Mt. Pulag via Tawangan: 12-hours of romancing with leeches and other gross tales

Yaasss! New year, new climbing season, new swarm of cuss words to learn in place of tangina (transl. sonuvabitch). The last one’s a resolution I made two seconds ago after realizing that I threw enough tanginas in our recent Pulag climb via Tawangan–yeah, enough to last the jail time of someone convicted with homicide.

How many times do we have to say it? Putangina, I’ve had it with mountaineering. *Keeps climbing anyway*

Ang saya pa nila o! Pa-inom inom. Y’all be dead the following day! 😀

Now let’s talk about Tawangan because nobody ever talks about it. No, actually, let’s talk about Gina. Gina is a bloodsucking dirtbag and Gina’s kind is in abundance in this beautiful but infested trail. 

Kung hindi lang sila madami, iaadobo ko ‘tong mga hitad na ‘to.

Tawangan, in summary, is: twelve hours of breathtaking scenery, of canopies that will dwarf people, river trekking, and well, leeches (and rain, and cold air, and suffering that’s sagad sa buto, atay, at obaryo).

To our guy friends, getting bitten by a leech is like having a period. Ayan sya, dugo lang ng dugo. But the period blood, you have to make salo. So swerte pa rin kayo. Lol.

Believe me when I say, this place is so close to magic.


See what I mean? I think it’s ideal for most first timers to use the Ambangeg trail, but I had the misfortune of going with a bunch of mountaineers who are looking for trouble. (Cue: Tangina mo, TL Thet Pajarillo! Hahaha!) 

To the left is Team Leader Thet. Ano bang hugot mo? Ano ba gusto mong patunayan? You know, I barely tasted those Ritz Chips. 😀

The trek started at 5:30 AM in the sleepy village of—you guessed it right—Tawangan. Up to the second hour, it was a steady walk with a few river crossings, until we got deep enough to reach the wet core of the leech kindgom.

We were still doing okay at around 6:30 AM. Natutunaw pa lang ang breakfast, maraming lakas, confident that we can reach the Saddle Camp in 10 hours. We were so wrong, beshiecakes.
Then the trek started getting a bit harder, enough to remind us of the fun fun fun times at Mt. Candalaga late last year.
Action shot! That guy with a white pack is UL legend Cecile Morella. Panis kayong lahat!

Around 1:30 PM, fatigue had set in. We had to do a short meeting to decide whether we’d still gun for the Saddle or just head to the nearer Camp 2 and get some fucking coffee. It rained for the most part of the afternoon and we were wearing some 50-peso ponchos that broke easily, so the prospect of having a roof on our heads seemed super attractive.

We were so drained by the time we reached the grassland. Zombie walk na mga kapatid. Pero may pictures pa rin.

Gwapo pa rin, o ha! That’s Rio Hernandez, certified AMCI Tito, the owner of most of the photos used in this entry.
Love team ng bayan at Junior Pulag!
Pulag via Tawangan
That’s Troy singing Achy Breaky Heart by Billy Ray Cyrus. Kidding, IDK WTF is happening. Hahaha!

Did we make it to the Saddle? Well, no. We settled at Camp 2 and huddled at the guides’ hut–it was empty on Sunday evening, thank yeezus. At 7-ish we back to being jolly people with rice on our mess kits and vodka + tequila on the side.

In truth, I wanted to go and trek to the summit at 3AM the following day but a super bad hangover (kasalanan ko ‘to, I know haha), a persistent fever, and a swollen right foot kept me from leaving the comfort of my bivy. Gusto ko na lang magpa-stretcher pababa, pero ma-pride ako, so trek poles na lang. Hahaha! 

To the guys who summited, congratulations! Fresh nila o, pero basa medyas ng mga yan! ❤

Mt. Pulag Summit
6/17 with the Pulag first-timers not even here. Wagi! 😀

Meanwhile in camp: fried rice before breaking camp and heading down via Ambangeg. Salamat tito Rio Hernandez for the photos! Sa uulitin. 😀



Training Climb Jottings (2/3): Mt. Mingan, Dingalan, Aurora

There are at least two things I expected from the second training climb: first, it’s going to be wet, second, there’s going to be an awful lot of pain. Boy, it did not disappoint. 

In some of their stories, AMCI members mentioned emergency camps, limatik, teka-teka and all other things that make trekking more difficult than love (hugot #1). These are the things that would make you ask the very same questions you ponder on every Monday during status meetings: why am I doing what I’m doing, are we done yet, what is happening, watdahelpapajeezus, what is putang ina?

Anyway, Mt. Mingan stands at approximately 1,900 MASL, and is located in the province of Aurora—five hours away, depending on your driver’s brand of steroids. A quick desktop research would tell you that this mountain is not yet rated and definitely not frequented by hikers. True. The trail says it all. 

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Oh, ho ho, wait lang, what trail? Saang banda?

The adventure begins at 45 MASL, Brgy. Davil-Davilan–from 85 up until about 300 MASL, it was a steady/slippery river trek + bouldering  (that is potentially life threatening to clumsy people) with a few roped segments. Past the falls, where we had lunch, and you have a goddamn assault up to the campsite at Station 5, 1190 MASL. 

In some parts of the trail, we found nice little patches that actually offered a view—but they were few and far between.

Silip lang before entering the rainforest, a little above Kuya Roger’s Kubo.
When you’re so dark you can pass as a tree trunk, wear orange. I’ve always reasoned that wearing orange would make it easier for rescuers to find me in case I fall into a ravine.

The assault *should* be relatively simple and straightforward in the absence of heavy rains. Except for me–I climbed with a 13-kg pack after volunteering to carry the tent and deliberately packing some extra alcohol + one tabo of trail food. Guess what, there are things worth suffering / dying for, like cheap merlot.

The tabo had about two packs of spicy mixed nuts, two packs of M&Ms peanuts, one small pack of Oreos, Jelly Ace 18’s, one Snickers bar (thank you again, Lira)—all of which were fucking gone before dinner. I walked and ate like it was tag-gutom and it was my last chance in life. In a mountain like Mingan, it doesn’t matter if you’re chewing M&Ms or fucking screwdrivers from Ace Hardware. Gotta keep your mouth busy. Lel. 

By around 3:30 PM we were already in camp, safe from a classic TC2 horror story. But as it turns out, day one ain’t got nothing on day two. Because, yeah, day 2 had us going for another hour up to the summit of Mt. Cinco (1,430 MASL).  The view was so stunning I almost cried tears of frustration and regret.

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Joke lang. Bangin ‘yan sa baba. 

Anyway, we just enjoyed the trail because if a storm was about to hit us, then might as well give it the finger.

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It was then that I made the most glaring mistakes, such as, but not limited to, not wearing leggings and deciding to bust my knees keeping up with AGL Sharon all the way down. I swear, when the group ahead gave us permission to OT and the trail cleared up, she and James just ran off like some motherfucker was chasing them with a machete. I had to follow, scamper while yelling putangina! putangina! putangina nyo po please!!

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A beef tapa moment I won’t forget.

Hoho! Lunch happened at 403 MASL, Bukohan area, about an hour and a half ahead of the itinerary. Ganyan sila eh, atat mag-beach! From there, it was a chill walk down to the last river crossing and back to Davil-davilan.

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Scenic na to for real!

Looking back, I think the most fun climbs are also the most difficult ones. Yes, I looked back.

I zoomed in.

And found gems.

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Only I can truly understand the joy of eating hopia.
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Marc, WTF studio picture??
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Olive!! Haggard beh.
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AGL Sharon. Caption this.
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Lai was there! Lai was there!

Let me conclude this post with an inspirational cliche: you have to look through the rain to see the damn rainbow. Look here:

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Now look again.

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Good night, fuckers! ❤