Take Me to Mt Isarog

It was after typhoon when we headed to Naga City, Philippines to scale Mt. Isarog. A mountain which hold the reputation of being the highest forested peak in Southern Luzon. We planned this trip few months earlier and who would have thought that a powerful typhoon hit the province prior our climb. However, no typhoon can scare us so the climb was a go.

After 9 hours’ bus ride from Manila, we arrived at Naga City past 5 in the morning. We ate breakfast quickly, then took a tricycle to Carolina Terminal. At exactly 6 am, the jeepney going to Brgy Panicuason left the terminal. It would be nice if we’re allowed to sit at the top load. The first 30 minutes, we’re stuck inside the fully loaded vehicle. However, when the driver gave his go signal we transfer immediately on the top load. It was a smooth ride and we were so delighted with the green meadows and stunning valley along the way.

Past 7 in the morning, we reached Brgy Panicuason where we registered at DENR, pay the necessary fees, and secure our guide. Before we commence our trek towards the top of Mt Isarog, the locals and other mountain guides told us that all the climbers/trekkers who tried to climb the mountain after the typhoon turned back and didn’t make it to the summit. A polite way of saying, “You won’t make it to the top.”

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Starting off

We were all optimistic despite of some discouragement from people around. The more they throw cold water on us, the more we are determined to reach the top.

We hit the trail past 8 am and prepare ourselves for the blood leeches (Limatik). Yes, Mt Isarog is infested with itsy-bitsy blood leeches. The mountain is their home for years. As soon as we bust into the wilderness, the nature got a taste of my blood. Well, I guess Mother Nature need a little blood donation I must say. Aside from blood leeches, prickly plants, and thorny trees are all over. One way or another, you’ll surely have a take home reminder when you get down.

the ascent
The start of steep assault

As we went further, we understood why climbers turned back. Toppled trees are everywhere and most of it blocked the trail. We literally did a clearing operation to pass through which consumed much of our time. Luckily, we had the best guide and great guys on the lead. There’s some part where our only option was to crawl underneath the uprooted tree or climbed it to get through.

the crawl
Crawling with your rucksack underneath the uprooted tree isn’t fun at all.

Before 11 o’clock, we reached Camp 1. Everyone was surely exhausted and we deserve a long breather. We had our terrific lunch in the middle of the wilderness. Stuffing oneself with savory foodstuff while we were being serenade by lovely birds was second to none.

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Friendly walking stick striking a pose.

An hour later, we resumed our assault heading to the last campsite. The ascent was tough and our heavy rucksack added so much misery. We were behind schedule, yet we need a five-minute breather from time to time. As we gain elevation, toppled trees and such were no more, yet the terrain was far from easy.

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Five-minute break is a must.
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When you want to lie down really bad, yet the campsite is still few hours away.

We waste no time and pushed ourselves to move forward. Reaching campsite before dark is a must. We arrived at the camp earlier than expected and some of our climbing buddies went ahead towards the summit to witness the sunset. I decided to conserved my energy for sunrise and prepare dinner instead.

campsite101
Camping 101

We had our sumptuous dinner at the heart of the mountain. Believe it or not, everything that’s prepared and cooked on high ground taste great. Sharing stories in a cold evening while you’re trying to process the so-called humor of your friend was ridiculously fun. We’re supposed to sleep early, however the weather was beyond perfection. The moon was smiling unto us while the glittering stars never failed to amazed us and fill our hollow soul. It was undoubtedly one of the best nights of my life.

My alarm woke me up at 4 in the morning. Time is gold and we get ourselves ready for the summit assault. Only 6 of us went for the summit while the others stayed at the camp. Those who went for sunset the day before decided to stay and prepared our breakfast instead.

With headlights on, we hit the ground with a clear goal and that is to reach the top. I can no longer recall how many times we cling unto the tree roots and branches one after the other on our way up. We’ve made it to the top before sunrise and the view was breathtaking.  

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At summit view deck before sunrise. Perfect cone Mayon Volcano was lovely from afar.

It was a very cold morning at summit view deck, yet it didn’t bother us to cherished the amazing moment. No doubt that we were at a perfect spot not just to catch sight of the beautiful sunrise but a place where we witness how nature unveil its glamor in front of our eyes.

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We were stunned when the sun lights up and slowly exposing the waters abounding the Bicol peninsula. The lush crater of Mt Isarog, the colossal dense forest, and the genuine charm of the neighboring mountains. I’d say, it was a substantial medicine to our poisoned soul and corrupted minds.

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After getting high with a dose of nature’s grace, we descended back to camp. The stunted trees on the trail blew our minds. We couldn’t believe that we pass through the mossy forest clinging unto the roots and branches that easily on our way up. We realized that it was easier to climb when you see less. You won’t feel the pressure when you have no idea how challenging it is. Well, I guess that’s the advantage if you’re trekking during the night.

We’re back at campsite in no time when we noticed that 2 of our friends are missing. We’ve waited a little longer, yet they never showed up. Our guide and Dex waited no more and went up towards the summit to look for them. We were so relieved when all of them were back at the camp. They got lost indeed.

After breakfast, we bid goodbye to the mountain and started our descent. Few hours later, we halt for lunch along the trail, then descended rapidly afterwards. John and I were ahead of them so we decided to visit the famous Malabsay Falls.

Malabsay falls
Malabsay Falls

Of course, we didn’t miss the chance to soak ourselves in a very cold fresh water. Several groups and families were there for picnic, swimming or simply chilling alongside this gorgeous falls.

group pic
Hail to the team.

Many told us we won’t make it to the top but we proved them wrong. We get down the mountain safely with the record of the first team to summit after the powerful storm. This team didn’t know the word give up. After all, though we went through a very challenging journey, the reward was worth it.


TIPS and TRICKS

  • Prepare for blood leeches. The mountain is infested with these creatures though it is not as aggressive compared to limatiks on other mountains like Mt Makiling and Pantingan.
  • Wear proper clothing not just to protect yourself from limatiks but for the thorny trees and plants.
  • Made sure to bring fleece jackets or thermals as it can get very cold during the night.
  • Stick with your friends while trekking. Getting lost up the mountains is very common unless you knew all the trails by heart then there would be no problem.
  • Respect Mother Nature by leaving no trace and taking all the trash when you get down.

FEES and EXPENSES

Isarog Bus Lines (from Manila) PHP 800 (One way)
Jeep to Panicuason GSP Headquarters PHP 30 (One Way)
DENR Entrance fee PHP 100
Mountain Guide fee PHP 400/day
Malabsay Falls entrance fee PHP 10

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