The City in the Forest lives up to its name, Puerto Princesa City is endowed with undiscovered pathless mountains perfect for short day hikes coupled with unlimited challenging ascend and breathtaking views. Barangay Bacungan, in particular, is a favorite quick getaway for bikers, hikers and weekend wanderlusts. Last weekend, armed with a compass, a screenshot of a contour map and a reliable bolo, Magbabagtik Mountaineers braved and the 600+ MaSL unexplored mountain, probably the newest hiking destination in the city – Mt. Airy (Ayree).
Mt. Airy Experience
It is the first time that we will hike up a mountain without Peter, our team leader, and the fact that this mountain has a lot of crisscrossing paths downhill that eventually vanish into small unrecognizable bushy trails and finally into complete pathless dilemma uphill, made the entire team terrified and excited at the same time.
The hike began at the Cuyuno community seven kilometers away from the Bacungan crossing, a few kilometers before Nagtabon Beach. Passing through a series of shallow rivers and feeder roads, the team eventually began treading the slippery trail up with continuous palpitating no-joke assault (or it’s just me, I’m getting old), stopping to catch our breaths and leaving trail marks from time to time.
Thirty minutes of the hike up brought us into a small clearing where a visible patch of a once mossy forest welcomed us with confusion, there are no visible trails from here! Our team also made an exploration climb several weeks ago and we’re expecting that the trails will still be fresh and visible but it is nowhere to be found! After talking with our guides, who, unfortunately, were also lost, we decided to follow the screenshot of an even more confusing contour map from Peter (haha) and agreed to head northwest. The guides and Arjay led the team, cutting bushes and clearing the path enough for a single person to pass with Kim behind them reading the maps. The team became unusually silent, probably thinking about the possibility of getting lost in the forest after nightfall with no provisions, that would be terrifying – and we’ll be starving. After several attempts, we finally figured out the easiest (probably) way up, this is by following the edge of the ridge, conscious of large moving and falling rocks on our foot, stunning view of Nagtabon Beach on our left and the imposing and beautiful Mt. Beaufort Geological Mountain Range behind us.
Mt. Airy is not windy at all and it’s a hot and technical mountain to climb. With the scorching sun adding to the dilemma, the team faced and walked above rock walls to get through the other side of the cliff. We then pushed up the sparsely vegetated spot until we saw a small flag placed at the crest of the peak, waving, welcoming and seemingly congratulating us for not getting completely lost before dark and for our successful exploration climb.
How to get there
Mt. Airy is a 600+ MaSL (exact elevation measure needed), 5/9 (self-calculated difficulty level) mountain located at Barangay Bacungan, Puerto Princesa City. Its trailhead is in a small friendly Cuyuno community 7 kilometers away from the Bacungan crossing and several kilometers away before Nagtabon Beach. To reach the guides, kindly contact Peter John Cacayan (+639569156595) and Arjay Rodrigo Bundac – they are also on facebook. The area can be reached via private vehicles and rented tricycles from the crossing.
What to wear and what to bring
If you’re planning to hike Mt. Airy, it is advisable to wear breathable, non-heat absorbing easy dry clothing, cap, protective stretchable sleeves, with proper hiking shoes or sandals. Shorts are not very reliable because the trail is still new and is quite bushy, slippery and thorny. Bring at least 2.5 liters of water, a packed lunch, extra and trail food, a map and a compass, flashlight in case of emergency, sunblock, first aid kit, whistle, and gloves and make sure that this is all sealed in case of rain.
Network signal is available on some parts of the trail. Please observe the LEAVE NO TRACE PRINCIPLE at all times.
To my friends at Magbabagtik Mountaineers – Peter, MV, Pot, Fau, Kuya Marvs, Kim, Richard, Judd and Arjay – thank you.
To Judd – keep climbing. It’s a long way up, but keep climbing.