Returning to the photo diary format as I'm heading in a new, more visuals-oriented direction on my blog, as opposed to featuring itineraries. It allows me to focus on my strengths - photos and video - as opposed to being a virtual tour guide, which most bloggers are much better than me at.
Though much lesser-known than Mt. Pulag, the more difficult Mt. Ugo trek should count itself as one of the great world-class treks of the Philippines.
Last January, I was finally able to do the two-day traverse of Mt. Ugo with Trail Adventours, which had been long recommended to me as a trek of outstanding beauty. I had actually won not one, but two free day hikes from Trail Ad during the Muni Meetup: Travel & Truth, and decided to combine them into a weekend.
The actual distance of the trek is around 30km over two days (12km on day 1, 18 km on day 2), but the actual distance we ended up covering was over 40km.
PART 1: KAYAPA, NUEVA VIZCAYA TO DOMOLPOS VILLAGE
Day 1 begins with an overnight bus ride to Nueva Vizcaya, where we disembark at CCQ Bus Stop & Restaurant to await the jeeps that will take our big group to the jumpoff point at Kayapa, Nueva Vizcaya.
From there it's a long jeepney ride in the dark to Kayapa; just how long, I can't quite remember because of the delay caused by - of course! - a flat tire as we made our way to the foot of Mt. Ugo.
Soon we arrive at Kayapa, Nueva Vizcaya, with just about half an hour left for breakfast, repacking, and Trail Adventours' customary pre-climb briefing. It's a charming, quiet town, quite remote, but breakfast at the market is sumptuous and customer service surprisingly good. They spoke perfect English, too, curiously, as they do around the Cordilleras.
So the trek begins. It is customary to traverse the mountain from Nueva Vizcaya to Benguet as this makes for an easier, less steep ascent. The hike for the day begins with a couple of hours uphill through picturesque pine forest.
Some snapshots from the steep but beautiful uphill pine forest section:
Finally, the physically-demanding uphill slog ends and you enter an eerily quiet village, Indupit, with a water source. It marks the beginning of the long, flat, and stunning "highway" section of the hike, already at around 1800MASL.
From here on in, it's a long, seemingly unending walk with constant stunning views on one side or the other.
As I had managed to get some distance from the bulk of the group during the uphill portion, I managed to have a couple of blissful hours quietly hiking alone along this stunning trail.
After endless walking you come to a bend with a stunning vista: Baguio City in the distance (not in picture), and a first glimpse at the summit of Mt. Ugo itself.
Though the summit seemed close, it was still a few kilometers before our lunch stop for the day. Finally we came to the junction before descending to Domolpos Village, Trail Adventours' preferred campsite (vs. the camping ground below the summit itself).
I stopped for a sandwich break, waited for Guido to arrive with some more of the group, then we made our way down, down, down to Domolpos Village.
I arrived in the village shortly after 1pm and had my packed lunch and a good rest.
The primary advantage of staying in Domolpos is not needing tents or camping gear because we stayed in a large classroom, and having the luxury of real toilets!
Depending on the strength and speed of the group, the Trail Ad guides decide whether or not to summit later in the afternoon or very early morning on day 2. As most of our group had arrived at around 3pm, it was decided we would make the round trip to the summit at 330pm, to save the trouble of making the assault with full packs very early the next day.
END OF PART 1
Continue to part 2, where I recap the summit assault, and the stunning second day traverse down to Benguet!
Interested in doing this trek? Go with the best! Trail Adventours: http://www.trailadventours.com/philippine-mountains/mt-ugo