Thursday, March 20, 2014

Tarak Ridge Rocks

Tarak Ridge in Mt. Mariveles, Bataan is one of the best heights for hiking and mountaineering. Nature lovers and adventurers alike find this place a challenging venue for their activities.
So Gollum hissed:
What has roots as nobody sees,
Is taller than trees,
                Up, up it goes,
                And yet never grows?
“Easy!” said Bilbo. “Mountain, I suppose.” – The Hobbit
I came, I saw, I conquered Tarak Ridge with paramount delight and happiness. Her bosom so enchanting and enlightening to my senses.
       Every mountain offers unique splendor and pulchritude. God made each one special. Each one holds secrets and mystical tales too. Comparing two mountains of their beauty is unfair and irrelevant.
        Another mountain which is so beguiling to many mountaineers is the Tarak Ridge which is a part of Mt. Mariveles in Bataan. It gained attention and popularity because of its unique topography and the interesting stories of howling winds on its summit. It stands 1288 m. above sea level and can be climbed all year round. For the height enthusiasts and the adventurers it has a 4/9 level of difficulty.
Pantingan Ridge in the south is very visible once you are on the summit of the Tarak Ridge. She also entices everyone to summit her too.

       Mount Mariveles is a dormant volcano located in the province of Bataan in the Philippines. Mt. Mariveles and her neighbor Mount Natib comprise 80.9 percent of the total land area of the province. Topographically, the mountain and adjacent cones lie opposite the city of Manila across Manila Bay, providing a beautiful setting for the sunsets seen from Manila.
Map of Bataan

          Mounts Pantingan, Bataan, Tarak, and Vintana are the other peaks of the volcano-caldera complex, which has a base diameter of 22 kilometres (14 mi).
           United Cavite Mountaineers Inc. or UCMI a group of mixed Caviteno backpackers took  sojourn on its portal last March 15 and 16, 2014.  My unstoppable delight to climb every mountain triggered my adrenalin coursing through my veins to come with and be a guest (for the third time) of the group.
The iron arch of Grafane Farm welcomes
every mountaineers to come in
             Grafane Farm at Brgy. Alas-asin welcomes every mountaineer before the trek up to the mountain. It is a private venue for every group of mountaineer used for prepping up and responding to each ‘call of nature’. For twenty pesos registration fee, everyone can freely use its amenities such as the gazebo, the comfort room and the shower room. Group could even cook or prepare meal using their portable cook set before or after the climb.
One of the alcoves of the Grafane Farm where our group
prepped up before the climb
1230H  is quite late lunch for Shobe (left) and Jeshryl, meals they
bought from a nearby 'turo-turo' along the way but together with other climbers
 they need to be physically ready before the painstaking ascent.
           The more than 30 UCMI members headed by their president Mr. Joffrey Coronejo with some guests and applicants gathered and prepped up. After the short supplication for a fine weather and the thanksgiving to the Lord for the nice day and afterward taking pictures with their cameras, the group started the anticipated hike.
Some female UCMI members and applicants in full battle gears before the summit.

THE CAST OF 2nd UCMI MINOR CLIMB FOR 2014Cherrie Santos-Coronejo, Mafel Hebulan, Kathy dela Cruz, Margie Duka, Tophz Camatoy, Joey Belen, Jayson Valle Cruz, Michael Nas, Gilbert Coronejo, Nico Coronejo, Edward Santiago, Gerry Sta Rosa, Ehm Salavaria, Arcy, Tano, Eric, Glenn, Franklin, Jeffrey; Guests: Jeshryl Aransazo, Geofrey Pangilinan, Dennis Vidar, Noel Ortega, Eric Sauler, Bernalyn Basilio, Rafael Nite, Ross Pangilinan, Lally Rosal, Jaymee Gamil Applicants: Tet Verano, Jenny Cruz, Frances Ann Vinas
Heavy backpack filled with provisions and necessaries

                The usual trail starts from the dirt road at Brgy. Alas-asin, which is dusty during summer and slippery and sticky during the rainy season.  The topography is flat before arriving to a hut and small sari-sari store owned by the family of Aling Cording Cantiga. In her abode’s front yard emblazoned some of the tarpaulins and streamers used by previous groups of mountaineers.  
Children of the mountain eager and enthusiastic along
 the rough road after the few kilometers of trekking.
Teacher Dennis Vidar pauses shortly to observe the vast hill
 in front of him and inhale some fresh air.
Female UCMI members with me in the front yard of the house of Aling Cording where an array of tarpaulins bearing the name of various mountaineer groups serves as an eye candy to the eyes.
The trail sign serves as a laughingstock to Bernalyn Basilio (left) who got lost with the others
during one of our previous climbs. With him is Jeshryl Aranzaso,
one of Magkaugnay and Friends founders.
Bernalyn amiably takes some photos of the once grassy hill
which now a remnant of a previous forest fire.
Corregidor Island,a historical island located at the entrance of Manila Bay  is visible
 to the trekkers in some areas uncovered by the vegetation during the climb
          Along the trail is a vegetation of various tropical plants and trees. Another flat trail awaits everyone before arriving at a cogon hill area where there is a fork trail. The left is the Panikian trail and the right is the Papaya trail which leads to Papaya river
A handy walkie-talkie was provided to some of the climbers
 for easy communication.
camp site. Since the registry informed us there were already many of the mountaineers camped on the higher ridge site, we submitted instead to their advice to fix our tents near the Papaya river bank. We arrived there after two and a half hour of trekking.

Lally Rosal and Erica Sauler
Dennis Vidar
Brothers Geoffrey and Ross Pangilinan with Jaymee Gamil
                                              Noel Ortega                                                 
Featuring: Aling Cording

Soft spoken in her contralto voice Aling Cording
 is a friend to all her local and foreign passers by and visitors.

Aling Cording's small place caters various local foods like hot 'ginatan' and cold  'buko' juice.
               “There’s no problem for water.” This is what anyone can say when in the Papaya river campsite. The clean and crystal water of the river surely provides every mountaineer the most important liquid for cooking necessity and survival. The river is a long and winding cradle to small and big boulders of rocks and some thick vines which I playfully connected to what Tarzan had used for swinging and travelling in the jungle. We also searched for plenty of papaya around the campsite as the place connotes but to no avail there was none in the 100 meter radius of the area.
A young white hairy caterpillar silently creeping
on the dried leaves on the ground
The campsite beside the river banks is very conducive for camping
The icy cold water of the river is enough to cool up
 the water in our containers.
Water is life's matter and matrix, mother and medium.
There is no life without water.
            The river is also a habitat to various butterflies which I observed fluttering back and forth from stone to stone and from plant to plant along the riverbanks but were very elusive from me for some picture taking. When twilight started to consume the site, a cacophony of deafening shrill sounds of various nocturnal crickets filled the air. I wondered if I could sleep well during that night but they became noiseless when the total darkness engulfed the place.

“Butterflies are self propelled flowers.” 
― Robert A. Heinlein
'Welcome to my church. It's called nature,' said the butterfly 
“Life is short. If you doubt me, ask a butterfly.
Their average life span is a mere five to fourteen days.” 

― Ellen DeGeneres

Erica Sauler, a PDI writer and an environment advocate shows
her photo to the young UCMI Mountaineer applicant

Lally Rosal (right) makes face while Ross Pangilinan,
her tent buddy teases about her lost mountaineer ID during the ascent.
        After dinner, some convened at an area near the river bank, seated on the stones and playfully chatted together with some liquor and ‘finger’ foods. The bubbling and relaxing sound of the river was so inviting for everyone to refresh and enjoy. That’s why some were not able to control their appetite to soak in the icy cold thigh-deep water in a pool liked area constructed by the previous campers.
A shallow lagoon with crystal clear, icy-cold water is surrounded
by autumn colored fallen leaves which ruffled everyone's feet during the drenching in it.
Some of my friends delightfully soak  and splash in its mystic and mineral filled water after dinner

       I could not get a handle of my lethargy anymore so I proceeded inside our big tent and sleep.  Though we did not experience the strong gust of wind should we fixed our tent on the campsite near the ridge, the night was still sober with some chill from the ground and we were able to sleep soundly because of the long walk we had exerted.

             At four o’clock in the morning, some started to prepare for the ascent to the summit. I felt freakishly strong even without the breakfast due to my excitement and great anticipation to witness and take photos of the sunrise. But I still nommed some of the available bread and cheese from my backpack plus the concoction of hot chocolate from one of my tent buddies and also a teacher, Sir Dennis. 

     At quarter to five, with each flash light or head lamp, everybody was on queue going to the summit. But after some minutes of ascension, the lead man decided to trail back because he discovered we were not on the right track. After about 10 minutes of finding back the trail, we were able to locate it and smoothly trek up one after another. The exposed thick roots of the trees on both sides of the worn-out trail helped me to go up the steep trail easily up to the ridge. It was about six oclock when we reached the pinnacle.
The worn-out trail with thick disintegrating soil is a no-no to some mountaineers
as it brings danger of possible sliding
Lally poses gaily with the big exposed root along the worn out trail.

Rafael Nite emerges at last on the grassy clearings after the less than an hour trek from our Papaya river campsite. It's not yet the summit but only the cogon-filled hillock where sunrise is already visible to everyone. You will need to traverse another slender stiff track going up to the real summit where some areas look like the Mt. Pulag grasslands.
       Reaching the apex of the mountain is both satisfying and empowering. The view, the sunrise, the wind and the bliss of being there are just awesome and phantasmagoric.
          Strong howling winds greeted upon our arrival on the ridge. We saw several lump-like but colorful clusters of tents on the ridge campsite. True to some stories, like an irate mother lulling her peevish child in the cradle, the tents are being wiggled forcefully by the uncaring breeze.
Some UCMI members show their eternal smile upon their arrival to the mid summit.
Sweat-drenched and not so famished Magkaugnay and Friends members
merrily poses to the camera with the sun rising in their background.
The scenic vista of the hillock going to the topmost summit of Tarak Ridge
When the sun is shining I can do anything; no mountain is too high, no trouble too difficult to overcome.
From a vantage point, the Tarak Ridge looks like a spine of a giant Anaconda creeping slowly.
Obviously, the eastern part of the ridge is somewhat bald. The density of grasslands and forests are abundant in the western portion because of the forceful breeze that is whipping it everyday.
The panorama of Pantingan Ridge

         From that point, you need to assault once more to the peaks which needs another 25 to 40 minute steep climb. The clamber this time is on an open grassy slope with loose soil on the track. Pure attention and carefulness are needed to avoid stumble and disgrace or worse broken bones or death. But once on top, the view is priceless and momentous.
I am here for a purpose and that purpose is to grow into a mountain, not to shrink to a grain of sand. Henceforth will I apply ALL my efforts to become the highest mountain of all and I will strain my potential until it cries for mercy. - Og Mandino
Never measure the height of a mountain until you have reached the top. 
Then you will see how low it was. - Dag Hammarskjold
The ridge is also home to some endemic plants
The trail on the summit part is bare and rocky which is obviously slippery during rainy season.
On the other hand, it is covered with arch of thick bushes and some sharp twigs of various vines and shrubs.

            Much of the Tarak Ridge landscape remains pristine and untouched. The boulders of gray rocks are hidden in the thick bushes and the competing vines and shrubs. Some thorny plants are also abundant which will prick, hurt and bleed if unprotected, your limb and face parts.

The majestic sun begins to soar in the plurality of the sky and generously radiates its energy and magical blessings of life.
       To see the majestic and crimson rupturing of the sun in the east is a mountaineer’s most anticipated event on the summit of every mountain. The climax will be incomplete without its soft radiance kissing at everyone's cheek. We were so lucky to have witnessed the sun's dramatic resurrection over the horizon above the gigantic distant mountain ranges and blots of thick cirrucumulus clouds.
Satiating the eyes with the kaleidoscope of nature
while nomming trail food to satisfy the stomach
Quench your thirst with the glories of nature only God could afford

         Sunrise at the top of Tarak Ridge is a unique event, in which euphoria of getting there blends with feelings of exuberance and chill. The golden sun in the east unreservedly promised us a beautiful day.
"Chasing angels or fleeing demons, go to the mountains."- Jeffrey Rasley
“When the wind calls, you know, that somewhere in the mountains, it has found the answers that you were looking for. The pull of the horizon overcomes the inertia of reason…And you just have to go.” - Vikram Oberoi
“Keep close to nature’s heart…and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” - John Muir
“This mountain, the arched back of the earth risen before us, it made me feel humble, like a beggar,
 just lucky to be here at all
, even briefly.” - Bridget Asher

Breaking Camp
The best friends Jesh and Geo
The silent type Tophz Camatoy minus his buddy.
Sir Gerry Sta Rosa, Ms. Cherrielyn Coronejo and Ms. Coney Bagumbayan

Even on the mountain top, there is no reason not to take a 'look-up' shot
All refreshed after the Tarak Ridge climb
Soul mate can be found some times in the mountain, if you are soul searching.
“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out
going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity...” 
― John Muir

       Climbing mountain is a lot more easier with the help of a friend. Climbing mountain is also a venue to meet new friends and acquaintances. They will share with you the same  ideas, principles, support, delights, fun, experiences and laughter and most especially food during the camp. Things which will bring closer connection between you since you are birds of the same feathers.
The UCMI members, guests and applicants for a group shot at Grafane Farm before calling it a day.

            I will not stop climbing mountain. Tarak Ridge is just some of the mountain tops which brought me satisfaction and assurance that God really loves and cares for us. Mountain is a big reminder for us that the world is our home which needs to be protected and preserved.
Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea,
are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books.

            The riddle is right, the mountain never grows. But in my heart, the fondness of every mountain's revelation grows tremendously. Mountain is like a big dream you would like to conquer.
         Let us dream larger than the mountains and let us have the courage to scale their summits. Every mountain top is within our reach if we just keep climbing.


Absolute Zero said...

More entries of our climbs! ;-)

Absolute Zero said...

ASTEEG talaga! TaRak en Rol! More of our climbs, yey! ;-)