Posts Tagged ‘Trekking


2010 in Pictures

2010 was the year running took a backseat from my list of activities, but in between my great hiatus there were some interesting events that transpired.  Here’s a look back at how 2010 was for me:


The highlight for the first month of 2010 was my return to running with a 50K test run of the Bataan Death March (BDM) Ultramarathon (first 50K of the actual route).

With our support crew (courtesy Gail Consolacion)

(Continue reading…)

10 Weekend at Mt. Pinatubo

The Philippine Association of Ultrarunners (PAU) brings another ultramarathon “to the masses,” this time to the trails.  For its debut trail ultra we were taken to the site of second largest terrestrial eruption of the 20th century—Mt. Pinatubo.

Mt. Pinatubo

The crater lake of Mt. Pinatubo (Credit: Chris Tomnong / Wikipedia)

(Continue reading…)


In-Action at Action & Fitness (A&F) Magazine

If you happen to have the July 2010 issue of Action & Fitness (A&F) Magazine our Mt. Maculot adventure is featured on the Travel & Adventure section, page 92, courtesy of our climb muse Vicky Ras.  This is my first time to appear with A&F and first time to be featured not running!  Thank you Vicky for sharing our adventure with everyone!

(Had I known you’d share our pictures I would’ve stuck with you more! 🙂 )

Aside from the aforementioned article Vicky has another one about Eating Healthy.  Noelle “KIKAYRUNNER” too has an article  in this issue about Shoulder Stretches (nice flexibility Noelle!).


Mt. Maculot Revisited (Part 2)

The challenges were going back up the trails and retrace our route from the summit to find the right way.  Luckily my teammates followed my suggestion of packing light so despite the crumbling ground, with teamwork they were able to pull through with relative difficulty.   I however didn’t with my weight training.  Mt. Maculot was having its revenge on me. I was practically unscathed the last time we met; now I was experiencing the runner up for the scariest moment of my life—hanging onto dear life as my arms were solely carrying my entire weight, clinging onto roots that I dug while the ground beneath me that offered little support was slowly eroding due to my weight!  I seriously felt like anytime the roots would give out, I’d slide down, and be unable to climb back up the eroded ground.   And I can’t keep carrying my entire weight for long!

The challenging part of the trail, courtesy Jairuz

Luckily our sweeper Allen did great at his duty and stayed with me (from stable grounds of course) during my struggle and lent a hand until I was able to pull through.   I was also lucky that the others didn’t saw what happened to me as it was really scary.

I climbed up and grab onto the root we originally used going down.  As the ground crumbled I had to expose more of the root and cling to it with both arms.   I had to think fast and dig for some more roots before the ground totally erodes, and eventually I found another on my left where there’s a more stable ground.   The problem was that a really thorny plant was blocking my path to transfer.   I was running out of time as the ground totally gave way so I just reached and grabbed that root and before I was able to successfully transfer to it I felt a lot of thorns gracing my face.   From there I don’t really remember how I managed to reach for the stable ground where Allen was staying.   All I know was that I got away from it all with some small holes in my upper lip area (no thorns were carried apparently) and an inch of cut on my left knee, aside from some minor scratches of course.  Thanks Allen for staying!

Dead end! (Jumping off a ravine isn’t part of the plan) Courtesy Carina

I wasn’t smiling right after that incident and I thought that “this isn’t fun anymore!”   I felt that my heart beat was really elevated and my right quads was throbbing—all muscles of it, ready to have cramps at any second.   Fortunately running thought me some lessons so after some rehydration and proper management of effort we were all going back to the summit to find the right trail down.  And of course the idea of finding the right way brought back my smile. 🙂

We were back on top and Mt. Maculot had already given us more adventure than we seek.   Eventually the right path made itself visible to us and so we were on our way to the campsite where the infamous store used to stand.  Of course going there still gave us some challenges as we encountered crumbling trails on the way down.

This is how the old store looks like now; well it’s no longer a store although you can still buy cold drinks in the area (Pinoy ingenuity, but sadly no more halo-halo) 🙂

From the camp site most of us went to view the Rockies but only two went to it due to laziness brought about by the heat.  After resting for quite a while and some cold drinks we started our descent just before 3PM.

The Rockies which I wanted to go to but I got a bit too lazy 😛

Our group just before our descent

Going down…

Sadly the numerous Buco (Coconut) juice vendors that frequent the trail a year ago were also gone but one still managed to stay completing my day.  Again, ingenuity.

This is where “tourists” normally start their trek

Climb Tip: The advantage of descending near the mountaineering store was the proximity of houses where you can take a bath, for a fee of course.  A tricycle terminal is also located nearby.

After our descent we opted for some nice bath, halo-halo, and barbecue, all of which in the vicinity of the mountaineering store.  From there our buses back to Manila are just a tricycle ride and P20 (per person) away.

Our trail route (via Google Earth): note that from the summit we were mislead by an established trail to a dead end so we went back to summit and found a way back to the camp site (Rockies), totaling at least 6K worth of trails

To those also planning to follow our path here’s the summary of our route: start at the jumpoff point (Grotto trail), climb to summit, head towards the camp site (Rockies), and descended to the mountaineering store area (descent from summit is approximate as my GF405 ran out of batteries).  But don’t forget to register first!

Appeal: I kept mentioning the word “tourists” in this post to refer to the sets of people that litter the mountain leaving all sorts of junk that they carry with them.  Unfortunately Mt. Maculot is in a very bad shape because of them and is in fact worse state now than my last visit a year ago.  Don’t be a tourist, be a responsible mountaineer by bringing all your trash with you on the way down! Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but photos, kill nothing but time.  Don’t be part of the problem, be part of the solution!

Please keep our mountains clean

At the end of the day I was pretty satisfied with the way things turned out.  It didn’t go “according to plan” the same way our last visit did but the unanticipated moments of getting lost and finding our way back really made it into an adventure—the thrill of spontaneity.  If everything went “according to plan” we may not have enjoyed our climb as much, and even I who thought knew enough the trails of Mt. Maculot had new lessons learned.

Mt. Maculot adventure complete!

Congratulations to my group particularly the first timers for completing their first trek/traverse! Great job guys and I hope you learned some valuable things with our assault, and hope this is just the start of many more climbs to come!


Mt. Maculot Revisited (Part 1)

Stubborn as I am my injury wasn’t enough to keep me in one place—once again I’m out and about on an adventure, this time to revisit an “old friend” Mt. Maculot.  And what perfect date to set it but on another long weekend courtesy of Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor), the 9th of April.

It was almost a year ago when I last (and first) visited Cuenca, Batangas where the famous (and also infamous) mountain is located, south of Taal Lake.  This time I’m back to lead (or more like guide) new adventure-seekers in search for some crash-course on mountaineering for a bigger adventure that is TNF100.

This was my first time to lead anyone on a mountain.  The members of our previous group that assaulted Mt. Maculot were occupied, so as reluctant as I was I had no choice but to lead the group that was mostly comprised of women, many of which had absolutely no experience trekking.  I had promised that I’d take them on a trek before TNF100 for some training and so even if I was a little banged up I had to keep my word.  To make matters worse I don’t remember the trail we took before as we did our previous assault at night! Fortunately our group was joined with additional testosterone on the last minute so I was able to forget all my concerns.

Our group (clockwise from the left): Carina, Vicky, Tracy, Carly, Ric, Doc Art (which had to leave us early for a “doctor’s call”), Allen, Jai, Ellen, Me, and Glenn, courtesy Carina

I had originally planned for a 1AM departure from Manila but due to a sequence of unfortunate events we were able to leave Manila at 4AM.  Then there was a road accident en route further slowing our progress and it was way past 7AM when we finally got to Cuenca.  There goes my sunrise plan!

Travel Tip: Buses passing through Cuenca from Buendia/Taft don’t have a fixed departure time as we learned the hard way, better ask the bus company what time their buses are “scheduled” to leave and add an hour for waiting time.

Since we were already way behind schedule we decided to take the faster way by riding tricycles toward the registration site (P10/person), Barangay Hall (where we had our restroom break), and the jump-off point.  We were initially taken to the “traditional” jump-off point as I forgot to mention to our drivers that we were starting via Grotto trail and not the usual “tourist” trails, thus adding to our fare.  Tricycle cost: P30/person (five persons per tricycle) which was a little hefty in total but it’s a way of life called tourism!

Eating before taking on the Grotto trail, way past 8AM, courtesy Carina

Before: still clean shoes

A year hence, the dirt roads that we took before are now paved.  Uh oh!  Not much seems familiar!  Hiking in daylight does have the advantage of locals being awake and able to tell you the right way as I obviously am lost that time, so in summary we found the Grotto trail and everything was uneventful, except that I forgot how heart-pumping this trail was (great workout for the glutes).

Group shot at the base of the Grotto’s trail end, courtesy Ellen

Notice my huge 40L bag.  Aside from guiding friends I also was doing some weight training, also for TNF100.  I’ve no idea how heavy it was but it contains 3.5L of liquids, a 700g netbook, a pair of sandals, change clothes, etc.—no light packing today!  A year ago I was carrying a regular backpack and just wore a tee and a pair of denims—things have really changed!

With Vicky on our way to the summit: behind us are stores being dismantled (probably set up during the past holy week because of the Grotto), courtesy Carina

Our journey from the Grotto to the summit was uneventful and was surprisingly fast.  From our previous record of eight hours from Municipal Hall to summit we were able to reach summit from jump-off point in less than two and a half hours!

Vicky climbing a section of the trail I fondly call “the wall” because it seemed like one when I first saw it a year ago in the darkness of night (with glass bottles hanging on my backpack and our headlamps on). Looking at it in daylight it hardly seemed so. (Courtesy Carina)

Our “uneventful” series ran out on our first attempt to find a way to the Rockies.  I vaguely remember the details and the trail I remembered that we took were no longer that established.  With suggestions from my teammates we took the “obvious” route which spelled trouble for us.

The “obvious” trail eventually leads us to a very difficult location with a matching dead end.  Many of my teammates slid down the trail as the earth was loose—it crumbles beneath your feet, literally!  All of us get some challenge with that one, only to find out that we’re on a dead end (unless of course jumping off a ravine was part of the trail!).  I can’t believe that we’re lost! (Again?!)

(Continue to part 2)


TNF100 Philippines 2010: Prep Up

This year one of the region’s toughest ultramarathon race is back, The North Face 100.  For its 2010 edition it would be held in the Philippines’ summer capital, Baguio City (1,500 meters above sea level).  TNF100 is not your “typical” trails—the higher elevation should pose a greater challenge.

TNF100 holds a special place in my heart for being my first ever ultra.  BDM may be my longest distance-wise and fastest ultramarathon so far but TNF100 still holds my most difficult and longest race time-wise.  It’s not surprising that it comes with a 30-hour cutoff.  (TNF50 has an extended 18-hour cutoff, 22K with 4.5, and 11K with 3)


Unlike previous editions wherein the 100K can be taken as solo or relay, TNF100 now boasts a new category: 50K solo.  This should open the doors to new ultra-trail runners who want to “test” the trails but aren’t up to take on the full challenge that is TNF100.  For beginners there are also 11K and 22K categories.


Registration is ongoing at The North Face branches, ROX, and Res-Toe-Run branches but you better hurry as slots are limited: 11K and 22K with 40 slots each per branch; 50K and 100K with 10 slots each per branch.  Registration fees for 100K and 50K solo are P2,000 and P500 for 11K and 22K.  Don’t forget your provisional receipt (for race kit claiming) and 20% discount coupon upon registration.


For those who would be joining (or considering joining) their first TNF100 (or TNF50) I can only advice based on my previous TNF100 experience in Sacobia, Clark as I am not familiar with this year’s route myself.  I’ve only been to Baguio City once and I know for a fact that the elevation may take a toll to “lowlanders,” especially to those who don’t climb.  I was running for only about half a year when I finished my first ultra (with only a 21K race to boast), and I’ve only had two major training sessions that prepared me for it:

  1. Km 0 – 56 (Manila to Tagaytay)

    View from Km 0

    This ultramarathon distance long run was where I had my first marathon distance and my first ultramarathon distance.  It was crash-course training for TNF100 that served as my test of endurance as it was a 56K worth of gradual uphill.

  2. Mt. Maculot Traverse

    Team Maculet

    Not intended to be part of my training, this recreational climb doubled as such when we encountered “surprises” during our climb.  It was supposed to be an “easy” climb which turned into a very challenging traverse.

Unexpectedly another recent climb of ours now served as my altitude training:

  • Suggested Climb: Mt. Pulag [1, 2]

    First light at Mt. Pulag

    The tallest peak in Luzon at 2,922 masl, acclimatizing at this altitude would make Baguio City feel like a lowland.

For those doing their first trail run (participants of 11K and 22K), I suggest that you read about my first trail run in Batulao, Nasugbu, Batangas—TNF Thrill of the Trail 2009 [1, 2, 3, 4].


It is highly likely that the mandatory gears of last year’s events are still mandatory this year so you may want to start from there.  It is also most likely that the “self-sufficient” rule still applies, so when it comes to it you may want to shop for something like this (note that I wasn’t able to consume it all and ended up hauling a lot of it back to Manila!).



If you still feel uneasy about TNF100 or want to find out what you may expect during race day, here’s my 2009 TNF100 story:

Sunrise during 2009 TNF100

Unlike road ultramarathons you can’t really make a detailed plan on trails unless you’re quite familiar with the terrain of the route.  All you can do is take into account what is known and prepare for possible scenarios you might encounter along the way.  As what we’ve learned last year being a seasoned ultramarathoner doesn’t guarantee success and inversely even newbies can finish.  Believe, and you can achieve!  Brace yourself folks for yet another experience of a lifetime!  Stay tuned for further updates.


I Survived Mount Pulag (Part 1)

Mount Pulag became my “date” last February 14, 2010, Valentine’s Day.  It was also Chinese New Year that day so you may say there were at least two reasons that made that weekend special.

Mount Pulag (16°35′0.86″N 120°53′0.93″E) is the highest peak in the island of Luzon, Philippines at 2,922 meters (9,587 feet) above sea level.  At such height there are many unique things you can experience, but particularly for me I was seeking once again that “winter feeling.”  Little did I know that I’d be getting much, much more than what I bargained for.

Baguio City

Baguio City is considered the Philippines’ summer capital because of its much milder than Manila weather (normally 10°C cooler) due to its high elevation (around 1,500 masl).  It is a six hour bus ride from Cubao, Quezon City, and it was our first stop in our journey.  Arriving at 4AM in the city we were greeted by gusts of chilly winds, which was around 10°C then—time to put on the layers!

(I so wanted to try that strawberry taho but I was afraid my stomach may “argue” with me so I have to postpone it for my return to Baguio a few months from now ;-))

Note: Buy your return tickets upon arrival in Baguio City to evade long queues

Kabayan, Benguet

From Baguio City we took our pre-hired jeepney service to Kabayan, Benguet.  It was a slow, few hours drive with winding, twisting, ascending, descending, and rough dirt roads.  Using the word zigzag would be an understatement to describe it (supercalifragilisticexpialidocious-ly zigzagging perhaps?).  I almost lost what’s left of dinner during the commute, thankfully we had a quick stop somewhere along the route for breakfast (although my tummy still wasn’t in the mood for some work so coffee and pandesal would suffice for the moment).

A significant portion of the road was rough and unpaved so jeepneys normally hired for this job are pretty covered to provide some shelter from the dust (but it’s not as air-tight as buses and the like).  Despite its Spartan look it packs a lot of power than many 4x4s!  It had to if it were to carry more than a dozen people carrying heavy loads up (and down) the mountains on anything but tamed roads.

Typical jeepney service to/from Kabayan, Benguet

Mt. Pulag National Park

As with most protected areas you can’t just climb any mountains as you wish—you have to register with DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) and secure permit or whatever obligations are required. It is also for your safety so that the authorities may know anytime how many people are within their jurisdiction hence it’s a step everyone should follow everywhere it is mandated.


The Mount Pulag Protected Area Office was the site for briefing and registration for this climb, and it proved to be a very pleasant experience as we were shown an informational video aside from some instructions on how we can help preserve the pristine beauty of the mountains.  We were also given emergency numbers we can contact and some helpful advice.  Before leaving though make sure you’ve paid the P200 fee per person (entrance, camping, LGU, etc.) as you need to present it to the Park Ranger Station to proceed.

Note: You may rent blankets here in case you forgot to bring one


This is required

Banners from different groups that have been here decorate the area inside and out

Park Ranger Station

After the short but pleasant briefing and registration we were off to the farthest point our service can take us, the Park Ranger Station in Babadak, still in Kabayan, Benguet.  You can say that the first step towards the summit begins here (and inversely, end) so any last minute preparation should be done here.  There’s water and restrooms here so you can freshen up before your assault.  Porters can also be hired here if you don’t feel like carrying your load towards the camping area (P250 one-way).

Ranger Station

Note: Guides are required (to help watch over the environment and the hikers themselves) who will take you to the camping sites: P500 per groups of five, additional P100 per person in excess of

Before continuing our journey we decided to have our early lunch here as Camping Ground 1 is about half an hour away, and Camping Ground 2 is around two hours further!

Starting our ascent from Ranger Station: 2,510 masl

Camping Grounds

From the Park Ranger Station (about 2,500 masl) it is still about 7.5 kilometers to the summit—a 400 meter ascent!  You can opt to head straight to the summit and hopefully catch the sunset, or like us set up camp in Camping Ground 2—roughly 2K before the summit.

This photo reminds me of a scene from the movie “Avatar”

Note: The last water source during our hike was in Camping Site 1; spring water further up the trail had dried up due to the prevailing El Niño

After about two hours of managing the trail (at picture-taking pace) we arrived at our destination for the day, Camping Ground 2 (about 2,700 masl).  From here we had a good view of the summit which is still at least 2K away and 200 meters above.

Mt. Pulag summit 2K away from camp

Approaching Camping Ground 2

A unique feature of this campsite was the restrooms both for men and women.  Although it was merely a hole in the ground, it does offer privacy and also prevent wastes from spreading everywhere.  As part of our briefing, Mt. Pulag is considered sacred by the residents and as such “nature calls” have to be addressed only on designated areas.

Hers and His

Home away from home

Inside my tent: my eeePC charging my GF405 at 2,700 masl

Temperature at the campsite dropped rather quickly with the sun slowly setting so our dinner was prepared early while sunlight was still available.  By 5PM we were already having our dinner and shortly afterwards sleep was the agenda—you can’t blame us for skipping the traditional “socializing” as the darkness of night was quickly engulfing the campsite, not to mention that the temperature at the time was already falling near freezing!

Panoramic view of our camp

High Altitude Sickness

Many of us were experiencing headaches, including myself, for quite some time since our ascent to the campsite.  Back then I thought it was just the lack of sleep that induced my headache but since many of us were suffering the same it had to be more than that.  Upon googling it up I found the culprit—high altitude sickness, normally experienced at elevations as low as 2,000 masl but more typically above 2,400 masl with headaches as one of its symptoms.  It can’t be diagnosed beforehand who will experience it and not everyone will have it.  Sleeping it proved to be a cure for me but there were still some that still had it the following day.

Camping Ground 2: 2,721 masl

Nature’s Call

It was one of my earliest bed times ever at 6PM—sunlight was almost out, and you don’t want to hang around outside where it was almost freezing and very windy (think wind-chill).  As they say, “early to bed, early to rise” and that was exactly what happened.  That night I was awakened by the need to address nature’s call.  Going outside my tent was the last thing on my mind as cold winds were violently blowing outside so I thought I’d hold it until our call time at 4AM.  We all know that if we must go, WE MUST GO!  I was shocked when I looked at my watch: 10PM—I thought it was already early in the morning!  Of course there was no possibility of holding out till 4AM so reluctantly I had to venture outside my tent.  With all the clothes I could wear, my headlamp, and all the guts I could muster, I went into the dark and freezing world outside (it was around freezing that time, no kidding!) and go to the restroom about a hundred meters or so away (remember that you should only do your “business” in designated areas here).  It was quite an experience to do such, but for braving the cold you get rewarded by nature with the most spectacular night sky I’ve ever seen!  I can only describe it to you as it can’t be “seen” by my camera: clear skies with practically no clouds with stars unbelievably so many.  Of course as much as you want to savor that moment you’d want to rush to your tent as soon as the wind blew on your face!


Sleeping when you’re tired is pretty easy—except when you’re freezing!  As the hours passed, the temperature dropped even further, eventually below zero (degrees Celsius).  Occasionally I’d be awaken by the cold and by simple adjustments I can compensate but eventually I ran out of clothes and paraphernalias to wear, I was still cold, and the temperature was still dropping!  I honestly was scared!  Not even my winter clothes I wore for winter in Ohio in much colder temperatures were enough. I realized that back then even if it was much colder I was active and awake, and spent only for a few hours max outside, not sleeping outside in a tent!  I feared that I may fall asleep and have hypothermia.  Indeed lasting through this night was survival.

Continued: Part 2

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