Kabayan, Benguet: The Path To Mount Tabayoc
Arduous treks, challenging assaults, the ruggedness of routes – overcoming these obstacles makes reaching the summit of every mountain a sweet victory. But for now, let’s step back down from the top, and take a closer look at the path that punished and rewarded us, both at the same time.
Road Closed (as of this writing)
Reaching the endpoint of the Timbak-Kabayan Barrio traverse was truly a relief, however, the short-lived triumph was only a quick breather for one last push to Ballay, the jump-off point to the sixth highest mountain point of elevation in the Philippines, Mount Tabayoc of Kabayan, Benguet.
Road improvements were underway and several sections were closed. We, me and other bus passengers bound for Ballay and nearby sitio’s, have to travel on foot. The 2-hour ascent wasn’t really that bad, but the traverse earlier made this hike tormenting.
Camping By The Lake
On the base of the 2,842-meter high peak lies Lake Tabeo, the one and only designated campsite for Mount Tabayoc visiting campers. The vast lakeside camping grounds leaves tents wide open against intense winds, bone-chilling temperatures, and heavy rain. Pitching your tent against the stonewall may shield you from the strong winds.
Aside from the Mount Tabayoc’s lakeside campsite Lake Tabeo, three more lakes sit calmly on the base of Mount Tabayoc – the most popular, Ambulalakao Lake. The lake’s banks sprawl with thick vegetation which lowers the temperature within its confines. Ambulalakao Lake is regarded as the cleanest lake in the Cordillera making this sidetrip truly worthy.
Assault To The Summit
We began to march into the pitch black dawn carrying only torches and water. With low visibility, navigating through the steep narrow trail, flanked left and right by thick damp foliage, made the ascent more challenging. Duck and dodge the massive tree trunks and loose branches which came from all directions or else you might slip, get hit, and God knows what – so take precaution in every step.
Mount Tabayoc is wrapped in a thick blanket of dense flora from base to summit. A small view deck, a platform made from available materials, was constructed to reward hikers the much coveted summit view. Famous climbing destinations can be seen from the view deck such as Mounts Ugu, Amuyao, Timbak, Al-al, and of course, Mount Pulag.
Mount Tabayoc’s Best Feature
The summit bedazzles hikers with a truly spectacular view but what struck me the most was Mount Tabayoc’s mossy forest trail. The lush verdant overgrowth is not a sight along the trail – it is the trail. The trees masked in cold and damp moss, the thickness of the forest, and the abundance of flora makes the hike quite enchanting which reminded me of Fangorn Forest in Lord of the Rings. The forest was chaotically organized on its own natural way.
I’ve climb a few mountains, hiked into deep forest, but I’ve seen nothing as rich and unspoiled as Mount Tabayoc‘s fascinating forest – and I hope this remains as it is for quite a very long time. How about, forever?
1. Directions to Mount Tabayoc: Take a bus from Manila to Baguio City . Go to Slaughterhouse terminal and ride the bus bound for Kabayan which takes roughly about 4-5 hours. Normally, the bus goes directly to Ballay, the main jump off point to Lake Tabeo and Mount Tabayoc, but as of the moment, the road is currently closed and will be fully functional on late March or early April 2015.
You have the option to take a habal-habal, which can take you to Ballay or directly to Lake Tabeo, or just walk.
2. The assault to Mount Tabayoc takes 2 hours, maybe even longer if in a bigger climbing party.
3. It gets cold and wet during the hike, and it’s windy at the viewdeck. Bring a jacket, or a poncho on your way up to protect you from the elements. I even brought gloves because at some parts along the trail, you need to grab roots or branches for support. These branches were freezing cold.
4. A guide is required to climb Mount Tabayoc, and besides, the trail can be quite confusing. For guiding services, contact Mr. Santiago Ballagan 0910 752 26 55. He is the one who made the trail – definitely he knows where to go.
5. Mr. Ballagan, at times, also offers his home if visitors don’t have tents, or if the weather gets really bad on Lake Tabeo. Any generous donation is gladly welcomed.
6. The forest trail is one of the most beautiful trails I’ve seen by far. Let’s help preserve it by minimizing impact. Let’s follow the single path to avoid trampling on untouched areas.
7. Mr. Ballagan is a certified guide yet he lacks mountaineering equipment like tents, stove, etc. So if you have extras that you can give, I’m sure it would delight him.
8. Mount Tabayoc is a component mountain in the Luzon 3-2-1 climb. Mr. Santiago Ballagan could also arrange transportation for big groups.
9. More about Benguet.
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12. Be safe and happy travels.