Saturday, August 25, 2012

Mt. Mangatarem - Mangatarem, Pangasinan - August 2012

Mt. Mangatarem in Brgy. Pacalat, Mangatarem Pangasinan holds no joke when it comes to trail difficulty and challenge. We were the first group to be allowed to discover the mountain range, trek the locals trail and in spite of the exhausting hike, we were there to accomplish 3 things; Plant trees, do a Medical mission and carry out a school outreach program. This, all through the efforts of Event organizer T.U.C.O (The United Climbers Organization), in cooperation with Kabataang Binuklod ng Kalikasan Mountaineering Society (KABAN) and Hunyango Mountaineering Society (HMS). The project was called, Mt. Mangatarem 3-4-1 (Tree for Juan).
To get there, we took a Five star bus from Tramo Pasay going Bolinao. Boarded off the church at Mangatarem and were transported by the municipality’s multicabs to Barangay Pacalat Elementary school.  There are also tricycles going to Brgy. Pacalat for P25 per head.
After lunch, registration and preparation for the next day mission, Our group of about 45, guided by a few locals and Pacalats own Barangay Captain, started our walk to the jumpoff.
GPS Reading of Traverse trail. Does not include trail to summit-Arrow pointing down.
Photo courtesy of Benjilou D.Tacsanan. (Used with permission)

Prayer led by Pastor Cetelci Sison.
So we begin… 12:15PM
We either had to cross the hanging bridge and start the trek OR dare the rapids in crossing Pacalats dam and do a 30minute back trail to get to the hanging bridges end. The first being more feasible, as the weather had been intermittently gloomy due to the two storms foreboding causing rains and high water levels; wet with the light downpours, we started the hike with more difficulty to conquer.
The trail- gushing with rain water from higher grounds made our cotton socks dripping wet and our shoes awfully soaked in mud. The trail is a mixture of tree covered areas and open fields with variations of swamped soil and rock festered foot paths. Inclination also varies but are mostly manageable with slow pacing. Locals use these trails so they are well established. There are a few forks which some of us marked by tying blade grass to block.
Val and tonights pulutan.
As innocent and stable as it looks, this hanging bridge made me fear that my imbalance will tip off causing others to fall. When you think of it a lot, it may happen in a sudden panic.

Those with ponchos initiated rain-mode, but eventually took it off and accepted defeat from being wet all through out.

Climbing buddies, Val and Caloy.
Gradual long inclines, are tortures and knee breakers.
Even at this height, with the sun just peaking, makes up a longing for more water as we are exposed from the rays heating up our wet from rain and sweat physiques.
Consistent view from a consistent ascent from the woods.

Arpee and Des.

Muddy flat trails.

Cap and a local. Our ever patient guides.
Vinzs' mixed nuts, trail food.

Mangatarems Summit at the back.
Sir Lester Susi of AMCI.
At 3:30PM our group reached the summit-campsite fork, one batch after the other. A decision to go down the ridge and pitch camp beside the river was awfully tempting for a tired, wet and aching body instead of proceeding to scale the 2hour summit assault. I was reluctant, but what the hell. I came here to feel pain, die and be reborn. 12 of us left our packs at the fork and went up the summit which is a steep hike up and down a dozen of hills with only waist high blade grasses to cling on to. The group tackled the steep assault for 45minutes. At the top, Reading was at 565MASL, however, the guides say that this is not the real summit as there is a much higher part of Mangatarems mountain range that is out of way of our trail. 5:50PM. Catching light, we hardly spent time up nor wasted much time to rest after getting back at the fork. At this point, some of us were already exhausted and to further rub it in, the trail to the campsite is another 2hour of painful steep descent.
Faux summit, another set of hills await after the horizon.
Out of exhaustion to the pace the guides set, King and I almost didn't want to push further and were left at a quarter to the summit to rest. At some point, I was able to gather enough will power and find that near dying fire, to convince him to further push through.
Mangatarem Summitteers!

Slid a couple of times due to the steep descend. If you're a bit out of focus, you just might hurt yourself further by going beyond the established trail when you go off balance.
It was pitch black when we reached camp after an overall 7 hours of hike-rest-hike. And there’s this cursed rain that made sure we had difficulty settling and pitching our stuff and tents un-wet.  Our group camped near the river shore with forced disregard to fear that we are the first washed up casualties if-when the water level rises. The group who didn’t summit had already settled prior; we were last to arrive and we had not much option since all the nicer spots were already taken.
Momentary stale from the drizzles allowed us to prepare food and do some Socials. At around 1am and 3am, rain started pouring madly. I woke up from my light sleep and immediately shut the Apexus Halcons doors. It was difficult sleeping at that point, worrying about tent wall drips and rising river water levels while thinking about possibilities of contingency given various distressed scenarios. Eventually, the rain rested. 
Campsite. Set up wet, break up wet.
Sir Ronnie Mamayson and his crew cooking breakfast.
Our guides' make shift camp.
Some parts of the campsite have huge rocks as grounds. This is as well bountiful under the rivers rapids, making it difficult to walk and maintain balance with rapids pushing one sideways to tip.
My Apexus Halcon, stripped of wet flysheet.
Light rains and wet mornings.
Morning was no different. There was always possibility of rain evident through the heavy clouds up our heads. It sucks that we had to break camp while raining, pack our stuff wet and start the day with wet clothing. The LoopRope was a blessing as it held some of my wet stuff clinging at the back of my pack.
It didn’t matter much as we started the trail traverse by crossing the river. Rapids were heightened as rain water from the mountains make up for the waist high currents we had to cross and same as the day before, dip our footwear in trails gushing with rain water. We crossed the river a few more times as we zig zagged the boulder filled river bed, staggering in balance from the rushing waters before finally pushing on flat lands then up the mountain trails. It was never thrilling or fun but given that the sun has finally shown up, made the hike a bit of a relief.
River Crossings. Probably one of the highlights and challenges of this hike.
At one point, as un-manly as it is, I was holding hands with Caloy just to maintain balance and stability. The rapids can easily swipe one away, and with a heavy pack, find difficulty in recovering from the dip.
Some stale before a few more river crossings.

The next group formed a barricade to support each other.
Photo courtesy of Gabrielle Estrella. (Photo used with permission)
Vino's retired hiking shoes.
Some rice fields before the ascend.
Barangay Pacalats dam.
It took us about two hours to reach Pacalats Dam and a few more minutes to reach the kubo-kubo where even with our tired bodies and strained minds, had to meet with Swiss national and Reforestation Supervisor Simon Czendlik who helps the local community in restoring and care of Mt. Mangatarem. We accomplished the tree planting activity pushing our bodies further up the steep tree planting area. Afterwards, instead of crossing the Dams waist high strong waters, we trekked another 30minutes to reach the Hanging Bridge and finally cross over to civilization.
Elaborate history and system of planting and land distribution as told by Sir Simon.

Seedlings grown by locals.

At one point during the hike at the top of the hill (Tree planting site), Sir Manny called our attention of a painful sting on his neck. I saw a small scorpion of sort three fourths of an inch long. Im pretty sure that looks like a scorpion. I immediately flicked it off. His pain probably lasted, so much that even after the flick, he was still not budging due to the pain he is enduring. He was ok after a while.
Tree planting site. Steep ascends with lots of rocks as footings and obstructions.
 Back at the school grounds, nature played us by shifting rain and sunlight every now and then till we gave up laying down our tents and stuff to dry. The children were already at the area so some of the participants as well as those who have Medical backgrounds prepared for the Outreach and Medical Mission. I cannot speak for the turn outs and the effects but we were all warmly accommodated even by the neighboring houses to pass by their homes to wash up. One even called us to taste their Native Chicken adobo. Cap also invited us at his house to eat Sopas and Munggo. 

So there, yeah.
Overall, it was a challenging attempt to fulfill all activities. Not everyone participated in EACH event but everyone cooperated the way they can, when they still can. During the post climb assessment, most participants commended the cause and everyone’s efforts, as well as the challenge Mt. Mangatarem braced us with. It is one of the unique climbs I experienced to date and given that we were first to climb Mangatarem and we came there with a cause- and survived, floats my brag “up yo mommas ass” in a nigga kind of way. 

Post Climb Assessment
  • Ponchos are good means of protecting one from rains but retains heat enough to sweat and exhaust one’s body due to its convection. I had to take off my cover  when the rain lightened as the weather does not pose much temperature drop hence I was sweating inside the poncho.
  • Tent rocks are better alternatives to stakes when it is impossible to stick it on sandy grounds or if it fails to go all the way down to hold a flysheet in place.
  • Goretex pants are nice to consider during wet hikes. Goretex boots and socks as well. Friggin expensive though.
  • Apexus Halcon (TENT) garter used to hold stakes from flysheet corrodes, evidence of tent rip a few cm becoming more visible, wet flysheet erodes seam tape due to cold consistent damp state during tent pitch and when packed wet. Tent was heavy as hell. Need to work out back muscles further.
  • Merrell Portage (shandal) proved itself worthy but is still not recommended as the merrel non-slip rubber sole, is still not comparable to Vibrams. Even with a cathedral of toe room, I still managed to cramp my toes hemorrhaging some of my fingernails. Need to consider Reden Reyes’ Boots or one from Merrell, TNF Palladium or DM's 1460(LOL).
  • Water consumption was at 2L bladder, 2x500ml gatorade, 1L nalgene and a 6L container Arman and I divided and used.
  • Still need to learn to pack tight and right. I think I am already at my thriftiest of stuff, but still managed to utilize the Deuter Aircontact 55L to fill.
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