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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Mt. Balingkilat | The Inferno Traverse To Nagsasa

This is a story of a weekend so hot, we carried bundles of water intended just for cooling our heads, literally. It was a journey so scorching we crammed all 7 of us under a very young and small tree just to attain mere seconds of shade. A climb with a heat so intense, a minute unprotected by shade made my drinking water close to boiling (Exaggeration). It’s the story of our traverse atop the blazing hot trails of Mt. Balingkilat.

We were supposed to start at an early time of 03:00 AM but an unexpected snafu from the good staff of Victory Liner made us adjust our climb to start at 08:00 AM. I thought our group can reach the other side in only 1 day if we would just pick up the pace. I was dead wrong.

With dried shrubs all over and no shade to protect our heads, the heat started to cook our abled bodies to the likes of a jerky. I felt all the moisture go up and evaporate. To put it in simple words: IT WAS DAMN FREAKING HOT.

The trail was so easy yet the blazing inferno we were hiking on started to take every single bit of energy we had. Almost all of us made frequent 30 second stops just to cool down but it was to no use. We reached the Kawayan campsite after an hour and a half of hiking and there, we deliberated on how to proceed.

We sat inside the only covered portion of the trail looking at each other, pondering if what we were thinking was the same. As for myself, I really wanted to finish the traverse as a dayhike but the late start time made us trek beneath a scorching sun. It was time to make a decision.

As everyone sat and stared blankly, I had enough of the awkwardness and joked, “Matulog nalang tayo dito hanggang hapon” (Let’s just sleep here until the afternoon). Surprising enough, everyone agreed. My tone was joking but deep inside, I really wanted to stay in that heavenly covered part. It shaded us from the hell that was outside and had a small water source to give us enough drinking/pouring water.

Everyone finally started to smile and prepare their respective lunch. I tied my hammock to any branch that could lift my fried body and there, had the most awesome powernap I ever had. It was 10:00 AM when I started sleeping and when I woke up, it was already 02:00 PM. Nobody bothered to wake up until the sun started to go down.

After the record-breaking 4 hours of lunch break we’ve had, we continued on the remaining 4 hour ascent. The sun was still blazing hot but the afternoon wind chill gave us enough cold to head up the summit. It also helped us normalize our water intake as the last drinkable stream for the whole climb was in the campsite we slept in. It was the main reason why a traverse day hike is a better choice.

The trail to the summit offered grand views of Zambales and its vicinity. It was breath-taking at times but the heat really pulled our heads from the view. It was still freaking hot.

Zambales view
Zambales view pt 2
rest bit
After 4 hours of continuous ascent, we made it to the summit. Semi-battered and completely fried, we hastily set up camp as the sun went down the horizon. The gruelling ascent was made harder by the sun yet the hottest part of the hike was still coming.

By 10 in the evening, we closed our flaps to refrigerate our burned bodies for the grueling descent the next day.


We woke up at 05:00 AM and went up the summit expecting great views but the clouds decided to cover the peak at this time. We broke camp and headed down to the beach by 07:30 AM.

breaking camp
summit assault
The descent was spectacular. I’m currently trying to avoid overly dramatic adjectives but it truly was amazing. You can see Nagsasa cove from the trail complete with the covering half valley and when you look south, you’ll see the mountain ridges that connect the Zambales mountains. It was a surprising treat.

capturing the moment
the ridges
continuation
The way down was a sketchy traverse of the said mountain ridges. It was steep and had loose rocks rendering our pace to slow down. This was also the time our canteens started to empty one by one. And as our water-bladders started to go down, here comes the friendly sun going up. This time, and for reasons I could not explain, even a slight breeze was non-existent. We are now inside the frying pan.

different kind of negotiation
bottle neck
For every brief stops we’ve had, every one of us crammed beneath small and young trees. I know you may see this as an exaggeration but I crap you not! It was really that hot. I was swearing through the windless environment and asking why air wasn’t there yet we were atop a ridge, usually the breeziest part of a mountain.

It was like someone playing a very cruel prank on our small and lonely group. And when we thought that nothing else could give us problems, all of our water containers became empty almost at the same time.

After realizing this current problem, we decided to run and reach the nearest water source as fast as we could. According to our guide, the water source was still an hour away but we still reached it in less than 30 minutes. I may say that we were fast but I think what made us fast was the realization that nothing could protect us from the scorching hot sun.

We reached the water source and stayed there for half an hour. I probably bathed for 10 minutes, pouring the cold liquid continuously as I prayed my thanks to the man that made this small piece of land that gives this heavenly fluid. I gulped a liter of water not thinking of the repercussions of drinking a ton when thirsty. I didn’t care, really. I just wanted as much water I thought I needed.

We packed as many canteens as we can and continued with the hike. Sprouts of trees finally covered us from time to time and for areas with no cover, we finally have the water supply that could easily be poured atop our heads.

After more than 3 hours of hiking, we finally reached the desert-like part of the hike. This was like a walk of celebration before reaching the beach but unlike other easy last parts, this one was gruelling as the lahar sands became a giant mirror that reflected the sun’s heat all over our bodies.

My water bottle was only attached to the side of my bag thus becoming a great conductor of heat. I tried to pour it on my head while I walked the scorching plains but was completely stopped by the almost boiling hot water it became.

I know it wasn’t boiling but it felt like it. It was a painful way of cooling down but I’d rather have a wet body traverse the desert-like place instead of being fried to the bone. And as an advantage, a wet body helps even a small breeze to give body chill when it touches the skin.

Finally, after 4 hours and a half of hiking under the summer sun, we reached Nagsasa cove. It was cool and windy by the beach giving me this bizarre annoyance of the circumstances we encountered at the ridge. It was breezy at the beach but why was it non-existent when we were down climbing.

It was irritating but I just gave it up and lied down and all of sudden, all my worries went away. I just remembered the awesome spectacle we saw on the way down. It may be the hottest climb we ever did but it was all worth it after seeing all the majesty that Balingkilat was. This mountain really is breath-taking.

We stayed here up until 04:00 PM enjoying the cool and calm beach covered by pine trees while being serenaded by the waves. We were inside the bus enroute to Manila by 8 in the evening, finishing this heat-stroke inducing traverse of Balingkilat, hoping for the day we can step back atop it. Provided that the sun is still down!




Group Itinerary

day 1

00:00 - meet up at Victory Liner Cubao
04:00 - departure from Manila to Olongapo
06:40 - arrival at Olangapo
07:00 - departure for Sitio Cawag
07:30 - secure permit at the Pulis Station
08:00 - arrival at jump off, prepare for the hike
08:30 - start trek
10:00 - arrival at Kawayan Campsite, lunch
14:00 - continue hike
18:00 - arrival at summit campsite, pitch camp
20:00 - dinner socials
22:00 - lights out

day 2

05:00 - wake up call, prepare breakfast
06:00 - breakfast, summit assault
07:30 - start descent to Nagsasa Cove
07:45 - arrival at the big camp site
08:00 - start descent along ridges
10:30 - arrival at water source
12:00 - arrival at Nagsasa cove
13:00 - prepare lunch
14:00 - lunch
16:30 - departure for Anawangin cove
17:30 - arrival at Anawangin cove, board tryk to San Antonio
18:30 - board bus to Olongapo
20:00 - arrival at Olongapo
21:00 - departure for Manila

day 3

01:00 - arrival at Manila


How to get to Mt. Balingkilat

Ride a bus to Olongapo. From Olongapo, ride rented jeepney/tricycle to Sitio Cawag. Stop over at Subic Police to register and leave 1st letter of intent. Proceed to Sitio Cawag. Upon arrival at jump-off, register and leave 2nd letter of intent.

Who to contact

Jeep rental to Sitio Cawag: 09123271159 (Dong)
Balingkilat: 09219543215 (Chieftain Jimmy) 

If going by boat to Subic, you can contact same number for the boat arrangement
If boat to pundaquit: 09174628765 / 09078062327

*credits to Bryan, Jam and Ivan for accompanying us during the climb
*you can read Ivan's account of the climb here: http://www.ivanlakwatsero.com/2013/07/mt-balingkilat-traverse-to-nagsasa-cove.html



1 comment:

  1. This post just made me decide to climb this mountain! I would love to see that view!!! :D

    ReplyDelete

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