This is the second part of my pre-birthday climb in Mariveles, Bataan’s Tarak Ridge. For the first part, you may click here.
It has been our plan to scale El Saco peak but due do the absence of clearing, the group decided not to pursue El Saco peak. However, some of us had different ideas. One of our climbing mates met a group of climbers who have previously climbed El Saco peak. San any guides, they decided to go all the way to the peak. Although I was apprehensive on joining their group, the inner adventurer in me has already been aroused. Two hiking mates and I decided to go along with the group, thinking that our group knew.
Fortunately, the trail to the peak was well established. It lies on a grassland that we can barely see because of the fog that has enveloped us. It was also damp, making our climb tricky although there wasn’t much assault. On our way up, we saw a big rock dangling on the side of the trail. It was a perfect spot for photo ops. Again, we weren’t blessed with any clearing but we made do with what we had.
When we’ve had our fill taking pictures, we proceeded with our ascent to the summit. There was a final assault approaching the summit. It was a steep but short climb. Finally, after an hour of climbing, we reached the summit which, as we expected was enveloped by the same clouds that covered Tarak Ridge. The summit is also covered by tall trees, similar to the campsite at Tarak Ridge.
We stayed for a while, exploring the area while waiting for the sea of fogs to settle down. Unfortunately, the winds were not blowing in our favor. The situation at Tarak Ridge is exactly the same with the situation at El Saco peak, the sea of fogs not giving us a great clearing. However, we still felt a sense of accomplishment because we were able to reach the summit, even if it did not afford us the photo opportunities we were hoping for.
On the other hand, there was something I noticed on our climb that really shocked me. I saw a lot of plastic bottles scattered all over the area, from the ridge to the summit. This has got to be one of the dirtiest mountain I have climbed so far. It just appalls me that the no one is helping maintain the mountain’s cleanliness. It was really disappointing. Whatever happened to the leave no trace principle? Something ought to be done to educate this erring climbers. This is something that is unacceptable.
We descended at around 12 noon. As we were nearing the campsite, we met our guides who were waiting for us. Apparently, our organizers were not informed that we have climbed the summit. Our group has already left for Papaya River but the guides were asked to wait for us. We earnestly apologized for the misunderstanding but once we got our things, we began our descent to the base also. Inspired by the trail runners we met when we were climbing, and because of the momentum we gained climbing down from the peak, my companion and I began running down.
Because I was wearing a pair of sandals, running down was a challenge. Moreover, the trail was muddy. But we just kept running down, with precaution. We relied on the trees to slow down our momentum. By blazing the trail, we were able to catch up with our group who had a 15 minute head start. We kept on running down and in no time, we were ahead of the rest of our group. It took me and my companion about 45-minutes to climb down, rather run down Tarak Ridge.
While waiting for the rest of our group, we took a couple minutes to rest. When the group was complete, we proceeded with our descent to the jump off point. I had change to my slippers because my feet began feeling sore. Besides, the trail to the jump off point is easier compared to the trek to the ridge. As we were going back, we saw that the fogs at the top of the mountain has already settled down. According to the guides, this has been the case for the previous climbers. The summit is enveloped in fogs in the morning but it begins clearing up in the afternoon. I guess it just wasn’t our lucky day. This was the first time that a clearing evaded me.
On another note, I am disappointed with the current state of the mountain. On a discussion with a fellow mountain climber a few weeks later, it was pointed out that taking care of the mountain shouldn’t just be left to the care of the guides. It was the first thing that came to my mind when I saw the trash-filled mountain. Rather, the trash is the climber’s sole responsibility because it was he who brought them up – what you bring up you must bring down. This is one of the basics of mountaineering.
In spite of the unsavory things that I have witnessed, my experience in Tarak is something that I will treasure. I didn’t think that I’d enjoy solo climbing this much but I did. I have to thank the people I climbed with for making it such a pleasant experience. I have gained new friends and new memories. In the end, that’s what matters.
Till the next mountain!