Mt. Hapunang Banoi, with an altitude of ∼517 meters above sea level, is the second highest among the five mountains comprising the Pentology Challenge in Brgy. San Rafael and Brgy. Mascap areas in Rodriguez, Rizal. The other four mountains are Mt. Pamitinan, Mt. Binacayan, Mt. Sipit Ulang and Mt. Ayaas. The start of the trail that we took was the same when going to Mt. Pamitinan until the junction where we refreshed ourselves with cold drinks.
I noticed that in every hike I went to, the part when I had the most difficulty catching my breath was at the beginning. I just had to bear it and keep on going for I know that it will lessen after a while. That had been always how it was, no matter what the difficulty class of the mountain was.
This hike happened 2 weeks after I went up Mt. Binacayan with the same group. The trail was similar, with amazing rock formations that I was sure were once a habitat of sea creatures. I saw the same elongated, spiral white shells along the way. The trail after the junction was like a walk in the park for me. The ground was compact soil and mostly shaded by trees. Then comes the exciting but may be dangerous or even deadly part: the knife-edged rocks. Trekking shoes and sandals may become sacrificial items when getting face to face with the beauty and wonder of Mt. Hapunang Banoi.
We had to step on thin and rough-edged rocks to go on (example was inside the red rectangle in the picture below. There was a part that we had to jump over a gap between two rocks like Super Mario. I did not do that for fear of jumping short and hit my head on the rocks. Instead, I went down a little bit and looked for a way up. Otherwise I could have just stayed at that point and waited for the brave others to come back. Safety was not an option. When in doubt, don’t.
When hiking, sometimes I got myself occupied with trying to fight the difficult or uncomfortable feeling. Then I would turn my head somewhere and get wowed by nature. Suddenly, I would realize that the pain and discomfort were all worth it.
I was the first in our group to reach the summit of Mt. Hapunang Banoi. There was very limited space to sit. My spot was the best I could find. One cannot walk fast or even upright because the rocks were irregular and there were gaps in between some portions.
Mt. Hapunang Banoi climb may be considered a technical one. It was like a test where one has to find his own way on how to proceed according to his set of skills (balance, strength, flexibility, creativity, et. al.). Carelessness would be dangerous.
Only our guide, Mang Frank, had the guts to do the daring pose below. Balance, leg strength and cautiousness were extremely necessary to have this photo.
Our pictures at the summit:
I was a little speechless when we reached the junction on our way back. I could not say everything that was going on in my head. I know that there are way more difficult and dangerous mountains to climb. But I was glad that we made it down safely, for the result of carelessness may not be any lesser than accidents that can happen anywhere else. Again, when in doubt, don’t. Be daring, but exercise caution.
Mt. Hapunang Banoi Itinerary
0500H ETD Cubao via FX (Terminal: beside Jollibee-Farmers, EDSA)
0600H ETA jump off: DENR office, Sito Wawa, Brgy. San Rafael, Rodriguez, Rizal. Arrange guide.
0630H Start trek (same route going to Mt. Pamitinan, until junction)
0715H Reach junction (Sari-sari store available)
0730H Resume trek
0900H Reach Mt. Hapunang Banoi summit
1000H Start descent
1100H Back to junction, refresh
1230H Reach waterfalls with cottages. Eat, drink, swim, nap, talk, laugh.
1600H Go home