I was on this climber’s high when I signed up for a Mt. Daraitan traverse. I did not do my research prior to the climb because I thought I could conquer any mountain trail that come my way. Boy was I wrong!
There is something about wanting to quit because of muscle pain, sweating buckets and occasionally slipping upon establishing foothold that is addictive. Something about the last few steps until you get that bird’s eyeview vantage point.
Really, Mt. Daraitan is a Beginner’s Climb?
This was, however, not your ordinary mountain. Mt. Daraitan is located in Tanay, Rizal bordering Quezon Province and part of the Sierra Madre mountain range. To get to the jump off point before sunrise, we crossed the shallow river with two boats joined together. This river makes up the majestic Tinipak River on the other side of Mt. Daraitan.
Mt. Daraitan, I found after we set out from the barangay hall, was unpretentious and tough. Several minutes into the base line, we were welcomed immediately with a sustained uphill slope reminiscent more of rock climbing or bouldering than hiking and trekking. Needless to say, there was little time for warming up.
It helped to be wearing gloves for the climb because of the sharp and jagged corral rocks that make up the entire trail of Mt. Daraitan. One wrong move could get your knees scraped and bruised. More so, we had to endure this climb for 3-4 hours tops.
Trail Made of Limestone
Aside from the limestone-laden trail of Mt. Daraitan, it was also often made difficult by eroded trees and loose dirt that may be extra slippery if it had been raining. The density of the surrounding air also shortened our breaths. It was great that in playing Ultimate Frisbee, we have had training for the sustained lunge positions.
What I was thankful for was that our group for the day seemed to be seasoned climbers that nobody got injured, tired or complained easily. I believe that beginners who start with Mt. Daraitan may have more difficult time especially when not equipped with a warrior’s mindset. To me, it was a welcome push to not act as a weakling.
In a record time of a little past two hours, we were able to make it to the campsite. Even the site was small, as tents were perched in an inclined slope. I can actually hardly call it a campsite as it can’t accommodate much. The campsite was only ten minutes before the Mt. Daraitan summit!
Winding Rivers and Multiple Peaks
Summit reached! The peak of Mt. Daraitan itself is a bed of sharp crystallized limestone (also called Spanish marble) and crisp-stemmed trees at 719 meters above sea level. These rocks are actually used to make beautiful statues and sculptures. Like any mountain peak, there were also a lot of colorful insects. I cannot overemphasize how breathtaking it was seeing the beautiful mountain range of Sierra Madre from the peak of Mt. Daraitan!
Most people skip Mt. Daraitan and head straight for Tinipak River. But I can say that I had better appreciation of the River by going through the traverse first. Aside from the Sierra Madre mountain range, we lingered for hours staring at the long and winding Tinipak River that permeates through the ground below.
The Hellish Traverse
True enough, if the uphill bouldering was difficult, the Mt. Daraitan traverse to Tinipak River was more intense. We had to scramble down on an occasional 90 degree slope — holding on to tree branches, rough rock exposures or tough stems for hours longer than the climb. For the first time since my mountain climb breakthrough, I wanted to give up!
But as what I had learned from mountain climbing, I only had to suck it up and keep my legs moving. The faster I move, the sooner the traverse will finish. Soon enough, we made it down Mt. Daraitan could hear the sound of flowing river — the Tinipak River.
The beauty of the river? A different story altogether.