Sunday, April 29, 2012

Mt. Batulao - Nasugbu, Batangas - April 2012

There's no easy mountain to climb. Each, unique. Mt. Batulao in Nasugbu Batangas, a 4/9 811MASL Minor climb is one of them so called day hikes that beginners will find challenging and rewarding at the same time. I’ve been browsing photos and reading blog posts about this mountain and have often mistaken its saw teeth ridges as one from the great Guiting Guiting. The magnificent range of the mountains that defines the old and new trail is as well an art on its own.
I was fortunate enough to have survived a couple of day hikes, some turned 12hour hikes namely and I have scaled twice each, Manabu and Maculot and once in Makiling UPLB trail, but that's just to emphasize that I am a noobie at the hobby and a lamer for that matter.
I find it jaw dropingly awesome that the Pro’s can climb this mountain in 75minutes using the new trail. Nothing is impossible, but wheres the fun in that? LOL.

We took the 3AM bus bound Nasugbu at BSC Goldendragon Pasay Terminal (P106) and boarded off an hour and a half later at Evercrest Golf and Country Club in Batangas. This is the same landmark on the way to Calaruega.
If you don't know your way to get to the jump off-ask or rent a guide. There are a lot of kids who at times will fester you for their guide services (P300). We were once again able to hitch a hike with Gian and Leo, who has already climbed this mountain.
Jump off what? I don't think there really is a jump off since the trek begins the moment you pass by the Calaruega road at your right and take the dirt road that follows. There is a community in the area that gradually disappears while one progresses and this, at onset,  gives you the impression that you should not count footsteps yet.
After about an hour of rough road walking, slicing through the community and some minor dusty up and down hill rolls, we reached the Fork. There is a Hut here where you can relax and breathe. From here, You can then decide if you’ll take the OLD or NEW Trail.

  • The Old trail. This seem to be the longer route. Take the trail at your left. This goes on a downward path with minor rolling paths and some dense vegetation. Campsites here are called Camps 1-10.
  • The New trail is a supposed shorter hike along the ridge of Batulao’s mountain range. There are options to go up or around peaks. Some of which, specifically Peak 9 (the middle route) has been closed due to hazard issues. There’s also Peak 8 that claimed the life of first time hiker Diana Fajardo who lost her balance while taking photos. Campsites here are called Peaks 1-10
It is less ideal to climb this mountain during wet seasons due to the nature of the terrain. Strong winds can easily knock off anyone from grip specially at the final ascend. Best  that any hiker is self sustained with regard to gear, knowledge  and judgment. For that matter, any mountain should not be down scaled for potential might-happens. Reason why I always make sure I carry with me gear that will protect me from rain and the sun and lessen the impact of any errors, man inflicted or not. On the contrary, since almost the entire trail, Old and New, is sparse from vegetation and shade, the scorching sun can really take its toll  if one plans to hike late in the morning or mid afternoon. (My ABC Watch read 38.8C at one point during the descend). It is ideal to arrive as early as possible with initial daylight as guide.

We took the OLD trail and was able to reach Camp 1 in less than 2hours. There is a souvenir shop here, a room for major and minors (Jerbacks and Wee wees) and lots of ground to pitch tents. You’ll also need to settle your Environmental Fees here. (P20)
*Progressing towards the next camp, you’ll see a Camp 11 and 12 marker at the far end of Camp 1. Whats with that?

 It is a fast count of camps from here as you scale the ever steepening uphill slopes. You’ll eventually reach camp 8 where the real challenge begins. To further progress, one will need to scramble his way up the next camps. On the way to the Summit, there is one final roped-climb, a 70degree wall. The footings are established and possible to scale without ropes if you take the right side part of the ascent.
Although we were able to accomplish this with out the need nor fret of difficulty, caution should be taken when doing this part of the climb considering personal capacity, balance, weather conditions and the sorts.
Summit. I often reward myself with a 500ml of coke when I summit but that has long been broken- 3 streaks in a row-I always tend to consume it along the way. Fortunately... or not, there is a Mini stop that offers 350ml Mountain Dews at the summit for P25. It was a relief of sort as it is not as overpriced as was a Coke Sakto for P35 at Mt. Maculot. I took 2 bottles and gulped 1 down in less than 20 seconds.
We spent an hour up the summit, meeting and goofing around with new found mountaineer friends (who all seem to have been made crazy by the hike if not their natural state of minds) and proceeded in trekking the New Trail as traverse.
A little before the summit and hugely at this point, my wife had already felt the toll of the hike- so we took off at uber slow pace from here. We just met up with Gian and Leo at certain stops with them calling from their cellphones guiding us what trail to take. 
We were able to reach Peak 5. A saddle ridge. Same as Camp 1 in purpose and function. We occupied a nearby shade with bamboo tables and had our lunch.
We commenced trek and at our slow pace, able to reach the Fork at 130PM.
We were at the Batulao road at 230PM recovering before washing up(P20) and preparing for Home bound.

*If you’d be interested enough, I have reserved some highlights of this hike and stuck it on the Video Summary.

Post Assessment Climb Notes.
  • Gian's Deuter Futura Pro 40L weighs much but feels comfortable when mounted. I have long been stalling on replacing my Sandugo Khumbu 40L reserving for a Gregory Z40. I'm still looking for an alternative but the urgent need gets me thinking. The Khumbu on its own already weighs a whale.
  • The wife, if she plans on joining another climb, needs to make sure all her heavy Bag load is relocated on my backpack. At the rate we went on at traverse, I would rather that I suffer her pains and carry her than allow her to accomplish the climb on an injury. Thanks Gian for carrying her bag (again).
  • Along with that, she also needs to make sure she gets herself a new pair of hiking shoes as her balance is off using the new-old one. She needs to also secure a patella band to support her knees and do ample work out before deciding to join another climb.
  • Not much notes really. I feel I can scale this trek running but that's just a gut feel. And did I mention I came from a 4PM-1AM shift and had hardly any sleep before that? I would like to do this climb again, probably do an overnight. Given that, Ill need to bring with me the usual 18-135mm, probably best tandemed with an UWA and a tripod for Time Lapse shots.

In conclusion, Batulao is a very scenic place to exploit your skills in photography and test your  endurance and train. It is a quick getaway with Batangas' breeze comforting any hiker specially those who plan to watch the sun rise and set from its campsites. Although a bit crowded, and "weekend warriors" abound, I will definitely return here to kick off some dirt and align some of my personal challenges to goal.


View from the Summit. New Trail Mountain Range.
Saddle. New Trail. Peak 5.
Batulao's summit.
New Trail Traverse.

Nino. A 12 year old guide we met along the way.

Camp 1, Old Trail.
Looks like a stone throw away.
...And the mountain is forever changed.

Mini stop up the Summit.

Alfstrong and his crew. 
Closed Peak 9, New Trail.

Another group we met at the summit.
Janet Belarmino's hut (the First Filipina to climb Mt. Everest in May 2007)

Video Summary