The Wednesday Warriors strike again. On to our playground: Montalban, Rizal.
"What mountain will the destination be this time?", asked the locals at the jump off who are already used with our presence on a weekday. "To Mt. Ayaas", our reply. " That is along walk from here", their common answer.
|Peak of Mt. Ayaas. The story in between this part from the jump off is more interesting. Photo credit to Sir Joseph Sibal|
We left Sitio Wawa on our own. Our runner friend who is from here and familiar to all the trails of the nearby mountain ranges is not available to join us this time. Started with the same trail as that of Mt. Pamitinan and Mt. Hapunang Banoi, it is evident that it has been raining in this area the past days, the trail is just too slippery. My sore calves and quads from last Sunday's Milo Marathon did not have the chance to complain on the uphill trail early part of the trek. We stopped at the Uling Wall and only then Sir Joseph realized he did not put on the Strava program on his phone to keep track of our distance and direction.
Upon reaching the saddle where on the right is Mt. Pamitinan and on the left is the trail that leads to Mt. Hapunang Banoi, there was one group of hikers resting. We proceed using the middle trail going down.
Bringing our gut feel and mountaineer spirit we used this as our companion from this point on. It's a single track shaded trail covered with trees, with bushes on both sides. Still slippery so we had to be extra careful going down. Shortly after our descent, we already encountered a fork (several trails going to different directions), a trail going to the right, one towards the left and another on the left most that is a little uphill.
Seeing the mountain ranges on the left, we know somewhere in the several peaks from afar is Mt. Ayaas. We decided to take the left trail. It's established and looks commonly used. Alas it went to an Uling site (Charcoal manufacturing by locals) and farm land. We tried to search for a possible trail further left going down but to no avail. Until a local farmer noticed us (he is the owner of the farm land - Kuya Roger). There is no trail on this side of the mountain to where we are heading. He gave us direction where to go back and what landmark to look for. From this part on, I know we are on a real adventure. This is going to be an exploration trek, no more running as we are mindful of the trail.
Making conscious of the landmark that Kuya Roger told us, we need to hit Ka Henry's house. We are still on a shaded trail, covered with trees and tall bushes and banana plants, sometimes with open view decks especially in areas converted to farm lands by the locals. Despite the slippery trail, I can say this is still more runnable and friendly to newbie trail runners, still very safe compared to the trail of Mt. Pamitinan, Binakayan and Haponang Banoi.
Reaching down the gorge we should hit a river, but before reaching that far as our elevation goes lower another major fork encountered. With Mt. Hapunang Banoi as our focal point, we decided to go for the trail on the left. We are already at the base of the valley but we did not pass any river. As we trek further following the trail we hope to pass by another community or a local house where we can ask for directions but to no avail. In rural areas such as this, houses are just kilometers away. And don't ever take their word for saying it's just near because their near more often than not is still kilometers away.
With Hapunang Banoi on the left where we are and another mountain range on the right, finally we reach another local house and lucky to have an owner around. We are at Sitio Lubog. We continue on hoping to reach a waterfalls as they said there is Lubog Falls and probably just settle of climbing the peak of Mt. Lubog. Reaching the house of Matandang Rolly, he said the right trail will lead to Mt. Ayaas. With his word, we again see light of reaching Mt. Ayaas on this adventure.
As we have been trekking for several hours now passing forest lands, bamboos and farm lands, crossing few streams on our search for the mountain, we hope to reach a community that has a sari sari store (local grocery store), where we can buy food and hopefully ask for a direction to either Mt. Lubog or Mt. Ayaas.
As we trek further on the left, it is evident on the Strava that we are heading to a counter clockwise circumferential direction from where we started. Until we reached the other end of Hapunang Banoi. We figured out there could really be a traverse on this mountain. It's an open farm land with upland rice planted. It's showing the wall of Hapunang Banoi. Just when we are all set to let go of the thought of climbing Mt. Ayaas, a group of locals showed up telling us that going left will be down to an access road to the community while the trail on the right will lead to Mt. Ayaas. There our hope of climbing Mt. Ayaas becomes alive again. Of course we want to accomplish what we come here for. They told us to take the left trail after the mango tree. As we stayed a little longer at the wall of the mountain to take few shots another local told us to take the right turn upon reaching the mango tree.
We followed the last direction given, turn right on the mango tree, and it looks like it make sense since the mountain peak seem to be like towards the right direction. But as we move few more meters on the right we encounter again the first group of locals that gave us the direction and asked us to go back and turn left. We followed. This time around the trail is more open that passes through farm lands that is following the contour of the mountain. But it never goes towards the peak but rather away from it. As we moved further, we encountered two of the group of locals earlier and said that we are heading away from the peak of the mountain. Though he said we can go further then we will encounter the church of the Rizalitas where we can ask for directions and probably someone to guide us. We are following the contour of the mountain side which reminds me of the trail in some parts of Mt. Ugo under the trees. We know very well that we reached the house because of the barking dogs. But there was no use as the caretaker said she do not know anything about the place. We had no other option but to move further, hoping to encounter another house. We encountered farm lands we went over fences. Until we reach another house. The old lady said there is a road that leads to the peak of Mt. Ayaas. Before leaving we asked for water as we run out of supply already.
The long haired man politely showed us the way after giving us 3 glasses of water, he walked with us. Until he showed to us a short cut, a trail that follows his farm land with fence on the side. This man is ended an angel. He said after the fence will already be the peak. It is a direct assault with no trail at all. We just followed the fence, holding on to what ever we can (tree trunks, the wooden fence, bushes and grass) as we negotiated that 60-80degrees inclined terrain. Until no more fence but tall sharp edged bushes. It is evident that this has been flattened not long ago, looks like just a week old. It gave us the trail to follow. Holding on to the bushes, we reached the first peak that is just too slippery. All that one can see now is an open grass land, with the view of the Sierra Madre Mountain Ranges as far as your eyes can see.
After passing by single track trail that goes up and down to several local houses and streams, alternating with covered trails with old trees up to that part that is open and farmed by the locals, passing by bamboos and fenced land, it is also evident how civilization slowly eat up the green forested mountain ranges of this area. On the left is a growing community with houses and subdivisions slowly eating up the mountain ranges, while at some part is a quarry of gravel that is used for commercial business in building houses and skyscrapers. Until how many more years will this place be conserved and left to the custody of the locals and will only get what they needed for daily living. We will never know but I will be one that will be sad if slowly this place will be destroyed to accommodate modernization.
As we continue to the next peak we can now closely see the flag that they said is the landmark of the summit of Mt. Ayaas. 11:45am, after 3hours and 15 minutes after so many wrong turns we finally reach the summit. Looking below at several mountain peaks rich with thick bushes, there are no tall trees at some mountain peaks. And with the grass land well arranged, looks like this part of the mountain was into upland farming decades ago, it has a well arranged terraces of bushes. And finally we found the established trail on the left. After few more shots of photos and little rest and eat some food we head down.
But mind you going down is another story. Following the established trail on the left, we bounced back and forth at the trail like a child happy on its playground. Its just so nice to run when we are sure of where we are heading. Going down passing by the electricity tower then until we pass by the house of Kuya Henry, the house that Kuya Roger told us early part of the trek this morning. Going down down down until we pass by a water falls on the left. It was 10 minutes before 2:00pm. It wouldn't be too far to where we come from probably we so take the luxury of spending some time on the water falls. After more than an hour of sprinting going down it is just a good reward to cool down our body on the cold flowing water. After sometime it rained. Then we decided to move on.
The next move going further down becomes another adventure. We encountered another fork which we had to decide which way to go. As we move right it leads to no trail, now bush whacking tall bushes and vines, slippery and muddy at some parts, beside big drops on the mountain slope. Until we figured out this could be a wrong trail. We went back to the last part that we entered, figured out it could be the other trail, went further down until finally we reached an old house with an old lady. She showed us the direction, until we reached another gate that leads to the river. Trying to figure out which way to go up to the saddle of Mt. Pamitinan and Mt. Hapunang Banoi, we move further down following the river. We encounter another house which the owner said just follow the river then go up on the left after passing by a house. House out of sight, we decided to go up on the right side of the river but the strava is showing a direction going away to where we are suppose to go.
We decided to go back to the river until we come across another house, the lady Mom told us to just go straight into the river. Though it's not really a heavy down pour of rain, I am really afraid of trekking a river especially when it is raining. An incident years ago that take away 4 lives of dear mountaineer friends really made me so conscious when it comes to river trekking. We went back to the house where the Mom is and asked the direction. She said its just the river. We followed her instruction until finally one local man bringing his umbrella catch up with us also going to Sitio Wawa. He served as our guide. Thanks to his presence no more uncertainty of which direction to take.
Until we reached Karugo Falls, the second water falls that we encountered on this adventure, a much bigger than the first one. We stopped for a while, played into the cold water while the local patiently waited for us. We left and trek further, encountered group of locals heading towards the water falls bringing some food and drinks. Until finally we get out and finally reach Wawa River near Wawa Dam. What a big relief. We are finally out of the jungle. What seemed to be endless inside the jungle is finally over. I still cannot figure out how we reached that side of the mountain and not back to where we started the trek earlier. We continue on up to the community. We reached where we started almost 4:00pm. What an adventure we had on this mountain traversing several rivers and streams uncertain of where it will lead to. We traveled 15km distance meeting several locals and local houses. Thanks to the generous people who showed us the way and I thank the mountain gods and goddesses for opening the trail gates of Mt. Ayaas and the gates of the river beds and the jungle to the Weekday Mountain Warriors like us, for giving us a safe passage and showing us the pristine and beautiful nature on this part of Montalban. Despite our ambitious spirits, they gave us the permission to enjoy the good weather and the long journey despite the puzzling trail along the way.
The province of Rizal, especially that of Montalban is such a vast area that has a rich mountain ranges. A good place to explore, to practice and to enjoy for a free-spirit hungry for adventure and with passion to be with nature like us. We hope that in slowly exploring the several mountain peaks of the area, it will also instill in us the grit and the guts, will toughen our body and mind just like the champions in running that gained such while honing their skills in the same mountain ranges.
Compared to the 3 mountain peaks that I have been to on this place, Mt. Ayaas is the furthest and it also has a different character when it comes to terrain. As oppose to the rocky terrain of the first three towards the peak, Mt. Ayaas is not, its just mostly purely hard packed single trail which passes by rivers at time that is similar to other mountains in the country. It has the most uphills as well and the longest.
When trekking this place, go get a guide or have somebody who knows the trail. Don't try it on your own as there are several trails that leads to nowhere.
This mountain can be a good training climb and a good place to climb for a gutsy newbie climber, otherwise one should be a bit experienced in tackling this place.
Have enough water that will last you the entire day and have packed lunch too. Even if you are a trail runner and just be there to do a run, its always best to be safe. Bring packed lunch, enough water, headlamp and first aid kit.
With the nature of the trail, this place can also be a good place to do a trail running event for newbie trail runners. A nice place to run around.
Most importantly I hope those who will climb this mountain they will practice the 'Leave No Trace (LNT) principle. There are few trash left in the summit.
Sitio Wawa crossing hanging Path Bridge
Saddle of Mt. Pamitinan and Mt. Hapunang Banoi
Down to Sitio Lubog
Up to the Peak of Mt. Ayaas
Down to Kuya Henry's House
River Crossing to Wawa River
The locals were right. Indeed, this is one long adventure with lots of great tale to tell. It was a very fulfilling fun filled day. Another mountain peak of Rizal ticked off the list. That was one great adventure that showed us how small we are compared to the jungle that we are in. It was one beautiful playground that sharpened our instinct, our land navigation skills less the gears. I thank my two companions, Sir Joseph and Coach JLB again and again, for tirelessly showing to me the beauty of nature and I hope in the many times that I am with you both I will be able to hone some trail running skills that you both already have. Together we will make our dreams of conquering big mountains and big races come true.
Another mountain conquered, battle scars added. One happy feet with a happy soul. Til the next adventure. Happy running.