Hi! Just two weeks after successfully reaching the summit of Luzon’s highest mountain, Mt. Pulag, our group was at it again, this time, aiming for Luzon’s second and third highest mountains. Fortunately, the climb was scheduled during the Valentine’s weekend (February 13 and 14) so I was able to avoid the crowded city and I was able to celebrate Valentine’s Day doing one of my favorite things – hiking.
Mt. Timbak (Luzon 3)
Elevation: 2,717+ MASL
Location: Atok, Benguet
Difficulty: 2/9 (Minor)
Trek to Summit: 10 minutes
Mt. Tabayoc (Luzon 2)
Elevation: 2,842+ MASL
Location: Kabayan, Benguet
Difficulty: 6/9 (Major)
Trek to Summit: 3 hours 40 minutes
As mentioned in my previous posts, going to the Cordilleras is one of my goals for this year and I am really grateful to have been able to grab the opportunity to climb my 14th and 15th mountains, one of which is my second major climb.
Below is a summary of our expenses and details on how to get to Benguet for those planning to organize a Luzon 3-2 climb.
The group met up in Dagupan Bus Terminal in Cubao around 8:30PM. After eating dinner, we boarded the bus bound for Baguio that left around 10:45PM. And as per usual, I immediately tried to get some shut-eye to prepare for the weekend ahead.
We arrived in Baguio around 4:10AM and we were immediately welcomed by the cold breeze as soon as we alighted from the bus. It was far colder then than when we did our overnight hike to Mt. Pulag two weeks ago and this made all of us chilly enough to seek refuge from a cup of warm strawberry taho. It was not long after when our rented jeepney arrived and we were all quick to load our bags on top and settle inside.
It was a long and bumpy ride going to Benguet which made falling asleep inside the jeepney relatively challenging because the scenario was either we bump our heads or slide off our seats. After two hours and thirty minutes, our driver stopped at one part of Halsema Highway (Road that connects Baguio and Mountain Province that stretches up to 150km with its highest point in Atok, Benguet at 7,400ft above sea level) to let us watch the sunrise. And even though there was no sea of clouds around this time, the sunrise was still beautiful with all the warm hues it created across the morning sky.
After watching the sunrise, we went back to the jeepney and headed to Loyung Restaurant where we had our breakfast. Their serving is so hefty that I was not even able to finish my meal but it gave me enough energy to stay awake throughout the day.
We then proceeded to Atok, Benguet where the highest point of Halsema Highway is located (7,400 FASL). Everyone took turns taking photos with the sign before we headed to our first mountain – Mt. Timbak.
Mountain 1 of 2: Mt. Timbak
We passed by residential areas on our way to the jump-off. The locals were really friendly and one of them even let us use their bathroom for free. And because it will just be a quick hike to the top, we only brought our assault packs and left the rest of our things inside our jeepney. Unlike the other mountains I have been to, the trail going to Mt. Timbak’s summit is a bit established with a stair-like pathway passing through different vegetable fields.
Even though the sun was already high up, we were still able to see a frosted plant which might have been sustained by the cool breeze we felt all throughout the trek.
After about ten minutes, we reached the summit of Mt. Timbak marked by three white crosses and different sculptures hence the name “Mini Calvary”. From the summit, one can see the Cordillera mountain range, including Mt. Pulag, the vast rice terraces and vegetable fields and residential areas. Everyone took an ample time with photo ops before the quick descent back to the jeepney.
Our jeepney then took us to Nanay Florence’s house for lunch. And as requested, we all ate Benguet’s native dish called Pinikpikan or chicken stew which is a bit similar to Tinola. I said a bit because even though it is also called chicken stew, the flavor of Pinikpikan is different from Tinola because of how it is prepared.
After lunch, we went straight to our campsite, which is just below Mt. Tabayoc, and after a quick registration and orientation, we found a spot to pitch our tents. Beside the campsite is Lake Tabeo which is one of the four mystical lakes. We were scheduled to visit three more lakes but we decided to just go to one because of time constraints. Again, we sat on top of the jeepney on our way to the lake to get a better view of the nearby mountains.
We stopped in the middle of the road only to find a small pathway which marks the entrance to Lake Ambulalakao. The way going here involves a five-minute trek passing through a rocky stairway. Our guide said that this lake is the cleanest and most beautiful out of the four and even if I have not seen the other two lakes, I was already astounded by how pristine Lake Ambulalakao looked. Without delay, everyone took turns taking photos of and with the lake before finally heading back to the campsite.
As soon as we got to the campsite, each took turns fixing up for the night and preparing dinner. We had Tinolang Manok courtesy of Rayford and potato chips courtesy of Rowe. After dinner, I went inside the tent to get some sleep while the others stayed up for socials.
Coming from my experience in Mt. Pulag, I already anticipated the cold weather in Benguet but no matter how much I prepared for it, I was still caught off-guard that even if there was no wind that battered our tents, I still found myself shaking in the middle of the night. I also made sure to wake up during the wee hours of the day to check the sky. And even though the Milky Way did not make an appearance, I was still amazed with the abundance of stars (and occasional meteors or shooting stars) that twinkled across the night sky.
We woke up around 5:00AM only to find out that the temperature already reached 0°C which explained why we found frosted grasses and why the moisture in our tents turned to ice. After drinking hot coffee/Milo and preparing our assault packs, we started our trek to the second mountain, Mt. Tabayoc.
Mountain 2 of 2: Mt. Tabayoc
Even though it was already half past six in the morning, the temperature was still freezing that I had to add another layer of clothing. The first part of the trail involves passing through a short stretch of vegetable fields and different flower bushes before entering the second part, the mossy forest. The beginning of the forest is like a walk in the park just passing through a straightforward path of trees. According to our guide; however, Mt. Tabayoc is known for its so-called “Monkey Trail” and this made sense when we experienced it firsthand upon trekking further into the forest. We had to grab hold of roots and branches in order to lift ourselves up and maneuver and duck through cirss-crossed branches to avoid hitting our heads (though I still hit my head several times lol).
After two hours and thirty minutes, we arrived at the first peak of Mt. Tabayoc where we decided to regroup and rest for a while. By this time, the temperature was not as freezing anymore so I was able to remove my thermal jacket.
We crossed a short wooden flight of “stairs” before finally reaching the view deck of Mt. Tabayoc which gave us a great view of the Cordillera Mountains with Mt. Pulag on our north and Mt. Amuyao on our West and some more mountains I was not able to recognize.
It was a good thing that we were the only group that hiked that day because the view deck is not as spacious and can only accommodate one group at a time. We all took turns taking photos and after about thirty minutes, we started our descent.
I really thought the descent would be longer than the ascent because of how complicated the trail was but somehow, we were moving relatively faster. I guess the only things that confused and slowed us down were the forks along the trail.
We started packing up after arriving at the campsite a quarter past noon. By this time, the sun was already piercing and the cold breeze has already dissipated that I had to remove another layer of my clothing to try and feel comfortable. After everyone was finished packing, we proceeded to our jeepney and returned to Nanay Florence’s house to eat lunch and fix up.
We helped ourselves to Nanay Florence’s fried chicken and Rayford’s sopas while waiting for our turn to take a bath. After everyone was done eating and bathing, we took a photo with Nanay Florence and her family before heading back to our jeepney for our long ride back to Baguio.
It was around 9:00PM when we got back to Baguio. We then proceeded to eat dinner at a nearby Jollibee before riding the bus back to Manila.
Note: Thank you for surprising us with red roses, guys! That was very sweet. Happy Valentine’s Day!
I would like to thank Robin for organizing and inviting me again to this Valentine’s Climb and for providing my shelter for the night.
Thank you Rayford for cooking the yummy tinola and sopas!
Thank you Jervine for keeping track of our expenses and making sure that every penny is accounted for.
Thank you Arnel for holding my DSLR and taking most of the photos
Thank you to my other hike mates, Jai, Jen, Rowe, Lory, Ian, EJ, Joem, and Jeff for the great company!
Thank you to Nanay Florence and family for welcoming us into your home and for cooking our meals for us.
Thank you to our guide for the two mountains, kuya Santiago! You may reach him at 0910-752-2655.
- Do not underestimate the cold. Bring enough layers of clothing (jackets, extra socks, bonnet, gloves, and something to cover your nose!)
- It is a relatively chill hike as you can leave your full packs (just bring the essentials like water and food) inside the jeep and tent for both mountains
- You may opt to ask Nanay Florence to cook your meals for you. Just coordinate with your guide.
- For jeep reservations, you may contact kuya Santiago
- A dayhike’s worth of water is enough
- There is a decent bathroom at the campsite. Expect ice-cold water though.
- Prepare yourselves for long rides from Baguio to Benguet and back. The road gets really bumpy and steep so remember to hold on to your jeepney’s handrails (and not to broken promises. Lol I kid, I kid.)
Things to Bring
- Jackets (fleece, thermal, windstopper)
- Bonnet/Head Wear
- Extra socks
- Something to cover the nose
- Layers and change of clothes
- Emergency Blanket
- Shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste
- Tissue, wet wipes
- Sun block
- Plastic bags (for trash, dirty clothes, gadgets and to be used as mats)
- Medicine (Paracetamol, Loperamide, Ibuprofen, Loratidine, Phenylpropanolamine HCl/decongestants, etc.)
- Trail Food (biscuits, chips, candies, chocolates, etc)
- Lunch, dinner and breakfast food (talk to your group about the arrangement)
- Bag Rain Cover
- Baby Oil
- Earth Pad
- Mess Kit (Plate, Spoon, Fork, Cup)
Below are two videos that summarize our hike to Luzon 2 and 3:
10:45 – ETD Cubao
4:10AM – ETA Baguio
4:30AM – ETD Baguio
6:30AM – Sunrise viewing
6:50AM – ETA Loyung Restaurant. Eat breakfast.
7:55AM – ETD Loyung Restaurant
8:10AM – ETA Highest Point of Philippine Highway System
8:20AM – ETD Highest Point of Philippine Highway System
8:40AM – ETA Mt. Timbak jump-off
8:55AM – Start Trek
9:05AM – ETA Summit of Mt. Timbak. Explore. Take photos.
9:50AM – Start descent
10:00AM – ETA jump off of Mt. Timbak
11:45AM – ETA Mt. Tabayoc Registration. Register.
12:35PM – ETA Nanay Florence’s house. Eat lunch.
1:45PM – ETD Nanay Florence’s house
2:05PM – ETA Campsite. Set up camp.
3:10PM – ETD Campsite
3:20PM – ETA Ambulalacao Lake
3:50 – ETD Ambulalacao Lake
4:00PM – ETA Campsite. Prepare dinner.
6:00PM – Dinner and Socials
9:00PM – Lights out
5:00AM – Wake up call
6:25AM – Start trek
8:40AM – ETA Peak 1
9:40AM – ETA Mt. Tabayoc view deck
10:10AM – Start descent
10:50AM – ETA Peak 1
12:25PM – ETA Campsite
1:45PM – ETD Campsite
2:00PM – ETA Nanay Florence’s house. Eat lunch and fix up.
5:00PM – ETD Nanay Florence’s house
9:00PM – ETA Baguio. Eat dinner.
11:00PM – ETD Baguio
3:30AM – ETA Manila
I may have lost my DSLR cap and my earring but this Valentine’s Weekend left me with a happy heart. I am grateful to have successfully completed Luzon 3-2-1 with great people whose names, I am sure, will appear in my blog often.
Thank you, Lord, for keeping us safe and giving us the perfect weather for hiking!
Thank you for reading!