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Mt. Kabunian 2020 (Mountain of the gods)

Tuesday, April 21, 2020


Mount Kabunian Bakun Benguet


Kabunian

Kabunian is the sky god of the Igorot tribe in Mountain Province (Philippines)
before Christianity came. Kabunian represents the sun, moon, stars and other heavenly bodies.


Bakun

Bakun is bounded on the north by the municipality of Cervantes, Ilocos Sur and the municipality of Mankayan, on the south by the municipality of Kibungan, on the east by the municipalities of Buguias and Mankayan, and on the west by the municipalities of Sugpon and Alilem of the province of Ilocos Sur. Bakun is 336 kms. away from Manila and 86 kms. away from Baguio City.


By the way, Bakun is politically subdivided into 7 barangays which consists of:

1. Ampusongan    
2. Bagu    
3. Dalipey    
4. Gambang    
5. Kayapa    
6. Poblacion (Central)    
7. Sinacbat



For this climb, I stayed at Barangay Poblacion (Central). Poblacion which literally means "town" or "settlement" in the Spanish language.  Poblacion is a common term used to refer to central, also to mean: downtown, old town, or central business district of a Philipine city or municipality, which may take up an area of a single barangay or multiple barangays.  Shorted/abbreviated as Pob.
 

Mt. Kabunian

Mount Kabunian is located in Poblacion (Central), Bakun, Benguet in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR).  Bakun is located at 16°47" latitude and 120°43" longitude which is at the northwestern tip of the province of Benguet.



 Destiny

The first time I visited Poblacion Bakun, Benguet was around March last year for exploratory purposes and get the feel of the place as to solidify and make future plans to climb its mountains viable.  

So, why did I not climb when i went there last year? I did not because I was overweight then and didn't have the gears to fully equip me.

Then before my climb this year, sometimes curve balls get thrown your way and one of the biggest forest fire occured (February 19, 2020), just a week shy before my climb via Akiki trail to Mount Pulag in Kabayan, Benguet drastically changed my plans to Plan B - Bakun!
With a ban/moratorium in effect regarding Mt. Pulag via Akiki Trail, I immediately packed my stuff for my immediate Bakun climb. 

Here's a link to my outdoor gear rundown.




Ingress Day 1

Bus  
As time is one of the most precious resource, I got myself to the only and one daily bus trip to Bakun which departs at 6:30 a.m. in Km 5, La Trinidad, Benguet.


Sidescenes

mandatory stop


The Bakun bus made an obligatory stop at Taba-ao, Kapangan Benguet for purposes of buying grocery, check engine, oil, water, brakes, visit the comfort room et cetera.



A cool and pretty laid back morning at Barangay Kayapa, Bakun, Benguet. (Don't confuse this Kayapa [Cordillera Administrative Region] with the 3rd class Municipality of Kayapa in Nueva Vizcaya Region as they are only similar in name/spelling.  
 

Mandatory Stopover

The Bakun bus will make it's obligatory stop at Everman's Eatery located in Pakawan, Cuba, Kapangan, Benguet where almost everyone alights takes a lunch break, take a quick visit at comfort room et cetera.  This will be like around 30 minutes max.

It was here where I had a chit-chat with an official/staff from the Office of the Governor of Benguet, who was bound with his driver going to Kibungan.  We shared the sentiments regarding the recent forest fire which razed Kabayan which was as large as San Juan, La Union.


Sitio Dada Bakun Benguet

Another obligatory stop at Sitio Dada,


It's normal for bus drivers and conductors to accept hand off deliveries (except contraband of course) from community locals destined to stopovers along the bus route.


Bakun Beans and Beans


There are times when the bus stops to pick up fresh vegetable produce which are sent by farmers to La Trinidad, Benguet for a fee. I dubbed this shot, "Beans and Beans."


Sitio Dada Bus Stop over


I love shooting moments (freezing time) like this whilst our bus made a longer stopover in front of a community store of locals in a laid back Sitio Dada, Bakun, Benguet.


Cooperative Bus


The bus stopover/s provide a chance for passengers to alight from the bus and stretch.  Also, passengers get their bus cargo which are brought down and/or vice-versa toploaded (loaded on top of the bus) such as food supply (rice, grocery items, construction materials, vegetable produce, luggage, et cetera).  This is done by the bus driver/conductor.

Arrival

I arrived Barangay Poblacion. Bakun around 11:30 in the morning and the bus driver/conductor will never fail to remind their passengers both new/old to the place that one must immediately go and report to the Barangay Tourism Council building, which I did.  

The Barangay Tourism Council was in session then and afterwards gave me their thumbs up/permission "green light" to climb Mt. Kabunian since I was alone, healthy and pose no threat to their community with the pandemic event outbreak.

I registered and paid in full all costs related to the climb.  By the way, make sure that when you travel to Bakun to bring more than enough money (including emergency cash) as there are no ATM (Automatic Teller Machines) and credit card facilities there.  Pay in cold cash.

Here are the rates when I arrived and paid:


Environmental Fee
100.00
Registration Fee
30.00
Overnight Guide Fee
1,500.00
Accomodation (Municipal Hall)
200.00
Total
*PhP1,830.00
*PhP- Philippine Peso




By the way, there is an overtime guide fee/charge which is calculated to start the after the overnight session which starts at around 10 a.m. of the next day and that is a charge of PhP 50.00 per hour for every succeeding hour until you reach back to Bakun Poblacion.

Say, if you hit 10 a.m. and you actually arrived 8 p.m. in Poblacion Bakun, that'll be an additional PhP 500.00 (10 hours x PhP 50.00) as an added overtime charge to be paid directly to your guide.


Also, if you're planning to have a porter, that's a fixed Php 1,000 fee.

For proper coordination when visiting Poblacion Bakun, contact:

Mr. Arthur Tolito 
Tourism officer
0921 211 3687
0905 317 2616 

Mr. Peter Diclas 
Tour Guide Coordinator Mt. Kabunian
0930 362 5434 


Spot Map of Barangay Poblacion Municipality of Bakun Benguet Cordillera Administrative Region PHILIPPINES


Spot Map of Barangay Poblacion
Municipality of Bakun
Benguet
Cordillera Administrative Region
PHILIPPINES


Hint:  Footrails in the legend of the map. Trekking, mountaineering, camping. :)

Bakun Hut

A quick photo documention of Barangay Poblacion Bakun as it presents it's breathtaking huge mountain ranges at the background with the community in the foreground.


Rice Terraces at Poblacion Bakun


As the afternoon hot sun beating down on us, we moved on and I noticed a rice terraces section at the foot of Mount Kabunian.(Noting this as a probable visit in the future.)

One Hot Midday Poblacion Bakun

Ascent

Mountain Shade

I took this snap whilst traversing one of the hanging foot bridges whilst Mount Kabunian provides cool temporary shade from the hot afternoon sun.

  To Pattan Falls (Right)



 

 

 

 

 

 

 
















Barangay Poblacion has an association of local mountain climbing tour guides all who follow a sort of round robin rule so you can't chose your own guide.  It's on a first come, first serve basis.  So, with my unplanned, unannounced visit, the barangay council got in touch with Mr. Digno Bagano who is a 10-year professional mountain climber/guide.

We started the trek around 2 o'clock p.m.  

Upon arriving at the Mount Kabunian start marker, I remembered carrying my reading glasses tucked on my neckline but somehow it was not there.  So, I told my guide to wait for me as I'll go back and look for it.  

This carelessness got in to extend my ingress time by one hour.  As I was the near the area of where I probably dropped my googles where I initially stopped then to double up to wear my fresh pair of socks.  Suddenly, I met a local man coming down the stone stairs and when I asked if he saw my white colored eyeglass, he said he found my glasses and immediately gave it to me.


Carbon Trek Poles and Thick Artic Gloves

At this point onwards ,until the start of the mountain assault until nighfall,  I have to use my HitorHike trekking poles for safety purposes.


One Days's End Ascent at Mount Kabunian


At this juncture, a sunset is calling the day's end as we are still starting the ascent up Mount Kabunian. 


Night Trek


Now, I have to utilize my fully charged headlamp and with the difficulty of the climb as we move forward, you have to have one hundred percent focus on every step you take.  One has to depend on balance and sheer alertness of the senses as a wrong move will be an injury or fatal death to a ravine drop.

So, I adapted a slow, but sure pacing.  Also wore my thick Arctic gloves to protect my hands from possible cuts, bruises.

Again, there is no point rushing and always consult and talk with your guide.



First Mountain Night

With exhaustion finally catching up, I decided to stop whilst my guide proceeded up until we separated ways.

So, I decided to take shelter next to two big boulders with guide railings and fern on the sides all serving as windbreaker. 

Prepare the area and made sure there were no snakes. Unpacked my sleeping gear/systems.  Laid out Quechua sleeping foam pad, my Lanshan tent footprint and my Forclaz sleeping bag.

I also used my spare USB powerbank + LED strip as 'candlelight'.  I took a light dinner of canned tuna and dried seaweed and finished off with mineral water.  Do change your sweat dreanched/wet clothes/socks fresh and dry clothes/socks.  I also double up with my down thermal jacket.  

My sleeping mummy bag coupled with foam pad and tent footprint provided a toasty warmth against the cold mountain altitude weather. I decided not to pitch my tent due to the slope of the place I stopped over which is not recommended for a tent pitch.

There is always condensation and moisture which are natural effects of thermal body heat and clothing.  So, choose sleeping bags which does not leak or seep moisture external to it's internal case and opt for an internal condensation-free sleeping bags, zero degree rating.  My Forclaz sleeping bag passed this test with flying colors.
 
I slept with my main USB powerbank and mobile cellphone inside my sleeping mummy bag as this will prevent stored electric power to discharge due to cold temperatures.

My first overnight outdoor experience in Mount Kabunian near it's summit underneathe the canpoy of the stars, zero light pollution.  It just removes all your tiredness.

Descent

Before egress back to Poblacion Bakun,  around 6:30 a.m. I awakened to this sunrise event.


Dawn at Mount Kabunian




Mount Kabunian Sunrise Video (click to watch)







Mount Kabunian Bakun Benguet Summit Views


After tidying up in the area where I slept, once fully prepped, I continued my cautious climb up Mount Kabunian.

Near summit, views are so breathtaking and as sit down and I take in clean and fresh mountain air for my physical vehicle (my body) and take it all in whilst enjoying the majestic views/scenery.  A traffic control method as a way of slowing down one's thoughts which is to just stick to one uplifting/powerful thought and allow the mind and recharge the soul as the body also relaxes.


Nothing Like IT Bakun Benguet Landscapes


At this point, I'm 40 minutes shy to reaching the summit.  I decided to have my guide fetch me and refill my Osprey water pack and water bottles with cool clean, natural mountain water (a total of 2.5 + 2 liters.) which was more than enough for my way descent back to barangay Poblacion Bakun.


Mount Kabunian Breathtaking Summit Views


As I watch what Mother Nature presents me, Mount Kabunian views below and slowly but surely keeps all my tiredness at a bare minimum and eventually wipes it out easily.  As a detached observer, I watch in a sort of meditative mind taking everything in, very relaxing and uplifting.
 

Mount Kabunian Mighty Tree


I'm kind of imagining this part of the trail will be all green during the rainy/wet season here in the Cordillera Administrative Region.


Mount Kabunian Breathtaking Views


More breathtaking views of Bakun terrain and mountains.


Mount Kabunian Trails Bakun


I clearly remember as I look down below is a second dark looking boulder from where I stand and a smaller and farther boulder, and in between that is a small a little bit inclined portion which is a bed of green wild mountain bed of fern which used like a couple hours ago before dawn to give justice to my body and rest.


Mount Kabunian Cliffhanger Foot Bridge Trails


Go past this hanging footbridge is where I slept.  More cliffhanger and challenging trails ahead.  Imagine traversing this at night with your headlights fully on which I think was easier than during daylight time when you see and feel the dizzying heights of the ravine and cliff sides drop offs and deep gorges. I bet you will NOT have the need to drink caffeinated coffee at this moment as you are so internally caught up in a fight or flight situation. Super adrenalin rush!.


Covert Selfie


It was exactly mid-day, 12 high noon I stopped beside a huge rock. Yup, that's me alright with my 'hunting' bug net camou enjoying temporary shade from the burning heat of the sun as I take my first selfie of this adventure.  And by the way, this is the spot where i slept the night.


Mount Kabunian Bakun Benguet Mountain Face Trails

The pristine mountain face of majestic Mount Kabunian.


Mount Kabunian Bakun Benguet Day Trails


The absence of signs of urban trash/pollution and just plain nature showing the majesty of the mountains and pristine trail paths as we move during our descent with my guide.


Pause Eat Hydrate and Recharge

Had late lunch at around 2 p.m. with Rosarita chili beans (This is not a paid endorsement.) and also taking in the laid back and relaxing Bakun views/scenery.

Descent Cliff Hanger


Down, down, down and I arrived at back this section of Mount Kabunian which shocked me and presented as an extreme cliffhanger. I was feeling lots of butterflies in my tummy as my delayed self-realization finally caught up with me and that without the safety side railings one might get ahead to the afterlife in an instant. Always practice safety. Do not rush. Calculated moves.

 
Descent Trails of Mount Kabunian

It looks easy for a descent, but it's not.  It looks deceiving easy also, but don't fall into believing that. So, I kept in mind was to always err on the side of safety. 


Mount Kabunian Bakun Benguet Cliffhanger Trails

Again, this is one of the hardest ascent and/or descent sections as the angle of elevation is similar to a rappel. So, I advise that you have a pair of thick gloves to protect your hands as you will be using both to hold on the guard rails/cable as you go down/up depending if you are ingress/egress status. I took this quick shadow portrait with the leading line theme to strengthen the photographic composition.


Trail Views at Mount Kabunian

The afternoon sun presents us beautiful Bakun mountain and terrain.



Trails of Mount Kabunian


This is the first time I see this section of the trail in the morning since yesterday's ascent was in the evening and it was just surreal.  That's Mount Tenglawan of Bakun standing in front of me partially covered with clouds. 


Descent Trail

I call this descent, trail shots as a beautiful revelation of Mount Kabunian terrain since again, my first time seeing it during the day time.


Mount Kabunian Camp Site Beside Waiting Shed One  

I did another short stop over here near the waiting shed below near a cowshed structure/area where most hikers/climbers pitch their tents.





An afternoon interruption of the views with the intermittent entry of fog creating thick layers of fogbanks.


Wear thermal jackets in the late afternoon as it gets very cold and foggy.


At this juncture, I added a layer of thermal clothing to protect myself from hypothermia.


Foggy View of Mount Tenglawan


A part of the peak of Mount Tenglawan reveals itself amidst the afternoon clouds/fog as viewed from Mount Kabunian during descent.


more Mount Kabunian Views

Selective parch of terrain lit by afternoon sunlight.  Again, I imagine this during the rainy moonsoon season starting June to around September here in the North Luzon (Cordillera Administrative Region) Philippines and that it would be so lush and green.


I stand in awe with the dramatic display of sunset colors as we continued down the mountain with my guide.



It looks like I'm in a movie Lord of the Rings in a scene of Mordor near the Eye of Sauron in Middle Earth.

Second Night

The photo below is my first low-light exposure tripod assisted shot of Mount Kabunian landscape with the moon which I took in 2019 using my DSLR. I took this last year when I spent an overnight in Poblacion Bakun.




I arrived with my guide back at Poblacion Bakun around 9:30 in the evening, a cold Saturday night,  from one successful Mt. Kabunian climb/overnight adventure.

By the way, local stores at Bakun Poblacion close at around 9 p.m.  So, be sure to buy what you need before community locals call it a day.  Some stores offer food to be cooked for you for a fee.  Just choose your available ingredients in the store (veggies, local produce, grocery products et cetera).

It was a good thing I had my Osprey 2.5 liters filled up with fresh mountain water and I had some left for the night.

I was invited to cap off the night with a hot brewed ground coffee at the barangay outpost building before calling it a night and had a chitchat with the LGU officers on duty.

Afterwhich, I went back to my homestay and got my lights off at 11:30 p.m.and off to dreamland.

Egress Day Two

Bakun Scapes


It was Sunday as I awakened ahead of my alarm clock around 4:30 a.m.  I packed up my gear and stuff and oh boy, my legs and calf muscles were undergoing a literal definition of sweet and intense pain.  

Egress

Barangay Poblacion mornings to a photographer is an excellent opportunity to document terrain as most locals are still not up and about.  So, less human traffic.




Barangay Poblacion

With a quick 6 a.m. drink of local hot brewed coffee beside brgy tanod bldg. and a warm chitchat with store owner and I left Barangay Poblacion Bakun at around 7:30 a.m. and rode the scheduled Bakun coop bus back to Baguio.


Takeaways


- Pack lighter. Bare essentials is king

- Strip down and leave eveything which are not survival stuff related and which will add weight e.g, shovel  (improvise use forest fallen twigs et cetera)

- Choose sleeping bags which does not leak or seap moisture external to internal.

- Opt for internal condensation free  sleeping bags zero degree

- Don't allow petty distractions whilst trekking (ascent/descent)

- Be on 100% focus or injury or fatal death ravine drop

- Follow your comfortable walk pace not the guide

- Headlight backup with 2(twp) fully charged high lumens LED waterproof grade designed for night climb/treks/hiking

- Raincoat + pants (a must specially during moonsoon/rainy season)

- Bucket safari hat with anti- uv

- Wick tshirts

- Spare fresh wool socks

- Dont reuse sweat soaoked socks, unhygenic or get blister

- Aerate dry walking/climb boots and pads under the sun

- Disinfect with h202 (commercial hydrogen peroxide)

- Rashguard top clothing a must 

- Neck gaiters 

- Hiking poles a must 

- Thick gloves must when handholding rocks and steel fence cables also   protects versus terrain flora leaf bruises/cuts 

- Get 8 hours sleep and full rest before any climb or assault/descent 

- Easy to loose items toe them down organizer e.g. eyeglasses, shades, gloves 

- Military can opener + spork 

- Say no to cooking if possible esp butane flammable liquids gas

- Wet wipes

- Emergency whistle

  Bucket List


Mount Tenglawan



Planning for the next ... Mount Tenglawan (Bakun, Benguet) future climb. 

 Stay safe everyone.

~AvianQuests



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