Sheila mentioned a “Mt. Napulak National, Invitational Friendship Climb” during our Mt. Malindang Trek. Though me and Ligaya are planning a Dinagyang adventure, I wasn’t really paying attention then since I don’t think Joy is prepared for such climb. But when I saw the Dinagyang Festival site and browsed at the activity announcement, I asked Joy if she wanted to. To my surprise, it was she who actually pushed me to scale Mt. Napulak. “Sure you wanted to climb Napulak?” I asked Joy.” Yup” she replied. I went into a frenzy of text-calling friends. I couldn’t believe we’re actually climbing Mt. Napulak AND joining Dinagyang Festival after that!
Six straight duties after, one ER consult (for an ingrown toenail) and a pricey flight fare, Joy and I met at Iloilo international airport. Fifteen years after my last visit to Iloilo City, I’m totally lost in what I previously considered my second home. It’s good to have friends and classmates who helped us all through out the booking and directions. We wouldn’t have survived Iloilo without them.
The “Climb Plan”
The planned itinerary consist of a 2 day- 2night climb, camping at Igbaras, Iloilo on the first night, trek to Napulak’s peak the second day, camp there, then traverse down to Nasadjan Falls, before going back to the city for the socials. Since me and Joy just arrived on the first day (and Sheila also had some important stuff to do) we tried to bargain for the first day and opted to catch up trek early next morning. Luckily, Jay Platinos (Higher Ground-Iloilo) the event organizer head, agreed to our pleas. So we spent the first day getting our supplies and packing up and registering for the climb. I based our “preparations” on what we learned from the net, because none of us (me, Joy,Sheila and Dawn) actually scaled Napulak before. All we knew is that Napulak is supposed to be a ‘fun” climb, with a picturesque nipple peak and an awesome 360 peak view. The rest, as Joy said, “we’ll pray for the best”..
First Day High
We woke early the next day and headed to Igbaras on board a passenger jeep. We were met at Igabaras by Jay Platinos and some of his comrades.I’m pretty amazed at the warmth of these guys, they’re assurances and gracious accommodations disengaged our usual aloof behavior. On the jump of site we were surprised to Mario, the flamboyant Spaniard we previously met in our Mt. Malindang trek before. He brought with him his friend Anna Baisha, another hiker in loved with the mountains of the Philippines. There were climbers from Luzon (PALMC, MESAU), Visayas (lots of them!) and Mindanao (Sandawa Apo and us). After brief introductions, and climber logging, we began to trek towards Mt. Napulak. It was here that my concern shifted to Joy whom I saw was very eager for this climb. After six straight duty days, an ER consult, and a flight fiasco, she was all set to extract her reward. And I can only give her positive reinforcements. “So help us lord.”
Mt.. Napulak‘s trail is pretty well established, thanks to the organizers diligence on guiding their participants, and the markers. There’s always someone from their group who keep on assisting us all through out the trek. (We find this trait commendable for the event hosts.) The trail runs on a zigzag trail around the foot of the Napulak,passing through forest line and ridges. The mountain range surrounding Napulak is typically bald dry. If ever there are vegetation, it is most likely secondary generations of cogon and carabao grass. There are patches of thick vegetation also (a hope for this mountain I guess) but kaingin is still rampant and from what I saw, it’s pretty obvious who’s the ultimate loser in this battle.
The two thing that I’m actually worried of is the extreme heat from the sun and Joy’s endurance. Heat exhaustion is very possible, especially in the absence of adequate re hydration and rest. Technical climbing skills is also of concern especially for beginners, as some trails entails rope maneuvering and loose soil climbing. I did lighten her load leaving some weight to carry for maintaining her climbing balance. Frequent rests and re-hydration also helped a lot with this. For the most part, there are three of us to assist her, and we are pretty damn sure how she is so determined to scale this peak despite her small “experience”. So all three of us agreed, we will move mountains just so Joy could achieve her goal. Even if at one point, she blurted out “hunee, have you forgotten!?” in extreme exhaustion!
The first part of the trek were mostly on open trail along a small community near the foot of Mt. Napulak. We spent those trek reminiscing previous climb and cracking jokes. Breaks were mostly spent on water breaks and eating binge, not to mention the merrymaking we did with some climbers. We’ve made friends with so many people there. By lunch time we were already on the forest line and had our lunch on a dried creek. This will be the last water source en route to the peak. We ate our lunch here and rested until the sun is off open trail’s sight so as not to burn our skin. By 4pm we were at the foot of what seemed to be the final assault towards Napulaks peak. This cogon-carabao grass covered trail is some sort of a ridge trail, zigzagging through the mountain side with a constant steep ascent. The one thing magnificent about this trail, is the 360 view you get. The disadvantage? I’m afraid of heights, so I don’t look downwards in these types of ascents. Funny but yes, I’m afraid of heights.
Joy of the Peak
Before the sun sets, we were already in the campsite, just below the nipple’s peak. The nipple’s peak is actually a limestone or coralline rock jutting out of Napulak’s mound, hence the name “nipple” peak. We were all awed by the view and picture perfect peak of Napulak. And I can feel joy’s elation and disbelief at what she just accomplished. We were both proud of it. I can see the glitter in her eyes. “Hunee! I couldn’t believe i I actually survived that trek and scaled this mountain. I’m so happy!” She was totally taken by the triumph she had. We all congratulated her and clapped our hands! Another one happy recruit to our love for the outdoors!
We then pitched camp near the foot of the rock, as the cold wind is starting to blow hard. This is another unique feature of Napulak, that because it’s peak is bald, with no trees to ‘dampen” , strong winds actually blow westward. Then we all waited for the sun to set and took photos of everyone, and glad we all did. This is one magnificent sunset I saw from a mountain top.
Gusty Night Cap at the Peak
We were able to cook our dinner rice before climbing the peak so we only cooked our viand for that night. I’m proud of the fact that I’ve got two ladies in my climbing team to cook for us– another achievement for me :). We then changed to our anti freeze attires (except Sheila who is used to the cold weather of Bukidnon) and enjoyed our dinner. One of the best dinner I had so far, with my friends and love one around. We then spent the rest of the night talking about our buddies who are not there (sorry guys) as we always do. The other participants are definitely enjoying their night also,as we see some of them cozying with other members of the climb team. When the wind gustiness blew harder, the four of us went in to our tents already. For my standards, this is something unique as most of the peaks I went to don’t have wind gustiness this strong. Had it rain that night, I would have thought a typhoon was whipping us there in the peak! I went out of our tent several times just to check if the tent is holding up against the wind. Our friends Mario and Anna weren’t so lucky. Their tent’s poles gave way and they have to be transferred to some place shielded from the wind. Joy and I have a brief talk about our climb and I’m pretty happy too she was very much enjoying her recent adventure. Then we dozed of. or I think I did. Until nature called me out.
Romancing the Nipple’s Peak
The next morning we woke up early and climbed the rock peak just to get the best view of the sunrise.The 90 degree wall climb to get into a false plateau is hardly easy. The nipple rock was actually a tricky climb, with the sharped rock edge menacingly waiting for one misstep. But the view up is astoundingly fantastic. The only structure I don’t understand there was the man made metal framed cross built and secured on top. No disrespect to my christian brothers, but this one is a bit too much of Christianity. I can’t see the reason why we need to mark a place just to show it was God’s creation when in fact, the structure where it stand is more than enough to show it’s God’s handiwork indeed. Uh, people…
After taking numerous photos on top, and actually holding my fears off for a while, we went down and prepared for our breakfast. After we ate, we then cleaned up our camp site and packed our gears up. We will be traversing to Nasadjan falls and I don’t think the trail will be much easier. After we packed our stuff, the whole climb group posed for our final photos on the peak. man we sure enjoyed those “wacky shoots”. Just take a look at those pictures, I’m sure we all did enjoy it !
The Balancing Act: How not to slip on a dry, loose soil
My hunch for the downhill trek was confirmed. Though it was almost all a downhill trek with astounding views both side of the trail, the soil is rather dry and loose. The heat is excruciating and the water source, sparse to non existent. On several occasions we had to hold on to root parts and vines just to prevent ourselves from slipping down along trail. And not once did Joy, admonish me for my recklessness and thoughtlessness. “Hunee, have you forgotten?!!Again?!” There goes my last quote syndrome. The other member’s of the climbing team doesn’t seem to be bothered by the trail’s difficulty. We were gasping for breath and losing large droplets of perspiration, and they all look calm like it was a walk in the park!
By lunchtime,we were halfway downhill. Camping at a house for our lunch, we made use of the time conversing with friends Mario and Anna. We arrived noticing Mario sprawling comfortably on the ground like it was some water bed. “Ambriento!” Surprisingly, we were treated by the climb organizers to a free lunch! Another pleasant surprise for us! Another one hearty lunch indeed, right Mario???! Or was he really bent on washing the dishes as Sheila cajoled him to do?!
We then continued walking towards Nasadjan Falls, mostly passing through populated communities in the hillside. By 3pm we arrived near the bridge en route to Nasadjan Falls. It was there that we decided to forego Nasadjan Falls of exhaustion (after informing Jay, the event organizer) and then went back to the city directly to rest before the socials.
Socializing with the climbers @ Barbecue Park : Bravo!!!
Taking some 3 hours rest in our city’s base camp, we went to Barbeque Park for the climb socials. We waited there for the other climb participants to arrive. They actually arrived late due to some unforeseen transpo problems. But we had some hearty dinner, and again we were showed the brand of graciousness this event organizers have shown us since day one-personalized service. A short program of speeches, acknowledgment, feed backs and talks followed. When we got our certificates and shirts, I can see the enjoyment in Joy’s eyes. Re acquainting with our new found friends and reminiscing together our climb experiences, I think we made this climb another fruitful climb after all. All of us were very much happy with this climb. Another trekking experience we wont forget!
(We thank the very accommodating organizers and host of this climb, Higher Grounds and Talahib Ecomountaineers, as well as the LGU/Tourism of Igabaras, the climb participants, new found friends and old friends alike. They all made this climb possible and enjoyable for us! Hope to meet and climb with you again in the future!)
(Authors thanks also goes to the people who took some of the photos here. I owe it to them, that we had some precious moments documented here.)