The first time I climbed Mt. Ugo was last year for Eastern Mountaineering Society’s Independence Day Climb. After climbing it, I fell in love with that mountain and will continually refer to it as one of the most beautiful mountains that I have climbed. When I climbed it last year though, my sis’s camera battery died the second day so I was not able to take any pictures, especially down where the hanging bridge in Itogon was. So when I got an invite to revisit it again this year, I immediately jumped at the opportunity.
This climb turned out to be a perfect example on how small the mountaineering community would be. It started with an invite from Ma’am Nhey (I say ‘invite’ but I think I shamelessly asked her if I could join …) who I’ve climbed with in Cristobal and Arayat after Sir Javes introduced her to us (even though he himself did not join the climb). I asked Nhey if I could invite Tin, another friend from my HLGG family because being the considerate human being that I was, I thought she would be up for it to make up for her failed Mantalingajan climb just the week before. Then a few days before, Ma’am Nhey informed me that she would not be able to go so she referred me to Sir Bart instead, a classmate of hers who was joining the climb. I decided to push through since Tin would be coming with me and also thought of inviting Vernz, who was suffering from a failed planned climb syndrome as well (again, I say ‘invited’ when I practically convinced her to give up Tarak and join us instead even before she knew that the Tarak climb was cancelled hehe).
During the actual climbed date, I saw Brandy, another climbing buddy, at the same station so I asked him where he was climbing to which he said Ugo with Team SAGUL…the same group of mountaineers I would be joining. There I found out that sir Vincent would be coming along (introduced to me by Brandy during the Tarak preclimb), Ma’am Chai (who was apparently a CSSP batchmate of mine and was Bes’s close friend from a Kas class a long time ago) and also sir Rex, who was one of the facilitators during Erwin and Take Five Hikers’ BMC for the Aurora Outreach. Small world? You had no idea.
Anyhow, we left Manila at about 9 PM amidst fears of bad weather because of the storm. When we arrived at Baguio, we were met by a steady albeit weak drizzle of rain. There, we had breakfast and waited for the rest of our group who got left behind in Manila and had to take a later trip. It was after 7 AM when we finally left Baguio heading for Itogon. The weather was a lot clearer by then so we were treated to the awesome scenery that the Benguet landscape never fails to offer.
After an hour and a half, we arrived at Tinongdan, Itogon where the group registered. Being at the barangay hall made me miss my Adidas UP jacket that I unintentionally left behind there a year ago tsk tsk tsk. There, I logged in my staple reason of “soul searching” for climbing Mt. Ugo. We also had our climb certificates made and although we still didn’t know it at that moment, it would be the first in a string of unfortunate events that would happen during the climb.
For the life of me, I don’t know why I sent Tin’s surname as Tesorio when it was in fact Tinio (maybe the effect of the alliterations?) We would incessantly laugh about it during the next couple days (and maybe in the coming years hehe) because we would forever be joined by the nonexistent Tin Tesorio during that climb. 😀
After registering, we headed off to the jumpoff point where another misfortune struck: ma’am Rona’s bag was left behind in Baguio. I volunteered my phone for them to use in contacting sir Rex’s sibling to check if the bag was still at the station since my phone was registering full signal bars. I was using a postpaid plan so the eternal dilemma of not having enough credits to call someone was not a problem. In the end, they were able to recover the bag but it had to be left behind there to be claimed after the climb. Although, I don’t know how she managed it but despite not having a pack, I swear ma’am Rona had the most outfit changes among the group during the climb! Oh and I must remember to send her the bill when those calls finally register next month. 😉
It was almost 9:30 AM when we started trekking from the famous hanging bridge with me steeling myself for the hardship that would follow. You see, when we climbed it last year, we did the traditional route of Kayapa traversing down to Itogon. Now, I get to do it in reverse, traversing the mountain from its Itogon side then down to Kayapa. Back then, our ascent took as long as our descent did so I was expecting the climb to be a tough one. I guess I did not take into account how used to hiking I’d be by this time because, not to boast or anything, I was expecting it to be harder that it actually was. And also my memory was quite deceptive about certain “hard parts” of the trail. I remembered hiking down a much longer and steeper cemented road that what we actually assaulted. And although the trails were quite steep, I was admittedly expecting worse. When it came to the trail views though, my memory was as sharp as ever. I would not get tired of saying this but Mt. Ugo really had the most amazing views along the trail.
It took us 3 hours to reach the village of Lusod where we had our lunch last year. I actually almost got lost in the village because I went on ahead of the group. I ended up at the elementary school (which involved a case of being chased by a watchdog before ending up there…) where a bunch of kids were playing. I had to bribe (bribe talaga? I offered it to them in gratitude pala) them with jellies to help lead me to the area where mountaineers usually rested. There, the lot of us who were among the firsts to arrive (sirs Paul, Ed, Earl as well as Vernz and Tin) hurriedly ate lunch (we were starving by then), washed ourselves up and even readied ourselves for a little nap while waiting for the rest of the party to catch up to us. As it turned out, we would be napping for quite a while. 🙂 The rest of the group apparently had lunch somewhere along the trail so by the time they caught up to us in Lusod, it was almost 2 hours after. It was almost 4 PM when we resumed trekking so I took out my headlamp because I was pretty sure that nightfall will catch up (I hate night trekking by the way…) to us by the time we reached the campsite.
We pushed on ahead, eventually finding myself part of the lead group once more. As luck would have it, the reported bad weather also caught up with us about halfway the trail. The rain, at times heavy at times not, was constantly pouring and accompanied us all the way to the campsite. Our group ended up not taking any more breaks because it was too uncomfortable to stop anyway. I swear I remember walking a good one and a half hour of continuous assault without once stopping to catch our breath!
Once we reached the 14km marker, we quickly pitched our tents amidst the constant downpour. I had to employ various maneuvers to get rid of the water that seeped in my tent when I was pitching it which involved sacrificing my thermal pants as the official rag and exhausting one whole roll of tissue paper while constantly wiping the tent floor. The heavy and continuous rain was very unfortunate and uncomfortable for all of us but probably more so for Sir Earl. See, even if he was among the first ones there (he, Ed, Paul and I were among the first to reach camp), he would be sharing a tent with Brandy who was our designated sweeper during the first day. So he ended up standing in the rain for 3 whole hours while the rest of the group arrived and frantically made each of their tents habitable at the very least. I actually did not realize this until after the fact (he even helped me in pitching mine, thanks master Earl! Hehe) But in my defense, I was so busy mopping up the lake that was forming up inside my ever trusty tent!
I took a quick nap after making sure my tent was ok and when I came to, the rain has stopped and the rest of Team SAGUL was cooking dinner (t’was almost 10:30 by then). They kindly shared their meal with us and after that we had the obligatory socials…and well, I guess things kind of went crazy. As bottles of gin went around the group, so did the laughs. I got used to them calling each other Master instead of the usual sir/ma’am. You have to admit, that term of address sounds more awesome and infinitely more respectful. We also had our share of RORO captain climbmates (ehem Brandy ehem) who were working overtime in snoring the hell out of the campsite. There was Aling Luz’s carinderia who was in charge of distributing food to the local tambays. Not to mention Ma’am Chai’s no-nonsense questions of “Nakailang break-up ka na ba?” and “Nag-aral ka ba?” haha. There was also the planning of a post climb meeting/drinking session at Sarah’s hehehe The “Masters” of Team SAGUL sure made for great company even if we were standing the whole time, shivering in the cold and sometimes even under a slow fall of rain. I didn’t mind it one bit because all in all, even if I was slightly inebriated (slight lang), I went to sleep feeling quite elated after all the hearty laughs I let out during the climb socials. 😀