Saturday, December 21, 2013

Mt. Kanlaon Traverse

At this point in time, I couldn’t vividly remember  every little thing that happened four months ago. It was my first ever mountain to climb in Visayas. It was Mt. Kanlaon Traverse.  I also declared it as the tail mountain of my enthusiastic mountaineering quest. Yes, it was the last one of my very frequent hiking activities. It was only after two months did I hike again. Afterwards, I never did. Things changed.

Yet in my heart, the Mt. Kanlaon climb that we completed was one of the unforgettable climbs and it did give me lessons and a lot of realizations. Apart from these, one of the great things is that I can claim now that I have reached the highest mountains  in each part of the archipelago. In 2011, I have conquered Mt. Pulag , the roof of Luzon via different trails, 2012 when I reached Mt. Apo the highest not only in Mindanao but also in the country and this time, Mt. Kanlaon, the highest in the Visayas area.

Located in Negros Occidental, Mt. Kanlaon is an active volcano and the recent volcanic activity that it performed was only in 2006. There are already numbers of fatalities especially for the climbers in this mountain, hence, it is fearsome and dangerous as you’ll never know when this mountain is going to erupt, calm or behave. Being the highest not only in Negros region but as well as in the entire Visayas, it has its own kind of difficulty and therefore a major climb. 

Prior to this climb, hmmm just about two or three weeks before, I participated in a Mt. Halcon climb which is really a major climb as you may already read it in my other post. And this became my training advantage. 

Our entire climb (supposed to be a 3-day climb) was a 4-day Wasay to Guintubdan traverse. We started the hike in Mambucal mountain resort (Wasay side at the town of Murcia) early in the morning where we spent one night before. We walked to the gate of the Kanlaon National Park. 

 What I love about the trek is the richness of the forest and the serenity it seems to bring me along with the noise of the birds chirping and different kinds of insects. If one listens carefully during the trek, one can hear a variety of birds singing. I was heading the trek along with the guide. The guide actually mentioned every kind of birds’ singing but I could not remember those anymore.   The whole climb was trekking a forest trail and majority of what we passed through were covered by large trees. 

 There was a point when we crossed a concrete road. Funny how we took those hard trails and yet there’s an easier way. According to the guide, there would be another agreement or permit for that. And so then we crossed to and trekked another series of forest until we reached a mossy camp site where we spent our first night. It was very cold but calm night.

The next day was a lot of great views – Hardin Sang Balo and a lot of lagoons.  (During the trek, I memorized all the lagoons and the peaks, and now I couldn’t remember them all. I failed to write them down). We were actually in the middle of the mountain. We encountered different kinds of trails, both easy and hard ones; steady and steep ones. 

top view of the lagoon

another lagoon
The trail might cause us to really catch our breath but it was rewarding. From time to time, we took some break or 5 to 10-minute rest.  And these were precious moments of bonds, stories, jokes and laughter. 

one at a time, this is the 90 degrees ascent that we did in Wasay

 In this second day, upon approaching the second campsite. We originally planned to camp at the saddle and open area near the summit of the mountain, but because nonstop heavy rained poured over us, we decided to settle at the covered campsite.

this is the lagoon we've seen on top
 The second night was very rainy and cold. We could hear the trees swaying and the sound of the wind was scary. Truly it was a good decision to stay in that campsite. I was texting my sister trying to catch news about the weather. There was a typhoon in the north and all these rains were caused by that typhoon—a southwest monsoon rain or habagat.

The following day came. The rain and wind never stopped. I suggested to buddy Dennis, the organizer to wait for another day. This bad weather might stop, i thought.  The typhoon was of course heading north and the weather here could change. However, three in the group decided to climb the summit on that day since they were chasing for their flight schedule. They did lunchtime and they decided to go down ahead of us.  Again, it was another night of cold winds and nonstop rains.
Another morning came: our fourth day. The weather didn’t improve but somehow it was lighter than the previous day. We had no choice but to target the summit. Yes it was still raining! Sadly, it was still raining. We trusted on the guides that they know better the mountain and they would not let us ascend if the condition is not tolerable. We prepared ourselves and started the summit ascent. Along the trail, the guide was pointing something on the side. He said, we could have seen great views if we were given better weather condition. Sad! :(  We continued until we reached the foggy saddle. I said to myself, “it should have been a great landscape here like what I saw in the internet photos. But since we’re here, we should take advantage to reach the summit/crater anyway.”

chasing for Mt. Kanlaon crater in this inclement weather
The steep rocky trail to the summit was not that easy as strong winds hindered us. The front person was the guide. This guide inspected first if it’s still tolerable to reach the crater. During this trek,he told us stories of deaths of some climbers because of the zero visibility. Everyone of us  for sure was taking extra care. I was scared. I wanted to back off. But seeing everyone of us, they seemed determined to reach the summit anyway. True enough, we reached it, but we were holding each other’s hands fighting for the winds. The guide instructed us to hide and protect ourselves through the pile of rocks on that peak.  We never minded glancing what’s inside the crater. It was too dangerous.

at the summit/crater, at last!

We literally survived it! But it was our choice to still ascend amidst bad weather. It isn’t advisable.

On that same day, we descended via Guintubdan trail and it was quite easier and shorter. It’s still raining. It came to my awareness that the other group who did the backtrail climb (via Guintubdan only) had a great summit view. It really could be. Remember that we had a good weather on our first day until mid second day. 

The highlight of the Guintubdan trail was the large, majestic falls called Busay Buslugan. 

By the way, during the trek, we encountered some limatik (mountain leeches) on both Wasay and Guintubdan trails so better be ready on this for those who want to climb it too.

From there was few hours until we reached the end point of the trek. When we’re reaching the end point, it was residential area, and there are lots of chickens all over the area. I told myself, true enough "Inasal" is famous here. LOL. I was joking to myself  along with wet body,  tired feet and painful muscles brought about by the 4-day climb.
We just bought pasalubong in Bacolod city and finally headed to airport. The weather didn’t improved that much. Still I can say it’s a remarkable climb. Perhaps, I should take just the Guintubdan trail and hopefully see the majestic landscape of this mountain on my second attempt. I realized, you cannot always push on to something you want. Sometimes, hope isn’t enough. We waited one more day and nothing happened.  You cannot fight the nature’s force. Nevertheless, we were still blessed as we  remained safe the entire climb.

On the practical side, I vow not to make any major climb during August and September months in the Luzon and Visayas regions. On the 3 years of hiking experience during these months, I don’t know why I never learn the lesson of always experiencing stormy climbs during this season.

Photo credits: Qitter Vhostek, Dennis Hisanan and Rose Chan De Leon
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Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Trekking

The sound of steps prevails over this silent forest.
I can hear various kinds of birds singing.
‘Sounds like mellow music to the ear, very soothing.
This is one of the rare, tranquil moments I like the best.
In the middle of this dense forest, I find consolation.
A joy that comes from the touch of sunlight entering through the woods.
‘Seems like the trail is unending yet I continue to walk and speed up as much as I could
I would catch my breath, pause for a while, feel my heart beating..
I’m perspiring. But I do not mind, this is when I find comfort and satisfaction.

And oh, the rain! It comes with a cooling wind,
I embrace myself but would keep on stepping..
It’s inevitable, it’s actually irritating for the discomfort it brings..
In an unexplainable instance, I do appreciate the pouring.

How many hours will I still ascend?
How many energy will I still consume?
Thanks for the companions,
The bliss, the laughter, the spirit of friendship,
The extension of helping hands..
It all compensates. Rain or shine, you are all together in this voyage.

Bearing in mind the promise of splendor and majesty,
I would never give up in this kind of journey
of the very minimal people who choose to do it.
Having the prepared physical body and soul along brave spirit,
You may never make others understand the reasons behind.
But you know for yourself the deepest pleasure in trekking.

*inspired by Mt. Kanlaon Traverse (August 2013) . Complete story to be posted soon.

Photo credits: Qitter Vhostek

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