Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Mt. Makiling Traverse : Extreme Rainforest Dayhike

Traversing Mt. Makiling from Sto. Tomas Batangas to Los Banos Laguna is an extreme adventure, an outdoor dream, or a journey filled by a combination of trail running, seemingly endless trekking, a little rock climbing or ridge scrambling, some rope action, bushwhacking near the peaks and a suspenseful escape from forest leeches! There are numerous blogs about Mt. Makiling traverse dayhike and further into this write up I might be listing down their blogs or what I call my sources of information. This post will focus on the quality of the trails, let me attempt to evoke lifelike images of it and show you why some climbers would say MakTrav is the hardest climb they had so far or if not, why they would say it’s a hell of a climb. I’d like to give advance acknowledgement to the contributors of photos, Arnel, James and Sam. Credits and proper respect to you buddies.

Let me divide the long description into three parts: Hiking to Haring Bato (King Rock); Into the Dense Forest; and A Long Descent.

Hiking to Haring Bato

It was still dark when we left San Bartolome community hall - like 5:30am. We walked further into the dark wide road, halted to get warned of an early steep assault then we went upwards to our right where suddenly the boisterous kidding at the rough road became a chorus of heavy breathing and pain-induced muttering. It was truly a warm-up-hour. The awaited daylight came then we found ourselves at what we kiddingly called “the great wall of Makiling” made of bamboo fences. At one point here “Plantation Area” marker can be seen. Though we didn’t pass by any river, my credible sources said the trail we took is still the Palanggana trail.

Like mentioned in some blogs, there are laces tied on some plant stems. These were obvious directions that guided us. The trail we took has very established foot path. Though it gets narrower as we went deeper into the jungle, you should not get lost here (as per my assumption).

A week ago, my eyes feasted on the abundance of moss and algae in Mt. Cristobal and I got the similar feeling in Mt. Makiling where the abundance of ferns left me in wonderment at frequent times. If I want to call Mt. Cristobal as the huge moss terrarium then for Mt. Makiling, I would say this mountain is what I call the huge fern yard. I’m not really good at naming plants and animals but if you know better, I’ll appreciate if you could tell me.
We were panting for air as we continued the climb. We could tell the challenge is on. At the picture below where Sir Francis and Ma’am Maricel advancing near an inclined trail of thick grasses is when I remember I got a cut in my hand after I used these grasses as hand support to pull myself upward. Not only that! Later that day, the unforgiving spiky plants at the wild boar trail left two thorns inside my thumb and middle finger. After a week, my thumb had a big open wound after days of swelling. A pair of gloves is a must on my next MakTrav.
Inside the rainforest, the temperature got colder to the point that I insisted the group to proceed so we can get our bodies warmed up again. Besides, we didn’t want to stay longer below the treetops consisted of falling “limatiks”. We had one group picture before we moved on.

Word For the Nerd:
Limatik or Blood leech – a parasite with muscular body and sucker at each end, which is used as an anchor while they move by extending and contracting the body. Most leeches feed on the surface of their host. The front sucker is clamped onto the prey’s skin, and the teeth in the leech’s mouth then make a small cut, which is unnoticed by the host due to anesthetic that is secreted by the leech. While the leech sucks blood out of the wound, it secretes a substance that prevents the victim’s blood from clotting. Blood sucking leech feed infrequently but when they do feed they can draw out several times their own weight in blood in one meal.

I had a limatik bite. As per observation, bleeding can last for more than an hour. The itch can last for many days and as of this writing, the mark it left on me became a bulging circular scar. Lesson learned: never let one of these suckers bite you because I have this paranoia that the itch will remain there for days or months

I captured a video of a limatik that is inching slowly from my leg. It was my first encounter with a real forest leech and I was amused by it. See below and play the video I called “Limatik Circus”. 

Mountains are some of the unexpected places where you’ll meet people that’ll inspire you to keep moving on. Basically in life, there are “down” times that may lead you to giving up and at some greater degree of downfall, these times can probably be a turning point in life. I’m trying to point out that we have options during the hard times: either we move on or stay at the gloomy days of sorrow and defeat. Just to denote the similarity, in traversing Mt. Makiling we can either abort the hike or proceed. Having said that, I’d like to give special mention to new co-climbers we met during our MakTrav who inspired us to keep moving despite trails are getting steeper, denser and seemingly endless. We met Ma’am Maricel who persistently told us that she wasn’t aware that the dayhike is going to be a major climb across a mountain filled with many obstacles. In the end, she completed the 12 hour hike still with a smile on her face. We also met Sir Francis Uy who expressed his interest in joining us thru Facebook. Though being a novice climber and a MakTrav second-timer, his desire to traverse again prompted me to believe that ain’t no mountain high enough for anyone of any age.

We reached haring bato at around 10:30 am. At this part of the climb, the surrounding got hazier. The winds were strong and you may literally see the movement of fog from up there. I captured a short video of it. You may check it out below.

Haring Bato is a rock face that you’ll pass by as you approach closer to peak 3 of Mt. Makiling. On its left side is a very steep trail that has ropes to guide you on your way up. You can grasp on some of the shrubs here while holding the rope and securing your feet. Assuming you can balance well, the given ropes should suffice.

Into the Dense Forest

After some roping action, we reached a high open space where only plants susceptible to high altitude can be seen and a blurred scenery of the Melkas ridge – unlucky for us because the weather wasn’t that good to allow us to see better view of the lowlands from above. The clouds were thick enough to cover everything below. We cautiously scrambled on the foggy ridge to reach Peak 3

The humidity was obviously high. Some would prefer a drier surrounding but personally, I liked how the setting slowly transitioned from a dry road to a damp trail and then to a drizzling atmosphere. It was a literally cool way to get across the bushes and surpass the challenges of slippery assault to Peak 3.

Peak 3 has a small flat ground of just enough space for the 10 of us who had lunch there. There was no clearing during that time to provide a beautiful background of blue skies and cotton candy clouds. In spite of that, a group picture can’t be missed.

The narrow trails going to Peak 2 is the most memorable part for me. I remembered the many times I hunched my back and lifted my legs to get under and over the blocking tree branches. I carefully cut my way through the very dense flora composed of shrubs, hanging weeds, leafy mosses, grasses and fern plants. I got entangled by some “halamang teka-teka” for several times. I moved past the steep mud trails and laugh at how my shoes and pants got drenched in mud. Also, I had my first taste of wild berry at the middle of this crazy bushwhacking, it tasted sour!
Though you can easily move every thick leaves away from your face, you must also check every footstep you make else you might trip on pulled up roots and stumble like a careless moron.

If you think the mud trails in there are just murky water and damp soil, hell no! You must find a way on how to get down without falling in the sloping mud. We preferred to creep at the safer sides. At some point, the mud slopes are irresistible. We had to carefully use all limbs to safely pass across.

We made it to peak 2 but the hike didn’t end there of course. After a picture at the summit, we packed up again and prepared ourselves for a long descent.


A Long Descent

I’d like to start the last segment of this post with a map. Below is a location map showing the summit (peak 2), several numbered stations all the way to UP Los Banos, the Agila Base Camp, Makiling Rainforest Park where buko juice are being sold and habal-habal rides can be opted over another hour of hiking to reach the endpoint of MakTrav.
The seemingly endless descent of Makiling Traverse starts from Peak 2 where you’ll have to go past the Wilderness Zone. It’s another pleasure-walk in the middle of the rainforest. (wink) Though muddy, you must accept that it’s part of the adventure.

 Despite the exhaustion, the hazy scenery inside the wilderness zone is another thing to enjoy while trekking. The “fern yard” that I made up remained true after more fern trees are observed during the descent.
A MakTrav Soloist (Sir Eden) described how the ULPB trail (non-traverse) can be so jampacked during the holy week causing tremendous slow down in the trails. Also, that explained why there are ladders in this part of the trails. Maybe the purpose of these is to ease up the climb especially for those who are non-climbers such as devotees, forestry students and the like.

Ropes had another appearance during our descent and I thought I need to capture a co-climber in action just to make the trail description more graphic.
At the point where we were nearing the flatter grounds, I did trail-run. Since I was carrying a light pack containing clothes and few things, and at that time my food and 1.5 liter water got consumed and almost empty, I thought it was the perfect time to run. Eventually, one will reach the Agila Base.
Starting from this marker, no more worries! A pleasurable walk-in-the-park is waiting. So there, we walked further until we reached a store to rest for few minutes. We had some snacks there and shortly we continued the seemingly unending “pleasure-walk”. Looking back at the map shown earlier, Makiling Rainforest Park is like the next pit stop where we stopped over for a fresh coconut juice drink. Some men with their habal-habal (single motor) are readily available here. In our case, we opted for the completion of the hike by walking again up to the entry point – see map.

Our Timeline
0530 - San Bartolome Barangay Hall, Sto Tomas Batangas, Jumpoff
0630 – At the Plantation Area marker ( at what we call Great Wall of Makiling)
0730 – Rest and take photos at the bulging rocks
0830 – More hiking
0930 – More hiking
1030 – Scrambling at the ridges and roping actions
1130 – Arrived at Peak 3, had lunch
1230 – Bushwhacking to Peak 2
1330 – Departed from Peak 2
1430 – Still descending from the wilderness zone
1530 – Assembled at Agila Base
1700 – Departed from Makiling Rainforest Park
1730 – Reached the endpoint of our MakTrav

Like I wrote earlier, I want to evoke lifelike images of the trail. You may check out the compilation of video clips from the trails of Mt. Makiling. This will show you the kind of obstacle course (but unable to capture all) one has to surpass during a traverse climb. There’s a part where my head got entangled in halamang teka-teka. Watch out for that. I incorporated FooFighters and Switchfoot in this video. At the change of song shows you the denser vegetation of Mt. Makiling. You’ll get to see more of me in this vid and please don’t be annoyed… hehehe…

My Sources of Information

Information on how to go to Mt. Makiling is posted in pinoymountaineer.com. For latest updates check out the comments. The comments are really helpful.

Other Stories worth reading are listed below.

Dane's Tramping in Makiling


james singlador said...

nice documentation dermin! this trek is history... more power!

Dee Quixotic said...

thanks james! 6/9 difficulty pa lang yan... sama ka sa mga death defying 9/9, more than bulagta siguro ang ending..

joan | the backpack chronicles said...

wow astig naman ng climb nyo!! super hirap pero kering keri nyo lang! at kinilabutan naman ako sa mga limatik! parang acrobatic lang na naghahanap ng exposed skin.. hahaha.. creepy pero cute! hahaha

backPackingSheet said...

Ang sukal naman nung daan. Nung kami umakyat jan nung May, ni anino ng limatik wala akong nakita, hehe.

Magandang training climb itong Makiling. Ambilis nyo nakababa ah.

Dee Quixotic said...

BPS, mabilis na ba yun 12 hours? Dapat nga 10 hours lang yata yan MakTrav... makupad kami.

chino said...

natakot naman ako sa mga limatiks na yun. I admire you guys. Nakakaadik nga talaga ang pamumundok.

Dee Quixotic said...

yung challenge ang nakakaadik chinchan.... I climbed the mini bundok Mt. Tapyas yesterday and one tourist said, it feels like winning whenever you reach a mountain's summit.

Bonzenti [Con Tour Blog] said...

I admired your courage to take that difficult challenge in climbing that mountain. I also experienced similar to that but the path that you've trekked is indeed so challenging.:-).

Dane | Tramping Philippines said...

Demin. To clear things up. you still passed by the Palanggana trail. they just barricaded the way to the ascent to establish the trail for the "last weeks?" trail run kaya di na kayo nadaan sa river. tried maktrav yesterday and the same path was the one we hiked. And sipit sipit trail is at brgy san miguel instead of the one close to sto tomas. Paedit nalang not to confuse readers because sipit sipit trail is closed for the public na.

Dane | Tramping Philippines said...

oops. I was wrong. sipit trail will be the designated trail in the near future! pero the one you took is still Palanggana coming from san bartolome. with the plantation signs and all. they placed the markers and bamboos for the trail run nga

Dee Quixotic said...

Dane, where do you get all those information? About the Maquiling Trail Run Event, yes I heard about that. Last year pa nga dapat yun. So Palanggana pala ang trail ko, i didn't know. It was dark when we started hiking and I couldn't see anything at the very beginning...and BTW, it was my first MAkTrav... i'm open for corrections, thanks!

dane | Tramping Philippines said...

I was wrong about the closing. kasi diba there are fences na from palanggana? so i thought thats the one to be established but according to Gid, sipit is the one to be retained, i dont know when but they are now starting to train guides.

Yes, you took the same route as ours, only difference was they attached fences so people would not be lost for the trail run kaya the river bed trek was closed kasi sobrang confusing nung part na yun and shmpre you can not fence the river. haha. pero that was still palanggana from San bartolome.

we did the maktrav nung sunday. inulan din kami at puro mud pero swerte narin ung mga umaakyat ngayon. i know its still a challenging climb pero grabe ang ka gentlean ngayon ng maktrav. dati kasi talaga halos every meter sisi gaw ka ng ARAYY. due to thorny plants na naka lagay tlga sa harap ng trail. and ung mga fallen trees madami nadin tinanggal. pero i think this was only because of the trail run. by december itll go back to its usual jungle maze of a trail.

grabe ang sarap talaga mag maktrav. Ivan and I share the same sentimens. ngayon lang ulti ako umakyat na nakasmile ako halos all throughout the climb.

Dee Quixotic said...

like ko rin yung masukal... keep the invites coming, malay mo pwede ako next time. I want Arayat Traverse or yung Mt. Oriod na binanggit ni Missy Sole Pendulum. Basta let me know in advance, i need to save some VLs.

nomad1104 said...

nice climb sir! makiling is definitely one of a kind!

Dee Quixotic said...

Hi Nomad, I concur.

Batang Lakwatsero said...

@Dane, haha, sayang hndi ko pa na-tray yung sipit trail. gustong-gusto ko bumalik ng MakTrav at sana oneday buksan nila ulit yung sipit para ma-try ko

@Dermin, angganda tlga ng MakTrav, at ang magpa-slide sa putik at mamitik ng mga limatik ang favorite kong part ng experience.

freeclimbers said...

hi, Makiling was my first climb in 2010. I have read articles about the Sto Tomas trail to be much more challenging than the UPLB trail. I am hoping to do a Maktrav someday. BTW, nice post and kudos!

Dee Quixotic said...

@Freeclimbers, plan your MakTrav asap while it's summer. The trail has qualities similar to G2.

freeclimbers said...

@Dee Quixotic: i haven't hiked Sto Tomas trail yet. But from the aticles I've read, it really excites me to try the Sto Tomas trail or the Maktrav! thanks!

jacky flores said...

I always dream of going on a hiking but, I don't how to get connected with some mountaineers like you... wish I could go on trail with you too sir ehen I come home this december

jacky flores said...

I have been dreaming of going to hiking but, I don't know how to get contact with mountaineers like you sir... wish I could also experience going to a summit eith you when I get back home...

Anonymous said...

see you on April MakTrav!! This might be my next big adventure after Mount Pulag. :D

Anonymous said...

bro ano gamit mong camera dito? astig!