Hi everyone! I just got back from my longest and most difficult (Yup, Mt. Amuyao has been replaced) hike in Mindoro, the mighty Sialdang or more popularly known as Mt. Halcon – my 48th mountain.
Elevation: 2580+ MASL
Location: Baco, Oriental, Mindoro
Difficulty: 9/9, Major Climb
Trek to Summit: 19-20 hours
Prior to this hike, I did not have any form of training at all because of recurring leg injuries that I had to rest properly and thus resulted to me having an extra difficult time during the hike proper. Nonetheless, I am really grateful that I was able to finish it. Read on below for the full story of our four days and three nights of exhausting but extremely fulfilling hike.
This hike was an organized event by BNDKxDGT so I am unable to disclose all the expenses but here are some of those that I was able to get:
(Inclusions: Ferry fare, van fare, guide fee, registration and other fees, event shirt, bag tag)
Day 0: Welcome to Mindoro!
The group was supposed to meet up in Batangas Port already so some of us took the bus from Buendia while some took the bus from Cubao. Upon arriving at the port, we ate our breakfast while waiting for the others. As soon as everyone was there, we proceeded to buy the tickets. We found ourselves in a bit of a pinch when we were informed that butane and knives were not allowed on the boat unless we had a permit issued by the barangay which was a bit far from the port. It took a while before we were able to get on the ferry because it involved distributing the butane to everyone and asking help from a crew member to give us clearance.
After a while, we found ourselves inside a relatively new ferry where we immediately scattered to find our spots. Shortly after the ferry left the port, some of us went around to check the surroundings. It took about two hours before we reached Calapan Port and from here, we took our chartered van to Xentro Mall where we bought some supplies and had our lunch before heading to Baco Municipal to get our permits.
We were here for a while because we still had to get our photos taken for the permits and we had to wait for these to be printed, which took forever by the way. While waiting, we went to a nearby market place to buy some more supplies before heading to the place in Bayanan where we were going to stay the night. Originally, we were supposed to take Lantuyan Trail but because another group came before us, they were the ones who got the trail. (Yes, trail assignments will be via first come, first served basis)
The road going to the jump-off was really rocky because of a landslide that occurred not too long ago. Our driver had a bit of trouble maneuvering the van but then again, we got there just fine. We stayed in a two-storey wooden house with one bathroom and with sockets! We took this chance to take a bath (because we knew we will not have this luxury for a couple of days) and charge our gadgets one by one. We had the locals cook dinner for us as we pre-cooked our packed lunch for the next day.
Day 1: The Rolling Trail to Aplaya Campsite
We were awakened by the sudden downpour of rain around 4:00AM. This got us worried because we have not even started the hike yet the weather was already uncooperative. Nonetheless, we still had a couple of hours before the start of the trek so we decided to just wait it out. Fortunately, the rain already subsided when we woke up again an hour and a half after. After eating breakfast and repacking our bags, we said our prayer and started our four days and three nights of intense hike.
The first part of the trail passes along the pile of rocks and involves crossing a few bridges made out of bamboo before entering the forest. Since the forest is not thick, we were still immersed under the heat of the sun which made trekking extra challenging that as soon as we reached the first community, we took a break to eat and drink fresh buko! When we were all done, we got our bags and resumed our trek under the unforgiving sun – it did not help that I was wearing long sleeves (because I was too afraid of leeches, I wanted to hide my skin as much as possible). I remember always looking for rest stops along the trail because aside from the assaults, the heat was relentless and unbearable.
We ate lunch along a vast grassland just past the second community. We also took this opportunity to grab a quick nap while we still can.
We braced ourselves for another round of assaults from here on out. Our guides said that there will be little to no flat surfaces after this part and what could be worse than pure assaults? Yes, trekking them under the sun. Also let me reiterate that the assaults here are no laughing matter because they will involve using both hands to lift oneself up and pretty much scramble up boulders.
Because of the heat, we found ourselves stopping by every water source, which can be found every hour or so, to refill our bottles with cold water and/or make iced tea or orange juice. I found the trail a bit repetitive with assaults along the forest followed by a descent to a river/water source followed by another assault to the forest, etc.
Somewhere along one of the water sources, we had to make a difficult decision of letting one of our hikemates abort the climb because of severe cramps that he felt on both of his legs. One of the guides accompanied him back to the second community where he ought to rest before descending back to the jump-off.
We got out of the forest several minutes before sunset and we were rewarded with a good clearing of mountains with surrounding clouds. It was a rewarding view for our first day and from here, we were told we only had an hour to go before Aplaya Campsite. And because everyone already wanted to rest, they all increased their pace to get to the campsite as soon as possible. Unfortunately, I kind of slipped and fell as I was running (lol) but we pushed through until we entered another forest yet again. By this time, some of us had to rely on our headlights to see the trail. And finally, we reached Aplaya Campsite around 6:35PM where we spent our first night.
Day 2: Up to the Summit We Go
I was one of the people assigned to make breakfast and packed lunch for this day so I was already up and about around 5:00AM. Our group cooked hotdogs for breakfast and spam for lunch (yup, all processed food, I know. But these taste so much better in the mountains if I may say so myself). After eating, packing and breaking camp, we resumed our trek with the summit being our target campsite for the night.
We were already aware that this day will be much harder than the first because of all the assaults that we would have to go through. Before the assaults; however, we had to pass through a steep descent going to Dulangan River, which also serves as a campsite. We really had to get our feet wet as we crossed this because there are neither rocks nor bridges to step on. Some of us removed their shoes and trekked barefoot while some, including myself, changed to sandals before we crossed the river.
We took an ample time to rest here before finally proceeding to the most dreaded part of the trail, the assaults. True enough, everyone had an extra difficult time trekking because the assaults required the use of both hands and a lot of upper body strength to climb up. I found myself huffing and puffing with each step and we were not given any rest from the assaults except during when we had to stop at a water source.
Even though we were already trekking inside the mossy forest, the assaults were still endless and we had to find anything stable to hold onto be it a branch, rock or even the lump of land just so we can lift ourselves up.
Somewhere along the forest, I felt my head spinning and my body getting heavier. And although I mentioned this to my trail buddy at that time, I decided to brush it off. However, I noticed that I was finding the assaults more and more difficult as we pushed through. I remember being extremely grateful when we reached Karawayan Campsite which is two hours away from the summit and is the last water source.
Here is also where we saw a wild boar roaming freely just a few meters away from us! As my hikemates quietly watched it from a distance, I took this opportunity to hydrate and take a quick nap. When we resumed our trek, I already knew I needed to sweep because of how I was feeling. Soon enough, I found myself wanting to sit and close my eyes. I asked my hikemates to go on ahead and that I will follow shortly after I take a nap. At first, they did not want to leave me but I told them that they should go to catch the sunset at the summit and that I will be with them shortly. Now that I think about it, that scene was probably like a movie where a character tells his/her friends to save themselves and just leave him/her. Lol.
The organizer decided to stay behind and accompany me as the others went on ahead. Thankfully, he was patient enough with my extra slow pace. We stopped every now and then so I can have a quick nap. I remember really falling asleep somewhere in the mossy forest, leaning on a tree covered in moss. I woke up because I was feeling cold so I had to stand and trek again. This cycle continued up until we got out of the forest and saw the beautiful view of the puffy clouds surrounding us all over. From here, the summit was already almost at reach but this was still about an hour away.
Here was when the organizer speculated that I might have probably caught a mild case of Altitude Sickness because of all the symptoms I was showing. This may be so because the increase in altitude was quite fast since the assaults are really steep. Naturally, the remedy for this is a decrease in altitude but since I was just an hour away from the summit, it was just reasonable that we trek forward instead of going back. This was also when I met Jonas who was from another group but is friends with some of my hikemates as well. He was there, apparently, to help assist me to the summit. I appreciated the help because he literally grabbed my hand and forced me to increase my pace.
We apparently reached the knife edge part of Mt. Halcon without me noticing it because though the trail was narrow, it was also surrounded by shrubs which made it less intimidating to cross. There was also an improvised wooden ladder that we had to climb in order to proceed with trail after which, we saw the stone monument that serves as tribute to the hiker who died because of hypothermia.
When I saw a bunch of tents, I let out a sigh of relief because I was really fighting back the distress I was feeling. I thanked my new friend, Jonas, for helping me out and our organizer for staying behind as I went inside our tent to rest.
Day 3: The Summit and Diving Board
We woke up at around 5:30AM to witness the sunrise atop Mt. Halcon. And although the clouds were not as puffy as we expected, everyone was still thankful for the nice weather that gave us a good clearing. One by one, we took turns to take photos at the famous diving board of Mt. Halcon. Contrary to how the photos may look like, the diving board is actually safe because the terrain below it is shallow that even if someone falls off from the diving board, he or she will land on the terrain just fine. (Speaking of which, one of my hikemates did a jump shot and landed on the wrong foot which caused him to slip and fall off the diving board. Everything happened so fast that all we could do was scream out of panic. But of course nothing bad happened. Lol.)
After eating breakfast and packing our lunch, we prepared for our descent back to Aplaya Campsite where we would spend the night yet again. We started our descent at around 10:00AM – a bit late because we could not stop admiring the beauty all around us. By this time, the clouds have already formed and surrounded the mountain and this made trekking more enjoyable.
Even though much of the trail is mostly downhill, we still found it tiring because of the steep descents that we had to make. Remember the intense assaults where we had to carry ourselves up? Well, the descent would require either sitting or jumping down to reach the land (especially for those with short legs huhu). Again, we had to cross several rivers by stepping from one rock to another and again enter several forests which, of course, had sets of cliffs among them. There were also parts of the trail which were so muddy, that any wrong step would make our feet sink. Furthermore, there were parts that had loose land as well which made the trail not only steep but also very slippery, that any wrong step would send us rolling down a cliff.
After an excruciating descent, we found ourselves back in Dulangan River where we changed our shoes back to sandals to cross it. Remember during the second day when we had to descend from Aplaya Campsite to Dulangan River? That means that this time, we had to ascend from Dulangan River to Aplaya Campsite. Again, the assaults were no joke – it involved climbing rocks and a great deal of steep inclines.
As soon as we got out of the forest, we knew it was just a quick five-minute trek to Aplaya Campsite where we crashed for the night.
Day 4: Last Push!
Everyone woke up to a fine morning in Aplaya Campsite. From here, we saw so many waterfalls from the mountain across us and we also saw the height from which we descended the previous day. This got us really excited to finally go back to jump off because first, everybody smelled, well, unpleasant? (Lol. That’s what we get for not being able to bathe for almost four days. Yikes!) And second, we wanted ice cold soda! (Yes, by this time, we already ran out of powered juice. How sad.) Again, after eating breakfast and taking some photos, we packed up and prepared for the descent.
I already felt my sore legs begging me to stop trekking. But of course I had no choice but to push forward if I wanted to complete the whole thing. I observed that my legs would sometimes wobble along some parts of the trail which would cause me to swivel to the side to which my hikemate would poke fun at.
The descent during this day was a bit stressful because we did not really feel that we were descending because of the rolling terrain that would include assaults every now and then. And because we already ran out of powdered juice to make, the joy of passing by water sources slightly diminished. Everyone was looking forward to get to the first community where we got our fresh buko during the first day of the trek.
When we got to the open field after the second community and just before the first community, we decided to sit for a bit to rest. While resting, we observed dark clouds coming together as if to warn us of rain. We were so mesmerized by it that instead of quickly resuming our trek, we still took a few minutes to observe the brewing of the bad weather. And true enough, as we were trekking, rain fell which made the trail extra slippery. It was quite difficult to trek quickly without having minor slips along the way but we already wanted to go down so we trekked as fast as we could – we even skipped the first community to buy buko (as originally planned). While hurrying, we made sure that we still observed caution while crossing some technical parts of the trail.
Our faces glistened as we got out of the forest and saw the very rocky terrain because this meant that the jump-off was just a few river crossings away! And after crossing these improvised wooden bridges, we looked for the house we stayed in before starting our trek. When this came to view, all we could say to each other was “Congratulations!”
Finally, the hike was over. We headed to the house where the rest of my hikemates were in and settled ourselves down to ice-cold soda while waiting for our turn to take a bath. Ahhh, taking a bath felt extra good, no wonder everyone took longer than usual inside the bathroom. As soon as we were all free from the unexplainable scent that we accumulated during the hike, we fixed our bags (which, unfortunately still had that unexplainable scent) and headed to our chartered van back to Baco Municipal to get our climb certificates and then to Xentro Mall to eat dinner and finally back to Calapan Port.
When we got to the port, we secured tickets back to Batangas. The ferry this time was not as comfortable as the first one we rode but it still got us safely back to Batangas where the group parted ways because we were headed to different parts of the metro.
I am extremely grateful to everyone I was with during this hike. It was mostly because of them that I was able to stand on the diving board and witness the extremely difficult yet beautiful Mt. Halcon.
Thank you to BNDKxDGT for organizing this. Long events like this are not easy to do but thank you for the effort in making sure that things are properly in place.
To Team Kalawitan: JL, Yhang and Nathan for trusting that I was not a “rain-bringer” but a good luck charm. Hahaha joke lang. But JL, thank you for inviting me and for sweeping with me during my weak points in this hike. You could have easily went ahead but you stayed behind to make sure that I push forward. Mama Yhang, thank you for also making sure that I was cared for and for telling me hike stories whenever we stopped to rest. Nate, at first I did not know what to write here because of all the bullying, which is fine, by the way. Haha! But I realized that I owe you big time for feeding me lunch during the last day and for the concern you showed as well every time you asked how I was doing after the AMS.
To EAT Girl: Jeng for being my trail buddy for more than half of this hike. Thank you for being patient with my pace and for sharing your tent with me once again. I look forward to hiking with you again soon and I will make sure to bawi with the pace.
To the Harkor Lead Pack: Ian, Ken and Harold for making sure that everything was already taken care of even before the rest of the group reached the campsite. Ian for being my bus seatmate to and from Batangas, van seatmate to and from Calapan. Thank you also for letting me use your steel cup and for setting up our tents in advance. Ken for always being the one to update us regarding the status of the lead pack and for getting me water from various water sources and for staying with me until I was able to find a safe ride back home. Harold for always going back to help me with my bag voluntarily. You could have just rested at the campsite as soon as you got there but you always went back to where I was even though I was part of the sweeper group.
To the Strong Girls: Jaze, Da, mama Ernz and Angelique for so many good stories along the trail. Jaze for accompanying me at the campsite and for being friendly despite this being our first hike together. Da for all the Halcon stories you shared along the trail. You were the one we depended on every time we wanted to know what kind of trail we should expect. Thank you also for the seaweed snack that you shared with everyone. Mama Ernz for also sharing your food with us and for taking my photos as well even though this is just our first hike. I was so impressed with how strong you are knowing that you are self-contained. Angelique for being my tent buddy and for sharing all your trail food. Pringles for breakfast! Hahaha. And thank you also for being my trail buddy at some parts of the hike.
To the Harkor Idol Sirs: Black, Jim, Ton for the new things that you taught me about hiking such as how the contents of an unlit cigarette can repel limatik and for making sure that everyone was cared for. Sir Black for always looking out for everyone like the big brother that you are and for cooking the adobo. I have a lot to be thankful for but I shall keep it at that for this post. Sir Jim for the yummy eggplant! (Bawi yung giniling haha) And also for the care you showed me whenever we were together on the trail. Sir Ton for bullying me which caused my uneasy feeling to fade away and feel closer to everyone despite being my first hike with you and some others.
To our strong and kind guides/porters: kuya Aldrin, kuya Rec and tatay Celso for ensuring our safety from the start of the hike until the end of the hike. Thank you also for carrying the heavy load of the group from tents to sleeping bags to food. We are extremely grateful.
Lastly, to the Lord for guiding and giving us a good weather all throughout this trip.
Special thanks again to Jonas for pulling me to the summit!
Tips and Observations
Do not go unprepared. Have a tune-up or training climb before hiking up Mt. Halcon. The trail should not be underestimated even though it is not very technical. Do not be like me who went there unprepared and therefore had an extra difficult time.
Light pack. As much as possible, avoid bringing things that would make one’s bag heavier than it should. Remember that the assaults are really steep and the hike time is really long. The lighter the bag, the easier it would be to carry oneself up for a longer period of time.
Lots of water sources. No need to worry about bringing too much water at the start because water sources are usually just an hour to two apart. The last one though is at Karwayan which is about two hours away from the summit so this is where water should be stocked up.
Bring a lot of powdered juice. Since there would be a lot of water sources (which has cold water, bdw), having a drink apart from water would be much more satisfying especially since the trail is really draining.
Knife edge is not intimidating. In fact, if I was not told that we were already at the knife edge, I would never have thought that that was it. Although the trail was narrow, it was surrounded by thick shrubs which made it safer to walk on.
Technical but not too technical. I think what makes Mt. Halcon’s trail difficult are the steep assaults and the amount of time needed to get to the summit. Sure there are cliffs every now and then but it was really the long hours of assaults that drained us.
Diving board is perfectly safe. I mean, if someone falls from the diving board, he or she will not fall into oblivion and die. In fact, the terrain below it is pretty high also so the fall will just be about a meter or so.
Always start the trek early. In order to avoid a night trek (which is really advisable), allot about 10 hours of hiking time per day (that means starting at about 8AM or so everyday).
360 degrees of Cloud show. About an hour away from the summit, the trail will be open and, if lucky, full of puffy clouds all over. This will make anybody affirm his/her decision of climbing the mountain.
Presence of limatik. Yes, hikers will encounter them along the trail but if it does not rain, there will only be minimal occurrences. Take me for example. I was not bitten all throughout the hike. (If it rains, of course, that would be a different story.)
Below is a quick video of our hike to Mt. Halcon:
4:50AM – ETD Jam Liner (Buendia) to Batangas Port (P167)
6:50AM – ETA Batangas Port. Buy Ferry tickets (P250 business class fare, P30 terminal fee)
9:35AM – ETD Batangas Port to Calapan Port
11:30AM – ETA Calapan Port
12:30PM – ETA Xentro Mall. Lunch.
1:50PM – ETA Baco Municipal. Submit requirements and secure permits. Final shopping.
5:30PM – ETD Baco to jump-off.
6:05PM – ETA Bayanan Community (jump-off). Prepare dinner and pre-cook meals.
10:00PM – Lights out
7:20AM – Start trek
8:20AM – ETA first community. Rest.
9:00AM – Resume trek
10:20AM – ETA e-camp. Rest.
11:00AM – Regroup and eat lunch along open trail
11:40AM – Resume trek
12:45PM – Water source
6:35PM – ETA Aplaya Campsite
5:00AM – Wake up call
6:00AM – Breakfast. Break camp.
8:35AM – Start trek
9:30AM – ETA Dulangan Campsite
11:15AM – ETA second river. Lunch.
12:30PM – ETA last falls. Regroup.
12:50PM – Resume trek
3:00PM – ETA Karwayan (last water source)
5:30PM – ETA Summit of Mt. Halcon. Set up camp.
9:00PM – Lights out.
5:30AM – Wake up call. Photo ops.
8:30AM – Breakfast. Break camp.
10:00AM – Start trek
11:40AM – ETA Karwayan. Rest.
12:00PM – Resume trek
1:20PM – ETA last falls. Lunch.
2:00PM – Resume trek
2:40PM – ETA Magasawang Ilog
3:00PM – Resume trek
4:20PM – ETA Dulangan River. Rest.
5:15PM – Resume trek
6:00PM – ETA Aplaya Campsite. Set up camp.
9:00PM – Lights out
5:30AM – Wake up call
7:00AM – Breakfast. Break camp.
8:40AM – Start trek
12:15PM – ETA falls. Lunch.
12:40PM – Resume trek
1:15PM – ETA second community
2:35PM – ETA jump-off. End of hike. Take a bath (finally!)
5:15PM – ETD jump-off
5:35PM – ETA Baco Municipality. Collect Climb Certificates.
Lunch, dinner and breakfast food (talk to your group about the arrangement)
Bag Rain Cover
Salt (to prevent muscle cramps/spasms)
Mess Kit (Plate, Spoon, Fork, Cup)
So that is one out of three of the MIMAROPA Knife Edge Trilogy. According to the certificate that we got after the hike, Mt. Halcon is the most difficult mountain in the country. And while it is indeed difficult, I guess the verdict will still depend on each hikers’ experience.
Mt. Halcon is indeed a challenging hike and I am very grateful and proud of each and every one of us for scaling it safely. And though there were several challenges along the way, I was still able to push forward.
And yes, I encourage hikers to climb up Mt. Halcon to see what it has to offer ranging from the forests, river crossings, limatik, diving board and the like.
Thank you so much for reading this entry!
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