Saturday, May 5, 2012

Climbing Mt. Arayat via Magalang Trail

It is the mountain that people see whenever they pass the Pampanga portion of North Luzon Expressway (NLEX). I've been seeing this mountain as a kid, and heard many legends about it. One is that the mountain was plucked from the Candaba portion, thereby leaving a swampland. Another legend tells a story of a man named Sinukuan, who lives with his 3 daughters at the white rock, entertains hunters, and gives them gold upon departure.

Having climbed many mountains now, I realized that I should include it on my bucket list of mountains to climb this year. So last Black Saturday, I took my son and a nephew with me to finally climb it. Pinoy Mountaineer has this technical description of Mt. Arayat:

LLA: 15.2067N, 120.7441E, 1030 MASL
Days required / Hours to summit: 1-2 days / 5 hours (North Peak)
Specs: Major climb, Difficulty 5/9, Trail class 1-4 (10kms)

Coming from San Ildefonso, Bulacan, we went to SM San Fernando to catch a jeepney to Magalang, Pampanga at Php 35 fare/person. From Magalang Market, we hired a tricycle to bring us to Bgy. Ayala, about 15-20 minutes travel to the registration area. The trike driver Jimmy Rodriguez quoted us Php 70 for the trip up to the barangay hall, or Php 90 up to the end of the concrete road's jump off point. Mang Jimmy even offered his home for free washup after our climb.

Being a Saturday and lenten season, the barangay hall is still closed when we arrived at past 7 am. Mang Jimmy took us to the house of a barangay kagawad Rene Sicat, where we registered for free. Then, Mang Jimmy dropped us to the jump off point below, where some people are visiting the life-sized stations of the cross. I gave him Php 90 plus tip due to his extra efforts and kindness, and because he did not overpriced unlike the other trike drivers.

After stretchings and arranging our things, we proceeded with our trek at 8:00 am. The first hour is still a relaxed hike, but the last 3 hours are mostly on steep trails. I thought we were the only trekkers that day, until we met a trail runner on his way down. Here's another view of the mountain showing the "white rock" at the middle, a favorite side trip on this mountain.

There are pole markers along the trail with inspiring quotes, making us confident that we are on the right trail. We stopped briefly on this marker with huge pile of rocks.

There is a long steep part of the trail, also with lots of rocks and tree roots holding on to some rocks. We took a long break here both during ascent and descent, as the area looks relaxing.

A cluster of fungi growing from a dead branch along the trail.

After about 3 hours, we turned right on a detour to white rock. Some interesting rock formations can be seen here.

The view from white rock's viewdeck, a prelude of what we can expect at the summit. It was just disappointing to see trash and vandals left by irresponsible climbers. A lot of them are freshly discarded by a family and a large youth group who climbed ahead of us.

The final hour is still a steep climb to the summit. The slippery sections near the summit has ropes to provide additional support to climbers. We met some policemen in camouflage uniforms on their way down while we are ascending.

We are just a few steps away from the north peak, when we reached the fenced tower. One of the policemen stationed at the tower asked us to register our name and address at their logbook. Again, the last signage below did not escaped vandalism.

The north peak which is higher than the south peak, represents the summit of Mt. Arayat. We arrived there at 12:00 noon, or after 4 hours of trekking. It was scorching hot, but we are excited to see the views from the summit, although its only about 180 degrees view of the horizon.

The Pampanga river snaking along the plains below. 

The ridge that separates the north and south peak, for those who want to do a traverse climb, descending at Arayat, Pampanga.

After a quick lunch of adobo and rice, we took a nap on the shaded side of the tower. A youth group of 20+ people have occupied the hut at the summit area.

Then we went to the summit again to admire the views for the second time, before we started our descent which took us only 2.5 hours to the cemented road. Along the way, we picked up food wrappers and plastic bottles. If only all climbers will bring their trash down, there will be no need for clean up climbs!

We had drinks and halo-halo at the first makeshift store in the jump off point. They are located on a nice property with a native-inspired vacation house. When I inquired where we can have the nearest house for washup, they allowed us to take a shower at the house for free. 

A passing trike driver gave me a lift when I bought soap and shampoo on a variety store, but he refused my payment since its just a short ride. The people in this town are really kind, making the town's name Magalang (courteous or respectful), well suited to them.  :)

Here's a map of Mt. Arayat, showing the 2 entry points via Arayat town on the southeast, and Magalang town on the northwest.

Have a safe climb!

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  1. thank you so much for this post. so helpful.

  2. thanx for the info! more power to you!

  3. Hi Noel,

    I'm Louie from pampanga. Thank you very much for featuring our iconic mountain, Arayat.

    God Bless
    Louie Sison