One of the things I learned in climbing mountains is that reaching your goal will never be easy. You need to endure all the pain and learn to motivate yourself and push it into the limit. Mt. Tapulao reminded me of this virtue. More than 10 hours of hiking from jump-off to the campsite and another hour from the campsite to the summit. The goal... is all worth it...
The best seat to view the beauty of nature is never cheap.
Mount Tapulao (also known as High Peak) is the tallest mountain in the Zambales Mountain range and in the province of Zambales in the Philippines. The peak, which rise to an elevation of 2,037 metres (6,683 ft), is located in the municipality of Palauig, Zambales. Its name is derived from the abundance of Sumatran Pine trees in the area, known in the local Zambal dialect as tapulao.
Major jump-off: Sitio Dampay, Brgy. Dampay-Salaza, Palauig
LLA: 15.4833 N, 120.1166 E, 2037 MASL
Days required / Hours to summit: 1-2 days / 6-12 hours
Specs: Major Climb, Difficulty 6/9, Trail class 1-3
Features: Pine forests, views of West Philippine Sea
Hiking amidst pine trees in a semi-temperate climate is an experience usually attributed to the Cordilleras, Mt. Pulag in particular. However, Mt. Tapulao in Zambales possesses the same charms. In fact, its name, tapulao, means pine tree in the local dialect, and it is truly an apt description. However, it has a character of its own. Many hikers never forget the rocky road that constitutes 85% of the trail! On the other hand, what is seemingly an endless sojourn along the path becomes a beautiful trek across pine forests, and into a mossy forest, at the end of the trek. (Read more in PinoyMountaineer)
We left Manila at around 11:00PM via Victory Liner in Cubao. Since, we didn't make it to the last trip going to Iba, Zambales, we hoped in to the bus going to Olongapo and from Olongapo city, we transferred to another bus going to Santa Cruz. We just told the bus conductor where we wanted to go and they dropped us of along the highway where we found ourselves alone at around 4 in the morning. After a few minutes, a group of tricycle drivers arrived and they brought us to the registration area. Travel time from the highway to the jump-off/registration area is around 15-20 minutes. We paid the tricycle around 200 pesos for that one way trip.
We started our trek at around 5 in the morning. The average trek time from jump-off to campsite is 12 hours. We tried to move faster than that. Here are the pictures of the trail going up to the campsite. If you are planning to climb it on the wet season, the trail is not just slippery, but muddy as well. There are portions of the trail that turned to a river of mud after heavy down pour.
BENCH!!! A relief from more than 2 hours of climb.
After reaching the second water source, the rain started to pour so I've secured my DSLR first before we prepared our lunch. After taking almost an hour of rest for lunch, we started our assault again. However, I was not able to take more pictures after due to intermittent rain.
When we were almost at the campsite, the heavy rain started to fall. It was sad thinking that you will pitch your tent on rain and stay inside it for almost the whole duration of our stay in the campsite. But the best thing comes to those who have faith. A few moments before we reach the campsite, the heavy rain stopped and the Mt. Tapulao started to reveal itself to us.
One of the best campsites I've been. There are views on both side of the camp.
My Vango Banshee...
Every guide has this huge water gallon with them that they filled with water from the water source near the campsite.
The view from the eastern side of the camp.
The view from the western side of the camp.
We woke up at around 4:00AM and prepared for our final assault to the summit. We didn't break camp, we just brought the important things with us. If we were granted a good weather and a clearing the day before. We were not so lucky at the summit.
Kudos to Metropolitan Mountaineering Society in putting up all the markers along the way.
No Clearing doesn't mean you'll never get good photos.
Mt. Tapulao has one of the best mossy forests in the country
The door to Pine Forest.
Mt. Tapulao was a mining area before. When the summit started to cave-in, the locals started to realize the impact of the quarrying to the mountain. Thus, the mining stopped and to have an alternative source of income, Mt. Tapulao has been a destination to mountaineers like us.
Aftermath of Limatik Attack.
Breakfast, Break camp before we test our toes and knees on the rocky down hill hike.
One of those mud traps.
The second water source
After more than 6 hours of climbing down the slippery, rocky and muddy trail, we've reached the jump-off point. I don't need to give more details about the experience, I will just show this:
This is by far the most difficult climb I've had. The trail is not difficult in technical level but the duration, the mud and the sliding rocks along the trail made the climb very difficult. However, the view on the top is all worth it.