Mt. Kalawitan is the 4th highest mountain of Luzon. We have scaled it last November 2012 and named it Halloween Climb. In fact it was one of my memorable climb and gladly that I was part of the 2nd exploratory team who did traverse for this mountain and I’d like to thank you Ms. Jay for bringing up to my knowledge this event. To the team leader (Sir Migs) of this expedition for accepting me to be part of this special case hike, I would like to say him thank you very much. As of this moment the traverse trail coming from Bontoc is littered by hunter’s trap and quite risky if you will attempt to try without guide.
Disclaimer: I do not own the photos here and credit to all of my buddies in climb who shared their photos (you know who you are). My intent was to document my experienced for this hike. Do not attempt without the guide who is knowledgeable on that area. There is a history that few have been injured due to hunter’s trap and even fatally wounded. Avoid night trek and try to catch up the IT and to have contigency plan like ecamp in Suyo campsite if you have failed to reach on time. Darkness will limit your vision to see those warning from trees.
Currently it placed as the 10th highest mountain in the Philippines, rising 2714meters above sea level displacing Mt.Amuyao on the top 10. Famously the route from Sabangan is most popular among hiker passing from Apa Campsite to Asoan Pine Trees to Summit. The accommodation for hiker is well served such as campsite and the food via Sabangan. The only disadvantage for a lone hiker like me or small group is that the fee is staggering high.
The true summit of Mt. Kalawitan is bounded by 2 barangay of Bontoc which is Talubin and Bayyo, another peak nearby is the renounced summit characterized by dwarf bamboo at Sabangan. It takes 14-18hrs to reached the summit via Bontoc whereas we managed to reached it in 15hrs. One beauty of Mt. Kalawitan is the experienced of all terrain from pine trees forest, woodland, mossy forest, grassland, whether gradual, steep or technical.
The trail entry at Bontoc is either in Sitio Talubin or Sito Bayyo, we choose Talubin
Exit Trail is in the Halsema highway of Poblacion in Sabangan, Mountain Province
Time to reached Summit (14-18hrs)
Time to descend – 6-10hrs
Summit view =360 view if you will climbed up the trees
Day 0 8PM – Bus Departure via Ohayami Bus (450 pesos up to Banaue)
Day 1 8AM – Banaue Arrival
8:20AM – Roam around Banaue Rice terrace viewpoint
8:30AM – leave the area
9:30AM – Mt. Polis Arrival (take early lunch and photo ops)
10:30AM – Departure
11:30AM – Bayyo Rice Terraces
11:45AM – Sitio Talubin, Bontoc (jump off) Final preparation
12PM Start Trek
3PM – Watersource
4PM – Campsite
Day 2 – 6AM wake up call
8AM – Departure
11:00AM Suyo Campsite
2PM Matthew’s Garden
4:30PM Mt. Kalawitan Summit Arrival
6AM Wake up call
8AM Start Descend
1:30PM Apa Campsite
2:30PM Resume trek
4PM ETA Halsema Highway, Sabangan it is either you wait for the bus going to Baguio or back to Sagada via Rented Jeep. My article will focus on the traverse route coming from Bontoc and made an exit at Halsema Highway in Sabangan.
I will divide my article into 5 segments:
1.Sitio Talubin to Monna Campsite
2.Monna Campsite to Suyo Campsite
3.Suyo Campsite to Kalawitan Summit
4.Kalawitan Summit to Asoan Pine trees to Apa Campsite
5.Apa Campsite to Halsema Highway, Sabangan
Sitio Talubin to Monna Campsite (4-5hrs)
Due to concern of safety, our team leader set a pre-climbed for Mt. Cristobal Traverse but in reverse this is to assess and evaluate the strength and stamina of each participants. The distance between the lead pack and sweep pack should not too far because of the dangers of hunter’s trap.
We took the last trip of bus going to Banaue, just on time that the chartered jeep was waiting for us. The whole bus was fully occupied by the participants going to Sagada while us going to mountain. Our jeep temporarily dropped us at Banaue Rice Terraces Viewpoint and roamed around.
Banaue Rice Terraces
We didn’t stay long enough then proceed to our next destination is Mt.Polis where we plan to have an early lunch. The travel time from Banaue to Mt. Polis will take more than an hour.
It was very good day, the sun is high but we were surrounded by fogs due to high elevation. Mt. Polis is the boundary between Ifugao and Mountain Province wherein there is a marker. The other group often makes a joke to persuade us from joining them to Sagada instead of hurting ourselves in climbing mountain. The team spirit is high as the weather permitted us for a good journey. For an hour, we have finished our lunch then proceeded to another destination which is Bayyo Rice Terraces in Bontoc, Mountain Province. It is one of the terraces popular in Mountain Province aside of boasting its natural beauty. Due to modernization and urbanization, the houses were no longer constructed in primitive way. The beauty degrade its beauty but still very spectacular. In viewpoint of Bayyo Rice terraces, there is comfort room as your final preparation in climb. Less than 30 minutes from it is the jump off at Sitio Talubin.
Near the Ifugao-Mountain Province BoundaryBayyo Rice Terraces
There were 2 guides hired on our climb, one of them is kuya matthew. You can fetch water here before proceeding at the climb proper. It is quite very hot that day, you can’t imagine that despite of high altitude you can’t felt the coldness of the surrounding. Around noon when we have started our trek.
Jump off at Sitio TalubinMost of us believed that it is gradual and due time will became continuously assault. On the first 15 minutes, we made stop over along the trail and joking.. DEFINE GRADUAL!! 🙂
Start TrekAfter the footpath for about 30minutes, we finally emerged into this pine trees forest.
you will emerge on pine trees line (trek is similar from Pulag akiki ranger station up to eddet river)From pine trees line, the trail will now change into scenic vegetation landscape where there is carabao roaming around. From herein you can spot the Mt.Kalawitan which is too far.
Indeed a very long hike journeyAfter more than an hour we have finally arrived into this open place and made snack break while some of them took their lunch
First stop over breakThe trail continues on the pine trees forest, few logs were on the trailside. The guide explained the purpose for it is to support the locals’ need in construction of their houses. The trail continues as gradual with few uphill climb. The 2nd stop over after 2hrs where there is shelter and goats freely to roam around. The 3rd wave of resumed hike was very heart pounding assault but your rewards is the Bayyo Rice Terrace view, now you are directly on the opposite side of the highway. The place is grandeur.
After 3hrs of trekking, finally reached the view point for Bayyo Rice TerracesDont miss out the watersource because it is just nearby and this is your last water station to refill. Full your tank because the next watersource is 15hrs away at the 3rd day in Apa Campsite. Hiker should have water discipline. If you go straight ahead, just 10 minutes away you have to passed on the ledges across the slope of the mountain then return this point to hike up.
Last watersource on Day 1-(the next watersource is 15hrs away or more, in APA campsite at your Day 3)From that viewpoint, your next destination is the Monna Campsite which is 1-1.5hrs away. It is continuously uphill and it takes us 4 hrs trekking (breaks does not include) to reach this place starting from the jump off. The place is relatively flat and large, you can choose anywhere you want. The campsite looks like Mt. Bubuos in Mt.Sicapoo Traverse. That night was very memorable and having fun for this halloween climb wherein my few fellow made cosplaying of ghost.
Monna CampsiteDay 2 Monna Campsite to Suyo Campsite to Summit (9-12hrs)
As early as 5:30AM, everyone was busy on camping chores such as cooking, preparing meals and break camping for fast departure on site. By 7AM, we took our breakfast before proceeding to next phase of hiking.
Within an hour the trail is continuous uphill but not technical across the pine trees forest. There is slight patch of forest here where limatik presence can be felt. There is a place where you can overlook the town below and Mt. Polis characterized by cell sites tower was looming on the opposite side.
After the pine trees, the trail now change into woodland forest and enjoying the canopy of trees against the scourging heat of the sun. Some of us made an speed up because limatik was everywhere and aggressive. The trail is open but very narrow, one at a time can pass. In the middle of the forest, we took short break and resumed immediately. We were dismayed more often along the trail because of the frequent downhill which nullify your elevation rise.
Resume trek to pine trees forestAfter 3 hrs, the surrounding will change into mossy forest. The group is still intact, no one is left behind. The trees in the surrounding was most often hacked to its trunk and insert flat wood into it. It is warning that nearby there is a trap. We passed to some part with soft ledges on the slope.
Emerge into semi-mossy forest but majority is woodlandThe trail continues like this until we emerge into this flat grassland which were surrounded by trees. The campsite is called Suyo which is not accommodating place, only few tent can pitch here when they decided to have ecamp. Many of the thorny plants protrude on that area. By 11AM, we had arrived here. Everyone was hungry and decided to have lunch here.
Suyo Campsite where we spent our lunchBy 12pm, we had resumed our trekking. The route is rolling uphill and downhill varying from 2000m-2400masl then returned to 2100masl then rise again. If I remember, 3 times you will encounter those big elevation drop. The limatik (blood leech) was became a topic and being discussed that if limatik exist around 2000masl. The jokes was at a height 1999MASL limatik are waiting and will not crossed the 2000masl point. The answer to question is to see for yourself, climb Mt.Kalawitan. We called it High Altitude Limatik.
By 2:00PM we had finally arrived at the Manny’s Garden. We can say this is alternative campsite characterized by an open space surrounded by mossy forest. Herein, we took another short break.
Entrance to Matthew’s GardenMatthew’s GardenWe resumed the trek, the onward path is now a mossy forest. Aside from the trees marking. Deep inside of the mossy forest flooring was holed up, literally taking this word the place was littered by deep holes for several meters. The bottom of it was unknown, maybe it is spike so that wild animals like civet, wild boar or deep may unable to escape. The water inside of it forbid us to see the bottom. In able to measure its depth, used long stick or trekking pole. Actually when we tried to poke the bottom, we weren’t able to reach the bottom.
Mossy Forest littered by hunter’s trap, mostly deep hole trapsFrom this highly dense forest, will change again into woodland. Few parts are technical where you have to used your hand for grip and lift yourself up across the slopes but there are roots and branches that you can use for support. The last attempt was very heart pounding, my strength was already degrading but it was regained when our guide who gone first at the summit returned to looked after us told we were already nearby.
By 4:00PM,we had arrived at Mt. Kalawitan Summit. There is summit marker “MT.KALAWITAN, Bayyo”. We were above the clouds but due to bonsai trees only few can be seen at surrounding. On the east Mt. Amuyao can be seen making an optical illusion that it looks more higher. The summit area is not yet cleared for campsite so the hiker should have choose the best place where they can pitch tent. Among the participants, due to fatigue I was the first who fell asleep around 8pm.
Mt. Kalawitan Summit 2714MASLThe true beauty of summit at the Mt. Kalawitan is much appreciated by climbing into the pine trees. If you are good enough in direction you can pinpoint the pre arranged mountain Luzon 1-2-3 (pulag-tabayoc-timbak). You are very lucky if you will have sea of clouds. Just like Mt Amuyao the temperature is very cold ranging from 6-10degrees.
The water remaining I have is 3L and I am trying to conserve it for another long hike for the following day.
Day 3 – Summit to Asoan Pine Trees forest
We took plenty of time at the summit and left around 8am because on our perspective the descend will now be much easier. We were pretty exhausted but regain our strength after long rest and energy have been rejuvenated. The initial stage of descend is quite easy, very gradual and almost flat except that some part is slippery due to decayed leaves. Passing through dwarf bamboo as proclaimed summit of Sabangan then the woodland.
Start of DescendAfter an hour, around 8:30AM when we make our first stop over. The topic was about that there is an earthquake felt that time but I didnt sense it. The view here became scenic that there were rice terraces from beyond, even Halsema highway can be seen now but still we are way too far. From this woodland which is semi gradual will become steep descend and technical. You will maneuver yourself across the branch/roots of the trees, choosing the rocks or foothold to hold onto
Behind us is Mt. KalawitanBy 10AM we had finally emerged again into pine trees forest. Descending is quite challenging despite of being established. The view is mesmerizing but the trail path is narrow, barren loose soil and sometimes with thick dense of dead pine trees leaves or pinnacle. Regardless of shoes, it is futile to resist to experienced to slide down at least once.
Steep Asoan Pine Trees ForestAround 11AM, when we made our 2nd regrouping at the middle of Steep Asoan Pine trees forest. All of our throat were craving for water. No one was taking trail food because of water-empty container. From that point it is still 2hrs ahead if you are fast enough. Entertainment was performed by our team leader and he asked some trivia and whoever answered correctly, reward will be given. For example what is the oldest fish and saltiest bird. I didn’t know it was a joke and thinking of serious answer that time.
Stop over at Asoan Pine Trees ForestWhile the Pulag-akiki boasted its killer trail from Eddet River to Marlboro Country, Mt Kalawitan do have also owned steep pine trees forest. The trail along Asoan continues for more than an hour, awhile ago if you have taken precaution now focus on the next challenge because the trail was littered by thickened pine trees needles.
Around 12:30PM, when the terrain change now into woodland. Below is the river and sound of its flow can be heard. At 1:30PM when we finally arrived at the Apa Campsite, refreshed ourselves with water. Tidy and wash up for the meantime because of 3 days that our bodies was not touched by water. We had tried to communicate the contact to fetch at certain point and time, also that we have safely make descend. Apa Campsite to Halsema Highway is just 2 hrs away that is the why we took time at Apa Campsite. It is characterized by an lodging house with flat area where hiker can also make bonfire. Faucet is also there. There is also trash area where garbage should be segregated.
Apa CampsiteAt 2:30pm we left the area and I thought that trekking will now be much easier. That’s not the case, although it is more to have gradual descend and flats. The challenge still doesn’t end and nothing to rejoiced. Trail will passed-by on the side of the river, following it downstream. Some of the path cemented but you will trembled for some instance that the river was below you around 30-40m high while you are trekking on this narrow pilapil which is footwide covered by lichen.
Descend from Apa Campsite to Sabangan Jump offOnce the river was no longer on your right side, it will be signed of relief. You will now have to descend on pine trees forest slope but only few grew. The trail is Mt. Batulao-alike.
Several bridges and local shade will encounter the way. Crossing the agno river is possible by using the hanging bridge installed above it. Washing at the agno river is highly discourage. By 3PM, the rain started to pour and luckily I was on time arrived at the bigger waiting shade where I was able to secure my things inside and take out my rain coat. The final segment of the sabangan jump off is another uphill climb but this time on road. We left the area by 5pm and arrived at Sagada around 7pm. I have just joined them at lodge and have post celebration dinner.
Day 4- Some of us took the first trip going to baguio and I have failed to joined them at the Sagada tour because I was committed to met my long lost friend in Baguio. Mt. Kalawitan Traverse is truly one of the formidable mountain of cordillera not only just the hunters’ trap but for the varying terrain you will encounter and lastly it is very long hike.
Either of the 2 route, take traverse from bontoc or use traditional route in Sabangan do have pro’s and con’s. It is up to you to decide.
You may also looked below my related articles/experiences for the mountains of cordillera.
Mt. Amuyao Traverse 2702 MASL of Mountain Province Ifugao- Difficulty 8/9- 3D/2N
Mt. Napulauan Traverse 2642 MASL of Ifugao, Difficulty 7/9- 2D/1N
Mt. Osdung 2616 MASL of Benguet, Difficulty 1/9
Mt. Nangaoto 2573 MASL of Benguet, Difficulty 2/9
Mt. Kapugan 1305 MASL of Ifugao, Difficulty 3/9
Mt. Pulag 2922 MASL of Benguet, Difficulty 3/9
Mt. Tabayoc 2845 MASL of Benguet, Difficulty 6/9
Mt. Timbak Traverse 2717 MASL of Benguet, Difficulty 5/9
Mt. Timbak 2717 MASL of Benguet, Difficulty 3/9
Mt. Sto. Tomas Traverse 2215MASL+ of Benguet, Difficulty 5/9