Free Spirits – Mt. Sipit Ulang (252+)

MT. SIPIT ULANG
Rodriguez, Rizal
Major jumpoff: Brgy. Mascap, Rodriguez, Rizal
LLA: 14°45′20.7′′ N, 121°10′38.2′ 252 MASL (+210m)
Days required / Hours to summit: 1 day / 2-3.5 hours
Specs: Minor, Difficulty 3/9 (Paniki Trail), Trail class 1-4 with limestone scrambling
Features: Limestone formations, scenic views of Wawa
(www.pinoymountaineer.com)

Last July 02, 2015, the officials of Brgy. Mascap in Rodriguez, Rizal formally opened the trails to a gargantuan rock formation up in the mountains of their vicinity called the Sipit Ulang; one of their best kept secret is out now.

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Started From The Bottom
By 6am we were already at Brgy. San Rafael after a quick UV Express ride from Gateway, Cubao. Had breakfast with the gang before we hailed a tricycle that will take us to Brgy. Mascap. After 30mins of travel in concrete paved roads, we were welcomed by the tourism officers of the barangay, some picture taking, registration, final preparations, and then off we go.

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Everyone in our group were beginners in hiking mountains that the author made sure that it was known by our guide, but we guessed that our guide haven’t heard that one clearly. After passing a small river, the hike started. Our guide said that he will be introducing a new trailblazed route and we were one of the first groups to use it. The ascent was mostly rock scrambling and intersects into the snake trail. Never underestimate a mountain by its height, the hike was challenging.

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Then after a little bit more scrambling, the bamboo forest will welcome you together with some plants with prickly thorns.
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Into Narrow Crevices
After some initial forest trails and trees, next part of the trail is by passing through narrow crevices inside some intimidating boulders. This is also a fun hike wherein a little spelunking is included in the trail.

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Challenging crawling and slipping under some rock formations, and clawing your way up some sharp boulders along the way, that’s the sipit way. Only in Rizal province can you experience a uniquely challenging climb of rocky trails that ends up into limestone decked summits that gives sheer splendor to the hiker.

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Into The Bat Cave!
Right after passing some small holes in the snake trail, Paniki trail will start. If you will ask why it was named Paniki, it is because of the presence of fruit bats taking refuge in the ceilings of some caves near the trail, and even in the trail itself.

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Make sure to wear appropriate footwears when climbing Mt. Sipit Ulang for rocks in it and even the bamboo bridges can get real slippery to real sharp.

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After several minutes, the bamboo ladder of the Paniki trail. Quite steep, but feeds your fear immunity bigtime and leads to the Kabibe (Clam) rock formation.

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And the Paniki Trail will be augmenting into the Balete Trail, since a hundred year old Balete Tree (Strangler Fig) stands proud among the other trees. Locals say that this tree was tried to be cut down by some, but for strange reasons some of them died or were inflicted with diseases of unknown nature. Other stories tell of a Santelmo (St. Elmo’s Fire) or a fireball that chases anyone who comes close to the tree. Creepy isn’t it?.

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Then, There’s The Rain
Almost three hours on the trail (since everyone in the group are beginners), rain started pouring down. We took refuge inside a small cave and had some rest and had our lunch before a quick ascent into the much awaited rock formation.

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Now We’re Here
The rain couldn’t stop us from reaching the summit, and though it is quite a downpour, we managed to get our asses to the top. Upon reaching it, the rain subsided a little.

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It was named Sipit Ulang which means crab claw, since it resembles the claws of it jutting out to the sky reaching for something.

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And as the fog cleared up a little, the view became rad and showcased Sipit Ulang’s other neighbors.

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Then we waited for our turn to have a good photo atop the rock formation, but some of the groups in it were a little inconsiderate that time because half an hour of waiting is still not enough for them. Rain poured hard again, we waited but still they’re having the time of their lives so we opted to just have a nice photo with the Sipit as the background.

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The descent was a challenge too. We took the Banayad trail going down and man, it was also slippery because of the mud, if not for the rain the descent could be an easy one. After an hour, we were already down, we decided not to push through with the falls, since the river is swollen and could be a hazard to all of us.

MT. SIPIT ULANG DAYHIKE
0500  Take van from Cubao to Brgy. San Rafael, Rodriguez, Rizal (50php/pax)
0600  ETA Brgy. San Rafael, Rodriguez, Rizal; Breakfast, take tricycle to Brgy. Mascap (30php/pax)
0700  Arrival at Brgy. Mascap. Register at barangay hall (40php/pax)
0730. Start trek up Sipit Ulang via Snake-Paniki-Balete Trail
1100  ETA summit. Explore rock formations
1300  Start descent via the Banayad Trail
1400  Back at Brgy. Mascap. Tidy up.
1430  Head back to Brgy. San Rafael
1500  Back in Eastwood, Rodriguez. Take van back to Manila
1530  Back in Manila.

Budget
Transpo: FX – 100php (back and forth)
Tricycle – 60php (back and forth)
Fees: Environmental Fee – 40php
Guide Fee – 150php (600php/4pax)
Food: 200php
Total Damage: 550php (600php, safe budget if 4pax)

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. – T. S. Eliot

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