Sunday, June 24, 2012

Mt. Amuyao Traverse via Batad - Barlig

Location: Batad, Banaue to Barlig, Mountain Province
Jump-off Point: Batad, Banaue
2,702+ Meters Above Sea Level
Difficulty: Major Climb, 8/9

June 16 - 18, 2012

I first heard about Mt. Amuyao last year from the stories of my climbing buddy, Dennis Hisanan (as he has always been sharing with me all his climb experiences) and so, he told me, he already tried climbing such mountain through the traditional trail in Barlig, Mountain Province. They reached the summit and he said that one would be going through a long and tiring stairways assault.. I wasn’t interested that time, i know I’ll surely climb it but not like it's my priority, until I saw this mountain being featured in a 2012 calendar at our house. I became curious.  I saw the photo of its mossy trail. I wanna go there! “What's with Mt. Amuyao that makes it one of the popular hiking destinations in the Philippines?” I asked myself.

Then 2012 came, i listed down all my priority climbs for the year. My bucket list was done--- Mt. Amuyao was one of the targets.

I got excited upon knowing that my climbing buddy, Dennis, created an event and he was inviting me for a Mt. Amuyao traverse.. Wow! Exciting! Though at first, I wasn’t sure about the certainty of getting my leave approved, I still confirmed my participation in this climb. I really wanna try the traverse---it would be from Batad, Ifugao all the way down to Barlig, Mountain Province.

And the long wait was over! We're a total of 16 climbers, 14 coming from Manila and the 2 coming from Baguio).  I belong to the 14. And so, taking the Banaue-bound bus ( Ohayami transit), we had a  10-hour trip to the province of Ifugao.  It was good that our organizer already made ticket reservations. I don't know if a 10-hr trip is normal, i believe we could have arrived earlier if we didn’t encounter slow moving traffic somewhere in Nueva Vizcaya (road construction as they said).

Upon arriving in Banaue, we ate our breakfast and bought the needed things/food at the market. Then taking a hired jeep, we had a 2 hour travel to the jump off point in Batad, Ifugao.

The climb started! It was a descending trail at first (whew, it's my weakness!). We passed by various villages. We stopped  for lunch at Batad. It was a simple joy sitting at a very high altitude, eating our lunch while having a sightseeing of Batad Rice terraces. We resumed trekking, and this time, we walked a lot of stoned, slippery paths of the rice terraces. It's my first time to walk on it. It's quite dangerous as one you missed the focus on those narrow paths, you might fall down to a watery and muddy rice plantations and it's quite high. I heard stories from our guides that there are of course instances especially foreigners who fell down in these terraces. Focus and extra care should be given enough attention.

We reached the Cambulo Village and took a longer stop and rest there. I even rewarded myself a satisfying nap  to recharge my strength. We resumed trekking and this time I tried to increase my speed. It was like i want a continuous trek with less rest. This is because until such time i haven't arrived myself yet into the state in which "I am in the mood to climb." I must say i didn’t have any training climb or warm up  in preparation for this major climb. The last time I climbed was in March this year. I believe it's still better to get some warm ups or run or at least a practice climb to get the body in a ready climbing mode. Well, I just endured the difficulty and eventually enjoyed the trail.

In the middle of hiking at the rice terraces, it rained and we stopped until heavy rains were gone. Understandably, we could not find any shed. Thanks for the tarp of Sir Chris David which gave good shed for us. Other companions during this time were Kuya Mel, the guide and Mike Salvacion. This was also the moment when I tried "nganga" for the first time. Nganga is popular in their area (including some of the neighboring provinces), this is something they chew for warmth and stronger teeth as well as a social culture thing. I've been trying to just interview Kuya Mel about it and there, I finally tried it for myself.. It's the combination of the nut-like  fruit , lime powder and a leaf which you'll simultaneously chew making an orange effect on your mouth and then you’ll have to spit it after a few minutes. I just chewed it a bit and the spit it immediately I wasn’t that comfortable to stand that kind of taste of  a fruit that has yet to ripen. I’ll try again next time.  It's just something unusual to me and they laughed at how I did it.

The rains stopped (but not totally gone )and yet the rest of our companions had not arrived yet, we even thought that we took a wrong trail. The three of us decided to stay beside a little falls and wait for the others. Such point also marks the end of the rice terraces trail.

The rest finally arrived; many of us have started to lose energy due to the long trek. They also told that one of our companions decided to backtrack to Banaue. I must say I agree with her decision, she and only she can tell and decide if she can stand this major climb. It's not cowardice it's actually a respect to oneself as well as being honest.

Moving on, after regrouping at the end of the rice terraces trail, we’re ready to resume. That was 6pm to be exact. We were about to enter the forest and ascending trails were about to faced by us. Our target was the campsite in Patyay Village. I held on to the guide's promise that it would only took around 3 hours to get there. At first we had an ascending river crossing trek, we passed by the flowing water, tolerable and not deep but as usual, i was afraid of the slippery rocks. Again, I preferred to get my shoes and pants wet rather than risk myself walking on such rocks. The going gets tough as they say. The trail is getting steep; it's now a literal climb as one would be using the force of the entire body to keep on climbing. The rain continued and it really added challenge to us.  It apparently made the climb messier and even tougher. We had to manage the muddy and slippery trail. By the way, few limatiks (mountain leeches) were encountered.

We took the first set of assault I enjoyed it.. and then we regrouped again.

We resumed.  Nonstop assault, nonstop slippery trail, sharp-bladed  tall grasses making our hands full of cuts--- 2 hours--  3 hours has passed..  We're getting tired yet hopeful for the arrival at Patyay Village.. The guide said, 2 or 3 hours more  and so we continued the trek. Few more hours and there was still no Patyay Village that we could see..We kept on assaulting and climbing and climbing.. We got hungry and more tired and yet we haven't arrived.

Thankful that I was in the mood even though I was finding it hard to bear the long steep trek. I was getting weaker and I must admit that I almost lose patience. For the first time, i felt like we were in the wilderness -- no hope!

I even prepared myself that we might get there at the campsite almost dawn. And how about our other companions? Are they still okay? That was around 11pm (remember we started to enter the forest at 6pm).  We reached the long awaited peak of that steep mountain that we were agonizing for about  5 hours.. I got excited and regained my hope.

An hour has passed descending the trail. I have observed that we're still standing at a very high elevation. I believe more time has still to be spent on descending. I composed myself and just like my companions, I recharged my body by filling my stomach, I almost ran out of trail food which should be my supply for the  3-day climb.

We continued and finally, we arrived at the Patyay village. That was around 1 am already. Whew, what an achievement!
Some of us pitched their tents and majority of us just set their tarp and slept there (overlooking the stars above). I was one of those who rented in an inn-like house there. This was because I know I would not be able to stand the cold temperature later on.

 A new day  came. It was our Day 2. My muscles were badly in pain and it’s like I was moving my body in a slow motion. The guides said that though the trek is still long, the trail is much better that those of the trails we took in the previous day. They were right--- of course there are still assaults and yet our legs can still adapt because there are gradual and relaxing trails. We passed by a very beautiful falls along the trail. Some of the guys enjoyed swimming and there, we ate our lunch. After this, we started to enter the forest.  The target was the waiting shed up there, approximately 3 or 4 hours depending on the pace. The trail was an alternate of gradual and assault types. There are lots of landslides and logs that we encountered on the trail.  I was a bit impatient about the lengthy trek and yet we could see the same things—landslides and steep, messy trail,  and cliff.. or perhaps I was just  too exhausted. Although from time to time, there are areas that are already mossy. I was amazed and relaxed when we reached the ridge. Too bad, it rained! We had to continue the trek. However, due to the cold rains pouring over us, we still stopped for a while under those sheds of big trees. And so the mossy forest started. I was able to take a picture of the sun rays forcing itself to light up the dark moss covered- forest. How dramatic!

We reached the waiting shed. They said it’s just an hour away from that point up to the summit. But this time I didn’t believe them (laughing!) considering how tired we were already.. Three of the team which were few hours ahead of us ( Caprice, Chris and Jay) were surely there already. We waited for the others and took some food to recharge our body and it was badly getting cold. I even wore an anti-chilling attire, a garbage bag!

A two-hour hungriness (perhaps because I only ate soup before this assault), chilling body and tantrums, I had to manage myself and kept myself convinced that I would soon reach the peak. I could barely open my mouth and didn’t talk much with my companions especially with Buddy, I was getting weaker and I was already trekking very, very slowly, until we observed the grass bamboos (higher than those I saw in Mt. Pulag), .. I knew then that we were approaching the summit. We reached the open,  steep trail.. a grassland with initially a cliff on right side, it was of course risky, I had to focus unless I die falling on the cliff. The thin air and cold fog also greatly added to the challenge. I pushed myself until we reached  the grassland but this time the grasses are taller than us. Few more assaults, few more steps and there, we saw the red light of the tower marking the summit. 

It was so cold! I was chillin’. My usual term for this is that I am “comatose” I could barely move my body. We stayed at the bunk house there and prepared our food. And the rest of us started to arrive. What we were worried the most was about sir Paul who was already chilling badly and having difficulty ascending .. we heard, he had decided to have E-camp (emergency camp), making our guides to be alert to supply him the needed food and materials. Until late night, he arrived! He persevered! He made it to the summit that night! Salute! Of course he was already not feeling well but he still managed and conquered himself to reach the peak.

Practically, if you really want to follow the 3-day itinerary of this traverse, you would have no other option but to keep on going until you reached the desired point where you could stay. For me, E-camp is not advisable in the middle of the forest trek because of messy and steep trails (no good area where you can stop to set camp). Cold temperature might also be unbearable at night and the space is limited. The areas here where I could say, if given no choice and only if there are no other options but to set E-camp are: the ridge after the descent from the peak on Day 1; the ridge we passed on day 2 before reaching the mossy forest on the way to the waiting shed and; the waiting shed itself. For more relaxed/extended/longer days of traverse making it a 4-day itinerary, possible stop/stay before Patyay village could be the Cambulo Village on Day 1.

On our third day, we enjoyed taking pictures with mountainous views at the summit.  There were instances of clearing yet fogs were still covering the views from time to time. We spotted some seas of cloud but it’s a bit far away from the summit.

Our descent was a total knee challenge. It’s a continuous, established trail, with woods making it like stairways and thus holding and keeping  the steps from sliding. However, due to dews making it a wet trail, one could still be prone to slide down, as such woods are really slippery if not given proper attention. As I went down, I tried to imagine if I were to take the traditional trail which means this should have been the assault and such assault, I believe, is  an ascent  twice the challenge of the descent. Although trail is established, it’s still steep. After such, gradual trails followed.  After 3 or 4 hours (on the average), we finally took the cemented paths  of the rice terraces to reach the final stop marking the successful traverse.

I was amused at the residential area as we were approaching the highway of the Barlig town. Houses are built next to each other, some are in the upper part and others in the lower area, thus truly forming a mountainous village with the highway on the top.

We tidied ourselves up and then hired jeep were ready to go back to Banaue where we could ride back to Manila. There is only one trip during that day (Monday) and the call time is 7pm. Hassles, we did encountered --- unreserved seats at Ohayami transit (8 of us  transferred  into another bus in Lagawe town; and of course, the  traffic. We had an unforgettable  16-hour trip from Banaue to Manila due to traffic.

Ooops, I guess i must also indicate in this write up that signal during the trek is not stable. It made me a little uncomfortable since I have important things to get communicated thru cellphone. Our source regarding the network signal seemed to be wrong.  However, at Patyay village as well as the waiting shed ( 1 or 2 hours away from summit), the signal is good.

Great to meet too some of the Castle Mountaineers namely Rea, Talia, Jorge and Warrior.

I was excited about this climb, I knew its difficulty is 8/9 and the actual climb really brought a great challenge and a real test to my patience and perseverance. All the hardships would have just to be charged to experience. Thankful to God for keeping us safe.  I will never forget all my complaints and tantrums over a long, steep trail in the middle of the trek, yet after completing the entire traverse, it’s really a satisfying joy that I felt-- that I conquered myself in one of the great Cordillera mountains (through a reverse traverse trail) and hey, it’s one of the highest mountains in the Philippines.

mountainous view at the summit of Mt. Amuyao

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