Mt. Arayat located in Arayat, Pampanga has long been popular to me. Aside from the fact that it’s a distinct spot along NLEX, I’ve already got myself familiarized with this mountain since I was a kid because my mother is a native of the province. My family used to do summer vacation trips in Sta. Ana, Pampanga to visit my Lolo and in Floridablanca, Pampanga where my Aunt resides.
As how Sir Tristan (our TL for this climb) described it, our Mt. Arayat Traverse climb last October 19 would be just a “Walk in the Park”. Well, most probably he was thinking of Jurassic Park that time. Because for me, it’s exactly the opposite!
Prior saying yes to this climb, I’ve done my research on how the difficulty of this trail would go. Considering the fact that I just got into a flu days before the schedule. I wouldn’t want to be the team’s liability so I filed a 2-day sick leave for my complete recovery. Thank you boss! 😀
The team was composed of 28 mountaineers: a mix of MMS members and frequent guests. The exciting part here was that all of us are first timers of this mountain except for Sir Tristan. We hired 2 vans which departed at 0430 from Manila. The team arrived at around 0700 at Brgy. Ayala wherein we were welcomed by the Barangay Captain. We also had our packed breakfast here and prepared for the long trek. We started with a prayer for the Lord’s guidance and our usual stretching routines. The jump off from this point would still take us into a 30-minute walk so we’ve decided to take another ride to save time and energy as well.
We had our registration in this Information Center Hall set up by DENR. There were even discussions on whether we should proceed with the traverse since the other part of the trail got loose rocks and there were reported landslides due to the typhoon Santi which occurred a week prior. One of the locals even told us that there was one who died after he got into the landslide incident. The locals and the DENR officials were talking in Kapampangan discussing whether they would allow us or not. It was also then that I realized that I can still understand the dialect. Anyhow, as per the discretion of our Team Lead and our hired guide, we then proceeded with extra precaution knowing the story behind.
A few walks after starting, we encountered the Station of the Cross figures along the way. Apparently, like Mt. Banahaw, the mountain has been a haven during Holy Week pilgrimage of the Catholics.
A few more walks and we then saw what the locals were telling us: the aftermaths of the typhoon Santi. There were indeed big loose scattered rocks, several uprooted trees, and big branches thrown along the trail. Along with the steep ascend, these things added up to the challenge.
The whole ascend was purely assault. I can’t even remember a moment where we encountered a flat surface other than the time when we reached the fenced military camp where we ate our lunch. It was already around 1300 at that time. We stayed there for an hour and then began our trek to the first summit.
A few walks from the military campsite lies the first peak of the Magalang Trail, the North Peak. It got a wide campsite wherein you can see the South Peak, which still lies far behind where we were. Enough for you to estimate how long the next trails would go. Which according to Sir Tristan, was another 4 more hours.
True enough, the rest of the trail was a major challenge. It was a mixture of a complete adventure that you can imagine: grasping big roots, trekking into big boulders, going underneath big logs, passing through thorny plants, and even vertical ascends and descends!
It was a very technical trail that I could say that you need someone experienced to go along with you if you’re a newbie. Since we went as a big group, it was an advantage for us since we’ve got a lot of pro-MMS-mountaineers who went along with us. I remember the 80-degree boulder challenge wherein you have to go through a very narrow steep boulder, without a rope! There were two 90-degrees descend wherein I struggled going down. Descends have always been a challenge for me since I have this “fear of falling”. We were lucky enough to have Sir Ega and Jerry Escosio who were guiding us along the way. Ascends are also difficult since you have to put your trust in the roots scattered along the way. If there is rock climbing, I believe this one’s root climbing. Because you will literally climbed in through the roots.
After reaching the famous White Rock, we took the chance to do photo ops. In some blogs, they would call it the Haring Bato.
We then continued with the descend which even led us to a still, rooty rocky terrain. At this time, my mind just wanted to reach the flat surface of the ground. The trail then became gradual but got bushy that you have to use your trek pole to clear the path. The trail wasn’t getting clearer at this time, I remember not even seeing the trail anymore that you have to make your own path just so you can follow the person that goes before you. It was already 1800 and getting dark, and we had to put our headlamps on. This is a must guys even though the trip is just a dayhike! Also, you have to bring at least 3.5-4L of water. My 2L water and 2x500ml Gatorade were surprisingly not enough that I had to ask some for some refills from one of our guests.
Night trek is another thing, especially for someone who has night blindness like me. It’s harder for me to see things when it’s dark. At this time, I experienced having a pair of feet got a life of its own. They were already literally walking their way without my brain thinking about the moves anymore. I remember stumbling twice after hitting a loose rock. I also remember getting a lot of mosquito bites that I worried of getting dengue. But I didn’t care anymore, my mind was all set for reaching the final point. My heart skipped into happiness when we reached a concrete ground. But noooo, it was another loooong walk along that road. It was already 1930 when we finally reached the long-been-awaited destination. Whew!
We had a quick shower with the natural falls there that got a really cold flowing water. We then head our way to one of the NLEX stopovers to have our dinner.
Overall, it was an exhilarating, breath taking, heart-stopping, thrilling adventure! Yes the words are purely exaggeration because the trip really was! It would be a good training climb for those who are looking for a real deal thrill. It was another successful major climb for me and for the rest of the team!
Thank you Lord for I know You enabled and guided all of us along the way. 😀
Photo Credits: Bernard Llaguno, Carlo Tuazon, Tristan Santos, Philip Geromo