Monday, January 30, 2012

My Mt. Damas Adventure (Traverse) in Tarlac

Foreword: This is my first mountain climb activity and my gift to myself for my 29th birthday. Not familiar with any hiking terms so pardon me if I could not deliver the proper words for this kind of activity. But I will try my best to illustrate you the experience and hopefully would convince you to try it for yourself.

At the summit of Mt. Damas, sweet!
On the morning of January 22, 2012 we started our journey to Camiling, Tarlac to hike a mountain that was said just newly-opened to public, Mt. Damas. 

Together with two other groups, we rented a truck that took us to Dueg Resettlement, San Clemente Tarlac. The ride going up Dueg (it was really like hiking a mountain itself) is one tough ride but I am thankful the truck manages to bring us to our jumpoff location safe and sound.

We ate our lunch right away and met our guides, Boyet, Jay Ar and I forgot the name of the other one (sorry) and the kid, Manny, one guide for each group.

We started the ascend right after lunch coz we need to reach the summit before dark. Since we are not sure of how fast the pacing of every member was and two in our group were first timers-that includes me, it’s better to give extra time allowance.

At Mt. Damas: These girls are up to the challenges!

The ascend to Mt. Damas is quite a funny experience for me with a hint of danger. Some trail were so small and grasses bend over it that I must clear the grasses first so I knew I am putting my feet on the right path, on the ground and not on the cliff.  Our guides managed to run the steep trail even though some part seems close to a slope. They came back and forth when some of us need help. If I could no longer able to walk the steep trail, I sit on my butt and slide. Some areas are really so steep and countless times I accidentally sat on my butt because I am stepping on loose soil and I go all the way down. I advised to give enough space between members when on the trail to avoid collision if ever one missed his ground.
The view from the jump-off is already amazing. Other mountains surrounded the area and good enough to capture some good photos. We took a long break at the river and crossed it for another thirty minutes before starting the assault to the summit- an estimated 4 hours hike. Some trail is not well established so please if you are planning to hike here as well, wait for your guides to lead you.

The three groups reached the summit before the night completely falls. Only one group was able to camp at the summit and the rest had a saddle-camp.  At the break of dawn everybody gets ready to reach the summit just meters away. We decided not to climb it coz it will be part of the trail the next day.  From the summit, one can see other mountains dotted on the plains of Tarlac and Pampanga.

We continued our hike going down (or should I say, going up and down and up again and down) to reach the Ubod Falls that is one of the surprises of the trek. As for my experience, I slipped five times before I reached the river. The slope gets steeper as you descend to the river. Good thing I wore gloves so I could hold on to every grass along the trail (mostly amor-seco) to serve as my break. When we reached the river, we are greeted by a small waterfall (I forgot to ask if this one has a name) where we decided to take our lunch and explored the area.

To reach Ubod Falls, we climbed the side of the said small waterfall (a good, sturdy rope is needed here).  Few more walking, river trekking, climbing rocks and the majestic Ubod Falls stand proud at the distance.

By early afternoon, we started the trek to reach Brgy. Papaac where our bus is waiting to pick us up. From this point, there will be more river crossing and climbing smaller water falls. If you are planning to hike Mt. Damas as well, I advise to bring ropes and rappelling gear for convenience. Our guide brings one rope so everyone must fall in line to get to the upper part of the river safely rather than climbing the wall of the river bare-hand which is not advisable coz it’s wet and looks dangerous.

I reached Brgy. Papaac after four and a half hour of walking, little breaks to drink water and occasional running (which I found helpful for my legs). Water source is abundant (thanks to the river) and I drank a lot of river water coz I emptied my 3 litres mineral water during the half part of the second day trek.

The stores at Brgy. Papaac allowed us to take a bath at their homes free of charge and ate at their patio and kubo kubohan, as well. Thank you so much for the hospitality.

We are also met by Eman Miclat (Wey Miclat in his facebook account), member of Tarlac-based Game Nest Hiking Club at Brgy. Papaac.  He advised that anyone who wants to trek Mt. Damas in the future can contact him so their group can help mountaineers with the information needed, trusted guides and cheaper ride for example. If anyone is interested to contact Eman for hiking purposes, please write a comment and I will provide you his contact number.

As a whole, my first mountain hiking experience is an exhilarating experience!

Being on top of the mountain felt good in the heart (and I literally over-used my heart in the trek, LOL). It triggers excitement of conquering great heights, great distance and stamina. Hiking is a good escape and breather from a vicious cycle of office life. Nature always has its way of calming mind though it will sometimes require you other things to equal its greatest- your whole mind presence, physical and emotional readiness to explore its vastness. I am glad that I did say yes when I was invited to join the hike.

And if ever there will be next time, I will prepare for it seriously.

I am shy to admit I underestimated Mt. Damas before I even saw it. With what I read and what has been told me, it was only 685 MASL, considered a minor climb with a difficulty of 5/9. For our team, it should be considered a major climb considering all the technicalities its trail offers. And the difficulty should be considered as 5 for ascend and 9 for descend (LOL).

One more thing, I never advise this mountain be trek during rainy season. Fun is more rewarding if it’s safe and bringing the stories back home. If weather suddenly changes while you are already there, talk to your guides if it’s safe to continue. The loose soil and river trekking are dangerous during water downpour.

As a whole, it was indeed a challenging adventure. I did hiking, slope sliding, river trekking, rappelling and river wall climbing- all in one place. 

And lastly keep this policy in mind:

“Take Nothing but Pictures, Leave Nothing but Footprints, Kill Nothing but Time.”

 Appreciate nature, enjoy the time, cherish the moment, laugh with people who share the same passion, be polite with locals and thank God for guidance.

Our cool ride.
Jumpoff location at Brgy. Dueg.
At Mt. Damas: I called it the lone tree at the hill top. This tree served as our guide where we come from and how far we already gone at the start of the ascend.

At Mt. Damas: Lone tree is no longer visible from here. And with pretty smile like this, who could say I slided several times, trekked the mountain behind me and crossed a river. Peace sign to cool ME!!

 Pretty as the dawn. Good Morning Mt. Damas, Good Morning Tarlac!! 

The view of Mt. Damas summit from the saddle camp.
The view from Mt. Damas summit. Superb!!

The summit and trekking down. Beautiful view of the province at our back.

Where the river flows..........

I climbed and rappelled at the left side of this small waterfall to see Ubod Falls located several meters away. 

Ubod Falls
Ubod Falls

Stacked stones near Ubod Falls.

    ........ a week later, I realized I won in lottery (Php 1,000.00) while I am in mountain, gazing at the stars and looking at the plains of Tarlac that beautiful Sunday night. Maybe God just want to give me an extra gift for my birthday, aside from enjoying His stunning creations- the rivers, mountains, plants, trees, vegetation, insects and waterfalls.

Other photos courtesy of Transcom Outdoors members.
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  1. "with pretty smile like this", "as pretty as the dawn"... you're surely joking. That's the most insulting thing ive ever heard to our nature .LOL.

    how come there are no pictures of the Flora's and Fauna's?

    hope to see you on our next climb.

    1. See you in our next climb, my friend.. More mountains to climb and more articles to write. Thanks a lot.

  2. hi lady nyx, do happen to have a contact numbers of the elf and the guides in damas? we plan to trek this mountain before summer ends.. thanks in advance..

    1. Thank you for reading my article. I'm in the office right now and leave my contact book at home. I will reply to you with their number, promise ;-)

    2. Here it is, please contact Kuya Jay Ar V. at +639095659392, he's one of our guide.
      For the ride, please try to contact Wey Miclat at his facebook account( ) so he could help you find a good deal.

  3. we are planning to climb mt. damas this coming march 31.. ;))

    1. Good to hear that! I hope my article inspire you more to hike this mountain. Don't forget to bring a rope for your group, okay? And go get astonishing photos to share worldwide.


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