Atok, Benguet: Mount Timbak & The Taxing Traverse To Kabayan
I thought the KM-55 to Timbak summit was punishment, I thought descents were supposed to be easier than ascents, I thought the Shake, Rattle, and Roll film anthology will come to a final installment – but I thought wrong. With my dwindling budget, the only way to Ballay was the Timbak-Kabayan Barrio Traverse, and unfortunately, it was the hard way down.
But first things first, let’s talk about Mount Timbak.
Timbak, The Philippines’ Ninth Highest Mountain
Soaring at an altitude of 2,717 MASL, Mount Timbak currently ranks as the 9th highest point of elevation in the Philippines, and the 3rd highest peak in Luzon Island. This mountain, resting on the borders of Atok and Kabayan, is home to a farming community who considers Mount Timbak as sacred grounds. Utmost respect should be properly observed.
KM 55 Trail From Atok
Mount Timbak’s proximity to Baguio City makes this peak a favorite day-hike destination for travelers. The trail begins at Halsema Highway’s KM 55 with a bold-faced steep slope of cold pavement that winds all the way up to Mongoto Elementary School. A quick 15-20 minute uphill trek along (don’t trample over) vegetable fields and farm houses lead to the Mini-Calvary and Timbak’s summit.
Mount Timbak or the KM 55 trail is considered a minor climb but when you’re on full gear, every step on solid concrete felt more like a major punishment than a fun climb.
In front of the three crosses of Mini-Calvary, I sat, walked around, looked here and there, trying to figure out where the campsite was until a kind farmer pointed opposite from where I stood. The modest campsite has only small patches of clear ground which makes pitching huge tents or accommodating big groups quite impossible.
Temperature can plummet to freezing cold so be prepared if camping.
Timbak-Kabayan Barrio Traverse
The towns of Atok and Kabayan are linked by a road which is currently under construction as of this writing. This road begins with gradual ups and downs until you reach a series of knee-straining descents. This is where my troubles began.
The winding road was filled with loose soil which makes getting a firm grip on the ground difficult. As midday approaches, the blistering heat made this hike really exhausting, dehydrating, it will make you consume trail water even more. There weren’t a lot of trees to save me from the scorching sun which makes the hike even worse compared to hiking on forest trails. Oh, and the heavy load on my back, it doubles all the trouble.
In addition, I have to make it to Kabayan Barrio before the one and only bus to Ballay came. This trek became a race against time.
I never realized that descents could be as difficult or even more difficult than the ascent. This crossing took me 4 grueling hours before reaching Kabayan Barrio but I made it with ample time left. It was a short-lived relief until my next stop.
Visiting the Cordillera highlands was an experience, but seeing its oceans of mountains from even higher altitudes – it was surreal. About a month ago, I climbed Mount Pulag and saw sunsets and sunrises I’ve never seen before. This opened my eyes to new horizons that brings unique challenges but definitely pays priceless rewards as well.
Now I’m starting to climb mountains with names I’ve never even heard of two weeks prior. Mount Timbak is one of those. These mountains are not getting any easier but neither will I.
I made an ambitious list of mountains to climb – most of them, beyond my physical limits. But my determination is stronger than my physique. It’s going to be challenging trail that lies ahead, but a challenge I am determined to succeed.
See you at the next summit.
1. Directions to KM 55: Take a bus going to Baguio (P450). From Slaughterhouse or Dangwa Terminal, take a bus bound for Bontoc or Sagada (P120). Tell the driver that you’re getting of at Kilometer 55.
2. No need for a guide from KM-55 to Timbak Summit. Just follow the cemented road which leads all the way to Mongoto Elementary School. If in doubt, ask the locals how to get to the summit.
4. If you are in a big group you could arrange for transportation from Baguio to Timbak and Tabayoc and back to Baguio through Mr. Santiago Ballagan 0910 752 26 55. He is also the guide in Mount Tabayoc.
5. No fees required in Mount Timbak.
6. Do not trample over the vegetable fields in Mount Timbak. Always look for a trail.
7. When in Mount Timbak, you could also visit the Timbak Mummies and Tinongchol Cave. These are located along the Timbak-Kabayan Barrio Traverse route.
8. The bus to Ballay from Kabayan Barrio arrives aroun 2:00 – 2:30 PM. I started the climb 5 hours before to make sure I have a buffer time.
9. More about Benguet.
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12. Be safe and happy travels.