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Mount Ugo Traverse

In an effort to start getting mountain fit again, and prepare for some trail running races I joined a couple of friends for a 24km trek over Mount Ugo. This was the first mountain in the Cordillera region in the Philippines I have been to. It made quite a change from the tropical jungle on the mountains I have been to here before, or the sandy lahar trails on Pinatubo. Here is was more akin to Wales or Scotland, with pine forests, thick fog and constant rain. I believe on a nice sunny day the views are fantastic, so now I have reason to return.

We started by driving from Kayapa in the Nat Geo Explorer 4×4 to Barangay Tinongdan. The drive is quite fun, and a 4×4 is definitely recommended, or rather mandatory. Especially in rainy season when the trail can be slick with mud. From here it’s uphill for 7km to the summit of Mount Ugo. You will pass by markers on the trail, wooden posts with distances written on them. These are from a trail running event that is held annually in the area. Infact there’s several trail running events on Mount Ugo that take various trails and pass by as part of longer events.

Fromt eh summit it’s pretty much all down hill going towards the Agno river and Itogon. Around 17km going down, sometimes slippery mud. The trail winds it’s way through pine trees and mossy forests that were shrouded in mist. Lower down you begin to cross rice terraces before reaching the Agno River and the hanging bridge that crosses it and leads to the steep road going up to Itogon. Overall it was 24km route, and covered some challenging terrain, with steep climbs and descents. I began to suffer a little from cramps in my right thigh from the downhill. Returning from Baguio to Clark the Nat Geo explorer began to overheat due to a leaking radiator. So now it’s matter of fixing that and resting myself for 6 days before the Banaue – Batad marathon next August 24th!

barrowclough's 7:17 h Trekking Move #SuuntoHike.

View from the top with all the pretty vehicles

Bataan trail to Bagac beach

After yesterdays trip to Delta 5, despite the broken rear brakes, I was keen to join the Pampanga Adventure Team on their trip to Bataan. A survey of a new trail that goes from Balanga, through the Bataan mountains and finishes at the beach in Bagac. It’s a bit different from the sandy lahar that gets into the vehicle and wears away all the bearings. This was to be a jungle and mud fest. I had a few problems with the electrics on the car with the battery terminal not making good contact and the starter motor playing up. However, we made it through the trail in one piece, with a minor problem where I was almost rolled over and had to use the winch to pull the vehicle back onto it’s 4 wheels. All good fun and part of the off roading experience though!

The Nat Geo Pajero proud to make it to the end of Delta 5

Delta 5 Rematch

After getting the Nat Geo Pajero stuck on Delta 5 with broken CV joint and deciding to upgrade to a solid axle, it was time to go to Delta 5 trail again to try out the modifications.

Delta 5 trail is situated on the Lahar flow running down from Pinatubo into the town of Porac, province of Pampanga, Philippines. When Pinatubo erupted it was the biggest ash eruption by volume of the 20th century, sending tons of ash and lahar down the valleys around the mountain. There are several major lahar flows, one that runs to Sta. Juliana in Tarlac province, another towards San Marcelino in Zambalas, and the third, Sacobia in Clark/Angeles, Pampanga.

The Delta 5 trail is probably the most difficult of these lahar trails to negotiate. With large rocks and many river crossings to contend with. The trail runs for approximately 10km to the “end point” where further travel by vehicle is blocked by a large rock and waterfall. It is said that this rock is the one that “saved Pampanga” and held back the bulk of the lahar coming from above, stopping deadly lahar flows and mudslides from wiping out the towns below.

Boulder crawling in the Nat Geo on Delta 5
Boulder crawling in the Nat Geo on Delta 5

It was my intention on this trip to also attempt the first white water kayaking descent of the Pasig Potrero river, that runs down the Delta 5 trail. The rainy season is upon us here in the Philippines giving a good opportunity to try to kayak the river while it’s running a little higher and faster than usual. It was still a little low, another 1 or 2 feet higher flow would have made it perfect. Still it was possible to descend, and it was quite technical to have to nogitate some of the rocks. You really needed good control of the kayak, making it more like an Olympic slalom kayaking event.

Coming along was my friend with his Toyota Landcruiser 70 series, and a racing 4×4 Suzuki Jimney. It was a great day out, a little tiring, especially for our other friend accompanying us on his trials bike who found the rocks on two wheels rather difficult to negotiate!

The only casualty was the rear brakes on the Nat Geo Pajero that had shattered rotors and lost the rear calliper. So there’s some more work to be done on the vehicle yet!

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Cordillera Great Traverse 2015 (CGT2015)

The Cordillera Great Traverse aims to connect the trails of 6 provinces that make up the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) in Northern Luzon, Philippines. This is one of my favourite areas of the country, the scenery and the climate is wonderful.

I will be following the progress of the team during the coming months as they prepare for the traverse. The hope is to blaze a trail for future ultra distance running events, and for hikers and mountaineers both foreign and domestic to be able to follow the route. The aim is to establish a sustainable eco tourism trail that not only provides a physical challenge but is beneficial to the economy of the CAR, and encourages an appreciation and conservation of the natural beauty and environment of the area.

You can follow the CGT2015 progress on social media, here’s a snippet of what they can expect!

CGT2015 social media

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Kayak and Rafting the Chicamocha Canyon

The Chicamocha canyon, located in the province on Santander, Colombia, is at some points over 1,000 meters deep. This kayak and rafting trip took us through some 28km of spectacular scenery to the confluence of the Rio Chicamocha and Rio Suarez rivers. It provides solid grade IV kayaking and rapids. The beginning is quite benign with a couple of grade IV rapids, but mostly short sections interspersed with lots of II/III. It son begins to heat up however shortly after passing the footbridge at the town of Jordan. There’s a solid 2km section of rapids with a couple of big drops. You would definitely want to be a comfortable grade IV kayaker to negotiate this section. We had a safety raft that went ahead to give a measure of safety for any of us who had to take a swim. If you swim early in this section there’s few eddies to get out to and the river is very fast so you would be lucky to make it. I certainly wouldn’t want to have to swim, so if you’re going to kayak this section make sure you have a good solid roll.

After this there’s plenty of grade III with a couple of short IV rapids left to negotiate before you get to the confluence with the Suarez. Here the canyon is quite narrow with spectacular high walls towering on either side of you. In the twilight of evening it was quite picturesque. A 30 minute portage of the gear gets you to a rough road where a 4×4 is needed to pick you and the gear up. There then followed an almost 2 hour ride in the jeep going up a rough track that winds it’s way around the canyon walls to the top. I only wish I could have seen the awesome view, but it was already dark by this time.

This trip is a full on day, and provides great fun if you’re staying in San Gil. If you’re not a kayaker you can raft the whole section. If that’s not enough for you, the Suarez provides even harder rafting and kayaking topping out at grade V. The rafts often end up flipping on these rapids.

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Kayaking in San Gil, Colombia

OK, so I know this isn’t in the Philippines, but I’m doing some travelling and I wanted to share some of the adventures to be had outside of the Philippines.

I’ve been in Colombia only a short time, 4 days so far, but it’s an excellent place to visit. The prices are incredibly cheap for activities, compared to the prices in the Philippines, and the service is excellent. Today I went out kayaking on the River Suarez with mostly grade 3 but two grade 4 rapids to be negotiated it was not simple, but provided just enough of a challenge to get the adrenaline going. Unlike the white water rafting I did in Cagayan De Oro that was fun, but hardly much of an adrenaline rush for me.

It was a great trip out, with more of the feeling of a bunch of friends out kayaking rather than some guide who is telling you what to do all the time. Kayaking in general though is an individual sport, although you kayak with friends for safety should you take a swim, once in the kayak only you are going to negotiate those rapids, there’s nobody in the boat with you who is going to help you out.

I’ll be taking another river trip on the river that flows through the Chicamocha canyon later in the week, and will be writing up some of the other activities to do here in San Gil. For now though, here’s the short video from today.

DJI Phantom 2 kit

DJI Phantom 2 – Setup and flight

Here’s a test flight of the DJI Phantom 2 with all modifications I have applied.

DJI Phantom 2
Immersion RC 5.8Ghz video transmitter
DJI Mini iOSD

The video transmission equipment and DJI Mini iOSD has been fitted inside the DJI Phantom 2 body.

The DJI Phantom 2 flies to 401meters altitude during this test.

Adventures traveling around the 7,000 islands of the Philippines

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