Sunday, February 16, 2014

Mt. Napulauan to Hapao Rice Terraces

This is a very late post of my hike in Mt. Napulauan last October 2013. Prior to the hike, I only had a practice dayhike 2 weeks before, so I thought I'm in shape. But I was wrong. I'm not prepared enough to keep pace with the rest of the Team Mandirigma, where I was a guest climber. The mountain has this technical description from Pinoy Mountaineer:

Hungduan, Ifugao
Major jump-offs: Poblacion and Brgy. Hapao, Hungduan
LLA: 16°50′N, 121°10′E, 2642 MASL (#15; 1580m gain)
Hours to summit / Days required: 9 hours / 2-3 days
Specs: Major climb, Difficulty 7/9, Trail class 3

Friday night, we rode a night trip bus from Sampaloc (Manila) to Banaue (Ifugao). After breakfast in the town, we bought our supplies for an overnight adventure.

Then we proceeded to Poblacion of Hungduan via a rented jeepney, to register then meet our guide. The trip took almost 1.5 hours.

Below is a list of the guides in Mt. Napulauan with their mobile numbers.

The scenery on our way to the jumpoff is already nice, while our vehicle hugged the mountainside roads. Some of my trekmates rode on the jeepney's rooftop, which is being driven by a former mountaineer as well.

We started our hike at about 10:30 am, after we applied anti-limatik repellants. The initial part of the trail is already steep, and it continued for about 80% of the whole trek. It rained so it made the temperature colder, while we took our short lunch break.

While carrying a 12kg backpack, I tried to keep up with the fast pace of the group. However, this hiking speed coupled with the cold weather put a strain on my muscles, resulting to 3 episodes of leg cramps. The cramp attacks happened during the big step ups, that at one point I wasn't able to keep my balance. 

To avoid those cramp episodes, I must continue to work my leg muscles to fight the cold, while not stressing them too much at the same time. For the first time in my hiking life, I was the slowest and seemed a liability on the company of these fit mountaineers, half of them are also marathoners.

Aside from being steep and sometimes slippery, the trail was made harder by lots of fallen trees, that we have to crawl while ensuring that our large backpack would still fit inside those tight spaces. Those situations really drain much of our energy. Anyway, our last group made it to the summit campsite around 7 pm, about an hour after the first group. I was afraid to get leg cramps that night, but good thing my sleeping bag kept me warm.

It was a very foggy morning, so there is practically no view from the summit. Just proves that the mountain's deserves its name "napulauan", which in Ifugao language means covered in white. I also posed on that tree on the summit for the customary "I've been to Napulauan's summit" photo. 

Although I could still feel the leg pains which makes my walk still slow, there is less effort in the descent part. There are overgrown bonsai trees that pricked our clothes and bags.

Due to the rain and my embarassing condition during the ascent, I was not able to take photos of the trail. The views on our 6-hour descent are much better as the weather got clearer. My legs are getting better, but my knees and toenails are killing me during the long and steep descents.

The Hapao trail showed a less-used path, also with overgrown plants like in main Hungduan trail. Only this time, I got to admire the mossy forest, which also nurtures a lot of limatiks. This is the most limatik-infested mountain I have hiked so far. A lot of these crawlies attacked us during our lunch break on the area below.

With fatigue and aching knees, we decided not to venture into the viewdeck of the Hapao Rice Terraces, which would require an hour more of trekking. Still, we saw the rice terraces which is a UNESCO World heritage site, as we descended on one of its parts below.

Thanks a lot to Sir Cef, Sir Alain, and the rest of Team Mandirigma for having me as their guest hiker, and for their patience and great assistance as well. Looking forward to climb again with this jolly and responsible mountaineers!

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