#ExpPALAWAN: Fireflies and fog at Puerto Princesa’s Mt. Thumbpeak


Here’s a postcard-worthy night: thick silence, dying embers of a campfire to keep you comfortably warm, and the flicker of hundreds of fireflies dotting the midnight air—all atop a mountain thousands of meters above sea level. Welcome to Puerto Princesa’s Mt. Thumbpeak, another mountainous height for the Palaweño adventurer!

The ascent

Fellow weekend warriors often talk about the stunning view from Mt. Thumbpeak and the stories were enticing enough to convince us to join my college friend Rhea’s climbing group, the TeamBEARland. Joining new groups and meeting new mountaineers is always an exciting encounter for us – refreshing and unexpected.

It was an unexpectedly chill and fun climb. We began our trek under large-canopied trees—acres of them—in land forming part of the Iwahig Penal Colony, which is also known for its hornbill population. Minutes of walking led us to streams snaking through river boulders. We carefully threaded the water, occasionally stopping for coffee and laughter.

Towards the end, after about crossing about 15 rivers, we finally changed our footwear from sandals into hiking shoes and commence our four-hour assault to the camp site. The trail was ragged and the terrain is patchy. We pushed ourselves slowly, stopping for take-fives to catch our breaths, alternating it with meaningful conversation with Kuya Sol about almaciga trees dotting our path.

After three hours of walking, we reached a large stream beneath the comfort of a lush-canopied forest, where another coffee pot was made and lunch was shared. We spent an hour listening to the sound of cascading waters, calming our nerves and erasing the week’s hassles.

Our group then pressed higher to the camp site where the trail swarmed with leeches, big ones, I must say. Forty minutes of assault brought us to the camp site, a clearing shaded by large imposing trees with leaves of varying shades of green, with the ground dotted by palms. Nearby was a small brook—the only source of our water. There, in the comfort of nature, more stories and laughter were shared until the day closed with the fading warmth of the camp fire and the flicker of hundreds of fireflies.

Morning came and I woke up to the soft sound of the stream, gentle music, and the smell of coffee. Breakfast was prepared and the camp was cleaned. The team then began the two and a half hour of continuous assault to the peak where even larger trees greeted us, looming over our group with their towering heights, making me feel so small and humbled. Later into the trek, the air thickened and wind began to blow stronger, the visible blue hues of the sky were shrouded by the cool mist, everything above is covered with white, visibility was hard. The dry trail began to get damp because of the fog as the team traversed the mossy part of the forest. The wind blew harder as we reached the peak after climbing large slippery rocks. And then, we were welcomed by the vast view of the ocean of fogs hiding the mystery of what lies below and beyond Mt. Thumbpeak. The magnificent mountain denied us of clearing–even after patiently waiting.

How to get there

The trailhead of Mt. Thumbpeak is located at the Balsahan River at Iwahig Penal Farm. It can be reached via private vehicle through the Puerto Princesa South Road. To get the permit, you will have to coordinate with the CENRO and the management of the penal farm for this. You may also contact Kuya Bert or his son Kuya B2 through this number: 048 260 4378 – they are legitimate guides.

What to wear

Wear breathable hiking clothes, protect yourself from harmful sunlight but make sure to keep cool during the entire hike – let the cool air circulate. Wear tight leggings during your visit and tuck them inside your socks, the leeches are quite bigger here than those found in Mt. Salakot. You may wear slippers or hiking sandals in the first hour of the trek to easily navigate through the series of river crossings. We were lucky to have done this hike on the offset of rainy season so the current wasn’t that strong. If you plan to visit this, make sure to bring safety equipment and the likes.

What to bring

Aside from packing your stuff properly, Ate Ems and I discovered that splitting what you bring during the hike will save you. So bring your most reliable pal into the mountains; he or she should be a great photographer and of course should agree that you split carrying up these stuff: trail food, tent (or hammock if going solo), insulator (especially during colder weather), sleeping bag, light multi-purpose blankets, knife, water and water container (let us avoid using single use plastic), slippers or sandals, your meds, sunblock, light camp clothes, utensils, extra socks, trash bag, insect repellent, alcohol (the best for leeches), power bank, bonnet and cap, hygiene stuff, Ziploc bags, tissue (let’s avoid using wet wipes), flashlight, photocopy of IDs, trail and camp foods, cook sets, rope , ties, fire starter, whistle, etc.

Reminders

Bes, aside from being a weekend warrior, be a warrior for our nature – LEAVE NO TRACE. Here are some guiding principles to minimize man-made impact while enjoying nature:

* Plan and prepare – know the regulations, prepare for the extremes, visit with smaller groups, repackage food to minimize waste and eliminate the use of marking points—use map and compass instead.

* Travel and camp on durable surfaces – follow the established trails one hiker at a time. Camp in designated sites 200 meters away from water bodies.

* Dispose of your waste properly – pack in, pack out – yes, including napkins and wet wipes (avoid as much as possible). Throw organic waste at least 30 meters away from water bodies.

* Leave what you find – No, not that orchid.

* Minimize campfire impacts – use established fire rings and keep it small. Only use sticks that can be broken by hand and burn it all to ash.

* Respect wildlife – observe from the distance and never feed them.

* Be considerate of other visitors – let the nature’s sound prevail and avoid loud voices and music. Be courteous and yield to others.

Reference: Int.org/learn

Over-all, this major hike can be done for 2 days and 1 night for an affordable budget of PHP 700.00/hiker for food, transportation, environmental fee and guide fee for minimum of 10 hikers.

Thank you, TeamBEARland!

P.S.

I tried it again last week, no clearing again. Thank you Magbabagtik!

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