A short background…
Situated within the municipality of Boliney, Mt. Poswey stands at roughly 1546 meters above sea level. Currently, it is being claimed as the highest mountain in Abra. Some might wonder, what is the difficulty of the trail? Personally, I cannot decide but let me tell you our experience as we set foot on to this exploratory climb held last November 19-20, 2016.
Summit here we come
The jump-off point starts at Brgy. Bao-yan. From here, it was estimated that one can reach the summit in as fast as 2 hours. However, considering the fact that we are all new to this mountain and the trails established here were nothing more than those set by the hunters, it took an average time of 3.5 to 4 hours for all the groups (Lead, Middle, and Sweeper) to reach the campsite before the summit.
Along the way, there were many dried leaves and loose soil mixed up with fragments of rocks that makes it slippery to move forward. There was also a section where soil eroded due to the super typhoon Lawin which hit the province around October 2016.
Apart from that, the steep slopes and fallen trees as part of the assault requires one to be good in making themselves flexible to either pass underneath it or stretch their legs to cross over it. Summing it up, reaching the summit can be categorized as 5/9 minor climb. Easy some might say and so did I but no one knew this was just the start of something more difficult.
Once we got there, we then set up our own tents and hammocks. The tour guides fetched some water and everyone started preparing their own meals for the night. After dinner and all the chitchat, slowly everyone was drifting away as each decided to rest and gain strength for what lies the following day.
The start of a long journey
It was around 5 AM the next day when we decided to ascend the summit to watch the sunrise. From our campsite, it took approximately 15 to 20 minutes for everyone to have reached it. The whole mountain is forested and the summit is no exception which made it difficult for us to completely see the sun as it takes its spot up in the sky.
Everyone was happy as every mountaineer’s dream is reaching the summit and watching the sunrise or sunset. It’s a fulfillment that is totally indescribable by words alone. Yet the journey is still to begin.
Our next destination is to head for Camp Bantay Gubat. It was estimated that it can be reached normally within 2 hours. We started after breakfast at around 7 AM and with that estimated time multiplied by two, we expected to reach the camp by 11 AM.
And this is where our struggle began. Due to the typhoon Lawin, a lot of trees have fallen, soils became loose and so did the rocks. With this, our guides needed to clear up and make new paths along the way for us to be able to pass. It took us much time, frequently changing our route from the riverbanks to the mountainsides and vice versa.
In addition, roots and trunks of trees as well as steady rocks were hardly out of our grasp as we go down the slippery sections of the trail. What’s more to that? River crossing! Our feet were already shaking from all the hours of walking and we had to pass through the river and it’s not just an ordinary one. It may only be just less than 2 feet in height yet the current is so strong that one can fall down immediately with just one wrong move.
As we did a little time check, it’s already more than a quarter past 11 AM and we are still far from reaching Camp Bantay Gubat. With that in mind, thoughts of giving up started to arise in my mind.
Take 5 (minutes) turned take 2 (hours)
After passing through the river, we then decided to rest for a while. We dipped ourselves into the cold running water to feel refreshed again. It was nirvana. If only we can stay a little longer, we would. Unfortunately, we have a strict time to follow. So after spending around 15 minutes in the cool river, we took our lunch.
As we have underestimated this exploratory climb, what we had left were just pieces of loaf bread and one can of tuna for our second day. It was heartbreaking! But that wasn’t just the sad part. As we were done eating, the sweeper group came in with a bad news. One of the members experienced severe pain along his lower back making it questionable whether he could still push through. Fortunately, there were some of our companions in the group who are skilled enough to handle the situation and attend to his pain. As it subsided, he was then carried by the guides using a hammock tied up to two running bamboos. With what has just transpired, we got delayed by another 2.5 hours more or less.
As we continued, we were challenged by other impediments such as the blood leeches and mosquitoes in Mt. Littakan apart from the usual blocked paths that adds up to our time. As we have traversed through that mountain, we were welcomed by a riverbank. And guess what’s next? Another river crossing! Luckily, the current in there was not as strong as the previous one which has made it easier for us to pass. The only thing is, you have to walk by a herd of carabaos first and hope they won’t chase after you, then cross over the water again since the river along this area is wide enough that it is divided by rocks together with a pile of sands along the middle of it. Fun, isn’t it? But what’s more fun is knowing that we already reached Camp Bantay Gubat after almost 7 hours.
The last stretch
From this point on, our next destination is to reach Udiaw up to Sitio Likowan, which will be the end point of our exploratory climb. The total estimate time is 3.5 hours. If we were to consider again adding time allowance, it would probably take us around 5 to 6 hours. Time check. It’s already around 30 minutes past 3 PM. With that given, we are to reach the end by 10 PM at the latest as said by our guide. It was frustrating. Having no heavy breakfast or lunch at all, I was already physically and mentally exhausted to be honest. Yet, this is the main challenge when you are engaging yourself in mountaineering. You can’t back down. You can’t just walk away and say I quit. You have to finish what you have started, to become responsible of the decisions you take. So I stood by it. We stood by it.
Our last assault now has started. We have to reach for Sitio Likowan. Along the way, this is where we have learned that we were not only passing through one or two mountains alone. As a matter of fact, completing the whole traverse of Mt. Poswey means climbing up and passing through the sides of at least 8 mountains in total, as what the guide has said. Putting it aside, it’s already 5PM and we are passing by the edge of the mountain. At first glance, it’s fine. Look again and your feet will shake so hard and one wrong step means goodbye. We have to stay focused at all means. Thirty minutes have passed and it started becoming dark. This is it. Another challenge we have to face. We are doing a night trek!
Of sunsets and night trek
As the sun between the two mountains waved its goodbye, the darkness came and diffused, not only in sight but also in our mind. We were becoming more frustrated. When will we ever reach the end of this trek? Apparently, we have no food left except some cookies and candies. We have no other source of energy. The idea to just camp along the way and let morning come sprung into our minds. Yet, we can’t let that happen. There’s no source of food, only water. So we had to build ourselves one last time. We have to make it before the night time passes. Our feet were already giving up. It’s evident from the frequent slips and trips, to the verbal complaints we speak to ourselves, and undeniably saying our feet is injured. But still, we pushed through and by around 7PM, we have came across some rice fields. This is a good sign I thought, for not far from here surely there is already a community. My energy level boosted once again. This is it. Thirty minutes after, we passed by a man. Another good sign I thought, for surely he lives just within the area which probably means we are getting nearer. Then there was it. That bridge. Finally, from a distance, it can be seen. We were already in Sitio Likowan. We survived after almost 10 to 11 hours of trekking (+2 to 3 hours rest along the way).
Behind victory lies another challenge
From the bridge, we were then fetched by another guide and lead us to a house where we can take a shower and eat while waiting for the last group to arrive. Our happiness was more than what is painted in our hearts. We took the liberty then of refreshing ourselves and making each other feel proud for another achievement that we have conquered as a group, a success, an experience we will forever keep.
As soon as the last group came, we then have to make our plans. Out from our exhaustion, we forgot that from Sitio Likowan to Amtugao Proper, we have to walk again since there were no available motorcycles for rent. Another challenge it was. The happy and joyous smile in our face was swept away. But we have no choice. We have to walk again for another hour. So then we did, and we were able to reach Amtuagan in the time given. From Amtuagan Proper, we have to make it to Sabnangan. By motorcycle, it would take at least 30 minutes to reach the said place. And it is here that we are again faced with a difficulty. Since we arrived late at around 10PM, there were very few people they can contact to drive us to Sabnangan. One of the options given was to walk which would approximately take another 1 to 2 hours. However, since all of us are tired, we patiently waited. At around 11:30PM, I finally got my turn. I was pleased that finally, I’ll just have to ride a balsa at Sabnangan which would cross over Tumbal river, where the jeepney at the other side of the river will be waiting. But then, another surprise came. It was never expected. Riding the motorcycle wasn’t such a big thing. But, riding on it while passing through unpaved roads which are muddy, having so many holes and rocks going up and down at maximum speed was what made me totally awake in that whole 20 minutes. It was the most extreme ride I had. As we went uphill, the driver even lost balance. Good thing we didn’t fell by the rice fields. Once reaching Sabnangan, I was more than relieved that I still got off the motorcycle. From there on, we waited for the others before we rode the jeepney going back to Bucay.
By the next day, we just dropped by ** where the Sleeping Beauty of Abra can be best seen together with that matching photograph that goes “I ❤ ABRA”.
So that concludes our journey to Mt. Poswey. It was my first overnight and exploratory climb. Even though my body was beaten so much during this event, I have no regrets about it because I have learned a lot and it’s not just about how one can conquer mountains with great physique and endurance. It also opened my eye to how diverse a small community can be from dialects they speak to the cultures and traditions that they have unceasingly preserved up to this modern day.
That is all for today. Cheers!