The Great Cordillera Traverse: Mt. Ugo

Hi everyone! Last December 3-4, I did my last hike for 2016 – Mt. Ugo Traverse which also happens to be my 44th mountain. I was really excited for this because of all the great things I have heard from my friends and all the beautiful photos I saw online. Aside from these, Mt. Ugo is also included in my bucket list and having this for a year-end climb seemed like a really good idea.

Mountain Stats

Elevation: 2,150+ MASL

Location: Entry point – Kayapa, Nueva Vizcaya, Exit point – Itogon, Benguet

Difficulty: 5/9

Trek to Summit: From jump-off to campsite – 8 hours, from campsite to summit – 15 minutes

According to our guides, the total distance from Nueva Vizcaya jump-off to Benguet exit point is around 35KM. And although it was a long trek, it was not as tiring because of the beautiful views present almost all throughout the trail.

Read on below to know more about our experience in traversing Mt. Ugo.

For those who are planning to do a DIY hike to Mt. Ugo just like what we did, I hope you find the details below useful:

Transportation Details

VEHICLE FROM TO FARE TOTAL PER PERSON (13 pax) ESTIMATED TRAVEL TIME
Bus (Victory Liner) Kamias Aritao, Nueva Vizcaya Php 317 Php 317 5hrs 30min
Jeep Aritao, Nueva Vizcaya Kayapa Market Php 2,500 Php 125** 1hr 30min
TOTAL Php  442 7 hours

 

VEHICLE FROM TO FARE TOTAL PER PERSON (13 pax) ESTIMATED TRAVEL TIME
Jeep

 

Itogon exit-point Itogon Municipal Hall Php 2,500 Php 125** 15 min
Itogon Municipal Hall Baguio 1 hour
Bus Baguio Manila Php 445 Php 450 5 hours
TOTAL Php  575 6hrs 15min


**
 Rode with another group with 7 members thereby dividing the fare by 20pax instead of 13pax

 

Other Expenses

DESCRIPTION AMOUNT TOTAL PER PERSON (13pax)
Guide Fee (1:7, Php500 per day per guide) Php 2,000 Php 154
Registration Fee (Kayapa) Php 50 Php 50
Registration Fee (Itogon) Php 200 Php 200
Food Php 2,431 Php 187
TOTAL   Php 591

(Porter – Php 500 per day, 15kg max)

*Contact Details:

               – Guide: Sir Ramse, President of the guides (0919-522-2881)

               – Jeep (for Kapaya): Sir Cris (0949-644-9909)

               – Jeep (for Itogon): Miss Jerda (0939-834-5655) – First to contact for those planning to climb Mt. Ugo

               – Tinongdan Tourism (for climb certificates): tinongdantourism@gmail.com

 

SAFE BUDGET: Php 2,000 – Php 2,500


Day 0 – Manila to Nueva Vizcaya

Our meet up was at Victory Liner in Kamias but because our bus was scheduled to leave at 11:00PM, I still had the time to eat dinner at a nearby fast food chain.

As per usual, I slept almost all throughout the bus ride and only woke up when we reached where we were supposed to alight.

Day 1 – Nueva Vizcaya to Benguet

We got off from the bus at around 4:30AM. It was surprisingly chilly and it made me wear the jacket that was wrapped around my waist. It was not long after when our chartered jeepney arrived and one by one, we loaded our things on top before settling down inside. We rode the jeepney together with another group composed of seven members to also save up transportation cost.

We arrived at Kayapa Market after about an hour and thirty minutes. Here we ate our breakfast, registered at the municipal hall and secured our guides. When everyone was set, we said a quick prayer before finally starting the trek.

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The group outside Kayapa Town Hall

The first part of the trail involved a lot of stairs and slightly steep assaults. We pushed through with the assaults until we reached a waiting shed where we took a quick hydration break.

The trail after the waiting shed is open with a mixture of assaults and flat surfaces. What made the trek in this part more challenging, aside from the heat of the sun, was the absence of the cool wind.

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Lots of stairs at the first part of the trail and gradual assaults up until the first waiting shed
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Continuous gradual assaults after the waiting shed and a view of surrounding mountains

After some time, we arrived at a beautiful open area which gave us a good view of the mountains around us. This was also a good spot to regroup, take a break and capture photos. What caught my attention in this big area was the small lone rock that was somewhat out of place because there was nothing like it. And because it seemed really interesting, some of us had our photos taken while trying to balance on top of its uneven surface.

Because of the cool winds present in this open area, we did not feel uncomfortable even though we were directly exposed to the sun. After we were satisfied with the photos, we then prepared to resume our trek to Indupit Village where we were supposed to eat lunch.

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Fun under the sun! I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the boys for being very supportive during photo ops (See upper right photo. Lol.)
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Yours truly doing a pistol squat on top of the lone rock

While trekking to Indupit Village, we were able to see Mt. Pulag from a distance. The familiar peak surrounded by a sea of clouds made me miss my first major and first overnight hike in that mountain.

Surprisingly, we arrived relatively early at Indupit Village where we had our early lunch. It was convenient because the village had a sari-sari store, bathroom and benches and tables we could use for lunch. The only downside here was the number of chickens that consistently bothered us as we ate. There was even a time when a chicken stealthily grabbed my excess rice (which was inside a plastic bag) and then ran off. Crazy. After lunch and quick photo ops, we got up and resumed our trek with the campsite as our target destination.

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Photos above: The trail going to Indupit Village. Photos below: Indupit Village (lower left photo shows “Everlasting Flowers”) 

The locals made the trail in this part relatively wide to allow habal-habals to pass through and help with the transportation of necessary materials in the mountain. Again, this part was also open which meant having views of the Cordillera mountains as we trekked. Lastly, it was also pretty straight forward with minimal to no assaults which allowed our legs to get some rest after the assaults from the previous parts of the trail.

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Wide trail with visible habal-habal tracks. KOTM means King of the Mountain

After some time, we had to cross a gate which is, apparently, the divider between the two provinces, Nueva Vizcaya and Benguet. We saw houses being built along this part and some dogs as well. And while the mommy dog always had her guard up, her two puppies were the opposite of it. As we put our bags down to eat some of our trail food, we invited the three dogs to join us as well.

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Photos above: The divider between Nueva Vizcaya and Benguet. Photos below: Take five with mommy dog and her puppy

The guide said that this wide trail would last until after we reach a school that also serves as a campsite for hikers should they prefer not bringing and pitching tents at the campsite proper which is just a few minutes away from Mt. Ugo’s summit. However, when hikers decide to camp at the school, they have to make sure to leave and start trekking at 4:00AM to be able to catch the sunrise at the campsite proper around 6:00AM.

I loved the wide and open part of the trail because aside from the beautiful views I got to see, it also felt like a stroll in the park with my friends.

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Open trail but the views are stunning!

We decided to take another break when we reached a waiting shed that is beside a sari-sari store. And for the first time, Mt. Ugo made its appearance. The group took an ample time eating, hydrating and taking photos because we were more than an hour ahead from our supposed itinerary (which meant more time to just chill and relax along the trail).

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Look at Mt. Ugo rising beautifully!
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Little girl’s 44th mountain (left). And a half heart pose (right) for future use. Lol.

Continuing our trek along the open trail, we noticed a lot of mushrooms that grew on dried cow poop and what was interesting was that these mushrooms came in all sorts of colors and one even had a gold-like appearance. And after some time, we finally reached the end of the wide trail. Because we had our tents with us and we planned to sleep at the campsite proper, we did not have to pass through the school anymore.

We had to descend a narrow and slippery trail going to the last water source before the campsite. Afterwards, it was a mixture of gradual assaults to steep assaults to even steeper assaults. By this time, the air was already thin and the heat of the sun was already piercing. To be honest, more than anything else, I think that it was really the beautiful view that kept us going. I could not keep track of how many times everyone said, “Ang ganda!” (It’s beautiful) throughout the assaults but I cannot blame them because it was really beautiful everywhere I looked – sideward: the Cordillera mountain range, downward: the long and winding road that we already passed, upward: the bright blue sky and the puffy clouds.

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Ahhh I have no words to describe how beautiful this is. Notice the long and winding road on the lower left photo, we passed all of that. Wuhoo!

Pushing through one step at a time, at around 3:40PM, we finally reached the campsite which is marked by two dead trees. What made reaching the campsite exciting, aside from the fact that we were an hour and twenty minutes ahead from our itinerary, was us being the first group to be there! This meant having the opportunity to choose the spot where we would pitch our tents. As soon as we picked a spot, we put down our bags and began setting up our camp.

After settling down, we changed into warmer clothes because the wind at the campsite was cold and it felt really chilly because it was just blowing consistently. After some time, the sky started to turn bright orange which marked the start of the sunset. Unfortunately, we were not able to see this because of another mountain that blocked the view. Nonetheless, the sunset colors that spread across the sky were enough to make all the hikers up there happy.

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Beautiful sunset at the campsite which is also a reminder that endings can be beautiful too

We had a very delicious dinner perfect for a cold night, adobo and sinigang. It was evident that all of us enjoyed the food because everyone grabbed seconds (and even thirds) of rice and viand. After eating to our hearts content, some returned to their respective tents to rest while some had quick socials. And because it was really cold, the socials group stayed in one tent. Lol.

Day 2 – Benguet to Manila

What made sleeping difficult was the strong and cold wind that was still relentless during the wee hours of the night. It blew so strong that I feared our tents would get swept away. And so instead of just squirming around the tent, I got up around 3:00AM to check the night sky. Even though the Milky Way still did not make an appearance, I still found the abundant stars that twinkled really pretty.

I woke my tent mates up at around 5:00AM so we could start preparing for breakfast and the sunrise. Even though the sun has not yet risen, we could already see the sea of clouds around us and this made us anticipate the sunrise even more. At around 6:00AM, the rays of the sun began to fill the sky and we all watched in awe as it slowly rose up. Of course we also did not forget to have our photos taken while we are at it.

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What a wonderful way to start the day! Also a reminder that endings deserve beautiful beginnings.

After taking enough photos, we went back to our tents to eat our breakfast, sopas, salted egg and omelette and when everyone was stuffed, we started to break our camps to prepare for the descent.

It was amusing to see how the thick clouds were still there even though the sun was already up and I could not help but smile at such a beautiful landscape. When everyone was packed up and ready to go, we had our final photo ops at the campsite before resuming the trek.

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The people who said that they will be the sweepers but went in front anyway. What happened, guys? Lol. #TeamSweeperDaw
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Sea of clouds even after sunrise!

Of course we had to pass by Mt. Ugo’s summit before descending completely to Itogon. The summit is just a quick 10-min assault from the campsite and from here, one can see a better view of the mountains around Mt. Ugo.

The descent officially starts from the summit.

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Mt. Ugo summit!
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Happy group at the summit!

The trail at the beginning was still open, steep and a bit slippery because of loose land and small rocks so everyone observed caution while descending. Eventually, the trail became less steep and less slippery and this gave us the perfect opportunity to run down the mountain. This part of the trail is also reminiscent of Mt. Purgatory’s – compact land with dried pine tree leaves and small rocks. We briefly stopped by some parts to have our photos taken because our target was to have lunch at Lusod Village.

What made the descent difficult, was the heat of the sun with little no winds present. This draining descent made us hungry easily which was why we hurried to get to the village. It felt so good to be able to reach the village at lunch time and much to our delight, there was a really decent comfort room available here.

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Descending to Lusod Village via the beautiful pine forest!

Everyone filled their hungry tummies with spam, corned beef and rice and as soon as we were all full, we took turns using the bathroom before finally resuming the remaining 7km of descent.

Stone signages were present every 500m and I timed our pace to be about an average of 10 minutes per 500 meters which meant that we will finish the descent in about two hours and twenty minutes, more or less. However, when the trail changed from compact land to loose soil with a lot of rocks, our pace changed from an average of 10min to 14min.

When we arrived at another village, we decided to take a break and buy a drink from a sari-sari store. By this time, we only had about two more kilometers to trek before we completely finish the descent.

The last two kilometers involves passing through a bit of rice paddies and a hanging bridge. Because it was harvesting season when we trekked, we were able to see how the locals harvest their crops and how they transport them from one place to another. I was so happy when the hanging bridge came to view because this was the final part of the descent and we were only a couple of minutes away from the exit point in Itogon!

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The hanging bridge that marks the end of the hike!

 

And finally, after about eight hours of trekking (breaks included), we got to the exit point in Itogon where we patiently waited for our chartered jeepney to take us to the municipal hall.

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Done and done! The group at the Itogon exit point. Congratulations, guys! (Photo from Gab)

Again, we rode with the group that we were with the previous day. Since the municipal hall was not far from the exit point, some of us decided to ride on top of the jeepney for an added thrill. When we got to the municipal hall, we registered our names and started to take a bath. I especially loved the “Unli (barako) Coffee” here because not only was it good, it was also free of charge. This was also where we got our climb certificates that serve as proof of our successful completion of the traverse.

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Feels legit!

We left the municpal hall at around 6:40PM and got to Baguio after an hour. Here, we bid farewell to the other group that was with us because they already had return tickets back to Manila while we still had yet to buy tickets. Unfortunately, the tickets in Vicotry Liner were all bought so we had no choice but to go to the old terminal and buy tickets from Genesis Bus Lines which left at 9:00PM.


I really enjoyed the hike thanks to the beautiful views and the pleasant people I was with. I would like to thank them for the following:

Kuya Ben and kuya Romy – Thank you for taking care of and being patient with us and for taking our group photos!

Rayford – Thank you for organizing this and for inviting me and cooking for the group. Your meals are the best!

Jeng – Thank you for once again letting me stay in your pink tent and for the delicious leche flan that your shared with everyone during dinner.

Glaze – It was so nice to finally hike with you again! Thank you for the great company all throughout the hike.

Jepoy – Thank you for being the official photographer once again and taking most of the photos along the trail! Always grateful for your patience and kindness.

Enzo – Congratulations on your first hike! Thank you for teaching me Ilocano words such as, pintas.

Kleng – Hope you had a memorable climb not because of the chickens but because of us. Haha! Thank you for helping with breakfast!

Mark – Thank you for pacing with us during the descent and for (slightly haha) cooperating with my video documentation. Lol.

Gab – Thank you for helping me get down the tree and for enduring my weight (though I’m pretty sure I am not as heavy as you say I am. Lol.)

Bless – Thank you for helping reserve the bus tickets. Hope to be able to catch up with you soon!

Tin – We only briefly talked during the hike but thank you for sharing your hike experience in Rizal with me.

Miguel – Congratulations on your first hike! Thanks for the company!

Francis – Thank you for joining us during the socials and for allowing us to photobomb you in some of your photos. Lol.

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The harkor Ugo team! Boys (l-r): Miguel, Enzo, Jepoy, Rayford, Gab, Mark and Francis. Girls (l-r): Camae, Kleng, Bless, Glaze, Jeng, Tin. Thank you, everyone! 

Tips and Observations

  1. Be wary of unattended things and food at the campsite as there are dogs who go there and get them
  2. Habal-habal can take hikers up to the school
  3. Pine forest galore almost all throughout the trail!
  4. Wind is present during the ascent (latter part) but rarely present during the descent
  5. Weak to no Globe signal almost all throughout the tail. Strong signal for Smart/Sun.
  6. There are a lot of chickens in every village
  7. Do not underestimate the cold at the campsite. Bring enough warmers to fend off the cold
  8. To be safe, make sure to have bus ticket reservations from Baguio going back to Manila

I also made a video summary of our experience in Mt. Ugo and I am quite happy with how this turned out. Enjoy!


Things to bring:

Clothes

  • Jacket (fleece, thermal, windstopper)
  • Bonnet/Head Wear
  • Gloves
  • Extra socks
  • Scarf
  • Layers and change of clothes
  • Raincoat/Poncho
  • Emergency Blanket
  • Slippers

Toiletries

  • Shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste
  • Tissue, wet wipes
  • Deodorant

Essentials

  • Alcohol
  • Sun block
  • Plastic bags (for trash, dirty clothes, gadgets and to be used as mats)
  • Medicine (Paracetamol, Loperamide, Ibuprofen, Loratidine, Phenylpropanolamine HCl/decongestants, etc.)
  • Powerbank
  • Trail Food (biscuits, chips, candies, chocolates, etc)
  • Water (at least 2L)
  • Lunch, dinner and breakfast food (talk to your group about the arrangement)
  • Money
  • Bag Rain Cover
  • Flashlight
  • Baby Oil
  • Salt (to prevent muscle cramps/spasms)
  • Sleeping bag

Miscellaneous

  • Trekking Pole
  • Cookset
  • Stove
  • Butane
  • Tent
  • Earth Pad
  • Camera
  • Monopod
  • Mess Kit (Plate, Spoon, Fork, Cup)

Itinerary

Day 0

11:00PM – ETD Manila to Aritao, Nueva Vizcaya via Tuguegarao bound bus (Php317 with travel insurance)

Day 1

4:30AM – ETA CCQ Bus Terminal

5:00AM – ETD CCQ bus terminal via rented jeep (Php125)

6:30AM – ETA Kapaya Market. Eat breakfast

7:30AM – Register at Municipal Hall

7:45AM – Start trek

10:20AM – ETA Indupit Village. Eat early lunch

3:40PM – ETA Campsite. Set up camp

6:00PM – Dinner. Socials.

8:00PM – Lights out

Day 2

5:30AM – Wake up call

6:00AM – Watch sunrise. Eat breakfast

8:45AM – Resume trek

8:55AM – ETA Mt. Ugo summit

12:15PM – ETA Lusod Village. Eat lunch.

4:10PM – ETA Sitio Cawayan. Rest.

4:45PM – ETA Itogon jump-off/exit point

5:15PM – ETD jump-off point via rented jeep (Php125)

5:30PM – ETA Itogon Municipal Hall. Log out. Fix up.

6:40PM – ETD Itogon Municipal Hall

7:30PM – ETA Baguio. Dinner.

9:00PM – ETD Baguio to Manila via Genesis (Php445)

Day 3

2:00AM – ETA Manila


15494076_10154293060406359_389028267_nI am really glad that I was able to go to this hike and make the traverse of Mt. Ugo my year-end climb. The past few months have been really meaningful to me especially since I was able to conquer more difficult mountains than last year and I was able to prove to myself that I can do anything once I set my mind to it.

Thank you to the friends I have made along the way and to the friends who never forget to invite me and to the friends who trust in my capabilities.

And that concludes my hiking year. Wait for me again next year, mountains!

Thanks for reading!

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3 thoughts on “The Great Cordillera Traverse: Mt. Ugo

  1. kayo pala yung nakasabay namin maam. nakailang basa na ako ng mga blog entries mo bago ko malaman na your one of the group na nakasabay namin sa jeep. hehe. more climbs!

    Like

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