When Mt. Halcon was opened again to public last year, everyone in the mountaineering community was celebrating. A series of scheduled events left and right were conducted, "selfies" and "group pics" from the famous Diving Board were posted on almost mountaineering pages in Facebook. It was a big thing when Halcon was again "up for grab".
The group I was with (PACKERS Mountaineering) has been securing permit for a quite some time until we got the go signal last May 23.
Halcon, as we know, is one of the 3 toughest mountains to hike in the Philippines. 2 lives (as publicly announced) were already taken by this mountain and Its slopes have earned it the title to be the most difficult mountain to climb in the country as per Wikipedia.
So let me tell you my story....
Just a month after my guided solo Guiting-Guiting Dayhike traverse, another 9/9 Hike was scheduled. My bucket list for 2014 is to have at least 1 9/9 mountain for the year however I cannot just turned down this invite, this was highly anticipated by many and I was, of course, with my favorite team.
Day 0 was of course travel from Manila to Batangas Port, via SuperCat we were then off to Calapan Port. A 3 hours of sailing was not enough to snooze off since we need to recharge because by the time we reached the jump off point that day our hike starts.
From port, we were fetched by our hired jeepney, settling all documents at Baco Municipal Hall and Police station then breakfast at nearby Carinderia before taking another 45 minutes travel along the vast rice fields to jumpoff.
We started almost 6 hours late for Day 1 and had few interruptions when we passed by the 2 Mangyan villages. Some blogs called this part "Toll Fee" others called it "Forced Donations". Whatever they call it, this portions needs to be addressed by DENR or Tourism Board.
Day One's target was Aplaya where we will settle for the night and will serves as our base for the 3 days itinerary. Reaching Aplaya was never easy or was fun. It was tiring and never ending assault and limatik were active.
This first part is really a test of endurance, heavy backpack while ascending all the time was a pure challenge. A few meters decent before reaching Aplaya Campsite was a relieved. We had the campsite solely for the team, we believed the first team settled at Camp 2 or Summit.
The Camp is wide, sloped and open. Water source is just a few minutes away while a 30 minutes descent will lead you to Dulangan River.
Day 2: Rain started at wee hours while majority of our tents were then filled with water. We prepared our breakfast soaking wet. Our Guide came over and brought some bad news, "Mukhang hindi tayo makakatuloy, lakas pa ng ulan at mukhang mataas ang tubig sa ilog".
Aplaya camp site is just infront of Mt. Halcon, and when it rain one will witness a curtained wall of falls along Halcon's range and yes I witnessed that for 2 days.
We gathered around for breakfast while planning for the next move. It was still drizzling when 4 members decided not to pursue the climb. I cannot blame them, it was bed weather that day, drizzling while the campsite was blanketed with fog.
7 of us proceeded in day pack bags, our plan was just to check if Dulangan river is passable. It was indeed passable at that time however one of our guide was hesitant because we need to cross at least 2 more parts ahead. Another guide then suggested that if the other parts is not passable, he knew a trail that will bypass the river crossing (as I understood).
We were blessed that the water was not that deep and were able to crossed in barefoot successfully. The trail from the last river crossing leads to a forest then to an open area, Balugbog Baboy. Well, it was a start of the long trek inside the forested area of Mt. Halcon.
What makes the trek for this mountain longer is because the trail is not a direct assault to summit instead it passes thru a forested area to the right side of the range where the assault leads to an open space above.
Once you gain access to the open field, Halcon's summit is about an hour away. You will see the famous ladder from here as well.
The long stretch of this open field is what I like the most for this hike. you'll have 360 view of the entire Mindoro island. The ladder, by way sways most of the time. Most hikers says if you fell from this ladder, you may choose which part you want to fall, Oriental Mindoro or Occidental Mindoro? Oh well, Occidental is still far from that spot. It will take about 3 to 5 minutes to complete ladder part then ahead is a tombstone.
View from the Top
If you are familiar of the 1994 Halcon incident, this tombstone was the marker where the Nepthali Lazaro (San Beda) was found dead by his group mates after suffering hypothermia.
Trekking all the way to the summit, one has to pass the knife edge trail, which is also one of the highlights for Mt. Halcon. The summit is an open space, while the famous diving board was not that easy spot to find.
This "Diving Board" is the most famous spot for Halcon however I was a bit dismayed maybe because I was expecting too much from it. It was the first thing that came into my mind when I reached the summit and even the guide I was with was not aware of that "board". Hahahaha, we went further down the other side of the summit just to look for it when in fact it was just a minute away from the highest point of Mt. Halcon's summit.
The Board is just a small protruded rock and for it to be more dramatic in the picture, your photographer need to look for the right angle to capture that "Buwis buhay" shot for your Profile Pic or Facebook'e cover photo.
I was followed by the rest of the team and sadly, 5 of us reached the summit while 2 of our teammates preferred to stay at the last covered portion (they were about an hour away from the summit). We had our lunch at the summit, took some photos before descend and Aplaya campsite can be seen from summit. It was just right in front of us, so near yet so far to reach.
One of our guide, Ryan and I reached Aplaya camp around quarter to 6:00pm then followed by the rest of the team. Aplaya camp was then became a Tentville, because we were then sharing it with the team who were a day ahead from us. They were now settling at Aplaya Campsite before descending the next day. Few more hikers came and settled while others preferred to camp near Dulangan River.
Day 3 came and everyone was getting ready for the descent. I went ahead from the team mainly because I want to cut the trek short. I ran almost all the time descending while bypassing the first team.
The view was not that spectacular so no need for me stop to take pictures because it was inside the forested area and Limatik were everywhere.
I reached the second Mangyan Village shorter time as what was expected then waited for the team. We had our short e-lunch before descending until we reached the jumpoff point.
So here's what I think about Mt. Halcon:
This mountain is indeed a tough one, depends on how your approach will be. I find our Itinerary a very good one where in we opted a dayhike approach to summit. A sunrise or sunset view I believe is a picture perfect opportunity once you settled up there.
A very accommodating mountain in terms of water sources, mind you water sources are like almost everywhere. If your tummy is not delicate to mountain waters, all you need to bring is just a water bottle.
Assault trail is very common on all mountains and I am sure if you plan to hike on this mountain I am sure you are already immune to this type of terrain. Your biggest challenge now is how to cope with an all day hike with this trail.
Halcon is one of the 3 toughest mountains in the Philippines as mentioned by many blogs. And if I need to rate Halcon from the other 2 according to difficulty? I would say, Guiting Guiting would be the first. Mantalingajan would be my second because its summit trail like of G2 plus a very long traverse side while Halcon would be my third.
You may find our Halcon 3 Day Itinerary and expenses here (Packers Mountaineering Site)
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