Also known as High Peak, rises at 2037m, the highest in the Zambales Range (that forms a contiguous chain of mountains starting from Pangasinan, across Zambales, that includes Mt. Mabanban and Mt. Pinatubo, then connects with Mt. Natib and Mt. Mariveles in Bataan). This used to be an old carbide mining area that following the old mining trail, you can’t help but find remnants of its past. The trail is on rolling and gradual terrain that takes you through a number of distinct ecosystems: from lowland grass and scrubland dominated by talahib, a kind of grass, pine forest, tapulao in Zambal, the native tongue, to stunted, moss draped alpine forest above 1800m. On its flanks are secondary to primary forest that extends to the adjacent mountains.
From the terminal at Iba, one can take a tricycle, (P100 per person at 3 -4 passengers each) to Barangay Dampay Salasa, Palauig. No permit is needed but you’ll have to log at the store at the start of the trail behind the school and pay a fee of P10. Trek is around 8 - 11 hours depending on one’s pace as you need to negotiate around 3 minor mountains before reaching Mt. Tapulao. Usually, mountaineers camp out at the former mining bunker area and do the summit assault the next day.
It should also be noted that during wet weather, limatik or forest leeches abound especially near the streams along the way. When it rains, parts of the trail become rivulets that trekkers easily attract these critters without knowing that they’ve already been bitten.
But what the heck, especially at the upper elevations, views of misty pine and forest clad ridges and mountain flanks are just too beautiful to miss and worth all the blood, sweat and tears.