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    Wednesday, January 7, 2015

    Mt. Ugo Traverse

    Mt. Ugo Traverse

    Mt. Ugo Traverse, Cordillera mountain range, Pine Trees

    The Cordillera Region encompasses a wide range of mountains. It is a vast forest enriched with pine trees and abundant in the diversity of flora and fauna.

    Mt. Ugo Traverse, Cordillera mountain range, Pine Trees

    Mt. Ugo is only one of the scenic mountains up north. Towering at 2,150 meters,  it offers a great view of the other Cordillera mountains, like Mt. Pulag and Mt. Tabayoc. Indeed, this picturesque mountain marked our 2013 as this was our first traverse hike adventure.


    Country: Philippines

    Region: Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR)

    Provinces: Nueva Vizcaya and Benguet


    One can either start from Kayapa in Nueva Vizcaya or in Barangay Tinongdan, Itogon, Benguet.


    If doing the Kayapa-Itogon traverse, take a bus going to Tuguegarao or Isabela. Travel time is around 5 to 6 hours. The Victory Liner bus station in Kamuning, Quezon City offers daily trips going there. Drop-off point is in Aritao, Nueva Vizcaya.

    Visit this page for fares and bus schedules:

    If taking the trail from Itogon, take a bus bound for Baguio then grab a taxi that will take you to the barangay hall of Tinongdan. Victory Liner, Partas, Genesis and Philippine Rabbit buses have daily trips bound to Baguio.


    Our original plan was to climb Mt. Pulag for the Holy Week. Seven people showed their interest, but due to insufficient budget, unfortunately, we had to change the plan and looked up for an alternative climb. We chose Mt. Ugo as its just a scenic as Pulag, but not as expensive, especially if you're in a small group.

    At first, the backpackers were reluctant to take this challenge as it requires 10 - 12 hours to the summit and another 6 hours to traverse. Most of us withdrawn from this plan, but three valiant members decided to pursue.

    It was a Good Friday and the weather was perfect. We bought our tickets and took a Tuguegarao-bound bus. It took us 5 hours to reach the place. We alighted at an eatery in Aritao. Unfamiliar with the place, we didn't know that we missed the drop-off point! Good thing, a tricycle driver approached us and offered to take us to the van terminal with vehicles bound to Kayapa.

    Seeing this road sign at the terminal, we were amazed when the driver told us that this is also the shortcut to Baguio, which is only an hour away. We then realized that Mt. Ugo is indeed a borderline between Benguet and Nueva Vizcaya. The road resembles one of Benguet's mountainous highways, consisting of numerous steep zigzags.

    The driver dropped us off at an eatery where fresh meats of cows are sold. We took a heavy meal and changed our clothes in a public CR located just in front of the eatery.

    Just a few meters away is the Kayapa Public Market, which is the landmark to every hiker or mountaineer doing this traverse. You can get your food supply here prior to the climb.

    We registered at the police station (no registration fee) and met our young guide. He's a student and works as a part-time guide to sustain his studies.

    Power of three lets get it on!

    We started our trek at around 3 PM. The moderate steep trail startled us. Everyone got short-winded and often asked to take a rest every 10 minutes. Indeed a cardiac trail just at the beginning of the trek. You will also notice some graves along the trail.

    Behind us is the beautiful scenery of the Cordillera Mountain Rage. The panoramic view added to our excitement in conquering Ugo's summit.

    An hour had passed and it was already getting dark. We managed to stop by at a bunker to eat our trail food, 'Biko'. It is a Filipino rice cake made from sticky rice, coconut milk, and brown sugar. We enjoyed the food and had some 20 minutes of luxurious rest.

    It was around 7 PM when we reached the Indupit Village. We were surprised that there's actually a house with a car on the mountain! Well, that was the Cordillera, where people curve the roads to build their houses. Expect some dirt roads as these are parts of the trail. A rolling slope was the next part. It was as easy as walking along the city streets. The scenery was beautiful from up there.

    Four hours later, at around 11pm, when we reached a shed located near the Domolpos Village. We pitched our tent at the middle of the trail, cooked our dinner, and took a rest for an hour.

    The plan was a continuous hike up to the summit. At 12:30 AM, we then resumed our trek.

    Our minds were very eager to get to the summit and catch the sunrise, but our bodies just couldn't move. It was very cold and windy at the earliest hours of that day. We were shaking from head-to-toe, but had to be very careful because it was dark, and the trail leading up the summit were more dangerous.

    The freezing weather, the steep trails, and the fear of what was ahead of us didn't stop us from successfully overcoming our purpose.

    We continuously moved on, and didn't even notice that the three of us were already at Mt. Ugo's summit! The cold breeze of air welcomed us. The summit has a flat surface with some trees surrounding it. It can be compared to Mt. Tarak's summit.

    Just an hour later, and we witnessed this breathtaking view.

    We caught the first glimpse of the sunrise. A feeling of triumph filled us.

    Setting up a camp at the summit was not advisable, according to our guide. This is to avoid the piling up of garbage that irresponsible hikers leave behind. However, since we only promised to stay for a couple of hours, he  allowed us. He actually had to ask for permission from the older guide, who also happened to be at the summit as he was setting up the trail for the mountain trail run that occurred  that day. At the summit, we were able to cook our breakfast and take a nap.

    Group picture at the summit marker, of course. Just a few steps away from the marker is the crash site of the Philippine Airlines Flight 206 (PR206) at an accident in 1987.

    At 8 AM and after a few picture-taking, we decided to start our descent traversing to Itogon, Benguet. We missed taking a picture of the Kilometer 15 marker. Too lazy to go back, we just posed and took a photo of the Kilometer 14.5 sign.

    Fascinated by the mountainous view, we appreciated our descent more as the sun uncovered the terrain. The trail consists of steep to flat and, sometimes, crossed slopes.

    Some of the kilometer markers along the trail.

    At Kilometer 7 marker is the Lusod Village. It's a sign that we have already reached halfway of the trail. The people at the village were very nice and hospitable. They offered us their native brown rice and, in exchange, we gave them some of our white rice. The kind locals allowed us to cook our food inside their house, but instead, we just decided to take a nap to regain some energy.

    Feeling more rejuvenated, we continued our trek going down at 1 PM. The pains on our knees were excruciating as it was a continuous down slope. At one instance, we needed to stop and take an anti-inflammatory medicine to reduce the unbearable pain. Just an unsolicited advice, make sure you have enough exercise before doing this hike.

    More of the Kilometer markers:

    It was already 5:30 PM when we reached the Kawayan Village. It was such a relief when we saw a sari-store. Here, we indulged ourselves with a 1 liter of Coke

    Afterwards, the Kilometer 0.5 marker was already visible. The steel bridge is located after it.

      A few more steps and the Kilometer Zero marker was just a kiss away.

    Finally, we completed the Mt.Ugo traverse in 19 hours! A certificate of appreciation awaited us at the barangay hall.


    We are a group of 3 and here are our expenses:

    Php 350 - Bus fare from Manila to Aritao Nueva Vizcaya

              15 -  Tricycle fare from Aritao to the van terminal

              55 - Van fare to Kayapa Market

              50 - Meal in Carinderia

            270 - Guide fee (Php 400 per day x 2 days / 3 pax)

           100 - Registration in Itogon, Benguet/ Certificate

           400 - Chartered Van to Baguio (Php 1200 van rental / 3 pax)

           100 - Tip to our guide

           100 - Dinner

           450 - Bus fare from Baguio to Manila


    Total - Php 1,890 each

    We recommend going in a larger group to have lesser contribution for the chartered van and guide fee.


    On June 26, 1987, Philippine Airlines Flight 206 (PR206) en route from Manila Domestic Airport to Loakan Airport, Baguio City crashed onto this mountain killing all 50 persons on board.
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