The Cordillera Administrative Region is rich in culture, heritage and natural attractions. Cordillera Great Traverse has connected the trails of Abra, Kalinga, Apayao, Ifugao, Benguet, Mountain Province and Baguio City over the past few months. It’s time to explore the Cordilleras in one great expedition that would show all the scenic trails, culture and heritage of the area. The traverse would not only promote the trails as a tourist attraction, it’s also a way to study further protection of the ancient trails. Gear up as the #CGT2015 is about to take off on April 1.
Cordillera Great Traverse
Over the past few months, a team of National Geographic explorers, adventurers, nature lovers, ultrarunners, environmentalists, mountaineers, and fitness enthusiasts started mapping the trails along the 6 provinces in the Cordillera Administrative Region, namely Abra, Kalinga, Apayao, Ifugao, Benguet, Mountain Provinces and the charter city of Baguio in one contagious course. That’s almost 400 kilometers worth of trails with about 18,000 meters worth of elevation starting in Apayao (Conner), passing through Abra (Maligcong), Kalinga (Lubuagan, Pasil and Balbalasang), Mountain Province (Barlig and Sadanga), Ifugao (Kiangan, Hungduan, Banaue, Assipulo and Tinoc,) Benguet (Itogon) and finally culminating in Baguio City. The Cordillera Great Traverse aims to be the first, most scenic, longest and sustainable trekking and hiking destination in the Philippines. It will be called the Philippine Cordillera Trail.
INITIAL TRAIL STATISTICS
- Distance: The trail spans almost 300++ kilometers.
- Start: Conner, Apayao
- End: Baguio City
- Elevation Gain: 18,057 m
- Elevation Loss: 18,624 m
The team have initially identified the ideal jump-off or entry/exit points for the Expedition. After the Expedition, the team will work with the locals on further subdividing the sections into shorter segments/distance)
- Conner to Maligcong , 88+ km**
- Maligcong to Colayo **
- Colayo to Sadanga, 35.8 km
- Sadanga to Barlig, 20.2 km
- Barlig to Banaue, 31.5 km
- Banaue to Hungduan, 33.5 km
- Hungduan to Tinoc, 37.4 km
- Tinoc to Lower Napo- Manaan, 11.4 km
- Lower Napo to Kayapa, 39.7 km
- Kayapa via Mt. Ugo to Itogon Town Hall, 32.7 km
- Itogon Town Hall to Baguio City, 31.3 km
- Estimated Total Distance 361.50 km*
**There is an ongoing validation and trail clearing by the CGT2015 Team together with the locals of Maligcong, Abra and Conner, Apayao as of press time.
* The estimate distance and other data is not absolute. The CGT2015 Team Expedition on April 1 onwards will further validate the GPS reading and fine tune the Philippine Cordillera Trail map.
The CGT Team aims to capitalize on shared knowledge and skills to unearth a natural treasure that will put the Philippines in the same light as some of the world’s most famous trails and traverses such as the 3,500 km Appalachian Trail in the USA, the 250 km Great North Walk in Australia, The 220 km Drakensberg in South Africa, and the 180 km Gran Recorrido in Corsica, Europe. The CGT has put together a three-fold approach in this endeavor.
- Connect (The Trails). The Traverse will allow the team to establish the longest and most scenic hiking/trekking trail destination in the Philippines. This will be done through research, mapping, and immersion with the locals.
- Explore (The Philippine Cordillera). The Traverse will allow the team, and eventually the public, to learn the culture of each ethnic group, which has held the mountains as home for centuries. The locals will act as guides to establish trails and trigger more discoveries about the region.
- Protect (The Environment). The Traverse will serve as a means to mutually exchange knowledge on how to protect the mountains. As trails are mapped through the Traverse, preservation and protection of the Cordillera Mountains will be of utmost priority. Awareness for the preservation of the environment will be enhanced through education of visitors to the traverse, as well as volunteer and fund-raising efforts focused on such.
November 2014 to March 2015 was dedicated to plotting reconnaissance routes, trail mapping, community immersion, GPS plotting and course marking. Majority of the trails have been already established and connected, and the remaining months will be devoted to completing the entire traverse route. Connecting the trails is no small feat by any measure. Teams of three to five people cover as few as twenty kilometers a day due to the uncompromising uphill gradients and arduous terrain in some sections.
April 1, 2015 will mark the launch of this monumental tour, The Expedition, and the aim is to journey across the entire traverse.
But connecting the trails is only the beginning of the CGT’s mission. To activate the second leg, Explore, will require months and maybe years of working with the local communities and LGUs to make the trails that run through their provinces visitor friendly for the city-dwellers who plan to make sporadic trips to the areas of interest. The trails will have to ensure the safety of visitors, while providing a pleasant and worthwhile trek through nature’s bountiful splendor that can only leave its guests overwhelmed and transformed. There will be routes along the trail that will cater to most every persuasion, regardless of fitness level or age; in addition, the distances to be covered can be molded according to the individual or group’s expectations.
A trip through any of the six provinces of the CGT will showcase each province’s history, culture, and natural beauty. The region’s historical significance is long and fabled, covering landmarks that date back to pre-Spanish era. The seven ethno-linguistic groups namely Abra (Tinggian), Apayao (Isneg), Benguet (Kankanaey and Ibaloi), Ifugao (Ifugao), Kaling (Kalinga, Isneg), and Mountain Province (Kankanaey) bring their individual nuance and charm to their respective locality. The great traverse is rife with majestic mountain passes, lush forests, calm rivers, raging waterfalls, breathtaking rice terraces, soothing hot springs, and ancient trails to dazzle and astound even the most jaded traveler.
The CGT hopes the exposure and experience of ordinary people will trigger the appropriate sentiment to push the third mission leg, that is, to protect the environment. The awareness raised should create an environmental conscience within each CGT visitor, enough to spur accountability in the form of volunteerism, donations, or simply abiding by the rules and regulations of the traverse, which includes the ‘Leave No Trace’ policy when exiting the areas visited.
In order to do achieve this, sustainable programs must be put in place, according to JP Alipio, team head for Environmental Protection and founder of the Cordillera Conservation and Trust, which focuses on conservation efforts and making sustainable livelihood to people living in the area. The CGT will be a conservation corridor that will protect large landscapes in the entire Cordillera range, says Alipio. Working with communities and companies that share a common advocacy for environmental protection, preservation, and growth is the critical going concern of the expedition.
The CGT is a monumental undertaking that requires commitment of time, resources, and patience. Unlike most projects that have a beginning and a conclusion, this venture will be a perpetual work in progress, seeking to preserve and propagate the concept of living harmoniously with nature and its inhabitants. To the visitor and the advocate, the traverse will uncover wonders that will astound, amaze, and captivate beyond the price of any man-made spectacle.
The Cordillera Great Traverse is the expedition that will make you view the Philippines as you’ve never done before.
The expedition is not a race with a time frame of 15 days to explore the whole area of the Philippine Cordillera Trail. The Expedition shall allow the CGT 2015 Team to appreciate and learn the culture of each of the ethnic groups who have held the mountains as their home for centuries. The locals shall act as our guide to establish the trails and lead us to discover more about each province.
- CGT shall pave the way to establish the Philippine Cordillera Trail. The trail passes through mountain ranges, forests, rivers, waterfalls, rice terraces, villages and ancient trails. It highlights areas of historical and cultural value, areas of high ecological significance and scenic route, which are major tourist attractions.
- The trekking paths in each province will allow visitors (recreational hikers, nature lovers, adventurers) to plan their trips according to their desired destination, distance, and duration.
- We shall provide information on proper ingress/egress points, trail markers, and trail guides per location will provide visitors convenient and safe journeys.
- The exposure to the beauty of Philippine Cordillera Trail engendered by CGT will create interest in ‘back-to-nature’ treks, concern for environment, and other positive effects.
The Traverse will serve as an avenue for both conservation and development bringing much needed trailside economy to remote villages and serving as a conservation avenue for the entire region protecting the surrounding landscape around the trails from encroachment from economic activities not compatible with its use as an avenue for trekking and tourism. It will essentially become a 300 km protected landscape from one end of the Cordillera Region to the others.
- The CGT seeks to increase awareness and involvement in the preservation and protection of the mountains by involving both the locals and visitors in the area.
- The Team works closely with Cordillera Conservation Trust to ensure that its activities are centered in ensuring environmental awareness and protection.
- The CGT shall pave the way to potential key projects and programs focused on protecting the environment and culture in the Philippine Cordillera Trail.
TRAIL PRESERVATION AND ITS BENEFITS (read more at www.cordilleragreattraverse.com)
- Conservation and Eco-Tourism
- Environmental User Fees and Ecosystem Benefits Charges
- Mixed Sustainable Land Use
- Eco Tourism And Its Impacts