester Regondon
The unclimbed north knife edge of Mt Igcuron
But last month (October), on my third visit to Valderrama, I made sure this mountain was not forgone. Upon my arrival at his place, Chester Regondon, the tourism officer of Valderrama, gave me all the assistance I needed. I left some of my stuff at his home and he gave me a ride to the guide’s place. It was already past 4pm when my guide and I started the trek.
The scenery reminiscent of Batulao and Kabunian
A trek in Mt Igcuron is comparable to a Mt Batulao hike set on the hills of Bakun, Benguet. Mt Igcuron is an open mountain. It has only few shady areas. It is ideal to climb this mountain when the sun is not at its zenith. The jagged skyline that Mt Igcuron and its surrounding mountains create will remind you either of Mt Kabunian or Mt Guiting-Guiting. Mt Igcuron features a panoramic view of Valderamma at the summit and the ridge. From there you can see the length of the Cadian River as it straddles through Valderrama and flows into the Sulu Sea. When you turn around, you’ll see a lot of other beautiful bouldery peaks that may serve as a working title to your plan for a next visit to Valderrama.
Mt Igcuron as seen from Mt Bubog
But just like a rose, before you get to the flower, you’ll have to negotiate with the thorns. The trail from the campsite to the ridge is not yet established. The guide will lead you through a straight near vertical ascent that he will slit through the Cogon-covered slope. Stopping along will just make you either slide down the loose soil or strain your leg muscles as they counteract the pull of gravity on a near vertical slope. This really steep assault will take around one hour when the sun is not high. Attempting to do this assault between 10 am and 3 pm is tantamount to flagellating yourself during the Holy Week. I got through this primarily because we did the assault before 6 am when the sun was not mighty yet. What I didn’t conquer, though, was the challenge of the ridge. Six years of climbing and walking on perilous grounds was not enough for me to overcome the vertigo that surged up my spine while I was walking the knife edge that leads to the summit of Mt Igcuron. I mean, I conquered the90-degree challenge in Mt Guiting-Guiting, climbed up and down Pico de Loro’s monolith several times, conquered the carrot rock of Mt Tenglawan, rappelled with my head first and walked the really sharp knife edge of Mt Madjaas but I gave up on Mt Igcuron. The wind was really strong and the sharp ridge was probably three times the length of the knife-edge of Mt Madja-as. I was less than 50 meters away from the summit but I turned my back and just told myself ‘Safety First Lagataw!’.  I guess what intensified my vertigo was my knowledge that the left side of the ridge was a vertical drop and the right side was no less vertiginous. I walked two thirds of the knife edge and that was the farthest I could drag my legs to. We headed back down and I prepared for the main event of my long vacation—Mt Baloy.
Mt Igcuron remains an unfinished business for me.
Photo courtesy of Chester Regondon
How to get there:
Fly to Iloilo and take the Ceres bus to San Jose, Antique (5-6 hours). From the Dalipe terminal at San Jose, take the jeepney to Vaderrama (PhP50; 1-1.5 hours).
Another option is to take the RO/RO buses from Manila to Antique/Iloilo. Get off at Bugasong and either wait for the jeepney coming from Dalipe or hire a habal-habal (Php100) to take you to Valderrama.
You may also fly to Caticlan and take the bus bound for San Jose. Get off at Bugasong and take either the jeepney or a habal-habal to Valderrama.

Where to stay:
Villa Valderrama
You may enjoy one night at the Villa Valderrama Mountain Resort. There’s a cold spring swimming pool and you may go beyond the fringes of the resort and discover some Rafflesia on the trail. Check out their rates below.

Where to eat:
There are some carinderias at the town center. You may also cook your own food if you have your stove and cook sets. You may also try the native chicken restaurant at Bugasong. 

Side trips:
Boracay in 2006
For those heading north, Boracay would be the first option in that it is on the way to Manila. You may also visit some islands off the shores of Culasi, Antique or visit the cleanest river in the Philippines—the Bugang River in Pandan, Antique. If you still have extra time, Carabao Island (Hambil) in Romblon is a cheaper alternative to Boracay. 
Carabao Island
But the best side trip to the north is something I won’t disclose here until I see it first.
If you’re going back to Manila via Iloilo, you may pay a short visit to Anini-y and camp overnight at the peaceful Nogas Island. You may also explore the culture-rich city of Iloilo before you fly back to Manila.
Camping @ Nogas Island

My Itinerary
Day 1
1030hrs
ETA @ San Jose, Antique from Iloilo. Buy food stuff and butane gas at Gaisano Shopping Center
1130
Lunch @ Gaisano
1300
ETD for Valderrama (from Dalipe terminal)
1430
ETA Valderrama, Antique. Phone Chester Regondon.
1530
ETD for the Brgy Binanogan (the guide’s place). Leave some stuff at the guide’s place. It may take time to hire a guide. The guides here are not trained to be responsible guides. You may be disappointed by their pacing. Don’t ask guides about distance and time. They don’t have the habit of measuring time and space there. Be tactful when dealing with people in this remote sitio. People outside Valderrama will tell you that Valderrama is infested with communist insurgents.
1630
Start trek.
1800
Refill water at the brook.
1900
ETA Campsite. Pitch tent. Prepare Dinner
2000
Dinner
2100
Lights out
Day 2
0430
Wake-up call. Boil water.
0500
Quick breakfast
0530
Assault to summit. Bring only camera and some water.
0630
ETA @ shoulder
0645
Knife edge
(0700)
Summit
0730
Start descent
0830
Back at campsite. Break camp.
1000
Back at Brgy Binanogan. Wash up.
1100
Take the habal-habal to Villa Valderrama.
1110
ETA Villa Valderrama. Wash up. Lunch
1230
Take the habal-habal to Bugasong (highway). Wait for a bus that may take you to either Iloilo or Caticlan for your side trips.

My trail

The red line represents my altitude profile from the summit and down to Binanogan
Check out these links for more of Igcuron
Myand's Igcuron trek
Chester Regondon's photos of Igcuron

7 comments:

  1. Nice one Sir... hope I can climb this mountain too and of course Madjaas. Thanks for sharing your IT. More power.

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  2. Ayush! Kitakits sa Nagtud! Nagktia ba kayo ni Haji?-rudy

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  3. @mike: sa summit mga 1900 feet (asl) lang. Di gaano kataas

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  4. excellent take on igcuron sir. now im having second thoughts because of your knife edge experience. payter! :D lol

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  5. tnx for sharing this..with my team we hit the summit last january 5,2012...tnx lagataw!!

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  6. congratulations bingo Todz. I will surely go back there and challenge the knife edge one more time.

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