Conquering Mount Batulao: A First Timer’s Climb
When In Manila and looking for a quick escape, why not climb a mountain?
Grab your friends. Take a two-hour commute. Some bills in your pocket. And a sense of adventure.
I have long wanted to conquer a mountain, but was always under the impression that it would be expensive and would require days. After some prodding from a friend, I finally did a quick research and found out that we could actually climb one in a matter of hours. Enter Mount Batulao, a popular day hike among mountaineers located in Nasugbu, Batangas.
stingy frugal traveler I am, I checked on the breakdown of expenses for four people:
Bus (from Coastal Mall to Evercrest) – Php 104 (x 2 back and forth) = Php 208/pax
Trike from Evercrest to trail head – Php 25 (x 2 back and forth) = Php 50/pax never mind, we can walk
Guide fee – Php 300 ÷ 4 = Php 75/pax
Registration – Php 20/trail (old + new trail) = Php 40/pax
Food – KKB
TOTAL = Php 323 / pax
But of course, we all have this friend who’s too royal to take a bus, hence offering their car. As per our ‘Prince’, from our places in Makati, it would be a hundred kilometers by car – around 10L of fuel for Php 1k. He added it would already include side trips. Plus, he’d be the one to foot the parking fee of Php 50, so… we gave in:
Fuel – Php 1k
Toll – Php 350 (C5 to Sta. Rosa Exit, vice versa – Php 175 each)
Guide fee – Php 300
Food – KKB
TOTAL = Php 1650 ÷ 4 = Php 412.50 + Php 40 registration fee = Php 452.50 /pax
Four o’clock in the earliest morning and we were rolling on the road. Singing to Sara Bareilles’ “Gonna Get Over You” while munching on bars of chocolate my friend grabbed from a convenience store. How tranquil it was.
Conquering Mount Batulao
We reached Tagaytay after an hour and grabbed a quick meal at Taal Vista. From there, we consulted Google Maps for directions and had one of the biggest epiphanies: it isn’t as reliable as we thought it was. We circled around Alfonso, Cavite for about an hour only to be brought back to the same main road; drove to Nasugbu, Batangas and then to Tuy where we decided to stop by for some groceries since, as per GMaps, we were only 10 kilometers away from our destination. Or so we thought. It was a dead end when we reached Balayan, Batangas with the road leading to the mountain at a very poor condition. We backed off as the car couldn’t take it. Finally resorting to asking the locals for help, we were directed back to Tagaytay.
Lesson: when in doubt, ask the locals. Technology can sometimes be a traitor.
It was almost nine o’clock in the morning and we were greeted by insistent kids offering their services as a guide. We wanted the oldest we could get, thus Elvis – a boy in his teen years. From Php 450, we successfully haggled it down to Php 300.
While on our way to the jump-off point, we were debating which trail/s to take. Considering that we were beginners, I wanted things to be safe. But since I was with three guys, the adrenaline rush was just overwhelming. With the knowledge that the old trail’s harder than the new one and includes rappelling, they wanted to take both. I gave in.
“Are we there yet?”
I kept on asking Elvis. It felt like walking forever and my legs started to complain as the path went upwards. I think it took us about twenty minutes or so before reaching the trail proper. Took a break. Too early, too far, and yet my energy was already almost drained.
Except for the part on which we had to pass through a forest, the trail was open all throughout, so we were in for an absolute treat – albeit the view basically remained the same, the landscape was still postcard perfect. As we walked along the narrow trail, we’d stop from time to time. Grabbing a branch here and there, or some grasses, or just dunk when there was nothing to hold on; the strong winds would strike us. The sun, even when up and high on all its glory, was unfelt as the breeze caressed us.
Some parts could be slippery, no thanks to the loose soil. Aside from keeping our balance whenever the winds blew hard, we’d be protecting our eyes from the dust. Focused on the trail as we tried to ignore the deep ravine that was ready to catch anyone who loses their sense of equilibrium, we finally reached Peak 8. Its steepness overwhelmed us. It was scary – the trail where a girl died after falling off as she took photos. It was her first climb.
We reached Batulao’s peak shortly. Offering a 360-degree view of scenic rolling slopes, it was all worth it. Although the wind was too strong that we always had to keep our balance and cover our eyes from the thick dust, we felt like staying at the top forever. Conquering Mount Batulao: accomplished!
It was time to take the old trail as we descended from the mountains. Although there were comments that it was harder, I thought otherwise. In addition, with rocks to grab on for support and the mostly plan trail, it lacked the variety and challenge the new one offered.
When we reached the most-awaited part of the trail where we had to either climb or rappel down a 45-degree slope of rocks, there was a line of hikers waiting for their turn on the lone rope. The girl I was next to took forever to muster the courage. Tears. She eventually decided to climb down the rocks using her bare hands with the help of their guide.
From there, it was an easy hike. But due to the downward path, the pressure was concentrated on our feet thus we started trembling and just felt like collapsing. Sometimes, we’d just slide our way down while on a seated position whenever the loose soil would allow us.
It took us seven hours to finish the trek, from and back to the jump-point, with (quite) a lot of breaks in between. Probably an embarrassing and pathetic figure, but whatever, it was awesome.
Conclusion: dirty of dust and drained of energy. And a week of sore body.
Will I do it again when in Manila? Definitely. Actually, I just did.
Conquering Mount Batulao: A First Timer’s Climb