From our group, the first ones to reach Camp 1 were Diane, Charlie and I. While waiting for the rest of our companions, we feasted on our meals before proceeding to the summit. Unfortunately, our guides aren’t too keen on us climbing the summit because it is filled with slippery assaults. Moreover, we won’t be having any clearing because of the rain. But my companions and I insisted on climbing because the summit is just merely two-kilometers away. In spite of our guides’ protests, we joined the Baguio climbers in their quest for Mt. Tapulao’s summit.

From the road in KM 16, we turned left towards the pine-covered mountain. The trail is narrower compared to the trail leading to Camp 1. It was still shrouded by the fogs but it wasn’t so thick as to obscure the trail from our naked eye. With only one guide assisting us, we were able to follow the trail easily because it is clearly established, albeit a bit slippery.

About 30 minutes after departing from KM 16, we reached the entrance to the mossy forest, one Mt. Tapulao’s most outstanding features. Before proceeding to the final stretch of our climb, we took pictures be commemorate our achievement. It was also our last chance to rest before the summit. After the brief reprieve, we finally entered the ethereal world of the mossy forest.

A brief photo session before entering the mossy forest.

The mossy forest’s thick foliage gave me the creeps and reminded me of my friend’s story of supernatural beings that populate the mountain. Well, to be honest, almost every mountain has its own story, especially the mountains that cradled me until I moved to the big city. However, one can’t help but feel anxious because of the dark environment. It was a scene out of Hansel and Gretel’ Black Forest. But its creepiness defined its beauty.

After an hour of navigating our way through the mossy forest, we finally reached the famed 18 KM marker, marking the mountain’s summit. It is no wonder that almost everyone who climbed Mt. Tapulao wanted to hug the marker upon reaching the summit. After more than seven hours of climbing and hustling under the tumultuous rain, the 18 KM marker gave a chance to breathe a sigh of relief.

Mosses and trees have a symbiotic relationship.
There are other plants that thrive in the mossy forest.

We immediately delved in celebration by taking as many pictures as we can. Unfortunately there was no clearing at the summit and our environs were still shrouded by the fogs. But even on a good day, the summit did not afford any view. Most climbers only have pictures hugging the 18 KM marker and none of the view. Sans any view, it was still an amazing experience.  On one side of the summit, the century-old “world tree” is a grand reminder of the beauty that is surrounding us.

20170806_111814-01.jpegWhile we were busy taking pictures, some of us were already falling prey to the dreaded limatik. Fortunately, there wasn’t any on me. As a preventive measure, I have brought alcohol with me. Uninitiated yet of the ways of the mountain, some of our companions just pulled the limatiks haphazardly from their skin, which is something that is highly not recommended because doing so might leave the limatiks’ teeth on the skin. For the limatiks to voluntarily detach, I offered my alcohol to my companions.

But the limatik bites left a gruesome picture as blood incessantly flowed from those who were bitten. But there was something I have observed. Those who fell prey to the limatik were wearing dark clothes. Those of us who were wearing light-colored clothes were left unscathed. This is merely a hypothesis and not a conclusion but it is something that I can apply on my future hikes.

The thick foliage obscured what little view there is at the summit.
This century-old tree stood the tests of time and nature, a testament of strength and persistence.

After being feasted on by the dreaded limatik, we proceeded with the descent where I met some of members of our climbing group. They were still on their way to the summit while I am already going back to the jump-off point. At around 12:30 PM, I reached KM 16 where I once again met the Baguio climbers. Restless and pumped up, I joined them in their descent after asking permission from our organizer.

There was still an occasional shower that made our descent more dangerous because of the slippery trail. Thankfully, water was no longer flowing on the trails. But the Baguio climbers were just too fast for me, even though some of them were in their slippers. Sad to say, I got left behind because I was too cautious. I didn’t want to slip and slide even though I wanted to complete the climb already the soonest I can. When I reached KM 12, it has completely stopped raining but the trail remained slippery. With the speed by which the Baguio climbers descended, I found myself cruising all alone on the trail. I tried to speed up a little bit but I always find myself slipping. So much for a speedy descent.

It feels like I woke up in Baguio.
Oh, the nostalgia hit me hard. This mountain really reminded me so much of home.
The mountain water cooled me down, on both ascent and descent.

At around 2 PM, I reached the water source at KM 10 where a group of climbers have settled down to have their lunch. I just stopped to refill my bottle so that I won’t end up thirsty on the last 10 kilometers of my adventure. The temperature is starting to rise that I had to open my umbrella again to shield myself from the afternoon heat.

On my approach to KM 4, I met some climbers from our group who opted not to climb to the summit due to the weather. Midway through the climb, they turned back and proceeded to the jump-off point. I slowed down my descent so that I can accompany them but upon reaching KM 4, they wanted to take a rest while I wanted to go all the way. At the final stretch of the of the descent, I found myself alone again, naturally.

And yet another beauty thriving in Mt. Tapulao. 

The final stretch of the descent is more pleasant than the other parts of the descent. The trail is still muddy and slippery but at last it is no longer raining. The gradual descent made me speed up a bit. However, no matter I fast I go, I cannot seem to reach the end of the trail. I kept on asking myself whether I was lost or some supernatural being is leading me off track. The trail seemed endless I was getting hopeless.

I left KM 4 at around 3:30 PM and I expected to reach the jump-off point at around 4:30 the latest. The clock just kept on ticking but I am no closer to the end. It felt tiresome and I was beginning to worry until I saw a guide sleeping on the trail. This revived my spirit because apparently I am on the right track. Finally I reached the wide roads where we began our climb. Yes, I am finally nearing the end. But that is not to be because I had to climb down for another 20 minutes under the scorching heat of the sun.

Hello, from the other side!
Things are certainly looking up after that heavy downpour!
We have been tested but in the end we’ve proven that we can survive challenges even in the direst of situations.

At around 5 PM, I finally reached the jump-off point which has come alive due to the arrival of descending climbers. The first thing I did was to look for water and food to revive my exhausted body. Thankfully, the locals were welcoming and gave me water for free. Man, that was refreshing! Shortly after, other climbers from our group began arriving one by one.

While waiting for the other members of our group, I took a bath and rested. I tried to take a nap but I found it difficult. It was around 8 PM when finally everyone reached the jump-off point. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who felt that the trail from KM 4 to jump-off point is longer than four kilometers. Nonetheless, everyone arrived safe and that is more than I could ask for.

When I tried to get down off the van, my knees were acting up on me. It was painful when I stretched it. This is the first time that I have felt after-climb pains. I guess all that assertion on the rain did some damage to my knees although I have never felt any pain during our climb. Thankfully the pain didn’t last and in 24 hours my knees were fine again.

Till the next climb!

Watch out for my Cawag Pentalogy climb story in the coming weeks! Happy climbing!