Mariveles, Bataan: Assaulting Tarak Ridge & Summit
When I was on all fours – hands gripped tight on jutted tree roots, feet struggled to find steady footing on loose soil – on a semi-vertical assault with a heavy camera pack on my waist and bulky tripod and a liter of water strapped on my back, that was about the time I begin to ask myself, “Why am I even doing this?”
The Mount Mariveles mountain complex of Bataan consists of several peaks including the jagged Tarak Ridge, a favorite major climb destination among mountaineers. At 1,130 MASL on its highest peak (Tarak Ridge is at 1,006 MASL), its altitude is not even close to half the size of the massive Mount Pulag, but, yes, Tarak Ridge of Mount Mariveles is considered one heck of a major climb. Why? It’s not the elevation, blame the punishing trail.
Baranggay Alas-asin serves as the main jump off point to Tarak. The trail begins with a gradual ascent on paved roads to wide dirt trails – light and easy. Progressive upward slopes and narrow forest paths shortly follow which leads to clearing. From that point, the trek involves a series of uphills and downhills until your reach the Papaya River resting point.
This is the tricky (but definitely not the funny) section of the trail. From Papaya River, the trail steepens which would probably rough up your legs first. Next, the incline turns into a semi-vertical ascent which would now require your hands for support. At this point, you will most likely be catching your breath every five to ten minutes or so.
Reaching the grassland section is almost a relief but the loose dirt makes this part slightly difficult (but really difficult on your way down). Average hikers can finish this assault in 1.5-2 hours before reaching the campsites. The final assault to the summit is only 30 minutes away – but would, well, somehow, require the same process.
Hikers have two campsite options – both have their pros and cons.
Watching the sun go down and waking up to a wonderful sunrise are among the rewards in climbing mountains. If you’re the type, you would love setting up camp at Tarak Ridge. One campsite on the ridge has thick vegetation to protect you from the intense wind during the night and the blistering heat during the day. If the site is packed, you could always pitch your tent out in the open – just make sure your tents are double-pegged and can withstand the heavy winds. Camping at the ridge brings you also closer to the summit. On the contrary, this means assaulting the ridge with a heavy pack and lots of water since the water source is down on Papaya River, which brings me to my next point.
The Papaya River campsite guarantees shade from the heat and ensures water supply without trudging farther. In addition, hikers can leave their heavy pack back at the camp and assault the summit carrying less. Win-win situation, right? But what if you want to witness both the sunset and the sunrise – or in my case, take a photograph of both the sunset and the sunrise?
My interest in photography is one of those things I found difficult to explain – even to myself. Over a few years of traveling around the country, I endured great lengths (and sometimes, trouble) for taking a single photo which, for no beneficial reason at all, just makes me happy.
But this climb to Mount Tarak was, somehow, different. The length to endure, the difficulty to overcome and the time spent – everything doubled just for the sake of a photograph of the sunset and sunrise. But there’s a catch: I’m not even sure if would be able to capture the photograph as I imagined. Given the fact that I’m not even an experienced or a seasoned mountaineer, others may find this impractical, but for me, it felt like a “need”, not a “want”.
And the “need” required me to do a back-to-back assault – without any assurance of a good weather nor nice lighting conditions. In the end, I just have to find out for myself.
How far are you willing to go for something you really love? How much beating can you take for something you truly value? How committed are you to your passion? I’m sure many photographers out there understand what and how this meant.
This climb to Mount Mariveles’ Tarak Ridge and Summit taught me that when you’re on the brink of giving up – don’t. Not just yet.
1. And again, this climb was organized by Basekamp Market! Market!. Thank you very much to team leaders, Sir Greg and Sir Godo for making this happen, and of course, the delicious meals. Caldereta, sinigang, omelet, tuyo fried rice, soup – aruuuuuy, san ka pa? To my new climbing comrades, kampay! Hanggang sa susunod na rakenrol-an, mga ma’am at ser.
2. For Basekamp Market! Market!‘s upcoming climb schedules, check out their Facebook page.
3. The assault to the ridge was really crucial – so think carefully if you’re going to set up camp at the ridge or at the Papaya River. Of course, if you’re a really seasoned mountaineer reading this post, this is no hiking matter.
4. Wear light clothes during the hike. There are open trails during the hike and it gets quite really hot.
5. Porters can be arranged at Alas-asin Baranggay Hall. For the rates, I don’t know.
6. Again, it’s always advisable to be in good hiking condition before the climb date.
7. The transportation from Manila-Bataan and vice versa, the food, and environmental fees were all covered in Basekamp’s package. But the fare would cost around P250.00 (Genesis Bus, Bataan Transit)
8. More about Bataan.
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11. Be safe and happy travels.