PICO DE LORO – Traverse and Monolith: Dangerously Beautiful. Treacherous Yet Irresistible 292


BASIC INFO

Name: Pico De Loro or Mt. Palay-Palay
Location: Maragondon, Cavite
Jump-Off: DENR Ternate, Cavite
Height: 664 MASL
Difficulty Level: 3/9

Pico De Loro is one of the many beautiful mountains near Metro Manila. Located in Maragondon Cavite, Mt. Palay-Palay (it’s other name) is a favorite among climbers most of which are firsttimers. The steep climb to the summit and the treacherous assault to the monolith (a 50-feet single pilar of stone standing near the summit) are to be reckoned with. A picturesque view of the surrounding waters of Batangas and the marvelous range of mountains of the other neighboring provinces is this stunner’s priceless reward.

THE CLIMB

After registration in the DENR Campsite, my team of 7 started out at 7:30. Early on, Pico De Loro showed us that she is not the type to go easy on us. We passed by the a creek scattered with rocks, big and small both of which are slippery. I slipped and landed on my back when I mistakenly stepped on a wet rock. I was wearing my newly bought trekking shoes which I thought was the great help I needed for this climb. Guess, new shoes wasn’t entirely the solution. The rock-strewn trail continued for several meters more, making me the slowest of the bunch as I was careful not to fall again.

PICO DE LORO TRAVERSE & MONOLITH

Rock strewn path at the onset of the climb

Not only was the first part of the trail rugged but it was also a series of continuous ascent. 10 minutes after we started, I was already running out of breath. We rested at the first chance we got to bag for some air. Just like what we were told, the new trail was cut short to 3KM (as oppose to the old one which was 6KM) of continuous ascents most of which are very steep. That was exactly what we went through barely halfway to the summit.

PICO DE LORO TRAVERSE & MONOLITH

A much needed breather

When we all felt a bit rested, we carried on. I didn’t know if I was to be thankful about the the trail being damp (probably because of last night’s drizzle that made the soil sticky) which prevented me from slipping and falling again but made me a heck of a mess. I reckoned I should since getting messy and dirty is all part of the whole thing. Otherwise, I should be home not in the mountains.

PICO DE LORO TRAVERSE & MONOLITH

You don’t need to keep on insisting to pass through an obstacle if it is impossible. Try going around it. But first, let me take a selfie

The ascent became more and more difficult as we pass through oversize roots protruding from the ground and uprooted trees blocking the way. We took short breathers in between and went on as the climb became even more challenging. The clock was approaching the hour of 10 and it looked as if we were not going to make it to the campsite on time. We figured the trek wasn’t suppose to be a race but given that we have to be on schedule, we then paced a bit more quickly.

PICO DE LORO TRAVERSE & MONOLITH

The summit and the monolith at the very first glimpse

I didn’t know if Pico De Loro has designated numbers for its resting camps. If there was then I wasn’t paying much attention. One resting camp caught my attention. It was where I saw the summit and the monolith for the very first time after we started the trek earlier that morning. That view invigorated my too tired soul. For the first time that day, I finally had the glimpse of what I was there for.

PICO DE LORO TRAVERSE & MONOLITH

At camp 2

We didn’t linger much longer. My newly restored willpower got me excited to find out what was waiting for me up there. I was faced with difficult descents through a slippery ground and a couple more challenging ascents but I didn’t let them get the best of me. Few minutes more, we were already in the mountain campsite refueling our tanks with sandwiches and soda.






ASSAULT TO THE SUMMIT

We started the assault to the summit at 11AM. The trail following the campsite was rugged and slippery. It was rockstrewn and in some parts scattered with oversize roots. Passed that are difficult ascents until you reach a stable ground at the base of the summit. From there the summit is less than 100 feet away.

PICO DE LORO TRAVERSE & MONOLITH

Time for an even more precarious climb

The trail to the summit is bare but wide enough with treacherous cliffs in both sides. There was pretty much nothing to hold on to except for small rocks occassionally protruding from the ground.

The assault however gets more and more difficult as we get closer to the top. It was hard but even harder with me trying to vie my way through the other climbers both climbing up and going down the summit. Dust and stones falling my way made it even worse. And just when I thought I’ve had it bad enough, the dark sky began to shower.

PICO DE LORO TRAVERSE & MONOLITH

This was the traffic going to the summit

The rain got me nervous a little bit. I didn’t know if I should continue climbing my way up or stay where I was until it stops. I figured the latter wasn’t such a good idea given how the water was running down towards me. I was struggling to figure out which way to take as everyone else was hurrying past me up the summit and down. Just when I was about to lose it, one of the guides of the other group offered me a hand and in no time I was there at the top along with the other happy souls.

PICO DE LORO TRAVERSE & MONOLITH

Looking down from where I came from halfway through the summit

I sighed as I felt so relieved. A childish grin was painted all over my face as I giddily posed for the camera. I spent the next 10-15 minutes soaked in the rain while making friends and chatting in between gritted teeth. And when I finally got the chance to be alone, I just stared contently at the beauty that was in front of me thinking, “This was all worth the trouble.”

PICO DE LORO TRAVERSE & MONOLITH

The happiest I’ve been that day

THE MONOLITH

We were decided not to pursue the monolith and call it a day after it rained. We thought it was best for us to be safe as the climb to the monolith will become even more treacherous after the drizzle. However, something made us changed our minds. Probably the thinking of not making the best out of that moment we had. So moments later after the downpour had stopped, off we went to the monolith.



PICO DE LORO TRAVERSE & MONOLITH

Going down to the monolith

The path down to the monolith is a steep descent along a rocky cliff. I decided to sit on the rocks to go down, using my leg to reach for another spot to land on. I did it until I reached a stable ground to a path leading to the base of the monolith.

We waited at the base of the monolith for a little while until it was our turn to climb up. Looking at the path where the last group of climbers have come, I thought I never felt my heart beat so intensely before. Just like what I did earlier, I sit to cross that tiny little space going to the other side.

PICO DE LORO TRAVERSE & MONOLITH

At the base of the monolith

The next turn of events was the only thing I hated about this climb. Not that Pico De Loro did anything to upset me but it was me who failed myself terribly. After we’ve crossed to the other side, we were faced again with another unimaginable challenge.

PICO DE LORO TRAVERSE & MONOLITH

Ridding myself of cold feet

One of the most dangerous part of the monolith climb is pulling yourself up using a rope to the next safe spot through a narrow 90-degree cliff. One stupid mistake and you’re gone forever.

PICO DE LORO TRAVERSE & MONOLITH

Everyone else in our group have gone up except me and my partner. It was my turn… I could feel the loud throbbing inside my chest. I tried to suppress my fear and went on to take care of the task at hand. I was able to pull myself 2 steps up but my limbs refused to move after that. I froze and stiffled hard as a rock and no matter how much I told myself I can do it, I didn’t budge a bit. It was then I realized I really couldn’t make it. And so I uttered the words I dispise more than anything else in the world, “I quit.”

PICO DE LORO TRAVERSE & MONOLITH

Could this monolith climb get even harder

My partner was surpised to hear those words from me as he helped me land safely on the ground. He knows I’m the type who doesn’t give up that easily or doesn’t give up at all. In his disbelief, he asked me again and I told him the same thing. He then reluctantly went on his way up. I waited for them at the very spot where they left me watching other climbers passed me by. I was hoping for some courage to spring from within me but none came along. I then contented myself with that day’s turn of events thinking, “I will try again another day.”

PICO DE LORO TRAVERSE & MONOLITH

The braver ones

MY 50 CENTS

  • Pico De Loro is beautiful as she is right now but I figured she was even more breathtaking during her olden days, back when she was not yet beaten by too many climbers.
  • I do salute the people who does the maintenance job on the mountain for keeping it clean.
  • The vandals were something I didn’t appreciate. Tattoo is an art but that’s not something Pico De Loro needs. She’s a stunner as she is. If she wants something more to her, she would have forged it herself.
  • If you would ask me whether climbing Mt. Pico De Loro is difficult, I wouldn’t say it is easy but it wasn’t that hard either. The only challenging part is the steep ascent to the summit, the descent towards the monolith and the climb to the monolith itself.
PICO DE LORO TRAVERSE & MONOLITH

Strangers in the mountains getting to know one another

HOW TO GO THERE

  • From Metro Manila – Go to coastal mall and ride a bus going to Ternate, Cavite for P75. Get off the bus station and ride a tricycle to go to the DENR Registration site. Fare is P150 good for 3 people
  • From Alabang and Laguna Area – Go to South Station. Board a bus bound for Naic, Cavite. Get off McDonalds Naic. Ride another bus to Ternate Cavite for P25. Get off the terminal and ride a tricycle to the DENR Registration site.
PICO DE LORO TRAVERSE & MONOLITH

This guy

THINGS TO BRING

  • Trail food (mixed nuts, jelly, chocolate, etc)
  • Trail water 2L or Gatorade
  • Gloves
  • Sunblock
  • Camera/Phones
  • Extra budget for extra expenses
  • Headlamp/Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Arm sleeves/Cap
  • Extra set of clothes
  • Packed Lunch
  • First aid kit including meds you are currently taking
  • Raincoat/Rainjacket

BUDGET = P500/person

  • RT Fare bus – P150
  • RT Fare Tricycle to DENR Reg site – P100
  • Environmental Fee – P30
  • Toilet & Bath – P15
  • Guide Fee (Optional) – Depends on the number of people in a group but it costs P400.

SAMPLE ITINERARY

0430: Assembly at Coastal Mall Terminal
0500: Depart from Coastal To Ternate Cavite
0600: Arrive at Jetti Gas Station Ternate (Meet up place if you will be coming from different locationsb)
0700: Jump off point DENR Registration
0715: Start Trek
0900: Arrive at Camp 2
0930: Arrive at summit (take pictures) – Proceed to monolith
1000: Arrive at monolith
1100: Start Descent
1130: Arrive at camp 2 (LUNCH)
1300: Start descent
1500: Arrive at DENR site. Wash up.
1530: Arrive at Ternate Terminal
1630: Ride bus bound to Coastal Mall






FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

  • Is it safe to climb for newbies? No mountains are safe. Anything can happen out there. Your safety depends on how much you have done your research and prepared yourself before climbing any mountain. It is more appropriate to say that Pico De Loro is a newbie friendly mountain as it is less difficult than the others but the struggle is still there.
  • Is it open during this date and/or holidays? I always make sure to get this post updated so if there is an announcement of Pico De Loro being closed then you’ll most definitely read it here. 👇👇👇
  • Is it really necessary to get a guide? If you have not hiked on a mountain before or any of your companions, I suggest you do although the trail is already established and there is little possibility of getting lost, there are parts of it that newbies would find really challenging and might need assistance with.
  • How much is the guide fee? P1000 for 5 people max. In excess of that is additional P500. You may want to raise this issue with the DENR official present at the time of your hike to avoid being ripped off. Their making a business out of the poor mountain and hopeful beginners is just too insane.
  • Is it okay not to get a guide and just follow other hikers? Are there many hikers that day? It’s up to you. That risk is for you to take. Remember. Sometimes you only have yourself to rely on up there. If help comes lucky you but if it doesn’t then you are on your own. . And hikers? Weekends and the holidays! Tons of them. Weekdays. Few to none at all.
  • Is it necessary to book for a tour through the agency or can we simply walk in? Do we need reservation with the DENR? Agency. Nope, I don’t recommend it. Walk in. Definitely! Reservation. Not necessary as of this moment.
  • Do you have any contacts in the DENR or any guides there? I did my best research on this.
    • DENR Officials: Reynulfo A. Juan – Regional Executive Director
      DENR-Region 4-A (CALABARZON)
      Contact No.: (049) 502-7500
    • Bayani S. Mendoza – Asst. PASu, MPPMNGPL
      PENRO Cavite
      Contact No. (046) 419-2474
    • Guide:  Christian Seracon – 0906 692 1264
  • Is the Pico De Loro falls still open? Nope. Very unfortunate, huh.
  • Is it okay to camp overnight? Negative.

RECENT UPDATE

  • Starting March 15,  hikers are prohibited to climb the monolith due to the loss of vegetation and massive erosion at its foot. This is being implemented for the safety of all the parties involved. For everyone strict compliance. None has been said as to how long this is going to take effect but expect for it to take a long time.
  • The monolith is still off limits but some people are simply stubborn that they couldn’t abide to a simple rule. Hence the DENR is now asking hikers to sign a waiver, that they are not going to be held liable if anything bad happens out there. But remember this people! It isn’t just your safety that’s at stake. It’s the threat of the monolith gone forever. Can’t we just give this helpless piece of rock a break to let it recuperate?
  • July 2016 – It was announced by the DENR that Mt. Palay Palay (Pico De Loro) will be permanently closed starting August 2016. Exact date of closure is yet to be announced. Rumors about the land being bought by Henry Sy immediately surfaced after the announcement but the DENR denied it all and simply cited letting the mountain heal as the reason behind the said closure. Well, if you would ask me. I’d say what took them so long? I just hope the next time Pico De Loro opens its doors again, she will still be the natural reserve that she is and not some privately owned ecopark.
  • August 2016 – No closure of Pico de Loro is ever happening. Guess they really don’t wanna give this helpless stunner a time off from beating. And I wonder how the rule breakers will dare go up the monolith this time since it’s officially closed with a touch of barbwires para intense.
  • September  2, 2016 – As announced by Pinoy Mountaineer in his facebook page: Pico De Loro will be officially closed to hiking activities starting October 1, 2016 for rehabilitation purposes.
  • October 1, 2016 – This day marks the start of the indefinite closing of Pico De Loro. Let us wish her well during her much deserved slumber and simply look forward to the day she will reopen her doors for us to once again marvel at her unrivaled beauty.

There you go. Hope you enjoy reading my narrative of our Pico De Loro climb. I will be happy to answer any of your query but should you have questions, make sure to have read the entirety of this post before dropping them on the comments box. Things like DENR/Guide Contact Number, whether the mountain is closed or whether it is safe to hike alone were covered in the above post. Just read.

Ayt. Guess that pretty much it. Until next time. Ciao! 🙂

 

 

 



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