To say I was unprepared for this climb is an understatement. With just an invitation from a friend the prior week, no training, no detailed itinerary (I hate not having an itinerary) and just a list of things to bring, we set off to Mariveles, Bataan, ignoring the warning of a low pressure area coming that weekend. At 6:30 am, there was no sign of rain after all.
Well, I wasn’t that unprepared. I researched on what to expect, this being classified as a major climb. I even bought new hiking shoes a day before the climb because I was scared my running shoes–turned-trek shoes will not survive Tarak. BIG MISTAKE!! Lesson learned the hard way: don’t use new shoes on a major climb without breaking them in! And always be ready with thick socks. I got really bad blisters on both feet going down. It was HELL, but I had no choice.
The ride to Mariveles took around 4 hours. To get to the jump off, there’s a dirt road you have to walk from the main road, just look for the sign. Luckily we brought a car, we didn’t have to walk until we reached Nanay Kurding’s house, right where the start of the trail is. Nanay Kurding is one of the most memorable personalities I’ve ever met in my climbs. She was very friendly and accommodating. I bet everyone loves her!
We started the trek at 12 noon. The trail was mostly covered, flat and wide at the start, with a lot of fallen trees along the way (not sure if this was because of the recent typhoon). We reached Papaya River before 4 pm. It’s supposedly the halfway mark and water source before pushing for the summit. I was disappointed that our team leader decided to set up camp here. I was looking forward to the view and the winds at the ridge (I even brought a windbreaker!)!! The campsite near the river was already full, but we found a spot upstream just big enough for our team. We settled there, set up tents and started cooking dinner. The water of Papaya River was clean enough to drink but it was too cold for a swim.
The LPA finally made its presence felt – it was drizzling the whole night until around 5 am when we woke up. By this time, I’ve accepted I was not going to have the sunrise climb I wanted to see. 😦 With only trekking poles and our water jugs, we set off for the summit when the sun was finally out.
In the next 2 hours, I was soooo thankful we decided to camp at Papaya River. The trail was steep and uphill the entire time. I’d say it was 70-80 degrees – some parts were rock climbing, we had to hold on to roots to pull ourselves up. I was already dreading the descent. Just imagine if this were a day climb.
We made it to the ridge just in time. In a matter of minutes the thick fog covered the 360-degree view.
We then headed for the summit, another 30 minutes away. After that challenging trail, we weren’t rewarded with a clearing. 😦
To make matters worse, the rain started to pour while we were at the summit, and it didn’t stop until we were back at the river. It definitely made the descent extra difficult and slippery and cold. I couldn’t be happier when we reached the campsite. Finally, food and flat land!!! It’s a fact: no matter how bad or cold or wet, food is delicious when you’re hungry!!
The way back to Nanay Kurding’s house took another 3 hours. I was just so happy to have made it back! This climb definitely counts as one of the hardest ones so far. I didn’t get the sunrise and clearing that I wanted though, so I’m definitely coming back for you, Tarak!