Major jumpoff: Dueg Resettlement, San Clemente Tarlac
Alternate jumpoff: Brgy. Papaac, Camiling Tarlac
Elevation: 685 MASL
Difficulty: 6/9, Major Climb
Trail Class: 1-4
Days Required: 1-2 days
Hours to Summit: 4-5 hours
Source: Pinoy Mountaineer
I am no stranger to the whims of mountains but nothing prepared me for Mt. Damas. It is, incidentally, my first major hike although it is already my 13th mountain for the year, and 17th overall. Post-climb, I took the time to reflect on the things that went well and the things that really didn’t favor me on my first major climb. So here are my realizations.
The Things I Did Wrong
- I underestimated the mountain. When I first saw the height of the mountain, the first thing that came to my mind is that it would be easy because I have already climbed higher mountains. I was totally nonchalant of the fact that it is a major climb with a difficulty rating of 6/9. Mt. Damas made me pay dearly for my foregone conclusion. I nearly gave up on my way up because of its endless assaults. But after surviving it, I resolved to never underestimate mountains again, in spite of their heights and regardless of their difficulties.
- I barely had enough sleep. On my prior climbs, I made it sure to have ample rest before taking on the challenges. But because of my arrogance, I honestly thought that I could tackle Mt. Damas in spite of my lack of sleep. From our company outing, I headed straight to our climb with no ample rest. Although I pulled through in the end, it was without great difficult as my heart was basically screaming from agony on my way up to the summit.
- I didn’t have a full breakfast. Again, this is an iteration of my arrogance and cockiness. Mountain climbing, I have learned over time, requires utmost preparation, more so if it is a major climb. In such undertakings, a full stomach is important, something that I tried to ignore. Well, we all know how that ended.
- I didn’t wear long-sleeved clothing. The trail to the summit is filled with tall sharp-bladed grasses that can cause wounds on exposed parts of the body. Luckily, I wore long pants. Unfortunately, I didn’t wear a long-sleeved shirt, leaving my hands exposed. I ended up with numerous cuts on both the way up and on the way down.
- The trail to Mt. Damas includes meandering through a winding river bed. It is advised to avoid climbing during the rainy seasons. It is also important to check the weather forecast on the date of your climb. As any seasoned climber know, river crossings usually present a different kind of danger as they are, especially during the monsoon seasons, susceptible to flash floods. There has already been a recorded flash flood on the river going to Mt. Damas which occurred in 2011. Always put a premium on your safety.
- Both the trail and the summit is barely covered by trees. On a very hot day, the sun can easily drain your energy. It is best to bring a lot of water. Fortunately there are two water sources on the trail. There is also a possibility of getting sun burnt. It is advised to wear long-sleeved shirts or hand covers. Sunblocks is a good alternative. To provide shade at the summit. bring umbrellas.
- The trail is not fully established. On the assault, there are neither trees nor ropes to hold on to for support. It is best to bring hand gloves. A friend of mine who went to Mt. Damas had numerous cuts on her palms because she help on to those grasses for support.
- Bring your own full packed meal. The only shop available in the area at the break of dawn is the barangay captain’s sari-sari store. The only food available is Lucky Me Pancit Canton and boiled egg which might not be enough to sustain one in the entire duration of the climb.
- Leave No Trace. These are just three simple words that sum up the most important principle in mountain climbing, and even in traveling. Unfortunately, not everyone adheres to this very simple principle – what you bring up, you must bring down. On the way to the summit, I saw a styrofoam left behind by previous climbers. They didn’t bother bringing it down with them, and instead left it there for other climbers to see. Maybe they were expecting the succeeding climbers to do the cleaning for them.
It is just very disappointing to find trash in areas as sacrosanct as mountains. It just goes to show that even they are not safe from the the products of human hubris. It is my dire wish that ALL mountaineers, either seasoned or amateurs, will learn to apply the Leave No Trace (LNT) principle.
Guides and Expenses
- Tour guides are required and can be availed of at the barangay hall or at the barangay captain’s house. It is best to coordinate first with the barangay captain way ahead of the climb. Tour guides cost PHP 500.00 for a group not exceeding 10 persons.
- There is a registration fee of PHP 10.00 which is to be paid at the barangay hall before climbing.
13 is truly an ominous number and it is just fitting that my 13th climb for the year is Mt. Damas. But beyond the challenges, what is more important are the lessons that I will take with me as I take on more mountains. Perhaps my biggest takeaway from this climb is to never underestimate a mountain in spite of its height. Each mountain deserves the climber’s respect and should not be taken lightly.
Mt. Damas has landed a spot on my most memorable climbs, not only just because of the difficulties I had to deal with, but because of the new memories I shared with new friends. Moreover, the fact that it is my first major hike even made it all the more special. It is a mountain that I love to hate and hate to love but it will forever be etched on my mind as one of my memorable climbs. Never have I been this mentally and physically challenged during a climb. But I have done it, and that’s what counts, together with the lessons and the memories.
Mt. Damas is a bad-ass! Till the next climb!
Mt. Damas – Ubod Falls Itinerary
0100H Assembly – Mc Do Panay Avenue
0130H ETD San Clemente, Tarlac
0400H ETA Brgy. Papaac, San Clemente, Tarlac
0500H Start trek
0600H First Junction
0700H ETA Kubo/first water source
0730H Resume trek/River crossing
0815H ETA Mt. Damas Base
0915H ETA Second water source. Resume final assault
0930H ETA Lone tree
0945H Summit. Photo ops
1100H Begin descent
1115H ETA Second water source. Lunch.
1200H Resume descent
1230H ETA Mt. Damas base. Begin ascent to Ubod Falls
1240H ETA Si-el Falls
1310H ETA Ubod Falls. Swimming time. Siesta.
1445H ETD Kubo. Ascent on cardiac trail.
1500H Summit of Cardiac trail
1700H Jump-off point. Wash up
1900H ETD Manila
2100H ETA Tarlac City. Dinner
1200H ETA Manila
To read more about my Mt. Damas and Ubod Falls adventures, click on the below links:
Special thanks to Team Adventuriztah, spearheaded by Alvin Dag-ay for organizing this climb. Thank you for keeping us all in tow and ensuring our safety during the climb. May we climb more mountains together.