On the 119th anniversary of the country’s independence from Spain, Palawan News contributor and travel writer Karen Madarcos had a little ‘pursuit of freedom’ herself, this time taking her wandering soul (and heart) to idyllic Mt. Beaufort in Puerto Princesa. Join her as she scaled the heights of this picturesque mountain, shared stories of self-determination, and chased independence with other hikers at one of the city’s most popular peaks.
Everything is still so vivid – it all began with a slow steady hike up the path surrounded by seedlings that will be planted in the incoming Pista Y ang Kagueban. It didn’t take long until it started drizzling and, without giving us a chance to cover our bags, the heavens broke loose. Rain came pouring down, drenching us, and my phone.
Still, it was quite a relief as the rain helped cool down the heat that the early afternoon climb was expected to bring. We continued our assault up, taking five-minute breaks as we treaded down the narrow, paved path. The surroundings slowly changed from short bushes to bamboo tunnels that led us into the deeper part of the forest where the fog seems to kiss the lush green leaves of towering trees–it was feast for the eyes and food for the soul, a postcard we haven’t captured.
Eventually, the trail became steeper, the path more slippery, and our bags twice heavier. We cannot afford longer rest because we might not reach our resting camp before dark. We were all pushed to our limits, even the seasoned mountain climbers among us. The group eventually broke into little teams, with Ate Ems, Omo, and I staying with our guide, Tatay Bert.
Each climb seemed endless and trickier than the last. The terrain was inclined at an almost 90% angle and we relied on the protruding roots of trees to pull ourselves up. The one-hour continuous assault was marked by grunts and heavy breathing as we grip on rattan thorns or dead branches, many of us slipping. When we eventually reached the clearing for our pit stop for the night, it was dark and we had been climbing Mt. Beaufort for hours.
When the rest of the team reached the camp, we started setting up our tents. Some secured their hammocks in nearby trees, some prepared our food, and others changed into what remained dry in their bags. Dinner came, the team feasted on what could be the best dinner we had: canned goods, pork adobo, and warm rice. We then gathered into a small cozy circle, enough to bring warmth to who’s near us. With the smell of burnt marshmallow and the sound of rattling logs in the camp fire, we all learned about each other and one by one, we shared our reasons behind our decision to climb this Puerto Princesa mountain.
As the night went deeper, we slowly climb into our tents and hammocks. Under the canopy of forest trees that hid the stars in the night sky, we were lulled to sleep with tales of broken dreams and hearts, and the soft melodies of heartache songs in the portable stereo that someone brought in the mountain. Tomorrow, we reminded ourselves, we are reaching Mt. Beaufort’s peak.
When morning broke, we changed back into our wet clothes from yesterday and slowly began our trek towards the summit. Ate Ems, Keanne, and I went ahead of the group to be with Tatay Bert.
The path to the peak was mossy. Pitcher plants, exotic mushrooms, and wild colorful orchids greeted us in our way. Every clearing whispered how close we are to the peak.
After trekking for almost half-an-hour, we finally reached the top, where at the end of a boulder formation, we were greeted by a spectacular aerial view of Puerto Princesa Bay flanked by a stretch of thick mangrove forest and tributaries branching out towards the plains. Down the crocodile ridge, a rock protruding from Mt. Beaufort’s belly, laid verdant mountains and rolling ridges, bathing under warm early morning rays. Near the ridge, we had a glimpse of both the West Philippine Sea and Honda Bay and the grandeur of the sight was more than enough to dwarf our little human woes. There, on top of Mt. Beaufort, our hearts swelled with combined pride, relief, and peace. It felt, well, free.
In the silence of Philippine Independence Day, surrounded by other city mountains we plan to climb someday, we celebrated Ate Ems’ birthday.
How to get there
Mt. Beaufort, a landmark 1, 148 meters above sea level, is located at Barangay Irawan, approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour north of the Capitol. This is easily accessible via multicabs (P20 to P22), tricycles P150 if hired) and private vehicles. The mountain is among the most popular trails in Palawan for those who want to experience “summit fever”.
You have a choice
I slipped, maybe ten times, and Ate Ems got bruised so bad it still looked like a ripe avocado now, haha, but I never regretted climbing Mt. Beaufort. We opted for a new trail because of reasons I cannot disclose (XD) but according to seasoned climbers, it is harder, more ‘harkor’, than the old trail.
I cannot tell you the details of the old trail but according to our co-climbers, this can be a day hike and can be taken by new climbers. It may last for 10 to 14 hours depending on how often you “take five” and how many stops you’ll do to take pictures. You can contact Mt. Roland Amada through 0948 260 4378 if you want to know more about this.
Warning: this trail is unlimited-assault. Though the ascent can be taken for four to five hours, considerably shorter time compared to the old trail, the trek is harder and you’ll have to take this on your risk. Our seasoned colleagues said that this is not advisable for new climbers. If you are interested, you can contact Tatay Bert and his slippers, which I swear is more powerful than the Salomon shoes I’ve been eyeing lately, through 0948 260 4378. Fair warning, the descent will make you wish that you listened to your parents’ advice and stayed put at home to watch KDrama.
When to climb, what to wear and bring?
As always, make sure to check the weather before climbing and please do not insist if it’s raining.
If you will take the new trail, it is advisable to bring at least three liters of water, and four if you’re planning to stay overnight at the site (there is no water source in the area). Bring hearty trail mixes and sweets to keep you energized, which I prioritized last hike because of my, you know, eating habits. You can also bring cooked food or a cook set, thanks Thea Bona for this, canned goods and rice. Do not forget to bring power bank, insect repellent, first aid kit, wet wipes, a fold-up survival knife, flashlight, extra dry thick clothes, garbage bag, sunblock, ziplock, eating utensils, complete camping gears (tent or hammock, sleeping bag and insulator) – because oh-my-gad it’s so cold up there you’ll need a gin, an efficascent oil and thermal jacket, whichever comes first or all of the above. Beyond these, pack light.
It is advisable to wear correct, comfortable full body hiking clothes. Make sure that your shoes are designed for hiking. I used my running shoes for this hike and, boy, it’s-slippery-I-literally-crawled. Use a correct bag and dry pack everything — a wet bag is a heavy bag.
P.S. Toothbrush not needed.
Bes, LEAVE NO TRACE. Please clean as you go… and thanks Ferds for shouldering, literally, our trash.
Please forgive me for this section – I just want to thank #TeamLigaw aka #TeamPH for the best company. My happy heart will never be happier without you last Independence Day – Thea, Ate Gading, May, Bryan, Ate Ems, Omo, Keanne, Nikko, Ferds, Kuya Israel, Manny (thanks for the photos), Renz, Mark and the most positive-minded and encouraging tour guide, Tatay Bert.
Disclaimer: This is my first minor-major hike, I spent P250 pesos and we took good care of our flag.
About the Author: Karen Madarcos is a weekend warrior from Puerto Princesa. If you can’t find her in her daily walks around Sta. Monica, she’s either chasing a waterfall, floating in a nearby beach, getting lost in an unpaved trek, eating, getting bruises from hiking, blogging about all of these, reading her book of the week or most likely, working in a Research and Development Consortium to save for her upcoming weekends. Follow her instagram account at @shinakaren and see her website at wanderingkaren.com.
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