Mt. Natib Day Hike
Mt. Natib Day Hike
Mt Natib Climb (Backtrail IT with trail running on the descent)
07 August 2016, 3rd training climb for K2D
The third training climb of Green Mountain Tribe for the multi-dayhike Mount Kitanglad – Mount Dulang-Dulang reverse-traverse was held in Mt. Natib in Orani, Bataan, 14°43′ N; 120°24′ E (PHIVOCS). A mere two to three-hour drive from Manila, it is another common climbing destination in Bataan, though less familiar to leisure climbers compared to Mount Tarak of the Mariveles Mountain range. It is listed as a potentially active volcano by PHIVOCS with its summit sitting at 1,287+ MASL—the highest peak in the Natib Cauldron System.
The original plan for the climb was to do a whole circuit, either via Morong or via Pasukulan Falls. Both routes entail multiple river crossings. But due to the incessant rains the night before the climb, the rivers were expected to be near waist deep, which would make river crossing dangerous even with the use of safety lines. The climb itinerary was eventually changed to an easier back-trail with the added challenge of running down the rest of the trail halfway during the descent to the jump-off. At the end of the day, the climb made for a fun, quite challenging day hike, providing us the dose of cardio and dynamic work-out for the weekend with the added blessing of breathing in the beauty of the forested mountain under a cool cloudy weather that seemed to threaten us with rain every other hour.
(Circuit via Pasukan Falls)
(Chillax Dayhike Back-trail IT)
|0030||Assembly at Robinson Pioneer||Assembly at Robinson Pioneer/McDonalds Centris|
|0100||ETD to Orani, Bataan|
|0200||Departure for Orani, Bataan|
|0400||ETA Brgy.Tala, Orani, Bataan / Register / secure guides|
|0430||Start Trek||Arrival at Brgy. Tala, Orani Bataan/Register/ Secure Guides|
|0600||ETA Pinagbutasan||Start trek|
|0700||Arrival at Pinagbutasan Gate|
|0730||Mt.Natib foot / start Assault|
|0800||Arrival at Bahay Kubo with Water Source|
|0900||ETA Mt.Natib Summit / Rest / Bfast||Arrival at Mt. Natib Basecamp/Start Assault|
|0945||Lead group reached Mt Natib Summit / Rest/ Kulitan Blues/ Photo Ops|
|1000||Start Descent to Pasukulan Falls|
|1100||Tail group reached Mt. Natib Summit / Lunch / Rest/ Kulitan Blues/ Photo Ops|
|1200||Descent to Basecamp|
|1300||ETA Pasukan Falls / rest / Ligo sa falls|
|1345||Depart from Basecamp|
|1430||Back to JOP or exit at Abucay + 3 hours||Arrival at Bahay Kubo|
|1500||ETA jump Off, Brgy.Tala / wash up|
|1530||Arrival at Pinagbutasan Gate / Trail run to JOP|
|1610||JOP (for those who ran) / Wash-up / Eat & drink and kulitan blues|
|1800||ETD for Manila|
|1900||Departure for Manila|
|2100||ETA in Manila|
|2130||Arrival in Manila|
Twenty-four people made up the team for the climb. At the lead is Ceejay, founder of GMT. The rest of the team is composed of:
- 7 other GMT officers/members – Venice (lead), MJ (mid), Ryan (mid), Elmoe (mid), Itchel (mid), Dan (mid/tail), Jean (mid/tail) and Joko (sweeper);
- 7 GMT applicants – Marife (lead/mid), Martin (tail), Donna (mid/lead), Jerome (mid), Mabel (tail/mid), Rhynald (mid) and Julius (mid, official photographer);
- 2 guests and K2D participants —Lloyd (lead/mid) and Irene (mid); and
- 7 guests and non-K2D participants—Elvin, Gervic, Madz, Claudine, Rho, Casper (not the friendly ghost hehe), and Eigher.
Account of the climb
Assembly to JOP
There were two rendezvous points for the assembly, Robinson’s Pioneer for those coming from the south and McDonalds near Centris in Quezon City for those from the North. The team rented two vans, one with 13 passengers and the other 11 passengers. The vans first picked up the group waiting in Robinson’s Pioneer luckily; no one was late EXCEPT the van we’ve rented. At 2AM, finally we were set to go. We had a stopover at Mcdo-Centris where the rest of the team waited. We left Manila an hour past the scheduled departure in the IT.
The ride took less than three hours. We arrived at Brgy. Tala at 0430 am. It was dark, cold and raining when we arrived. Our group stayed at the van hoping the rain would stop. We ate our breakfast early, some ate at the waiting shed, the others inside the van. The rest of the time, we waited for the guides and barangay personnel to whom we need to register before the climb.
Jump off at Brgy. Tala, Orani Bataan
JOP to the Pinagbutasan Gate
After having registered, the team lead (TL) assembled everyone at the waiting shed near the National Bataan Park. He oriented us on the mountain and the climb itinerary around 0530 HRS, just when the sun’s light has penetrated through the thick clouds, illuminating us with a gloomy dawn. He informed us that we might not be able to follow the planned circuit route. There are rivers on the second half of the route and having rained all night, the high water level and strong currents would be too dangerous to cross.
GMT always prays before the trekking starts. For this day, Elmo, having been missed by the group for awhile, was tasked to lead the prayer. He initially led the prayer but tapered off midway. MJ then resumed the prayer.
A short briefing to be followed by a prayer before the climb.
We started our trek at 0600 HRS. We had to pass through a muddy, rough road. It was slippery because of the rain. We had 3 guides — Jeje, a rookie was with our lead team. Next was Jeje’s father, Kuya Wilson with the mid-team. Lastly, Jeje’s uncle, Kuya Fred was with the sweep team.
The team at the jump-off just before the trek began.
Muddy and slippery road from the start of the trek
Off to a jolly start. Spot the Teletubbies!
The trail at the beginning is that of a wide unpaved road with a gradual incline.
Once in a while, you catch a glimpse of the town below to the right through the thick curtain of fog behind some bushes and a few trees.
To the left is the walled side of a cliff, with shrubs and cogon grass at its foot. At this whole segment of the climb, the road was still wide enough for two to three people to walk side by side. We trek through this road for a good 30 minutes until we reached a wide clearing.
The first compression stop of the team, less than 30 minutes away from the jump-off point. Behind the group (to the left of the trail if facing towards the gate) is a tall black steel gate with the beginning of a paved winding uphill road beneath it.
We can already see beautiful scenery below and we can already see Mt. Arayat but it’s somehow vague because of the fog.
During this first assembly, the rest of the team took group photos or solo photos beside some infrastructure at the end of the cliff with the thick fog as their background. We commenced trekking five minutes after the team has gathered. The road narrowed and continued to gradually rise. Everyone began walking in single files, unless one of us advances, which some of us did a few times as we adjust our pace. The drizzle has long stopped. With the humidity rising and after trekking for a few minutes, it got too warm for us to keep on our rain-jackets. The scent of the morning rain and the breeze from the forest felt so refreshing and clean — a great contrast to what we are used to breathing back in the city.
Fifteen to twenty minutes later, we arrived at the end of the trail—the Pinagbutasan gate and the DENR viewdeck. It was a beautiful sight to behold in the midst of a mountain surrounded by fog.
Members of the team immediately got busy taking pictures of themselves and the site. To the right is a short stairway going to some small abode above it. In the middle is a house-like structure. To the left is an open rounded cottage. Behind the house and perpendicular to the trail we just left is a long fence behind of which is a long drop of the side of the cliff. Beyond the fence is the wide expanse of the white fog. To the left is a small gate leading to a narrower trail the end of which was hidden behind the fog. Beyond this gate are some interesting small details: graffiti on the small gates and lumps of garbage at the foot of the cliff to the left of the gate amidst the raw beauty of the mountain and land.
Pinagbutasan Gate to the Kubo
Upon the arrival of the tail, the team commenced with the climb. Ceejay approached Mafe just when we are about to commence trekking starting from the gate. He told her to walk ahead of him behind the guide.
(Marife) Up to this point of the climb, I felt down but a brief chat with the lead a lightened up my mood tremendously. After which, I finally started enjoying the climb and the company and blabbered nonstop (unfortunately for Ceejay, Venice, and Lloyd who had to suffer through it all!).
The last group who left the Pinagbutasan gate was Sir Joko, Martin, Mabel, Eigher and Kuya Fred (one of the guides). Martin, Mabel and Eigher were chatting animatedly the entire climb until they reached the Kubo. They were talking about their lives, careers, they laughed, and of course they have their “Hugot” during their trek to Kubo.
Beyond the gate, the trail narrowed further with shrubs and bushes branching off towards the trail. The route looked intact and less trodden with no marks of hikers that could have gone before us. It was a good trail made up of either rocks or clay. The lead followed the pace of the guide, which was moderate to fast. We reached the kubo in less than an hour where we had our last water source. We rested here a bit, waited for the rest of the team, refreshed ourselves with the hose with water gushing out of it endlessly, and ate our snacks.
Kubo to Basecamp
After a full 15 minutes rest, we started trekking and entered deeper into the forest. This section was where we expected to find the (dreaded, for some) limatiks. The trail still gradually inclined upwards.
(Lead account) We kept up with the pace as before—that of the lead guide. It was a good, moderately fast pace. We sweat profusely with the humidity and continuous exertion and personally, it felt great. Midway through the trail, Ceejay turned on his iPod with his choice of “chillax” music, which has a “katutubo vibes” to it with the accompaniment of percussion and strings. When we reached a widened area, Ceejay radioed the tail and we stopped to wait for the rest of the team.
The team took a short break here. Snacks were shared around while the not-so-favored “limatiks” showed themselves.
After which, we exited the forest and walked through a long strip of tall cogon grass. At the end of the cogon grass is the basecamp at the foot of the side of the mountain where the assault to the summit begins. We did another full compression stop here.
A trail filled with tall cogon grass before we reach the campsite at the foot of Mt. Natib
Basecamp to Summit
Once the team was fully assembled at the base camp, Ceejay gave a few words final orientation of the assault climb ahead before proceeding with the ascent. This section is the highlight of the climb. The ascent challenged everyone’s leg power and strength to its near limits and for some their patience too. The section was a series of continuous ascent with the steps in between getting steeper and steeper as we near the top to the point where we had to hoist ourselves up using tree branches, trunks and roots just before the boulder segments. We were greeted by high walls of boulders with ropes prepared to help us along this route. Before we reached the summit, we had to pass through 9 rope segments going up steep, wet, slippery, and rocky portions of the trail. We had to undergo solid assaults in climbing this section of the mountain. For most, the ropes were really a big help in making the climb easier.
The lead group arrived at the summit at 0940 HRS. It is a wide flat area of low-lying grasses with shrubs all around. We saw a few red berries, which Ceejay harvested. The berries’ taste was a mixture of sweetness, tanginess, and bitterness. It was really fulfilling to reach the summit but as expected, there was no clearing and the fog surrounded us. Once in a while, the wind blew off enough of the fog to give us a glimpse of beautiful scenery of the town below and the mountain ranges across us. And in those few moments, the clear view was glorious to behold.
We stayed at the summit for some time waiting for the other groups to arrive. Eventually, the rest of the team arrived in small groups. The tail arrived at 1100 HRS.
The first order of business upon arrival was to put down our bags and do a complete limatik check on our bodies. Most of us were limatik-free. Some, who were lucky or not so lucky, got to donate their blood to these suckers. We had our lunch there to the tune of late-1990s Smashing Pumpkins. Half of us napped, had some time to rest in preparation for the challenging descends and the rest just joked around. Lots of photo ops, of course. By 1200 HRS, we took a group picture with Joko in a mermaid pose in front of everyone. It was a truly lovely noon for a company of good people having a great time.
Descent to Pinagbutasan Gate
After having a full rest and photo ops at the summit, the team started to descend. We went through the same trail and roped segments we’ve passed through going to summit.
The descent took longer to finish than the ascent, especially in the boulders section. The ropes helped a lot for most of the climbers. The use of the ropes on the descent made for good fun and thrill as it felt for some like doing a rappelling without the protection of a full gear. One wrong move will put you in danger. Well, if you’ve done once or twice rappelling, it wouldn’t be difficult for you to decent using the rope segments. Some resisted to use the rope and clambered down the boulders by inserting their fingers and the tip of their shoes on the crags of the rocks and boulders, the way one does in technical bouldering or rock climbing. One has to be extra careful to check that one does not slip or that one’s foot has stepped on a secure surface area before fully shifting one’s weight on each step. The guide was instructed to help the girls especially and he was particularly supportive to all of us during the descent.
The lead spent about 45 minutes at the base camp waiting for the tail. Once the whole team was assembled, Ceejay broached once more the subject of which trail to choose, checking if anybody in the team preferred still to follow the original planned route of doing a circuit via Pasukulan Falls. (The base camp is actually a three-way fork: one fork goes to the summit, the other goes back to the Kubo, and the third leads to Pasukulan Falls.) He reiterated the danger of being stranded because of the high waters from the continuous rain the night before if we continue with the circuit route. In the end, he decided on doing a back-trail. We then went back though the same trail we took in the morning.
We reached the Kubo in less than an hour without compression stops in between. We took a break here where some of us got a taste of some jackfruit. It took us about 30 minutes to reach Pinagbutasan Gate from the Kubo. Martin joined Joms and I somewhere in the trail but stayed to rest just a few hundred meters away from the gate. From the gate, the applicants and some GMT members were asked to run the rest of the trail to the JOP. For some this was their first time running on the trail for a distance longer than 300 meters. One compression stop was done at the widened area with the tall steel black gate where the runners were re-grouped for a few minutes. We then commenced running all the way to the jump-off point.
(Martin) I was with Mj during the trail running and she served as my coach that time. She kept on yelling “Martin, kaya mo yan, sabayan mo lang ako, babagalan ko”. There’s an instance maybe due to fatigue, I started to feel muscle pain on my leg. But still I continued to run (with crossed fingers praying not to have a muscle cramps) as Mj yelling “wag mong isiping pupulikatin ka, isipin mo kaya mo” fortunately I finished the trail running up to the JOP.
(Marife) At one point I had to stop to redo my laces as my toes were in pain from continuously being stubbed by the end of my shoes. On my way to the JOP, I ran past Julius then Mabel. Julius eventually overtook but stopped somewhere. For a good 15 to 20 minutes, I ran alone. It felt amazing: I did not run out of breathe and my legs and feet did not hurt at all (except for my poor toes). I managed to run without stopping until I reached the jump-off point.
The runners reached JOP a few minutes before 1600 HRS just before the rain started. We ordered lomi and washed-up. As usual, lomi after a climb is the best tasting lomi there is. The team also started the drinking session at this point—a session that continued to the van.
We left Brgy. Talaaroung 1900 HRS and arrived at Manila, after a couple of bathroom breaks on the road, at 2130 HRS.
Lessons learned on the trail while in lead group
- The TL is responsible in making the critical decisions. The TL has the final decision on changes in the IT keeping in mind the terrain and weather conditions and the safety of the team. The TL’s decisions are made after discussing the options with the team.
- The TL orients the team on the mountain, the route, and the IT at the JOP just before the group starts trekking.
- The TL monitors the team’s progress during the climb and estimates the pace of the group based on the tail. The TL communicates with the tail regularly to monitor the tail’s location. The TL also decides when to proceed, giving time for the tail to rest as well during re-grouping.
- The TL keeps track of the team members and monitors the sequence of people’s arrival during compression stops.
- The TL is responsible for keeping the group intact and decides on compression stops. Full stops are made on wide areas or campsites especially if the group is quite large, which we were during the climb.
While in the tail group
- Tailman Oversees the the last person or people of the group.
- Communicates to the TL everytime.
- Encourage you to push through when you feel exhausted.