Tarak Ridge. The name alone (a combination of the words “tarik” which means steep and “tabak” or hunting knife) should have given me a clue of what to expect. Standing 1,130 meters above sea level, this mountain in Mariveles, Bataan offers a scenic view of Bataan, Corregidor and neighboring islands. On clear days, you can see Manila Bay all the way up to Cavite. But to enjoy the stunning view, you first have to go through a moderately challenging hike through dense grasslands and steep trails that involves clambering over roots and holding on to branches for support.
“Chill hike lang naman guys” promised Jed of Biyaherong Barat during the Basic Mountaineering Course (BMC) in BaseKamp Biker’s Pit Stop prior to our climb, but his snicker as he said it hinted otherwise. Tarak Ridge is classified as a Major climb, with a difficulty of 4/9 and a Trail class of 3. While it’s possible to summit it during a day hike, for a quality experience, most mountaineers recommend a 2-day hike and camping overnight. I have to say, seeing the fog-covered mountain and waking up to the sunrise will make all your efforts worthwhile.
Our camping trip to Tarak Ridge was organized BaseKamp Tramper Retailers, Inc. (TRI), a retailer of quality camping and hiking products. They carry a lot of outdoor gear from Deuter, GroundZero, 8A, Amihan, Lagalag, Lakhambini, Wako and Sandugo, which are all brands that I really use. So I was very happy to accept an invitation to a hiking trip to test out some of BaseKamp’s and Sandugo’s new gear.
Our travel party was composed of fellow Pinoy Travel Bloggers, Christine of Jovial Wanderer, Celine of Celineism, Marky of Nomadic Experiences, and the BaseKamp guys Jed, Greg and Rangel. I could give you a long, experiential account of all the things that transpired during the climb, but I’m guessing most of you are reading this for research, so I’ll just stick to the basics and leave you to experience the climb for yourself.
The jump-off point for climbing Tarak Ridge is Brgy. Alas-asin, Mariveles, Bataan, roughly 2-3 hours away from Metro Manila by land travel. Tarak Ridge is part of the Mariveles range, with several peaks and areas you can hike to for longer climbs.
While the ridge is the main attraction, you can do an optional assault on Mt. Tarak including El Saco and Tarak peaks. To give you an idea of the terrain, here’s the route plotted with the Suunto Ambit 3.
HOW TO GET THERE:
By public transport:
- From Cubao, you can ride a bus going to Mariveles, Bataan and get-off at Brgy. Alas-asin. Travel time is 3 hours (Bus costs about P280+)
- You can also ride the Genesis or Bataan Express bus line going to Balanga, Bataan (P120) then take another mini-bus to Brgy. Alas-asin. (P40)
- You can start walking up to Tarak Ridge the from the main highway or take a tricycle to a nearer jump-off point to save some time and energy.
By private vehicle:
- If you’re driving from Manila, you can take the North Luzon Expressway and take either the San Fernando toll exit or the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX).
Upon exiting San Fernando, proceed to Jose Abad Santos Ave, (formerly Olangapo-Gapan Road) all the way to Lubao Pampanga and Dinalupihan Bataan.
- At the Layac junction, take the road leading to Roman Super Highway on the left (right turn leads to Olangapo City) all the way to the City Center of Balanga, Bataan.
- Via SCTEX, take the Dinalupihan exit and turn right at Roman Super Highway.
Travel time is 2-3 hours by car depending on the traffic. It’s best to leave Manila early morning or after lunch to avoid the rush hour.
- Follow the main road and make your way to Mariveles. You need to pass by the Brgy. Hall to register prior to your climb.
- You can park your vehicle in a rest area near the jump-off point, where locals have converted their houses into a base for mountaineers. There are sari-sari stores here where you can buy drinking water and last-minute supplies, cheap lodging, and pay restrooms where you can wash up after your climb.
WHAT TO BRING:
All adventures start with the proper gear. While you only need to carry water and food if you’re just doing a day trip, since we stayed overnight, we needed to bring more stuff. For this hike, our travel party was equipped in full style by BaseKamp and Sandugo.All of us were issued different tent models including the orange Rays 2, blue Frog 2 and yellow Ridge 2. You can check out the full specs of each model in BaseKamp’s online shop and decide which is the best for you.
I got the Basekamp Rays 2 tent, which is the most lightweight of the tents. This 2-person tent only weighs 1.9 kilograms including the inner tent, fly sheet, pegs and guy lines, its bag, and its footprint. We all had sleeping bags and earth pads as well. We made Celine’s tent (Ridge 2) our Socials tent because it was the roomiest.
- Change of clothes
- Hiking shoes
- Light blanket
- Mess kit
- Trail food
- Personal medicine
- Plastic bags
OPTIONAL: If you have a lightweight hammock, you might also want to bring it because you can hang it up in the trees for naps in the rest stops by Papaya River and the mini-forest beside the ridge.
WHAT TO WEAR:
You will pass through exposed areas during the trail, which can get quite hot during summer. The forest trail is mostly shaded. For the main hike, you can wear a dri-fit shirt, shorts or leggings/compression pants which are better for clambering over rocks. Wear swimwear underneath your clothes because you’ll want to take a dip in Papaya River to cool down.
For footwear, wear trekking shoes with good traction. Parts of the trail can be very slippery and muddy, especially if it rains. Our group was wearing Sandugo’s Eiger, which features an open mesh and synthetic uppers for breathability with rubber outsoles with drain ports. While this is ideal for river trekking and casual hiking activities, I found them a bit slippery in some of the steep and muddy portions of the trail. I also brought slippers to change into during the camping portion.
It can get very windy and cool in the evenings and early mornings, so bring a windbreaker or jacket for the summit and a change of clothes for sleeping. Take note, there’s no water source near the ridge, so you can just wash up when you get down to Papaya River again or at the jump off point.
- Dri-Fit Shirts
- Leggings / Jogging pants / Compression Pants
- Trekking Shoes or Sandals
WHERE TO CAMP:
Tarak Ridge has two possible campsites. Most people opt to camp at Papaya River because it’s next to a water source, which makes preparing meals much easier. If you camp here, you don’t have to carry a lot of heavy gear up the rest of the way up. It’s a beautiful forest area with clear running water where you can just relax and swim in. From here, the ridge is 1.5 to 2 hours away through the steepest part of the trail.
The other campsite is near the ridge. There’s an open campsite here which can get very windy at night, and a mini-forest area, which offers some shade and protection from the wind. However, there is no water source, so you can decide as a group, which you’d prefer. We opted to make Papaya River our lunch rest stop for Day 1 and 2, but camped out at the ridge, to have a more scenic view. From the ridge, the summit is just 45 minutes up, so you can easily climb up on Day 2 before heading down. Camping at the ridge is the best option for those who want the good views during sunrise and sunset.
WHAT TO EAT:
Eat breakfast before your hike so that you have energy for the climb. There are several carinderias near the Brgy. Hall when you register. You can also buy packed lunch here to minimize the meals you need to prepare onsite. Bring your own mess kit (reusable container with utensils) to make eating easier. If you’re going on a dayhike, you can just bring 1 packed meal and you’ll be fine. For overnight stays, you’ll need to bring enough supplies for the night and next day, as well as a cookset.
I have to give props to Greg and Rangel of BaseKamp for turning our campsite meals into a gourmet experience. They took care of preparing dinner, breakfast and lunch on Day 2. Seriously, this is the first time I’ve had Crispy Pata on a camping trip! We also had nilaga for dinner, corned beef for breakfast and a great adobo showdown for lunch. Meals were prepared using the Fire-Maple Fest 3 cookset (which weighs 706 grams) and contains 2 pots, fry pan, PP bowls, scoop and sponge.
In addition to main meals, you should also bring bring light snacks and trail food like chocolates, nuts, raisins and jelly ace to keep your energy up during the hike. Just be sure to pack up all the packaging and don’t litter the trail. Plus optional snacks for socials.
0400 ETD Manila to Bataan (by private vehicle)
0730 ETA Brgy. Alas-asin / Registration
0800 Begin Trek
1130 ETA Papaya River Campsite / Rest
1200 Lunch / Free Time / Swimming
1430 Resume trek
1630 ETA Ridge Campsite / Set-up camp / Explore
1730 Sunset viewing / Prepare dinner
1900 Dinner / Socials
2100 Lights out
0500 Wake-up call / sunrise view at Tarak Ridge
0700 Trek to summit
0900 ETA Summit
0900 Begin trek to campsite
0945 ETA campsite / break camp
1100 ETD campsite
1230 Papaya River / Lunch
1330 Resume trek
1630 ETA jump-off point / clean-up / log-out
1730 ETD Brgy. Alas-asin / Dinner
2100 ETA Manila
TRAVEL TIPS AND USEFUL INFO:
- You need to register first at the Brgy. Hall prior to your climb. Registration fee is P40/head.
- Climbing guides are not mandatory, but they can also be hired at the Brgy. Hall for first-timers who want to avail of one. Guides charge roughly P500-700.
- The porter fee is P1,500 per porter for overnight climbs.
- The first rest station (which is now reachable by motorized vehicles if weather is good) is known as Nanay Cording’s. This is where the tarps of previous climbers are displayed. It’s not required, but it’s customary to give a donation here. Contact person: Nanay Cording – 09174723978
- The trail is well-established and there’s very little chance of hikers getting lost.
- There’s a mobile phone signal present throughout the trail.
- Mt. Mariveles is considered a major climb and is not recommended for first-timers.
- The trail to Tarak Ridge is very steep, and there are portions with almost vertical ascents. You need to keep your hands-free for climbing.
- Check weather updates before and on the date of the climb. Camping at Tarak Ridge is not advisable during the rainy season.
- Do not use soap at the river since this is the drinking water source of communities downstream.
- For those commuting, the last trip of buses bound for Manila is 7:00 pm. Otherwise, try you can try to ride the last trip at 9:00pm from Balanga.
- For a great post-climb meal, check out The Food Project in Orion, Bataan.
Thank you to BaseKamp for this awesome hiking trip! For those who are just new to hiking, aside from selling outdoor gear, the different BaseKamp branches organize hikes every month that you can easily join. Just check out their official Facebook page or visit any of their branches.
- Basekamp Ali Mall
- Basekamp Cagayan de Oro
- Basekamp Ligaya
- Basekamp Gaisano Mall Davao
- Basekamp Glorietta 3
- Basekamp Galleria
- Basekamp Market Market
- Basekamp Fairview Terraces
- Basekamp Starmall Alabang
- Basekamp Trinoma
- Basekamp Isetann Recto
Staying longer in Bataan? Check out my travel guide in the related posts below.
Watermarked photos courtesy of Jed Rosell of BaseKamp.