Monday, September 1, 2014
WHEN I POSTED AN ARTICLE about the seldom-taken reverse route to Osmeña Peak which I hiked last August 2013 (Reversing the Trend), three mountaineers from the Mountain Climbers Alliance of the Philippines, Inc. (MCAP) took this as a challenge and contacted me to engage in it. I then requested Maria Mahinay to create an itinerary for this so as to accommodate the wishes of the trio from Team TAMAD: Kris Shiela Mingi, Gene Arceno and Julius Roman.
Osmeña Peak is named after from the most illustrious son of Cebu – President Sergio Osmeña Sr. - because of its lofty location, being the highest point of the island province at 1,015 meters. It is located within the Southern Cebu Mountain Range and, contrary to the common perception, is really part of the Municipality of Badian. Local mountaineers used to approach it from Mantalongon, which is on the Dalaguete side, and is just a stroll in the park. The peak is, thus, relegated as just another leisurely picnic area which I do not like.
Almost everyone thought that it is unthinkable to hike Osmeña Peak from Basak, Badian and all would rather take the easy route from Mantalongon and then take their chances downhill to Badian. Daunting as it may seem, a few intrepid hikers had successfully tackled this reverse route and had given meaning to the climbing of O-Peak and of the totality of their journey. It is best to start the climb early morning during warm days and, if it could not be avoided, is totally safe during rainy days as there are no streams to cross to.
Today, January 11, 2014, I will again return to the Southern Cebu Mountain Range to accompany my guests from Luzon. Local MCAP members Maria and Barry Paracuelles are also coming in. Barry is with his wife, Eva Marie. We start at 4:00 AM from the Cebu South Bus Terminal on board a Ceres Bus bound for Badian. It had been raining since last night caused by a Low Pressure Area approaching Mindanao and a lull had been experienced during travel until we reach Barili when it rained again.
After taking a light breakfast at the public market in Badian, Sien Alfanta, Ed Dablo and Neil Mabini arrive to boost our number. Then comes Jodel Seville and Charito Matollama and that makes us twelve. Although this is a dayhike, most of the participants will spend a night in Oslob and so have brought with them bulkier gears like tents and sleeping bags and some extra cargo. We leave the market for the trailhead in Basak and start our hike at exactly 8:00 AM.
I travel light today and just brought my EDC kit, a trauma kit, a dry shirt, a rather heavy LED torch, a Cignus V85 UHF-VHF radio and a liter of water. Going along is my Nessmuk trio: a William Rodgers bushcraft knife, an AJF Gahum heavy-duty knife and a Victorinox SAK Trailmaster. I do not open carry a knife today because this is an entirely different activity. My Kodak EasyShare digital camera is in the pocket of my Silangan Outdoors hiking pants. A Buck 112 folding knife is kept in the beltline behind a Victorinox operator belt.
Sien, Ed and Neil will spearhead the trek while I backstop the rear. That relieves me of pressure and would extricate me of possible accidents as I chose the wrong pair of shoes for this occasion. Anyway, as last man, I could take it easy on my pace and I could focus more on documentation and taking pictures freely, although sparingly, as I would not want to ruin my camera under the threat of this light downpour.
Neil and company started from the Basak communal well and climbed up a steep snaky route that pass by small plots of spring onions, corn and cabbages gouged out of rocky terrain. The rain kept up a steady torrent but all burst with a high spirit of excitement and adventure and shut away the discomforts of cold and muddy trails. Walking in foul weather are for the stoutest of hearts only and the people I am with did not waver from this hardship and that satisfies my expectations.
When you would want to develop your stamina and your resistance to the elements, you would need to keep only the bare comforts and become used to it. Then you complement it with a good elevation gain which this route will provide. You start low at Basak at 235 meters and gain 780 meters upon reaching the crown of Osmeña Peak which you cannot achieve if coming in from Mantalongon. Aside that, you walk a steep incline of about four kilometers in length which is also impossible to get from Mantalongon.
We reach the small village of Malagaring at 8:55 AM and a local offer us free cups of coffee. He is very happy that some of whom who went with me today sponsored a Christmas party for the children last December. Nobody could beat charity and goodwill. It would always open doors and windows and, here in the mountains, it will open wide as I have had done so in my own Babag Mountain Range. If only more outdoorsmen would include charity works in their activities, trails that had lain invisible to outsiders would be happily given.
Neil and company follow a different route than what I took last November 17, 2013 and then it arrive to a point where the route they had chosen is the same as mine for about a hundred meters until it crossed a farm and it became totally different again. This time it is more muddy and slippery and our footfalls are now forceful to get a good grip. It is quite taxing to gain a foothold especially if you are wearing an old pair whose soles had seen better days and water ooze in among the hairline cracks.
What I lacked in good footwear I compensate with less of LNT. Yes, I am no fool to just walk in the middle of the trail that is muddy where puddles of torpid water are present just because it is stated so in the Leave No Trace. Forgive me but my common sense is better than that foreign ideology which was designed for terrain in temperate zones. This is the tropics and our two seasons are conducive to speedy regeneration of vegetation. I deliberately stepped on a lot of vegetation because I know better.
We keep up a steady ascent and the guests from Manila were up to the challenge. Gene would take short rests but I keep my distance so he would spend a lot of it without worrying about the next person coming, which is me. The route goes in a small patch of forest and, as it thinned, farms. We reach the small village of Patong at 10:45 AM and it is a chance to quench thirst with soda drinks. I opt to drink my supply of water instead and eat sweet buns which I bought at a bakery in Badian.
Although we started an hour late, we compensate for that by pacing fast and reached our rest stops with more than an hour to spare; muddy trails were not a hindrance though. From what I ascertained, most likely we would be at the peak before noon. We leave Patong at 11:10 AM for the last push for the top. The rain had stopped but it is replaced by strong gusts of wind. Wind chill factor is high but the guys had taken food and had a drink to replenish spent reserves of energy exerted in going up here.
The trail is decked now with broken lime stones, foreboding a great concrete coverup in the future. This route would lead to the saddle where a concrete road had stopped. We took a different trail that branched out from this route and it is muddy again. It pass by hilly farms of spring onions, cabbages and vegetable pears until the trail weave out along the contours of roundish hills which gave a false impression that you are in the vicinity of O-Peak. The pace became hurried but I keep to my own comfortable speed, taking on the scenery with my camera.
After a final turn below a false peak, the Grandfather Mountain of the South stood in mute silence without its shroud of mists. We reach the top at exactly 11:30 AM and, by God, we were fast. The cold winds are not hospitable in this exposed spot but we held onto dear ground by putting weight were wind is most felt. I test my portable radio on an arranged frequency but the reception is not good although I could pick up very clear signals from harbor traffic and from a weather station.
I congratulated Shie, Gene and Julius for snaring Osmeña Peak the hard way and, probably, would be the first done by Luzon-based mountaineers coming in by way of Basak. It is a textbook reverse traverse hike that will soon terminate in Mantalongon. When the guests had their fill and had fixed the apex of their quest with photos, we slowly go down the hill into the breadbasket of Cebu – the high valley of Mantalongon.
It is raining hard now and the trail is very slippery, especially at the lower approaches, but when we had reached the road, we begin to feel that we are now in home territory. We reach the public market at 1:00 PM and take a deserved lunch at a local restaurant. It is still raining outside and windy and the inside of the restaurant is comfortable but we have to leave for lower ground to talk about the Oslob trip. Six motorcycles accommodated us all and we go down the main highway located at sea level.
Shie, Gene and Julius had to shelve their Oslob trip as the waves spun by the inclement weather are not encouraging for whale watching. We stay for a while at Dalaguete’s waterfront park for four big bottles of cold beer to fill up lost electrolytes. We go back to the highway when we think that the rain would not stop for a bus back to Cebu City. What people do not understand is that you get a good chance to ride on a half-empty bus in Dalaguete than that in Badian. We just did that and we reach the big city at 7:30 PM.
Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer