We kicked off the New Year with a twin day hike of Pico De Loro and Batulao. I was with the usual suspects, Jet, Fred and Ed, along with Bal, a mountaineer from Davao who guided the guys on their Mt. Apo climb last year.
This was supposed to be an ambitious day hike of the “Nasugbu trilogy:” Pico De Loro (traverse from Cavite to Batangas), Talamitam and Batulao. These are the three mountains located in the town of Nasugbu in Batangas although Pico partly lies in Cavite as well.
After the Pico leg however, we decided to have a long, relaxing lunch with unlimited rice in Mang Inasal rather than dash off to another climb. We may have developed muscle atrophy during the cramped tricycle ride from Ternate-Nasugbu highway to town proper. And I was drowsy and dead tired from the Pico climb, done with no sleep at all the previous night. (I’m not a college kid anymore; I’m getting too old to do all-nighters.) So we ditched Talamitam and headed straight for Batulao after pigging out.
This was my third time to climb Pico De Loro and the second time to do a traverse. I would’ve thought it’d get easier the more you do it but dammit, it was still as exhausting as the first time. My pace was significantly slower than the guys but Ed was a saint for staying behind and being my sweeper even though he has the fastest pace among us. We often joke that he’s got the speed to do a day hike of the entire Sierra Madre.
One thing that got easier though was climbing the Parrot’s Beak, the towering monolith next to the summit. The first time I climbed it, there was no rope so I had to scramble like crazy until my companion finally pulled me up. There was a rope this time and it seemed sturdy enough to hold my weight.
The group aimed to do the descent to Nasugbu in an hour, which Ed and I promptly foiled by being 30 minutes late. There was my pace to blame and then, when we got to the kawayanan (bamboo area), Ed thought we took the wrong trail. We backtracked, lost the other trail we saw earlier, stood around for a few minutes to put on warmers and think about what we were going to do, and ended up going back to the trail we were taking earlier. It turned out to be the right one all along.
Ed had to go back to Manila after lunch so the four of us soldiered on to Batulao even though it was starting to rain. Evercrest Golf Course, which you’d pass through on the way to the jump-off, was already covered in fog when we got there and it was drizzling. The trails of Batulao are open from start to end. When the sun is out, it gets really hot, dusty and arid. When it’s raining, the trail gets muddy and slippery, and the rain hits you full on in the face.
I had the sunny experience when I first climbed this mountain last year. While I loved the view, I was miserable from the dust and the heat and the 500 other people who were there for the weekend. Batulao is one of the most popular hiking destinations in Luzon because it’s very accessible from Manila, its trails are easy enough to be tackled by newbies and, of course, it is a beautiful mountain. If you go there on a weekend, expect the campsites to be crammed with tents and the small summit area to be full of climbers. I’m not anti-social (or so I think); I just don’t enjoy crowds that much particularly on a mountain. If I want to see hoards of people, I can go to the mall any day.
This time, it was cold and rainy and we were the only ones there. I wasn’t crazy about the mud and rain but I enjoyed the cool breeze and the fact that we had the mountain to ourselves. Sorry, I’m selfish that way.
It was Jet’s turn to do sweeper duties on our descent to make sure I don’t fall off the ridge and crack my head open. We were forced to do a night trek, which we don’t like, as darkness caught up with us on the trail. By the time we made it back to the highway, we were covered in mud from the waist down (or at least I was, they didn’t seem to be as good in collecting mud as me) and starved for another unlimited rice meal in Mang Inasal. Unfortunately, we had to take the bus straight to Manila so we made do with bread from the local bakery and chicharon from a hawker on the bus.
We didn’t get to do the Nasugbu trilogy but it was still a challenging day hike. We have a few more climbs lined up this year; this was a good one to start us off.
Note: This is based on my pace, which is a good 15-20 minutes slower than those of the guys.
0345 ETD Baclaran
0450 ETA Cavite, breakfast, take tricycle to jump-off
0545 ETA Magnetic Hill, start trek
0610 Base camp
0810 Summit, climb Parrot’s Beak
0900 Start descent
1030 ETA Ternate-Nasugbu highway, rest, take tricycle to Nasugbu town center
1145 ETA Nasugbu town, lunch
1345 Take bus to Evercrest
1430 ETA Evercrest, start trek to Batulao
1540 Camp 1
1700 Start descent
1845 ETA paved road with sari-sari store/bakery, take tricycle to highway, clean up
1915 Take bus to Manila
2200 ETA Cubao
Expenses (as of Jan. 2013)
Bus, Manila-Cavite – P80
Tricycle to Magnetic Hill – P75 per person
Tricycle, Ternate-Nasugbu highway to Nasugbu proper – P70 per person
Bus, Nasugbu proper to Evercrest – P50
Batulao registration fee – P20
Bus, Evercrest to Manila – P132
*There’s a registration fee in Pico De Loro but we were there before daylight and the people in charge were apparently still asleep so we got away with not paying anything. Hehe.