8.10.2014

Mt. Arayat Traverse



To some it may not be as grandeur as the one's they encompass or as hard as the trails they have taken but this recent climb I had, I consider another milestone in my young mountaineering career. This is my first Major climb and first mountain that is above 1000 meters in altitude.

We are fortunate enough to be able to join Conquer Outdoor Equipment once again in their Hitting the Trail activity as we took Mt. Arayat Traverse from Magalang to Arayat trail. This is the second time that I'll be joining them and two friends of mine were as enthusiastic as I am to tag along.

Conquer Hitting the Trail Mt. Arayat climbers


MAKILING OR ARAYAT?

The planned climb was actually a more popular Mt. Makiling Traverse (Maktrav) and that's what we prepared and signed for. We already attended the preclimb meeting for the Maktrav and even warned from threats of limatiks which Mt. Makiling was notorious for, but the recent typhoon that hit Laguna made the Los Banos trail impassable. So a few days before the scheduled climb, the coordinator sent us an SMS that the climb was moved to Mt. Arayat as Maktrav and Arayat Traverse share the same characteristics as per difficulty and preparation. Still we did agree to join.

THE PRELUDE

The group met at Victory Liner Terminal in Cubao, our assembly time was 7:30AM but we were able to get to the terminal at around 8:00AM, but luckily we were not the last one to get there so that gave us ample time to rest before departure. A few minutes and everyone already arrived, total of twenty-two conquerors took the bus bound to Olonggapo where we were dropped off at Robinsons Pampanga. Here we transferred on a chartered jeep that will bring us to Brgy. Ayala the jump off point of the Magalang trail. When we arrived, we ate our packed lunch, did some stretching and warmed up before we commenced the climb.

Let the climb begin

ASCENT VIA MAGALANG TRAIL

The estimated climb time would be around 4 hours - to reach the North Peak, then the plan is to continue the ascent up to the South Peak the next day then go down.  But due to an incoming LPA (Low Pressure Area) that poses a bad weather, we were expecting to reach the North peak late.

The trail starts on a concrete pavement that has life-size stations of the cross statues, then it continues to a mossy forested area with gradual ascent. Along the trails are poles and electric lines that stands up to the North Peak. It was explained that a tower was stationed near the camp that sets as a base of police patrolling the mountain.

We started the climb on a good weather not even showing any signs of impeding rainfall, but halfway through, it started to rain really hard. So we continued our ascent all wet from rainfall and tired. Luckily the rain stopped when we were near the camp, so that gave as ample time to set up our tent and dry ourselves.

Last minute preparation before the ascent.

NORTH PEAK

The campsite lies just besides the Tower station were the policemen are staying, they even chatted with us while we were setting our tents. They have electricity supply and even offer that we can charge our mobile phones and gadget. They have beds and bathroom as well but unfortunately they are not open to hikers, same thing with their water reserved that they collect during rainy season.

One of the things I like in joining Conquer climbs is that we were able to meet different people and able to listen to their stories. Mark and Kat who pitched their tent besides us were the first few we got to know and shared dinner with. This is just the third mountain they climbed, and the previous two, like Mt. Arayat are not an entry climb level (Mt. Pulag and Mt. Tapulao). After dinner the other hikers invited us on socialization. We happily accepted their invitation and shared our drinks with them as well. We ended the night greatly acquainted with each other.

Campsite at North Peak, that can accommodate 20 tents.
The next day the weather was more pleasant, in contrast to the rain that poured all night. We prepared our breakfast, break camp and after a few photo opportunity we continued the hike to the South Peak.

The 90 degree slope.
The trail from the camp into the ridge started with a hard sudden descent into a muddy and slippery trail. A few gradual descent and we reached the famed puting bato which was believed the resting ground of Sinukuan, the mountain deity. From here we undertook a 90 degree descent assisted by a nylon rope tied on a branch. We unload our bag first as it was difficult to rappel down the slope with the bags still being carried on our back.

At the famed Puting Bato ni Sinukuan with Sir Gale
From here the trail progressed into a harder,longer sudden ascent that put you on all fours, crawling and hanging on branches and roots. This was also accompanied by a slippery muddy trail due to last night's rainfall and mosquitoes that infested the whole mountain crazily feasting on our exposed skin that made the climb much harder. We reached the South Peak just in time for a quick-lunch. After regrouping and being refueled by our meal we continued the descent.

Taking a breather in the mossy trail going to South Peak.
Finally the South Peak

GOING DOWN BRGY. ARAYAT TRAIL

"From here on it is a long descent, way long." As it was explained by the group leader. And it was hell true, another four hours down into a muddy, slippery trail. Halfway through it started to rain again, and most of the group slipped and fell more than once. We took total precaution as incidence of landslide were previously reported. After three hours we reached a concrete road that leads to DENR office, but this is not the end of the trail, after taking a breather and a bottle of Mountain Dew we continued to walk along the road for another 30 minutes until we reached Mt. Arayat National Park Resort, our last stop.

SIDETRIP MT. ARAYAT NATIONAL PARK AND RESORT

The resort on the foot of Mt. Arayat is our last stop before heading home; for an entrance of Php 30 it was the ultimate sidetrip. We were able to clean our muddy, shoes and clothes in the stream running along the resort. And we were able to enjoy a short dip in the cold running water from the falls, before calling it a day.

The jeep fetched us from the resort and brought us up to SM City Pampanga terminal where we separated and headed into different parts of Manila.

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