Wednesday, December 25, 2013


Location: Palauig, Zambales, Philippines
Major jump-off: Sitio Dampay, Brgy. Dampay-Salaza, Palauig, Zambales
Coordinates: 15.4833 N, 120.1166 E
Elevation: 2037 MASL/6,682 feet above sea level
Days required / Hours to summit:1-2 days / 6-12 hours
Specs: Major climb, Difficulty 6/9, Trail Class 1-3

Blogger's notes: The name "tapulao" is a dialect name which means pine trees where these pine trees can be seen from Bukot Baboy Hill to the bunkhouse and it also has a mossy forest. Its trail which consist of more than 85% which is once a chromite mining site gives the mountain a distinctive characteristic not to mention its semi-temperate climate. It is also very rewarding to see the majestic views of the West Philippine Sea while on its summit.

View Mt Tapulao in a larger map

While on the "World Tree" at Mount Tapulao's summit

This is so far my second climb where my first climb was dated December 25 – 28, 2011. Despite having difficulties in climbing it for the first time due to its rocky trail, I still preferred to climb this due to its rewarding views grown with pine trees just like that of Mount Pulag and Mount Ugo. During my first climb here, I was then with the company of Gani Dionela (fellow PNB Mountaineering Club member); Jun Ilao and Genrose C. Encarnacion. In my recent climb, I was with Jenbelle Richard Macasero. The pictures here is a mixed of my two climbs. The whole climb is a 34-kilometer trek/assault which is broken down as follows: Jump-off point/Registration House to Summit is 17 kilometers and the Summit back to the Registration Office is another 17 kilometers.

It is highly recommended that trekkers should start early even before dawn, as it can be quite hot trekking through the rocky road in long open fields with rolling and gradual terrain. By doing this, when the sun is already high, trekkers should have passed already the two water sources and reached the dipterocarp forest with cooler temperature. But in our own experience, we started almost 8 o’clock in the morning that we ended up spending overnight in Kilometer 10 where the second water source is located.

This is a part of a long open and gradual trail from the registration site

Trekking Mount Tapulao even for the first timers do not need a guide since the trail is wide passable by a 4 x 4 truck since this long road that connects to the chromite mining site near the bunker house is wide though filled with loose rocks which causes an exhausting trek since you keep on balancing every step you make.

The trail to the top of Mount Tapulao is on rolling and gradual terrain that takes hikers through a number of distinct ecosystems from lowland grass and scrubland dominated by talahib (cogon grass) to its flanks of secondary to primary dipterocarp forest, mossy montane forest and pine forest above 1,800 meters (5,900 feet) that extends to the adjacent mountains (extracted from Wikipedia).

This is how the rocky trail looks like

With the kind of trail the mountain has, one has to have patience to continuously do the exhausting rock scrambling. Combined with the heat of the sun, heavy backpack and endless battle of the loose rocks applying the highly conscious footwork, the trek could really be challenging.

After four hours of trek almost near to the first water source

Though, we brought enough water with us, we still had refilled in the first water station with the assumption that we still have a long, long way to go.

As the elevation increases, cardiac assaults were more evident. Thus, we need to have frequent rests to breathe out fatigue. At this point, the trail was still open where we are exposed to the direct heat coming from the sun.

Overlooking the clouds below

Climbing higher is very rewarding as the sea of clouds is visible to our naked eyes. The effort we exert in the endless cardiac assaults is worth it.

Camping at Kilometer 10 during our first night

We actually passed through Kilometer 10 for more than a kilometer where the second water source is located and refilled some water. However, it was already getting dark and we were then so tired and so we headed back to Kilometer 10 to stay for an overnight.

The nightscape while at Kilometer 10 Campsite for an overnight

We realized, it was a right decision to stay overnight at Kilometer 10 as its ground can accommodate a space for our tents. Unlike in some other parts that the grounds are tilted and no better space can accommodate our tents. As a bonus, we enjoyed amazing nightscape shots after our sumptuous dinner.

Breakfast in abundance at Kilometer 10

Indeed, staying an overnight at Kilometer 10 had given us a number of benefits since as we near the second water source, we can clean-up of bodies after having our breakfast as well as we were able to clean all our utensils not by usual wiping of tissue papers but with clean water. Breakfast then was cooked just like when we are in our house abundant with water supply.

Overlooking the Bukot Baboy Hill

Entering the forest in Bukot Baboy is the start where one can see pine trees. At least, the shade of the pine trees gave us a refreshing breath.

A close up photo with Bukot Baboy at the background

At this point, the photographers can feast on the 360 degrees scenery which is visible to them. We stopped there then to have more pictures.

Approaching the narrow plateau after the Bukot Baboy

At this point, the air was so cool and we can't resist but to stay longer. It was like, you are trekking the trail of Mount Ugo and Mount Pulag grown with fresh smelling pine trees. With me in the picture above are Gani Dionela and Genrose Encarnacion.

More cool trail with the presence of pine trees

The trail is more friendlier as the dry brown mud serves as the host of our tired soles making our trek relaxing and better compared to the previous ones.

A friendlier and shady trail

As the picture above shows, the trail becomes better where one can have an executive and relaxing walk without thinking that stones might hurt one in every step he does.

An absolutely amazing tree with the sky as its backdrop

This point here is almost near the bunkhouse as one climber told us when we asked him. The trail here was back to rugged but the air was becoming colder.

Uncollected mined deposits of chromite stones are evident here

Looking around, one will be reminded that once this mountain was a chromite mining site but deposits of it were not collected as its operation was already closed.

The road leading to the bunkhouses

This part is more refreshing as the trail is no longer rocky and the cool breeze of the pine trees give the trekkers a relaxing walk.

A scenery of Sumatran Pine trees taken from the Bunkhouse

The abundance of Sumatran Pine trees of this mountain, known in the local Zambal dialect as tapulao is where its name was derived.These countless pine tress can be viewed best from the bunkhouse.

An entry before approaching the bunkhouses where the comfort room is located

The sight of the bunkhouses is a absolutely a relief. We had rested the whole windy afternoon. We cleaned up in the nearby water source just 10 meters away. Preparing dinner was next to what we did. As the evening is getting late, the wind was becoming strong. The extreme coldness which penetrates to my bones kept me almost awake the whole night.

An abandoned payloader used in the closed chromite mining operation.

We had much time to enjoy the place the rest of the afternoon. We had the chance to chat with some other climbers who decided to stay overnight in the bunkhouse. Most of the climbers when they reach the bunkhouse in the afternoon would not push for the summit and they do it early the following day.

A steep ascent via the pine forests to the mini-campsite

This is just in front of the bunkhouse leading to the mini-campsite. From this campsite, is another forest line which leads to the summit for more than 30 minutes. Based on what we did, we left our backpacks in the bunkhouse where we camped overnight when we ascended to the summit and just took with us a bottle of water and digicam. We did not pitch our tents since we stayed in the bunkhouse but used thick sleeping bags instead. But mind you, it was really very, very cold at night and going out from the bunkhouse at night may not be comfortable as one may experience the strong cold winds. By the way, the bunkhouse which was used to be a place for the miners has been abandoned already but occasionally, some guides or locals can be seen spending their night there.

A chromite mine pit in the mountain’s summit with my travel buddies in the picture: Gani, Genrose and Jun Ilao

Lucky that Gani Dionela was with me in this climb. Few of the pictures posted here was taken by him through his camera. Thank you, Gani.

The summit offers a 360-degree scenery where other Zambales mountains can be viewed on the eastern side, Lingayen Gulf to the north, and on the western side, the Zambales lowlands and the South China Sea stretching to as far as Pundaquit in San Antonio, Zambales.

A background of thick varicolored flowers and exotic plants at the summit


The Registration site can provide a shower of P20 per person and an electric power where gadgets can be charged. Climb registration fee is P30 per person. There is an ample space for a maximum of 15 persons who wish to take a rest or sleep in the registration site for free. Certificate of climb completion is also available for P50. “Manang”, a volunteer, the one manning the registration just lives near the Registration site and she can be hired to cook food for a minimal fee. You can also order from her a whole chicken for “tinola” which you can eat after the climb.


Take a Victory Liner bus from its Monumento Terminal with a sign board of Iba, Zambales for P372 preferably the last trip at 11:00 P.M. where you will arrive at 3:00 A.M. in the Iba Bus Terminal and take a tricycle going to the Registration site for P160 per head in Dampay Resettlement Area, Brgy. Salaza, Paluig, Zambales. Alternatively, you can take a Victory Liner bus from Monumento Terminal with a sign board of Sta. Cruz for P394 preferably the last trip at 11:30 P.M. and you will not drop in the Iba Bus Terminal but continue along the Zambales Regional Highway and drop at the corner of Dampay-Salaza where a tricycle for P200 will take you along 8-kilometer rough road going to the Registration site. The jump-off from the registration site starts at an altitude of 114 MASL.