I decided to try the major hike on Independence Day. The person who had invited me did not let me know what I was in for, but in the end, I enjoyed the challenge and had a great time. Kibungan Cross Country Traverse is approximately 50+ kilometres long with an entry point in Benguet and exit point in La Union. According to our guide, Kuya Lester, the complete traverse takes hikers to through three provinces from Benguet, then to Ilocos Sur, and concluding down in La Union. The trip takes you through a total of fifteen mountains. Most of us were wondering how long the climb would be since we will be passing through three provinces.
The toughest part of the climb is the Kibungan Traverse which takes two days, with a descent into Ilocos Sur, taking four hours. Then another day spent crossing the boundaries from Ilocos Sur to La Union and finally another five or so hours of trekking to arrive at the community of Santol-La Union which is the exit point.
The team assembled at Centris Quezon Avenue but I was from Baguio where I met everyone to start off the journey. They had not arrived until four AM so I had to make do with a cup of coffee from 711 and a bit of a snack from there as well. Once the team arrived we waited for the jeepney driver for about 30 minutes, and then we left going to Kibungan jump-off. We arrived at 9:30 AM at Kibungan Municipal Hall where we met our guide, Sir Lester. We registered for the trip and the organizer paid the fees since we paid all package for a complete package.
The guide started out by preparing us for the climb. We stopped by the first food house store for breakfast and for to pack lunch too. After that, we started our journey for what I felt was my climb of the year so far. We began our trek at the municipality, passing through the local houses and then entering the thick forest. We passed over several hanging bridges, with one where I could not help myself to throw up and feed the fishes below, due to the swinging.
While hiking I felt overwhelmed by the pine forest with the huge trees all around, exotic flowers, and the way that it simply makes you feel welcomed. This first day was spent ascending as our guide had informed us. Many, like me, found the ascent to be rather tiring due to carrying gear that weighed around fourteen kilos. Added to that was walking under the sun at its highest point.
We stopped at the camp area for lunch and to take some rest for about an hour. After that, we push through for an hour before reaching a naked part of the mountain which is at 1095 MASL. This is where a set of stairs are provided along the trail since we will pass through steep edges of the mountain ridge.
During this assault, I felt a twinge in my legs as they were cramping, eventually to the point where I could not move my legs. Special thanks to Sir Floro our leader for helping me, and also to his buddies and the other team member who gave me a knee support and salonpas as well. Oh, and I almost forgot, thanks for feeding me a bunch of salt tabs to help restore my body. You and the other friendly members of the hike know how to fight cramps.
The trail was challenging since we were passing through ridges, up and down hills, and a few assaults in a very humid environment. Even with all of these factors, we still enjoyed our hike despite the difficulty of the trail since there was a beautiful pine forest, birds singing, and an overwhelming landscape with several waterfalls gushing out water. It was nice to arrive at Camp Buga which is a grassland summit on one of the mountains located at 1,445 meters above sea level(MASL).
After passing over Mt. Buga we could see a few community houses in this area. At this point, we filled our water through the hose provided by the main line in this small community. Our next water source is an hour away, but I thought it best to have two litres of water on hand to risk running out like I what happened to me before when I climbed Mt. Makiling.
Having good guides are probably the most important thing when hiking since they know better than you. However, many hikers go it alone as well, with some of them getting lost, with some of them being lucky enough to be found by rescuers, and some of them are gone without a trace. Many of these are foreigners who seek adventure and do not understand the differences in the terrain here compared to their home countries.
We were soon approaching the campsite. It proved to be challenging not only because the night was approaching but also because the assault was continuous. During this, there were times where you pass through the edges of the wall, but luckily there were some barriers that made the climb safe. Near the end, my legs and feet were exhausted due to the heavy pack and I could not wait to rest for the evening.
We reached Tacadang Elementary School to spend the night at an altitude of 1770 MASL. Shortly after arriving it became dark and cold, with two of the guys starting to cook a hot dinner for us to warm up to.
On day two we ate our breakfast and then started trekking at eight AM. I could feel the pain in my legs and on my back, but no choice so moved along to pursue my goal to get home alive and complete as my husband says lol!
Like Kuya Lester our guide told us day two would be a challenge. Good thing we had plenty of rest from the night before. While trekking through the mountains and rice terraces we hiked on trails that were most exposed to the sun. After passing several more rice fields we finally arrived at Batangan Elementary School for lunch.
The hardest trail this afternoon was due to the high ascent, rocky trails, and exposure to the sun.
We resumed our trek after an hour of rest. Trek was a bit easier than what we had experienced before. This was the case until we approached a high ridge with a steep cliff. It was one of the most impressive ridge trails I have ever hiked. It was pure trekking heaven! Along the cliff is a high rock wall named Litalit Ridge with a 90° face along the wall. At first look, my knees began shaking.
You had to make a sure you moved along slowly and kept your balance, otherwise, you will make a quick descent straight to La Union…haha. This part proved to be a slow trek of about an hour. The hardest part of me after going down was I needed a porter to carry my bag since my big toes were aching, and my nail was bleeding as well.
After another hour of hiking, we arrived at a flat place where we were going to spend the night.
We finally touched down in the community of Sugpon Ilocos Sur. Thank God! I saw a store where I could get something to drink and have some snacks as well. I had rested enough and simply needed to clean up and enjoy some local food.
The next day we started our trek at eight AM. We descended 200 meters to reach the other side of the mountain, but before that, wow holy cow! There was a shocking descent on concrete stairs going down for an hour or more to reach the bridge boundary of Ilocos to La Union. It was the 13th bridge of the trek. I counted them haha.
After that breathtaking bridge, we’re ascending another 30 mins at about 30 MASL then down to gradual trails. We reached Santol La Union community around two pm. The coordinator said the van we rented will arrive at three pm, so we still have time to rest before they arrive. Unfortunately, at 5 pm the van has still not arrived. What a day! Then at seven pm, the van finally arrived and I was dying to take a shower and lay on a soft bed… Home home home.
That was an amazing trek I had. See you next trekking Pinays!
3 DAYS ITINERARY
Day 0 June 9, 2017Friday
08:00 PM Assembly at Cubao
09:00PM ETD to BaguioDay 1 June 10, 2017 Saturday
0400 ETA Baguio City
0530 ETD Baguio to Kibungan Municipality
1100 ETA Kibungan Municipality/ Registration
1200 ETA jumpoff Tanap/ Take Lunch
0100 Start trekking
0145 ETA Abas Community
0345 ETA Buga Campsite
0530 ETA Mt. Tagpaya Campsite
0630 ETA Proper Tacadang (Campsite/Set up camp)
0700 Prepare Dinner
1000 Lights off day 2 June 11, 2017, Sunday
0500 Wakeup call/Prepare breakfast
0600 Breakfast while Breaking Camp
0630 Break camp
0700 ETD Proper Tacadang Campsite
0930 ETA Lingey rice terraces
1200 Batangan Summit
0130 ETA Les-eng rice terraces/community
0400 Licungan community campsite (Ilocos Sur) Set up Camp
0530 Prepare DinnerDay 3 June 12, 2017, Monday
0500 Wake up call / prepare breakfast
0700 Break camp
0730 ETD Licungan Campsite
1000 ETA Sigcungan River/ Lunch
1130 ETD Inasan River
0300 ETA Santol La Union
0400 Sap-ayan Legway / Quick Wash up
0500 ETD Sap-ayan
0600 ETA Balaoan La Union (Via Jeep)
0630 ETA San Fernando La Union ( Via Bus)/ Dinner
0700 ETD San Fernando La Union
0100 ETA Manila
Inclusion: Transportation guide fee registration fee
exclusion: personal porter foods mountaineer gear event fee: 3300 pesos-with food
3000 pesos-without food