Mt Daraitan: Making It To The Top
by Danny Tariman
Mt Daraitan in the ranges of the Sierra Madre Mountains is one of trekkers’ favorites. Maybe because its location is very near the city. Or perhaps because it offers a different kind of challenge.
This mountain is located in Tanay, Rizal, Philippines. Coming from south of Metro Manila, it took me and my family just about 2 hours to drive to the drop-off point. Our vehicle’s odometer trip reading registered 77km.
The drive was smooth, passing through C5, Antipolo City, Teresa, and finally reaching the town of Tanay. From the town-proper, it took us about an hour to Daraitan Village (baranggay). It was a good paved road until we reached the turning point from Marcos Highway, where we drove on dirt-and-rock road for about 10kms.
At the drop-off area, we were greeted by a scenic view of a quiet river, with green mountain ranges in the background. It was a good morning to commune with nature once again.
We crossed the river by a raft. It was just a 3 minute ride to the other bank of the river. We headed to the Village (baranggay) Hall for the registration and payment of environmental fees. We also engaged a trek guide from this office, as required. No group is allowed to climb without a local trek guide.
We left the village hall at about 8:30 in the morning with “Mang Mulong” as our guide. He is a 60-year-old man with strong knees. The road quickly ascended. We felt the pressure on our legs immediately that we asked to pause to do some stretching exercises for a few minutes.
The trail started with about 30º ascent slowly graduating to 45º. After about one hour of trekking through a 1-lane trail of rocks and mud with shrubs and rocks to hold to, we reached the mid-point. Wow, with wind blowing towards us, it was a refreshing 5-minute rest. The marker says “Station 1”.
This mid-point station has a few make-shift benches made of tree branches. The view of the river below was fantastic. There is also a cave at this point. We had some photo-shoots at the cave’s opening, but never thought of going inside. Other groups ahead of us didn’t go inside too.
Few steps to the climb, we saw this marker “This way to summit 2300 ft, and ready to Assault Trail”. I have no idea what the “assault trail” mean, until we realized that the slope is now about 60-70º! And this was all the way up to the summit.
It was really challenging ascent. While our climb of Mt Pulag (2900+masl) challenged our “perseverance”, this climb challenged our “strength”. This is really not for weak bodies! No offense meant, but it was really so challenging. The trail was very, very steep. We passed through the narrow trail of rocks and mud holding on to rocks, vines, small trees, and some cut branches to keep our balance.
Finally, we reached the summit at about 11:15am, after about 2 hours of difficult climb. It is an “achievement” I thought. Indeed it is, for me and my wife in our mid-fifties! We explored the summit, took photographs, and had our packed lunch.
The view from the top was just awesome! Simply breathtaking! Looking down, you can see the river making an “M” path at the foot of the mountain. The stunning sight re-energized my body, ready once again for the descending trek.
We left the summit at 12:30pm, passing a different trail going to Tinipak river. This river is noted for its enchanting lime rock formations and its emerald-color river.
The downhill trek was just as challenging as the climb. We still passed through steep slopes, passing through single-trail. At times, we had to squeeze our bodies to pass between 2 big boulders, and at times, we had to duck to pass under a rock formation.
After a longer trekking time than our ascent, we finally reached the river at 3:30pm. This is about 3 hours hike from the summit. At this time, our legs are tired, almost to the point of surrender. But no! Quitting is not an option! We can make it. And indeed, we made it.
I and my children had a swim at the cool waters of the river. It was a refreshing experience. It was like we were doused with cold water after many hours of hiking.
The view was truly enchanting. White limestone as walls on both side of the river, big boulders of cream colored stones on the river, and in the middle is a strong stream of emerald-colored water, gushing through the lime stones. Really captivating!
We left the Tinipak River at about 4:30pm and started our trek back to the village. We passed through the riverside. It took us about 30 minutes trek to the point where tricycles (motor bikes with a side car) were waiting. Yeah, we took the ride. We were so tired.
Tiring as it maybe, we had a very wonderful experience in this trek. Another day of family bonding time!
We praise God for graces and protection throughout this adventure.