Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Mt. Sicapoo Revisited (Traverse via Timarid & Simagaysay )

Solsona, Ilocos Norte, Feb 23-25, 2013

River trekking, the first part of traverse
Back in 2012, I made a promise to revisit a dream mountain that really caught my heart. Yes, it's been only a year yet it felt like I'd like to do it again the soonest together with the fact that my buddy and I actually planned to organize a climb in order to share with others the great experience of climbing this scenic mountain. It was my first dream climb, as I became intimidated by the feeling of accomplishing a very serious major traverse. The entire traverse is comprised of 8-peak ascent, hence it was given a difficulty level of 9/9.

From that first Sicapoo climb and on, I’ve always wanted to walk again and wander in its beautiful pine forest and I’ve wanted to see again its penguin-shaped rock at the summit.

Came 2013, same month as previous year, that was February, everything happened according to what should happen and what has been scheduled and expected—the night trip to Laoag City as well as the ride through a chartered jeepney to a town in Ilocos Norte, which is Solsona.

The adventure had only begun earlier than what I’ve expected. Instead at the jump off point, it started already in the city. On my quest to arrive on or before the meet-up time (9pm) in Farinas bus terminal in Manila, I experienced all the possible hurdles I could ever faced on such fateful Friday night -- from the defective train to my misfortune at the taxi stand, wherein, when it  was my turn after almost an hour of waiting and waiting, I would hear from the dispatcher, "I'm sorry but these taxis are for southbound only." I almost cried. I even swore that if ever I could not make it to arrive on the reserved trip schedule, I wouldn't simply join the climb  owing to the fact that I was still there in Makati at around 8pm.  But luckily when i took the risk and went back to MRT, the train was back to normal operations already. I almost flew as I double my time to take another train in  LRT and get home to get my backpack and hurried up to the terminal. I arrived at the bus sobbing. Realization: I wish I had filed a half day leave instead.

Not good to kick the journey off.

I only realized I was definitely back to my once Dream Mountain and now my all time favorite hiking destination, was when I was chasing after my breath while doing the first assault in Balbalitok, the first major peak  after the river trekking. I can’t believe that the same shoes I wore last year were still the same shoes walking at such challenging trail. Kudos Salomon shoes! You are so great and reliable! I was the happiest that time. Time flies so fast and it’s truly great to be back!

In my case, it was my second time to do this Mt. Sicapoo expedition. For buddy Dennis, it’s his third, hence, his event was entitled as 3rd Annual Sicapoo climb. We were 12 climbers for this event, the remaining 10 were first timers to this mountain.

Jump off point (Photo credit: Albert Relativo Rangel)

Buddy Dennis, the light backpacker and organizer :)
We survived the first day, however, we started behind our itinerary, we doubled our time by reducing our time of rest yet still we arrived at the campsite, Saulay junction, almost late around 8pm already, thelast man was almost 10pm, I think. The river trekking, which lasted for long hours, went out fine and thankfully, the water level was very much tolerable as it was only below our knees and it was a very sunny day. February, indeed, is still a good time to schedule a hike up Mt. Sicapoo. As always, I found serenity trekking in such wonderful place. The water is so calm and everything around is at peace. Approaching nightfall, the weather seemed to become weird although before we left for Ilocos, there was a typhoon in Mindanao area moving out of the country’s area of responsibility. Perhaps, that could be the effect on the northern part of the country. What we’ve noticed was, the portion of the mountain ranges beside Balbalitok was very windy. That’s why upon doing this first major assault coming from our river trekking, we encountered more challenging trails. Can you imagine trekking in a knife-edged trail where the strong winds seemed to push you on the other side which is a cliff? In that case, we exerted more effort and became more extra careful while doing the trek.

a breathtaking cliff crossing, (photo credit: Albert Relativo Rangel)
I had the same snapshot last year of this great assault moment from river trekking to Balbalitok peak, the only difference are the participants involved ^_^

strong winds coming our way
Stepping  up in Saulay junction (where we set the camp), I was surprised by the lights around the mountains. My first thought was there must be many climbers on that day which of course impossible since the nearby campsites there are just Saulay and Bubuos, the latter can be viewed from the former. The second thought was, it must be that, the lights of the town can be viewed from there. But it is also impossible since such side of Saulay is all-mountains. Then I realized that it was forest fire. I was stunned.  What a sad thing! I asked around especially Tatay Emilio who was already there as guide of another group (UP Mountaineers). He said it could be the hunters or anyone from the place but unfortunately they could not catch them, neither the DENR could. He added that if only somebody from the local government or the DENR who wants to really solve it, there must be people assigned at the mountain itself to capture the irresponsible people attempting to destroy the mountain.

Photo taken by: Albert Relativo Rangel
On the second day, it was our summit assault of course! We had a very good weather on the first part making us feast tremendously on the beauty of pine forest while trekking.
The leaves of the pine tress which to me, seem to depict "calmness, simplicity and happiness". 
The Hiding Rainbow on the side of the mountain upon our trekking to Pakpako
Arriving at Pakpako, we encountered again the strong winds . Until we passed through the forests, both the strong winds and rains became our struggles. It was very cold that even two of our companions decided to go back to the campsite and decided not to push through. One guide had to accompany them back to Saulay. Admittedly, such rainy and windy condition added to the challenge of the trail. We faced not only the very lengthy trek but also we had to fight on with the cold temperature. As far as I remember, our climb last year (when we were so blessed to have a very perfect weather), it was already very cold at the forest especially upon passing the Pakpako, so how much more with such kind of windy and rainy weather? The 10 of us, however, successfully reached the summit.  And yes, once again, I met the penguin-shaped rock perched on the very summit and which marks the highest point of Mt. Sicapoo. We only spent a very few minutes taking pictures since it was raining and we were chilling. Apparently and unfortunately, there were no clearing. No views were given to us.  We reached the top anyway. Moving back to the campsite, some of us had minor injuries which caused some of us to slow down. By nightfall, we already passed the Pakpako. We had to take some rest in the middle of the pine forest. We were so thankful that rains and strong winds eventually ceased. But we had some difficulties since two of us had to lend the headlamps to the two guides, who did not bring one. Apparently, there were two guides left for us.  But the first one whom we lent the headlamp to, went ahead of us. The other guide had to accompany the last man who had an injury. Understandably, we, the remaining climbers in the dark trail experienced a little inconvenience as we had to share the headlights.We arrived at the conclusion that the guides assigned to us were not properly oriented and trained. We also learned from our companions that on our first day, one guide also left them complaining and pushing them to trek beyond their capacity.

Summit at last! -- at the foot of the penguin rock  (photo credit: Albert Relativo Rangel)

Stormy assault! -- At the back of the penguin rock (photo credit: Albert Relativo Rangel)
The third day was the most anticipated traverse day via Mt. Timarid and Mt. Simagaysay. This is absolutely not easy since we were gone tired of the previous days’ trek and such third day completes the scale of difficulty of this climb expedition. For the secondtime, I had to undergo again with more assaults on such very steep mountain and endure the difficulty under the very extreme heat of the the sun. Can you imagine we were doing the assault at around 11am onwards  in the pursuit of arriving at the summit of Mt. Timarid? This mountain appears to be somehow bald as pine trees are just minimal and it’s more of grassland feature. In addition, some parts of the trail are technical. When I say it's technical, it means the trail requires more focus and extra cautions on every step you make. The extreme heat of the sun plus the very steep trail makes the very core of its difficulty. The fact that this is the day of finishing up with the climb so obviously, our backpacks were loaded by all of our things unlike the previous day which we only brought assault packs for our summit assault. The last water source we had was only the point before doing the bouldering up Mt. Timarid. We had to limit our water consumption and hydration from lunch time all the way to One-degree plateau. Because of being dehydrated, it took us more than 6 hours to arrive at the plateau. Apparently majority of the group’s started to slow down.

Mt. Timarid as viewed from Bubuos campsite

surviving the steep Timarid
Mt. Timarid Summit
Mt. Simagaysay going to One-degree plateau
One day, hopefully on my next visit, I wish to arrive at the One-degree plateau before twilight so that I would be able to take picture of it.

The petty yet wonderful thing? It happened that it was full moon. I was happy gazing up such magnificent thing. Also, when the trail is open,the moon seemed to shed us enough light in our night trek.

Sunset Year 2! :) my 2nd photo of sunset in Mt. Simagaysay
I am truly grateful. Despite such challenges, all of us have survived and were able to finish the traverse, safe and sound.

The next day was more time of sleep and rest for some of us who spent the night at Tatay Emilio’s house. Others decided to travel back to Manila by 3am. For the rest, we spent some side trip at Calle Crisologo in Vigan and had some pieces of the famous empanada. We also had a coffee break. If you happened to read my post on my first time in Mt. Sicapoo (Mt. Sicapoo: An Extreme Dream), you would realize that majority of what happened here in my second time seemed to be just a complete rewind. From taking the Farinas Bus to the last part of the 4-day trip, the sidetrip in Vigan. The only different experience is the memories left and spent with new companions in the trails. I am thankful to all of them for the laughters and joy we had during the climb.

It was very tiring, admittedly. I was asking myself why I did it again,well , I just risked myself and tired myself especially on such extremes in Timarid assault. Yet to me, who had a beautiful share of memories with this mountain in my first time to climb it, I think it only deserves to be revisited and  tell the world of the stories of what and why  I have been awed by its beauty and the victory of its 3-day successful  journey.

Again, there are always good stories and memories created in every climb, in every visit, in every journey and expedition.Congrats to all of us in this 3rd Annual Mt. Sicapoo Expedition. God truly blessed us a lot!

Group pic just before descending from Saulay junction

Participants for this climb:
1. Dennis Hisanan
2. Matelle Rivera
3. Yeth Autor
4. Deng Varona
5. Albert Rangel
6. Brian Caparas
7. Erwin Aspacio
8. Erickson Recto
9. Erick Villamor
10. Nadia Santos
11.Ienne Villaverde
12. Benedict Chavez


  1. Congrats! lahat ng participants ni sir dennis hisanan mabuhay kayo.

  2. ~ nkakatuwa makita na may rainbow rin kayo nkita. The last tym na ngpunta kami nun, nde rin kmi mkapaniwala, 2 rainbows then dun sa isa nming kasama n mejo mas malayo ung distance samin 3 raw pla un. :-) npkahirap akyatin ng bundok na yn pro ang daming mgandang view. Congrats s naulit mong pgdalaw. Ure so tough! :-)

    1. thank you ma'am.. and so are you :) ang haba po ng trail noh, uubusin ang lakas.. good to know lang na mganda talaga ang views.. wow, at two rainbows pa ang nakita nyo.. prior to that day po eh sobrang rainy ng weather sa part na yun kaya siguro nung umaga may rainbow kami nakita.. so amazing! :) thanks for dropping by.. :)

  3. i love that you have seen many summits. sama mo naman kmi minsan. hehe. curious lang, background image is taken where? pinapa-alala sa akin ang pulag :)

  4. Sure po.. :) join me in my next climb. You may see my Events page here for the list of upcoming climbs.

  5. send me a PM or email me.. honestly, i forgot na where i got this pic, i first designed my blog nung late 2011. (So lagot ako sa may-ari ng pic na 'to hehe).. Mukang Mt. Balagbag din daw :)


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