Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Columbia Trailmasters Greater Outdoor Challenge

I have been stalling writing for quite a while but I gotta write about this. After all, this has been my best performance as a runner. Oops! I can’t believe I just called myself a runner. I mean, I’ve just had three legit runs so far. I must be in such a hurry to shed that label ‘mountaineer’ off my skin, mustn’t I?  I mean, with all the issues plaguing the cyber mountaineering community of the country, who would want to be identified with mountaineers? This time around, you say one thing about a mountaineering event; it’s an instant hot potato. You drop a line about a climber’s death; you’re on the hot seat. You accidentally drop a wrapper of Choc-nut on the trail; you’re the headline of The Climbers’ Daily. To hell with all these fuss in this chaotic hiking community where everybody is ‘great’! Let’s just run!
Last Sunday (October 16), I took part in the Columbia Trailmasters 10K fun run. The trail run was set on the gently rolling terrain of Nuvali in Sta Rosa, Laguna. There were four categories in the event: the Elite Men’s 60K, Open Mixed 40K, the Open Men’s 40K and the 10K fun run. The course involved runs on concrete, mud, stream and a little obstacle course. More than 300 individuals took part in the 10K event. And I finished 22nd (19th among all males) or I outran 94% of the runners in my category.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Pico de Loro

Coordinates: N 14˚12.854’ E 120˚38.784’
Highest point: 2246 feet above sea level
taken in 2006 at the traditional campsite
I’m writing this in retrospect of how I used to dream of climbing Mt Pico de Loro. The idea of climbing the monolith had always been a formidable challenge for me as an adventure-seeker. And conquering the monolith would always give the climber some sense of pride! Moreover, traversing the mountain from Ternate to Nasugbu offers an icing on the cake to your journey—the uninhabited Cutad Cove. This cove used to be accessible to climbers but now SMDC has closed it to non-residents of Pico de Loro residential resorts. That was back in the pre-Facebook age of Philippine mountaineering. With the advent of mass climbs fueled by social networking sites, Mt Pico de Loro has lost its claim to grace and glory.

Rising at 2246 feet above sea level, Pico de Loro is a dominant peak in the Palay-Palay/Mataas na Gulod National Park which also houses the boulders of Mt Marami. This mountain is conveniently accessible via the Caylabne Road which passes through a magnetic hill. On the Nasugbu side, the new road in Brgy Papaya is a convenient exit point. The trail is 90% shady on both sides. Rain forest trees cover most part of the Ternate side and on the Nasugbu side, more rainforest trees and bamboo abound. About 2 kilometers away from Kuya Rene Medina’s residence, a short turn-off to the left will lead you to a waterfall. This waterfall is no stronger than the trickle of a baby’s pee during dry months. But on a rainy day, the waterfall prides itself on its multi-stranded curtain of cascading water. The summit affords a panoramic view of the Nasugbu coasts and islets. You can also see its neighboring peaks such as Batulao, Marami and Talamitam.  But the best part of a Pico de Loro climb is the imposing monolith facing the summit. Viewed from Brgy. Papaya in Nasugbu, the peak-and-monolith tandem makes a perfect image of a parrot’s beak from which the name of the peak is derived.
the monolith (2006)
This part of the Palay-Palay / Mataas na Gulod National Park hasn’t suffered considerable degradation since its state in 2006. But the campsite is all but a mini-Payatas on top of a mountain. Back in 2006, it was not easy to get information on Pico de Loro and most first climbs there were ‘sabit’ climbs. You’d have to know someone who had been there for you to climb Mt Pico de Loro (and almost all other mountains). There’s plenty of information now on the internet and mass climbs have made people believe that climbing a mountain is not that tough. Everyone now says “Fat Joe and Weak Willy made it alone! Why can’t I?” And so now, every weekend at least one hundred climbers throng the mountain with hopes of climbing the monolith and in jubilation thereafter, leave the mountain wounded and spoiled. On the Ternate side, the canopy of bamboo where you’d have to crawl under is now gone. The thick bamboo forest which used to be able to accommodate only up to six tents is now no different from a school playground. And some parts of it stink of human crap. There’s just too many climbers to accommodate every weekend that’s why the campsite had to be extended. The bamboo forest in the Nasugbu side is also facing the threat of extinction. There are now three trails crisscrossing the bald slope of the peak. And these trails are terraced with steps—an indication that there’s been a considerable increase in the number of climbers in the mountain in the last two years. From 2006 to 2009, there was only a single trail of rolling pebbles on the slope to the summit. But on the brighter side, more and more clean-up climbs are now done in this particular mountain which somehow counteracts the irresponsibility of some climbers. Thanks to these efforts, the mountain is kept relatively clean. Well, at least for three weekends (at the most) after the clean-up climb. After three weeks, the mountain is full of trash again.

I am currently conducting a research on mountaineering-related casualties in the Philippines and I had a quick interview with Kuya Rene who has lived in the mountain for more than twenty years. He recounts a few mishaps (in the last five years) in the mountain including one death due to cardiac arrest. A woman was reported to have fallen down the monolith but was luckily saved by the thick vegetation at the shoulder of the base of the monolith. Another climber suffered a head injury after diving off the waterfall but was promptly picked up by a rescue chopper at the grassland near the waterfall. These pieces of information are not complete and may not be very reliable as they are just the version of one man. As much as they are excited to share interesting and intriguing stories about the mountain, Kuya Rene and his wife are a bit reluctant to share information related to casualties fearing that this might scare some climbers and eventually lead to decrease in ‘revenues’ from registration fees. One thing’s for sure—mountains kill! I will go back there to further collate data and information. If you know names, figures and dates concerning to mountaineering-related casualties and mishaps please send them in at lagataw@gmail.com.

ITINERARIES

Maragondon-Maragondon Day Hike (Sunday traffic; slow-moderate pacing)
0730
Assembly @ Jollibee Baclaran (near the church); buy packed lunch
0800
Board the A/C bus bound for Ternate (via Maragondon). Don’t take the bus that terminates only at Naic. Make sure the bus will reach Maragondon. Fare: P70-P80
0945
Alight at a right turn from the highway in Maragondon. There should be a line of tricycles where you’ll get off. There is a big grocery store nearby.
1010
Take the tricycle to ‘Magnetic’. P200/(max 3pax) is the reasonable fee. P75/pax should be the maximum rate (as of research time). Don’t pay more than this. It will just raise the standard price. Take note that a longer and steeper tricycle ride in the Nasugbu side only costs P200. The Ternate tricycle drivers have met many weekend warriors who are willing to pay more than P200 that’s why the standard price constantly rises. Very soon, they will charge P100/head and give you this lame ‘Yun kasi ang kalakaran dito.’ kind of justification if you try to reason with them.  
1022
Magnetic/DENR registration (P20/head). Some climbers by-pass this registration because there is another unavoidable registration at Rene Medina’s place.  Start trek
1052
Fork area. Take the right. There are helpful markers here.
1100
Rene Medina’s place. Water source. Register P20/pax. This registration area may not be duly accredited by the local authorities but consider your fee as a donation to the family who has actively helped in keeping the mountain clean.
1146
Fork area. Left to waterfall. Right to summit.
1154
Waterfall. Lunch. Backtrack to the fork.
1230
Tricky boulders part. Many climbers lose their way here. The continuation of the trail should be downward and to the right. After 50 meters of descent, it’s a rolling terrain and bamboo starts to appear. You may hear voices from the campsite when you’re near. 
1309
Campsite. Take photos
1328
Summit. Climb the boulder (risky and optional).
1400
Start descent
1530
Rene Medina’s place. Wash up. You can also opt to do your wash-up at the DENR.
1620
Traditional exit point. There is a line of tricycles until around 7pm or according to the number of climbers coming down late. They charge P75/head or P200/3pax. ‘Kolorum’ tricycle drivers are willing to go down to P150/3pax. 
1640
Bus terminal (Maragondon). Buses here are bound for Lawton/Buendia (P70-P80). Expect heavy traffic. This side of Cavite has one of the poorest traffic management systems in country.
2030
ETA Manila
9/25/11 the first time I saw the waterfall with water
 Maragondon-Nasugbu Traverse Day Hike (Sunday traffic; slow-moderate pacing)
0730
Assembly @ Jollibee Baclaran (near the church); buy packed lunch
0800
Board the A/C bus bound for Ternate (via Maragondon). Don’t take the bus that terminates only at Naic. Make sure the bus will reach Maragondon. Fare: P70-P80
0945
Alight at a left turn from the highway in Maragondon. There should be a line of tricycles where you’ll get off. There is a big grocery store nearby.
1010
Take the tricycle to ‘Magnetic’. P200/(max 3pax) is the reasonable fee. P75/pax should be the maximum rate (as of research time). Don’t pay more than this. 
1022
Magnetic/DENR registration (P20/head). Some climbers by-pass this registration because there is another unavoidable registration at Rene Medina’s place.  Start trek
1052
Fork area. Take the right. There are helpful markers here.
1100
Rene Medina’s place. Water source. Register P20/pax
1146
Fork area. Left to waterfall. Right to summit.
1154
Waterfall. Lunch. Backtrack to the fork. Head for the summit.
1230
Tricky boulders part. Many climbers lose their way here. The continuation of the trail should be downward and to the right. After 50 meters of descent, it’s a rolling terrain and bamboo starts to appear. You may hear voices from the campsite when you’re near. 
1309
Campsite. Take pictures
1328
Summit. Climb the boulder (risky and optional).
1400
Start traverse descent
1500
Fork. Take the right. The trail to the left leads back to the waterfall
1600
Three-pronged fork. The rightmost trail probably leads to the firing range. The middle is probably the shortest. I have no idea about the leftmost trail. I always take the middle trail which is the relatively straight continuation of the trail. This leads to the new road leading to Brgy Papaya.   
1620
ETA. Paved road. Take the descending slope to the left. Some locals and military personnel may be driving by in motorcycles. They will notify some drivers in Brgy Papaya of your presence. Most will offer you bad deals. The cheapest deal I’ve made was with a tricycle driver (Jayjay 09287314373). He charged 6 of us P50 each. His powerful tricycle carried all six us and him up the steep slopes of the highway all the way to Nasugbu.
1700
The tricycle/jeepney waiting shed is at a turnoff to the right from the main road. This is about three kilometers away from where you first set foot on the paved road.
1745
Nasugbu bus terminal. Wash-up at the bathrooms in Jollibee/Mang Inasal. There’s probably some public restrooms at the municipal hall. You may have your dinner at Nasugbu or you can take the bus bound for Manila. ~P140
2100
ETA Manila
the parrot's beak as seen from Brgy Papaya (Nasugbu, Batangas)
 Maragondon-Maragondon Overnight (Saturday-Sunday traffic; slow-moderate pacing; heavy packs)
Day 1
0730
Assembly @ Jollibee Baclaran (near the church); buy packed lunch
0800
Board the A/C bus bound for Ternate (via Maragondon). Don’t take the bus that terminates only at Naic. Make sure the bus will reach Maragondon. Fare: P70-P80
0945
Alight at a left turn from the highway in Maragondon. There should be a line of tricycles where you’ll get off. There is a big grocery store nearby.
1010
Take the tricycle to ‘Magnetic’. P200/(max 3pax) is the reasonable fee. P75/pax should be the maximum rate (as of research time).  
1022
Magnetic/DENR registration (P20/head). Some climbers by-pass this registration because there is another unavoidable registration at Rene Medina’s place.  Start trek
1115
Fork area. Take the right. There are helpful markers here.
1130
Rene Medina’s place. Water source. Register P20/pax
1220
Fork area. Left to waterfall. Right to summit.
1245
Waterfall. Lunch. Backtrack to the fork.
1500
Tricky boulders part. Many climbers lose their way here. The continuation of the trail should be downward and to the right. After 20 meters of descent, it’s a rolling terrain and bamboo starts to appear. You may hear voices from the campsite when you’re near. 
1530
Campsite. Take photos. Pitch tents. There’s a weak water source at the cliff campsite. But this could be dry during the summer.
1600
Assault to summit. Take photos. Climb the monolith (risky and optional). Bring headlamps just in case.
1730
Back at the campsite. Prepare Dinner.
1900
Dinner
2000
Socials. Respect the peace of your neighbors. 
2300
Lights out.
Day 2
0630
Wake-up call
0700
Prepare breakfast
0800
Breakfast
0900
Assault to summit
1030
Back at the campsite. Break camp
1100
Start descent.
1300
Back at Rene Medina’s place. Lunch/Wash-up
1430
Resume descent
1530
DENR/Caylabne Road. Take the tricycle back to Maragondon
1600
Bus terminal at Maragondon. Take the bus bound for Manila
1900
ETA Manila
treacherous descent from the monolith
 Maragondon-Nasugbu Traverse Overnight (with side trip to Layag-Layag)
(Saturday-Sunday traffic; slow-moderate pacing; heavy packs)
Day 1
0730
Assembly @ Jollibee Baclaran (near the church); buy packed lunch
0800
Board the A/C bus bound for Ternate (via Maragondon). Don’t take the bus that terminates only at Naic. Make sure the bus will reach Maragondon. Fare: P70-P80
0945
Alight at a left turn from the highway in Maragondon. There should be a line of tricycles where you’ll get off. There is a big grocery store nearby.
1010
Take the tricycle to ‘Magnetic’. P200/(max 3pax) is the reasonable fee. P75/pax should be the maximum rate (as of research time).  
1022
Magnetic/DENR registration (P20/head). Some climbers by-pass this registration because there is another unavoidable registration at Rene Medina’s place.  Start trek
1115
Fork area. Take the right. There are helpful markers here.
1130
Rene Medina’s place. Water source. Register P20/pax
1220
Fork area. Left to waterfall. Right to summit.
1245
Waterfall. Lunch. Backtrack to the fork.
1500
Tricky boulders part. Many climbers lose their way here. The continuation of the trail should be downward and to the right. After 20 meters of descent, it’s a rolling terrain and bamboo starts to appear. You may hear voices from the campsite when you’re near. 
1530
Campsite. Take photos. Pitch tents. There’s a weak water source at the cliff campsite. But this could be dry during the summer.
1600
Assault to summit. Take photos. Climb the monolith (risky and optional). Assess the descent according to the capability of the members to trek down the dangerous trail. Bring headlamps just in case.
1730
Back at the campsite. Prepare Dinner.
1900
Dinner
2000
Socials. Respect the peace of your neighbors. 
2300
Lights out.
Day 2
0630
Wake-up call
0700
Prepare breakfast
0800
Breakfast. Break camp. Refill water bottles.
0900
Assault to summit with packs.
1100
Fork. Take the right. The trail to the left leads back to the waterfall
1230
Three-pronged fork. I always take the middle trail which is the relatively straight continuation of the trail. This leads to the new road in Brgy Papaya.   
1330
ETA. Paved road. Arrange for a jeepney/tricycle ride to Layag-Layag. You may have to take the boat. For more information, you may ask Outdoor Addicts who are very familiar with Mt Pico de Loro and its side trips. Jannie Negrido has also organized a similar trip.
1400
Lunch at Layag-Layag. Swimming
1600
Take the same arranged transportation to Nasugbu, Batangas.
1630
ETA Nasugbu bus terminal. Wash-up at the bathrooms in Jollibee/Mang Inasal. There’s probably some public restrooms at the municipal hall. You may have your dinner at Nasugbu or you can take the bus bound for Manila. ~P140
2000
ETA Manila
Cutad Cove in 2006

 Stats
Covered Distance on foot
10.4 km
Moving Time
3 hrs 20mins
Stop Time
2hrs 38mins
Total Ascent
2325 feet

Track Logs
Waypoints
Time
Elevation (fasl)
Coordinates
1. DENR
Registration
1022
990
N 14˚14.101’ E 120˚39.630’
2. Ligaw Node

1052
1140
N 14˚13.728’ E 120˚39.908’
3. Kuya Rene Medina
Registration
1100
1096
N 14˚13.628’ E 120˚39.849’
4. FORK: Falls (left) Summit (right)
1146
1032
N 14˚13.001’ E 120˚39.616’
5. Waterfalls

1154
951
N 14˚12.959’ E 120˚39.742’
6. Campsite

1309
1991
N 14˚12.906’ E 120˚38.870’
7. Summit

1328
2246
N 14˚12.854’ E 120˚38.784’
8. Exit (traditional entry point)
1620
982
N 14˚14.201’ E 120˚39.762’
altitude profile (Ternate-Ternate day hike)

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