Friday, September 20, 2013

Mt. Pico de Loro 2013

The BACKPACKERS are gaining new official members and regular guests. Our priority is to help them expand their mountain adventures and travel experiences by conquering new mountains and going to different places. That is why when some requested during our August climb (Mt. Pinagbanderahan) that they would love to climb Mt. Pico de Loro, we solidified the target adventure for September.

Standing at 664 meters above sea level, Mt. Pico de Loro boasts of the highest point in the province of Cavite. It is one of the most popular hiking destination near the metropolis. The BACKPACKERS, before being established as a group, had some of its pioneer members explore the mountain. In 2011, we had our first Friendship Climb held in Mt. Pico de Loro as well. And this year, BP Jovy (and other BPs and guests) requested to visit the same mountain. The beauty of this mountain is so alluring that even I, BP Lead, promised to visit it at least once a year since I started my passion in climbing mountains. This Mt. Pico de Loro By-Request is my eighth climb here, but the experience is different ever since I discovered its grandeur.

Mt. Pico de Loro By Request 
The Climb Party
by Ivan Ignacio

Angel Cawaling
Anna Aujero
Ghei Agoncillo
Jovy Duremdes
Heinz Alvarez
Ivan Ignacio
Kenji Revoltiado
Nick Garcia
Resty Ritualo
York Advento

Regular Guests
Isabel Fonte
Leah Nogoy
Erwin Adami
Gino Trinidad
Rexie Vergara

The First Timers
Ana Maria Sanchez
Daryl Dugang
Daryn Dugang
Dyann Severo
Oliver Trinidad

The ISG Peeps
Aira Berces
Andy Monteverde
Angel Basbas
Genes Versoza
baby Ponsing Roa
Mon Fajardo
Sean Roa

The first group met at Worldwide Corporate Center in Shaw Boulevard. We hired Tito Mon's truck again as we were joined by five ISG Mountaineers and their two guests. Everyone started arriving in the assembly place, including supportive BPs DeePee and Mau. They were not able to join the climb but were present to wish us luck and personally greet BP Ghei as it was her birthday climb. Rightfully enough, it was she who arrived last, allowing us to prepare a short "You're Late, but Happy Birthday!" greeting.

Happy Birthday BP Ghei!
Gifts courtesy of BPs Mau and DeePee who despite not joining the climb,
met with us to wish us luck in our September adventure

We boarded the service bound for Ternate, Cavite at around 10:00AM. Dark clouds started to cover the sky as we were trudging the road from Kawit to Naic. Weather forecast was not good that weekend but because of the absence of LPA or monsoon, we still pushed through with the adventure. These possibilities are expected anyway as it is still the rainy season. At past 12 in the afternoon, we arrived at the jump off point in DENR Ternate station. Everyone was asked to take their lunch prior to the start of the hike.


The officer at DENR approached us to ask the group to register. I was aware then of the brewing conflict between the DENR and the Station 2 where they also collect a registration fee. The DENR officer advised us that they have increased the fee from 20Php to 25Php and that we need not to register at Station 2. This issue has sparked animosity between mountaineers and the caretaker of the latter station.

baby Ponsing and cool mom, Miss Andy
The hike started after offering a prayer for the safety and success of the climb. Unfortunately, rain poured  as we walked down the introductory paved road in Magnetic Hill. The downpour made the trail slippery and muddy so everybody observed a careful pacing as we trudge the dirt path. ISG mom and dad Ma'am Andy and Sir Sean stormed in front of the pack with their 9 month old baby Ponsing. Yes, we were trekking with a baby, my youngest climb companion in my years of trekking, impressive!

Our Columbian guest, Ana Maria Sanchez
We reached Station 2 where the caretaker was very obvious in expressing remorse about the whole registration situation. The DENR folks were instructing hikers to not pay the second registration fee in the area. As much as possible, The BACKPACKERS would opt not to meddle with issues like this in the mountains to shy away from stress and confrontation. And since I have been a regular visitor of the mountain, and I know Mang Rey and his generosity during my first seven climbs here, I allotted a budget for this. Note that the official caretakers of the Palay Palay mountain range is the DENR. But it is not a question that Station 2 has been an open venue for hikers who would like to rest or do some camp chores while hiking. I have been a fan of the generosity of Mang Rey and I am just sad that this issue came up.


The trek ensued as the weather continued its tirade of rain when we were inside the forest of Mt. Pico de Loro. We regrouped in the assault portion only to be divided again when we approached the rocky section. This was when the lead pack got off trail when we carelessly followed a couple on the wrong path. Darkness was approaching and we missed the clarity of the trail sign (which is confusing in itself, it has an arrow and words that say Wrong Way, This Way). Pico de Loro first timers BP Nick and Resty who were separated from the large group had a difficult time deciphering if the arrow on the sign pertained to the Wrong Way or to the correct way "This Way". Being exposed to the trail of Mt. Pico de Loro for several times, I immediately noticed the shift in trail, and I knew instantly that we were not on the correct path. "We should have turned left," I told myself. After checking with the wandering trekkers ahead of us who also got lost, we decided to go back. After just ten minutes of backtracking we found the right path with the overgrown roots, before the last leg towards the campsite. What we skipped was the rocky segment of the trail. I was with the first timers so I turned things around by saying, "This is part of the adventure girls." And they all agreed.

Guests Dyann, Leah and Isabel
Pico de Loro first timers!

BACKPACKERS Batch 5 says hello to Pico de Loro!
BPs Resty, Ghei and Nick

We passed by sweepers Nick and Resty again who were comfortably strolling along the trail as if discussing their hacienda or property to each other. The campsite got nearer and we heard some noises as we hiked. Even though the ISG mountaineers set out as an advance party to reserve camp space, we still had to face the consequence of starting late on a weekend. The campsite was packed with hikers. There were around fifteen groups of hikers that weekend, proving the popularity of the mountain. The BACKPACKERS' favorite spot in the bamboo area was already occupied. Sir Sean, who willingly came down to search for the 'lost' party, advised us that they were able to secure a decent campsite in the last space before the summit assault trail.


Dusk became brutal as we set up camp in the midst of pouring rain. We felt that miserable feeling of being wet and muddy and we could not do anything about it unless we pitch our tent. And even if we had our tents up, we had to skillfully hop onto it and change while preventing our dry clothes from being wet. I did not change until the end of the socials. I drenched myself like a child bathing and playing under the rain. This was brewing to be the most unfavored Pico de Loro experience and I just thought that we may not be able to climb the summit nor the monolith because of the bad weather...  :-(

Mud all over the trail and campsite
That night, the late party of five individuals were hiking inside the forest of Mt. Pico de Loro. They were BPs Heinz, Angel and Kenji, and guest siblings Gino and Oliver. They needed to wait for Kenji's avail time. The five were able to join the group in the somewhat miserable campsite after a non-stop hike for only three hours. Kudos to the late party!
inner was served similar to our Mt. Tangisan climb where the BPs and regular guests delivered the food to the tents around the campsite. Since there's mud practically everywhere and we used our socials mat as a tarp for the kitchen area, there's no space for the group to huddle into. A lot of tired campers hit the hay early. Only a few people joined the socials where Angel and Isabel's goal was to enjoy to the highest level despite the angry weather. We were joined by Ma'am Andy and Sir Sean of ISG. And just to summarize the socials: Erwin hogged the macaroons (a strategy to be free of tagay?), Andy is not just a hardcore mountaineer but a hardcore tagay-master as well, Angel and Isabel succeeded in their goal to take the alcohol to the highest level, er, to enjoy to the highest level and so did everyone else. It was a wacky socials despite the small number of attendees.


Tito Mon and baby Ponsing
There was not much of a morning promise as the weather condition stayed the same on day two. Everything's damp and we were walking on a slippery, muddy ground. Our guest and first timer Daryl expressed her concern to BP Jovy that we might not be able to summit the mountain due to the consistent bad weather. Mt. Pico de Loro is one of the advisable destination for those who want to try mountaineering and I know that the whole experience will not be worth it especially to the newbies if they will not stand afoot in Cavite's highest point. So regardless of the white and foggy surroundings, I asked everyone to be ready for the summit assault. But before we started the summit assault, the group greeted BP Ghei once again, this time with the cake brought by the late party. It was supposed to be presented the night before during socials but was postponed due to the you-know-what-type-of-weather that weekend. And BP Ghei was spared of the dreaded birthday shot!

Guest Gino who is one of the late party who took care of the cake
presented it to birthday girl BP Ghei

The summit assault pushed through. BPs York and Kenji joined the ISG mountaineers Jing, Andy and baby Ponsing who all passed in this phase of the adventure. Also foregoing the summit leg were BP Anna and her guest, Ana Maria of Columbia. The two buddies just explored the foggy campsite view deck which Ana Maria referred to as her version of summit adventure.

The journey to the summit began in the pursuit for the clearing inside the muddy forest just after where we set up our camp. The adventure was approaching its climax when I saw the excitement on all of the climb participants. Even if we were robbed of the supposedly splendid view of the surrounding, the first timers enjoyed that vista when we were out of the forest and were approaching the peak. The gust of wind was strong. This and the slippery trail posed as a challenge to us who braved the summit assault on a rainy day. But when we arrived one by one in the peak, everyone was happy and proud of their accomplishment.

You're almost there, BP Nick!
Victorious! Mt. Pico de Loro summit group shot


They say you have not truly maximized your Mt. Pico de Loro experience if you haven't subjected yourself to the Toreng Bato challenge. One of the distinct and popular feature of Mt. Pico de Loro is the monolith, carefully crafted by time and nature making it appear as having the shape of a parrot's beak (hence the name Pico de Loro).

BP Nick and the blurry monolith

Weather was not on our side that weekend. It was foggy and we were not able to see the supposedly breathtaking 360 degree view from the summit of Mt. Pico de Loro. The infamous monolith was also covered in pitch white due to the fog. I was checking the team if there were people who still wanted to brave the challenge in scaling the monolith despite the uneventful weather condition. At first, most of The BACKPACKERS and guests decided not to climb the structure. But when courageous Ma'am Andy started to descend from the summit en route to the monolith, I asked again and almost everyone followed Miss Andy's lead.

Everyone got excited as we trailed down from the summit. The adrenaline rush heightened when the figure of the monolith appeared before our sights. When we reached the base of the monolith, the girls especially BP Jovy jumped for joy as buff and handsome mountaineers who just scaled Toreng Bato passed by. We paused when we reached the crucial part because another group was still stuck in maneuvering through the ropes. And so the bonding continued while we were on a halt.

The roped segment

Miss Andy worked on the roped segment first followed by yours truly. The girls followed one at a time with the help of Tito Mon who provided instructions from the base's point of view. And I must commend the guts and skillfulness of each and everyone for conquering their fears and passing through that critical part of the monolith's challenge. For those who have not experienced this thrill, you need to carefully pull yourself up on a course where the slanted wall of the monolith seems to be pushing you on the other side - which is a cliff, 600+ meters high!

Miss Andy in Pico de Loro's monolith!
We made it on top of Toreng Bato! Unfortunately, it started to drizzle. But when Leah started to chant a prayer, the heaven blessed us by stopping the rain. We took this opportunity to do a quick photo ops. Who wouldn't be excited when you have just added an accomplishment - accepting and conquering the monolith of Mt. Pico de Loro!


This segment of the climb was truly the icing on the cake. It gave us a tremendous amount of adrenaline rush that truly made our Mt. Pico de Loro climb memorable! We couldn't stay at the monolith nor the summit forever, so we started descending back to our campsite. One defining moment during our climb was when we were crawling up the summit and the magnificent view of the monolith that we have just scaled appeared between the clouds. The sight of the monolith, the plains and the forest below, the sea on our right, the other peripheral mountain on our left and the dramatic view of the clouds quickly gushing up and rubbing our faces - that gift of a forty second breathtaking scene completed our experience.

We broke camp after we have eaten our lunch. The weather stayed the same but we took the muddy trail with a smile on our faces because of the fulfilling experience that we had on top of the mountain. It was already evening when we washed up at DENR Ternate and went home.

Photo credits to Andy, Dyann, Erwin, Oliver and Resty
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