Monday, November 13, 2017

Mt. Batong Amat/Mt. 387 and Aloha Falls RevTrav (Nueva Ecija, 724+ MASL)

At the summit of Mt. Batong Amat/387 overlooking the "Chocolate Hills of the North"

Within the foothills of the Caraballo Mountain Range in Nueva Ecija is the Talavera Watershed Forest Reserve where the trails of Mt. Batong Amat is located. The name of the mountain literally means "Ghost Rock" in the local Tagalog dialect of Carranglan. Aptly christened as Mt. 387 due to the fact that it covers 387.9 hectares of the Talavera Watershed Forest Reserve, Mt. Batong Amat combines just the right elements for a great dayhike - challenging 60 - 70 degrees inclines perfect for scrambling and nice grassy rolling terrain for a relaxing stroll, not to mention excellent views of the Caraballo Mountain Range, the hilly section of the range  popularly referred to as the "Chocolate Hills of the North" and the southern part of the Cordilleras. At the end of the trail is a nice side trip to the picturesque Aloha Falls.

According to several sources online, the following are the specs of Mt. Batong Amat: minor climb, difficulty: 4/9, (traverse), 2/9 (backtrail); trail class 1-3; major jump-off: Brgy. Puncan, Carrangalan, Nueva Ecija; Features: grassland, waterfall, scenic views of the Caraballo Mountain Range and the "Chocolate Hills of the North"; LLA: 15.905 N, 120.992 E, 724+ MASL

Trail towards the grassland of Mt. Batong Amat (Reverse-Traverse)
Trail towards the grassland of Mt. Batong Amat (Reverse-Traverse)

Aloha Falls
Aloha Falls

As part of an organized hike, we left for Nueva Ecija around 1:45 AM. After around 3 hours of travel time and a stopover for a quick breakfast of lugaw at Cabanatuan City, we arrived at the jump-off. Enjoying cups of hot steaming coffee, we rested for a while and waited for a brief orientation about the mountain. After the brief orientation we prepared to start the hike and around 6:00 AM we boarded the truck to bring us to the trail head. Since we are doing a Reverse-Traverse hike, we started the hike at the exit point near Aloha falls.

Registration site

Banners from other organizers at the jump-off

Welcome banner at the jump-off

The initial part of the hike runs on the river trail with several river crossings. After a few minutes of walking through the river trail, the start of real ascent begins. The trail to the rolling grasslands starts at the foot of the mountain through a very steep slope at about 50 - 70 degrees inclines. With nothing to hold on to but small bamboo stalks and grass blades, we assaulted the slopes for about 30 to 45 minutes. After the steep assault, the trail opens into the grassland at the plateau of the mountain. From this point on until the campsite at the Lover's Tree is just an easy stroll.

Trailhead at a dry riverbed

Pre-climb pose

Start of the steep ascent

About midway through the steep ascent

Grassland trail towards the Lover's Tree campsite

Lover's Tree and campsite

While waiting for the rest of the hike participants to catch up, we rested, enjoyed snacks and snapped photos under the shade of the Lover's Tree - a lone pine tree at the base of the peak. This area also offers great views of the foothills of the Caraballo Mountain Range - popularly known as the "Chocolate Hills of the North". The verdant and smooth rolling hills curiously resemble the popular tourist spot of Bohol albeit being less expansive and much more compact in appearance. As the rest of the group catches up, we took our sweet time in snapping photos at different poses, angles and vantage points.

"Chocolate Hills of the North"

Climbing the Lover's Tree

Hikers' summit at Mt. 387

Group Pic - Team Matatag!

A few minutes of final assault towards the summit and we arrived at the Batong Amat - a collection of limestone rocks forming the summit of the mountain. Taking advantage of the great vantage point, we snapped several great photos at the summit overlooking the rolling grassy hills of the mountain range as well as the distant silhouette of Mt. Arayat in Pampanga. After everyone has had their chance at the photo ops, we continued on the hike back to the jump-off. The trail is wonderfully easy and relaxing except for certain portions of steep slopes towards the end of the trail. We reached the jump-off at around 12:30 PM. As the rest of the team catches up, we enjoyed our lunch and rested before going to our side trip - Aloha Falls.

At the summit marker overlooking the hills

At the summit of Mt. Batong Amat/387 overlooking the "Chocolate Hills of the North" (Nov. 2017)
At the summit of Mt. Batong Amat/387 

Enjoying the view

Descent trail

Aloha Falls is located near the exit point of the trail where we earlier started our hike. Passing through the same river trail, we reached Aloha Falls in just a few minutes. There we enjoyed the cold waters of falls along with several other groups of hikers who we met on our way down from the summit. Plunging from an estimated height of about 20 meters, the water cascades down the catch basin, which is mostly shallow except on the area just below the cascade which is quite deep. We spent about an hour and a half at the falls before going back to the jump off to tidy up and prepare to head back to Manila.

Aloha Falls from a distance

By the catch basin of Aloha Falls

The cascade of Aloha Falls

Aloha Falls 11-13-2017

Another wonderful hiking destination, Mt. Batong Amat/Mt. 387 perfectly suits an ideal dayhike with just the right combination of challenging steep assaults, easy rolling and open grassland slopes and forested trail, not to mention the great views and the refreshing side trip to Aloha Falls. Hiking the trails of Mt. Mt. Batong Amat/Mt. 387 and meeting new and interesting people along the way is indeed a hike well worth remembering.


Useful Information

Trail Map: (for illustrative purposes only, may not correspond to actual coordinates)
Trail map to summit for a Reverse-Traverse hike (exit point not visible)

Actual Itinerary:
1:45 AM - departure from Manila to Nueva Ecija
5:04 AM - arrival at the jump-off at Carranglan
6:00 AM - 4x4 ride to jump-off
6:20 AM - start hike
8:27 AM - arrival at the Lover's Tree campsite, rest, wait for other, photos
10:38 AM - summit of Mt. Batong Amat, photos
11:05 AM - start descent
12:25 PM - back at the jump-off, rest, lunch
02:00 PM - 4x4 ride to jump-off to Aloha Falls
02:26 PM - arrival at Aloha Falls
04:05 PM - hike back to jump-off
04:30 PM - back at the jump-off, wash, tidy up
05:45 PM - ride back to Manila
08:45 PM - dinner at Cabanatuan
11:12 PM - back in Manila

Mandatory Fees: (as of November 2017, prices are subject to change without prior notice)
Trail Guide - Php. 500.00
Registration fee - Php. 40.00
Seedling - Php. 20.00 (the 1 hiker-1 tree policy is not in effect at this time due to the weather)
4x4 ride - Php. 15.00 per ride

Optional:
Lunch - Php. 85.00 per order (paluto)
Coffee - Php. 10.00
Restroom/Shower - Php. 15.00

How to get there: (as of November 2017, fares are subject to change without prior notice)
Take a bus bound to Isabela or Tuguegarao (Php 330). Drop-off at Brgy. Puncan, Carranglan, Nueva Ecija near Iglesia Ni Christo and walk to the jump-off.

For your convenience and to save on your expenses, you can join an organized hike like what I did. I would recommend Traveller's Hub of Ms. Shylene Rose Ang. She is a very warm and accommodating organizer and an accomplished mountaineer herself. You can contact her through the following numbers (Globe) 0906 862 7871/ 09161798455 and through their Facebook page.

10 comments:

  1. Hi! Mahirap po ba ang trail papuntang summit? Plan kasi namin pumunta dito kaso may kasama kaming mga bata 9 and 10 yrs old. Salamat po!

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  2. Kung aakyat po kayo with kids recommend ko po mag backtrail kayo para di kayo mahirapan, yun po kasing pagbaba ang mahirap. Thanks for the comment!

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  3. hello... ok lang po ba na sandugo trekking shoes ang isuot instead na rubber shoes? thanks

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    1. Hi po! Mas maganda nga po kung trekking shoes ang gagamitin kesa rubber shoes, para mas kapit sa ground. Thanks for the comment!

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  4. ilang kilometers po ba ito from jump off to summit?

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    1. Mga less than 5K lang po ang trail lenght to summit kung gaya namin na reverse-traverse. Thanks for the comment!

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  5. Great blog sir! Very informative. No doubt, Ms. Shy is amazing, she's a good friend of mind. 😇

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    Replies
    1. Yep! She's one of the nicest organizers I've met. Thanks for the comment and see you on the trails!

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  6. Replies
    1. Thanks for appreciating my blogpost! Enjoy hiking!

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