Nervous and Excited. Two words to describe how I was feeling as the weeks drew nearer on the day of this climb. First, because this will be the very first time that I will be climbing a Cordillera mountain. And you guys probably have an idea how hypothermia-inducing Cordillera mountains are. Secondly, it’s a traverse! Traversing gives me that feeling of expecting a surprise from a mountain on its other side. Whatever that surprise is, it is for us to discover then! Lastly, is that this mountain has been tagged as one of those basagan ng tuhod climbs. But despite the rumors that this is going to be another difficult climb, I had fully made up my mind that I’ll be climbing this even months before the schedule. All because of what everybody who has climbed this mountain was saying… it would be all worth it!
After that 5-hour looong butt-numbing bus ride via Victory Liner from Manila to Nueva Vizcaya, we reached one of Victory Liner’s stopover at Aritao, Nueva Vizcaya at 0300. It was actually an hour earlier than our itinerary. So we took the chance to have some hot coffee and goto while waiting for the chartered jeep that we rented to take us to the Kayapa Village.
From the Aritao stopover, we then arrived at the Kayapa Village at around 0530. The cold temperature already soothes through my new pink REI rainwall jacket (and yes I had to emphasize that it’s new, haha 😀 ). It was that time that I realized that what I was wearing is not enough to combat the temperature once I’m in the summit.
Luckily, we spotted an ukay-ukay in the market that sells second-hand jackets for only 50 pesos! Can you believe it? It just totally offset the cost of my REI jacket! Haha 🙂 And mind you, these are not ruggedly-torned jackets, I spotted some authentic brands. I had Rose, the one in the picture, chose a good one for me. I took a pink fleece Champion jacket which looks really good. But more than the aesthetic, I was of course more concerned of its purpose.
We then headed our way to the jump-off via this chartered van. Cha, Sir Mars, and I boarded top load for the heck of experiencing it. Not that much of the adrenaline rush that I was expecting since the speed was really gradual probably due to the steep winding roads. If you’re a photographer, you will definitely enjoy this because it’ll give you the best ride shots!
It was I guess a 20-minute top-load ride. The moment we reached the jump-off, we started with a prayer for the Lord’s guidance followed by our usual stretching routines. We were then off to the mountains and the anticipated long trek. This is it!
The first part of the trail was difficult. It was a 3-long hours of steep ascent which started with a paved road. I remember catching my breath already on the first hour! Most of us were already panting and ranting! Haha! And I know that was just a warm up! Good thing I was in the group of Team Sweeper (Doc Tom, Rose, Aizel, Eduard, Bujoi, Nerie)! We had our pacing really gradual without rushing.
This part of the trail was apparently limatik infested. One of my companions, Eduard, got bitten by it that caused bleeding on one of his legs. It was my first time to see a limatik with my very eyes although I’ve already done my research about it way before. The moment I knew that the trail was infested, I remember uttering prayers for God to keep me away from limatiks because I’m scared of it. The same way I fear cockroaches and crawling creatures maybe. I remember myself getting paranoid of whatever sticks on my skin, I would freak out that it might be a limatik. I have a ready alcohol in one of my pockets just in case I spotted one. But nah, the moment Rose saw one crawling in my leggings, I remember screaming oh-my-gosh repeatedly catching the attention of the others. They poured alcohol onto it which disarmed it. So there, I escaped that sneaky limatik!
Unlike my previous climbs, which made me really sweaty, this one’s the complete opposite! I can’t remember a time that I sweat at all on my way up because of that cool temperature. Or maybe I did but only for just a short period of time. The negative side of this though is that there was no clearing so we were not able to enjoy the view as we ascend. Doc Tom, who already climbed in here last year was describing to us what we’re supposedly seeing.
Being a self-proclaimed ambassadress of walking, I honestly didn’t mind the long trail. I was silently comparing it to my Mt. Tapulao experience where the trail was a mixture of the worse: long, rocky, and very hot! Thus, I’m thankful still for the trail of Ugu that despite its long but almost flattened trail, it gave us that airconditioned-like feel the whole time.
These cows welcomed us when we reached a blind curve. And they really surprised us literally that we ran as fast as we could back. I can still remember the face of Rose as she struggles on her way back since she was leading the trail that time. We all burst into laughter after! And yes I’m still laughing while writing this part by just the thought of it. Hahaha!
Since our Day1 trail was very selfish of views because of the fog, we would stop at every moment that would give us clearing to take advantage of the sneak peak sceneries. We had a lot of this actually, thus the reason why we arrived late. Well, plus the fact that we’re the sweeper. 😀
A few more walks and we were already surrounded by mountains that got full of pine trees. The trail was very visible at this time that you could see the farthest visible entity. It was at also at this time where the porter guide who was with us showed us where our campsite would be, which is visible but I know from my estimate is still far.
It was already 1700 and we knew that we’re nearing the campsite, as per the advise of the porter. The trail here was getting steeper and colder at the same time. Steep assaults came into our way. Howling winds as if we were on a horror movie scene. And having just the thought of reaching the campsite motivates me to go further despite these things. My legs were already tired, my stomach was already feeling the hunger, and I was having headache already as well. I forgot to mention that I’m tasked to be the medic for this climb. So I stopped for a while and took 1 Alaxan from the medical kit that was with me. It gave me the usual relief that it gives.
After that 10-hours of long trekking, we finally reach the campsite. It was already 1800 that time and already getting dark. And since we’re the last group, the prior groups had already cooked their food for dinner. We started pitching my tent which I shared with two of our guests: Nerie and Bujoi. We then prepared our food for dinner, which took us really a long time preparing. I was thankful that some of my batchmates already shared their cooked food just so for us to ease the hunger that we’re feeling. Click on this link to check our whole dinner story. 😀
The campsite which was just a few meters below the summit was indeed really really cold and wet. It was uncomfortably cold that every time the air blows on our face, it gets us soaked as well. I was wearing my UK fleece jacket inside and my rain jacket outside already. Plus the bonnet, scarf, and gloves that I brought with me, made the coldness tolerable on my end I guess.
After socials, which we had to cut since the weather wasn’t getting any better, we already went inside the tent and took some zzzzz… And here comes the horrific part! At around 2AM, I woke up from a severe headache. It was a really painful throbbing sensation that awoken me from my slumber. Not sure if it’s because of my usual migraine or because of the shots of alcohol that I took during socials to keep my body warm. I was trying to look for my headlamp but I can’t find it. I sipped some water from the bladder that my hand has reached then. Just a split-second and I felt like my stomach just turned upside down. Yes, I just threw up inside my tent with my two guests inside. Imagine how gross is that! I was teary already while apologizing to them on what just happened. I was thankful for my tentmates that they were really nice still that they even helped me clean up my mess. Whew! That was the most shameful thing that ever happened to me so far! I swear, I guess I’ll just add up layers to combat the freezing temperature next time. Hehe 🙂 We went back sleeping after.
And that ended our roller coaster Day 1! Read here for our Day 2 story! Wiiii! 😀