07 July 2015

Mt. Lubog: The Badass Mountain in Rizal

Due to the academic calendar shift, summertime is likewise adjusted. It's already July but it’s safe to say that summer’s still ongoing, thus, I’ve been and still summer-ing myself for the past few weeks, which include that last weekend misadventure at a portion of the grand stretch of the Sierra Madre mountain range, nestled at the proud and difficult peak called Mt. Lubog in Rodriguez, Rizal. 

Newly opened for the public some four months ago, we were told that we’re among the first few groups who luckily reached the summit this year so far. It follows that there’s a limited published materials for reference available online yet, and the lack thereof made this climb even more difficult, not to mention the weather factor which has gone really bad during our climb. One of the mandatory prerequisites of the climb is to contact specific people for initial arrangements (see: Pinoy Mountaineer) of the habal-habal type of motorcyle, the most plausible ride to the jumpoff. 

The initial struggle is going to Cubao as early as 4 AM if the group is not based in Manila and the strategic meeting place is at Farmer’s where the van bound to Total gas station in Montalban is situated. If you plan to arrive there at say, 6:30 AM, it’s good to leave at around 5:30 from Cubao as the trip could last for an hour sans the heavy traffic. From there, the never-ending habal-habal ride starts which could last forever up to 3 hours before reaching the registration area. From there, another 2 hour habal-habal-ride-and-walk combo is for the taking before reaching the actual jump-off point.

In our case, the long habal-habal ride commenced at 6:45 AM in a smooth well-polished road cushion before trouncing into a rough road in mixed rocks and muds for the next three hours, a course which is more difficult than the hike itself. In between stops, certain sites are there to behold, overlooking the lush of green range with a growing case of deforestation as evidenced by the dense landslides everywhere. The current situation of the mountains due to illegal logging is quite alarming as the slopes are visibly mostly grassland as tees are almost nowhere to be found. Long after the uncharacteristic ride, we made it through the jagged trails and eventfully reached the scenic registration area, safe and sound.

It was already 9:36 AM and after taking some good rest, we resumed with the ascent with another walk tied up with another bumpy habal-habal ride. From there, the entire trail was mostly covered with fog denying us the supposed beauty of the bluish mountains on the background. The rain has gone mad, starting to pour hard causing the trails to go all mud. Goodness gracious, there were those crystal-clear, ice-cold mini-falls to wash-up along the roads compensating for the muddy encounter across those unforgiving slopes. 

And a handful of more hopes, we reached the trailhead, took a cupful of rest, and went for lunch. At this point, I already had apprehensions at the back of my mind and abort the climb instead, with nature clearly against our goal denying us that gift of good weather. The road trails has insofar been brutal and downright sadistic, keeping in mind that we had to go through that hell of ride later on our way back. However, the occasional ‘brightening’ at the trailhead during the lunch time was enough motivation to proceed. Right then, we were not rained out, and we started with the actual hike to top.

The steep trails and the rich flora and fauna along the terrains to the summit are very reminiscent of the Mt. Makiling final assault and the Mt. Malipunyo jungle being a tropical rainforest in its core. Fifteen minutes off the jumpoff comes the first stop and the Lubog Cave, and from thereon, a series of uphill course awaits up to the rocky summit for the next hour. The trails are very raw (which is a good thing) but according to our guide, who was only on his third time to hike up to the summit, they plan to make it more hiker-friendly when the dry season comes. The trail was actually established by their group composed of at least 50 men who were also the trained guides for the climb.

Soon enough, we set foot to the knife-edge-rocky summit intricately carved with pointy rocks which are surely lethal and deadly upon faulty fall. I couldn’t just imagine how pretty the scene at the peak could be given a nice weather, but then, this climb wouldn’t be a legit deadly one without all those struggles we had to face. After taking a few moments at the summit, we started with the descent amidst the threat posed by the heavy rain and slight brush of winds. With my usual knee problems, I decided to walk down ahead, and there I was again, occasionally questioning myself about why I climb mountains and then blankly proceed walking down the terrains instead after then, keeping in mind the fact how such a charming piece could turnout badass, big time..