After years of wanting to climb a mountain, I finally did today. Although I’ve climbed up the summit and down the crater lake of Taal Volcano in 1998, I consider this my first real climb. I joined the 2010 and 2012 UP Medicine students in the open climb of the UPCM Outdoor Society as they scaled Pico de Loro. The mountain is 664 meters above sea level.
Meeting time was 4 a.m. at the UP College of Medicine. I only had two hours of sleep and realized I was late. We were supposed to commute. But since there were 35 of us in the group, the organizers decided to hire two jeeps. The group left a little past 5 a.m.
We arrived at the Mounts Palay-Palay/Mataas na Gulod National Park in Ternate, Cavite about 8 a.m. no thanks to some kotong cops in Paranaque and traffic congestion in Cavite which we encountered. Pico de Loro is actually part of Mt. Palay-Palay (which is part of Maragondon, Cavite) and is said to be the highest point in Cavite. The other jump-off point for the mountain is in Nasugbu, Batangas. After registering at the DENR outpost, which is up the road from the gate of Puerto Azul, we were off.
It was a difficult first climb for me. We had not even reached the base camp but I was already panting badly since we had to go up and down Magnetic Hill and walk a distance more to get to the base camp. I was actually part of the lead pack and was able to follow them up to the foot of the mountain. But then my legs gave way and I ended up at the end. Talk about being physically pfffft! Add to the fact that it started to rain really hard and the path started to get muddy and slippery.
Poor sweepers, they had to keep me company as I made that arduous climb to the top. We made our way through forested areas and grasslands while the heavens opened its flood gates. Indeed, it was being one with nature. The push up was forgettable to me since I have difficulties hiking upwards. Good thing the refreshing view of the lush forests kept me going.
Then I heard the group from a distance. I was nearing the peak area. And finally, the last person up made it. And that was me! But the experience on top was unbelievable with strong gusts of wind and rain hitting the mountain. I just stood there, awed by nature’s force.
We had lunch at the peak area. I just brought crackers to fill me up. Most of the group went up further to the pillar area. But I was having cramps and opted to stay with the others who remained. Then they gave us the go signal for the descent as the rest of the group was making its way down from the pillar area. I decided to go with the first group since I knew I hiked slower and they could catch up with me anyway. For the most part, I hiked down alone, absorbing the view of the green forest around me. In fact, it was smooth sailing for me and I thought to myself I would be back in the DENR outpost in no time.
I caught up with the lead pack at the base camp and joined them when they left the camp. We were warned by the caretaker about a very confusing fork but I didn’t get the details since the others took care of that. But to make the long story short, we missed that confusing turn. Poor me, I got an "extra" hike since we ended up walking towards the Maragondon Trail which was longer, muddier, narrower, and more slippery. And we only realized it after 40 minutes walking along that very, very muddy trail. Imagine we had to walk back the same trail.
It was getting dark and my group was pushing me to hike faster so that we could make it back before it got real dark and visibility became zero. Until we finally found the confusing fork, and I ranted that DENR or whoever manages the park knows so many people miss that fork, why don’t they put up visible signs pointing hikers to the right direction! Well, it wasn’t over since it was still a long hike up Magnetic Hill. Damn!
No amount of words could describe how I felt when I saw the road. Arriving at the DENR outpost, the feeling of relief when I sat on the bench was indescribable. Over-all it was all fun, but hell while I was hiking up. Haha! And to think that was just a Level 1 climb.
More photos in Multiply. Thanks to Siena Ona, Gideon Lasco, David Chan, Alric Mondragon and the rest of the gang for a great climb. Thank you as well to Sai Sicad (who was also a guest climber) for giving me that extra push on the way up the summit. Same goes to the lost group (Paolo Macasaet, Zhamir Umag, Angel Palabyab, Joseph Macaraya and Leah Mislang) for waiting for me every time I had to stop to catch my breath. And thanks to my brod Lemuel Narcise for inviting me. Should I climb another mountain?
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