Saturday, December 8, 2018

Exploring Mt. Marikit in Itogon, Benguet

In this age of social media saturation wherein information travels at the speed of light, it never ceases to surprise me how little I know about my immediate surroundings. I had yet another one of these surprises when I was invited for an exploratory climb of a fairly unknown mountain somewhere in Itogon, Benguet. I enthusiastically jumped at the invitation. Climbing and exploring a mountain that only a few souls know about is every hiker’s dream. It’s a treat that comes only once in a blue moon. There’s something endearing and magical about owning a mountain even for just a day. It’s just you and your group scaling the slopes.

That mountain turned out to be Mt. Marikit, a rocky peak sandwiched between the villages of Dalupirip and Tinongdan. “Marikit” is the Ibaloi term for “beautiful”. Prior to the climb, I’ve never heard of this mountain which is surprising because I’ve been to Dalupirip and Tinongdan countless of times. These two secluded villages serve as either the entrance or exit points for hikers climbing either Mt. Ugo or Mt. Pigingan. It turned out that Mt. Marikit is just a kilometer or two away from Mt. Pigingan, a mountain which I’ve climbed for like ten times already.

We started early. Our group of around twenty hikers were at the registration site in sitio Salapsap just as the sun started to rise over the horizon. We were not the only group climbing that day. A group of runners (Team Pinikpikan) have decided to run the trails to the summit of Pigingan. They hit the trails a half hour or so before us.

The trail to Mt. Marikit starts within Dalupirip central. This is a quiet village surrounded by rice fields, river tributaries, and towering mountains. The place is in itself a thing of beauty. Folks from open windows greeted us with subdued smiles as we passed by. At the edge of the rice fields, the assault to the summit began. For a couple of hours, we hiked through a steep incline with winding dirt trails. This is the hardest part of the trail. Once you reach the mountain’s ridge line, there’s very little climbing to do. The next two hours or so to the rocky summit is merely a stroll through grassy slopes and pine forests.

True to form, the views from the trails were beautiful and refreshing. We were welcomed by sweeping views of the Cordillera mountains. You can also view the towering peaks of other well-known climbing destinations like Mt. Ugo, Mt. Pigingan, and even Mt. Pulag in nearby Kabayan. The trail to the summit is easy to follow so it would be rare for anyone to get lost. The first half of the trail is actually a route for the Cordillera Mountain Ultra, a running event held there every year. Every few meters of the trail, you see the remnants of the markers for the annual run. Just follow the markers until you get to the grassy clearing near the top of the ridge leading to Mt. Marikit.

The summit of Mt. Marikit features a rocky terrain with clumps of trees and brush. Technically speaking, we didn’t go to the actual summit. We congregated a few dozen feet below the main summit. There’s a high cliff that you need to scale to reach the main summit. We didn’t have the necessary ropes and gear so we contented ourselves with a view of the top. However, I think that it’s possible to get to the summit from the north side through a pine forest without having to scale the rocky cliff. To do this though, you have to skirt around the peak from the east or west side. Maybe next time.

The descent was in itself a huge challenge. For several hours, we trekked through pine forest trails. A huge section of the trail follows an irrigation canal that winds for a kilometer or so back to where we started. The irrigation canal runs across a steep cliff. We had to navigate through the narrow walkways. A misstep or two can have you plunging below. One of us actually fell off the walkway but she managed to grab onto something. God knows what could’ve happened if she fell all the way down below. With that said, I wouldn’t recommend hikers to take that route. For safety reasons, I would advise those planning to climb Mt. Marikit to get to the summit and return to the jump-off point following the same route they used to get to the top (backtrail).

Overall, Mt. Marikit lives up to its name. It’s beautiful. The trails are great. The views are awesome. It’s the perfect place to conduct a long hike. It took us around twelve hours to finish the trek. It was already dark when we got back to the jump-off point in sitio Salapsap.

I will return, that’s for sure. Maybe to run the mountain’s trails or camp on one of its grassy clearings. See you soon again, Mt. Marikit.

Here are a few photos from the climb. Photos courtesy of Ana Fe.