You can spend months planning for something, but if it is not its time yet, then it won’t happen. Everything has its own timing and I believe that the future is out of our hands. We can only do much of what we have at hand, but never the future.
I am starting this blog with a reflection for this has been my realization when our planned Mt. Apo hike did not push through. Personally, I have this list of mountains that I would love to conquer and Mt. Apo is on it. I mean, who among the local mountaineers does not love to climb the country’s highest peak, right?
We’ve been planning and preparing our Mt. Apo climb for months. We already booked our visit, and secured our permits. Excitement intesified as the days went nearer, but then a news broke out. Volcanic quakes detected at Mt. Apo area and the tourism office was forced to halt tourism activities involving Mt. Apo.
With just a couple of weeks left, we were forced to scratch-out our plans and change our itineraries. Gladly, our guide suggested another itinerary involving one of the top 5 highest peaks in the country, Mt. Kalatungan.
Standing at approximately 2,824 MASL, the volcanic Mt. Kalatungan proudly ranks 5th among the named mountain peaks recorded in the country. (Currently at 6th rank, displaced by the Kitanglad ranges) Mt. Kalatungan is located in the mountainous province of Bukidnon, where the other high peaks are also located, namely Mt. Dulang-Dulang and Mt. Kitanglad.
4 AM, November 21, 2019, Thursday. With no more time to sleep, I went home straight from work to pick-up my bag and go straight to the airport. We departed from Cebu for Davao at around 6 AM. The only time that I was able to catch some 20-minute sleep was during our flight. I can’t afford to miss the aerial view of the mountains of Mindanao, thus I did not sleep much while mid-air.
Arriving at Davao City’s airport, we were then picked-up by our arranged van to bring us to Bukidnon where we will be meeting with our guides.
It took us few hours to arrive at our meeting place at Pangantucan, Bukidnon, thus giving us some time to catch with our sleep. It was already past noon when we met with our guide. We quickly filled-up some required tourism documents and paid the fees.
Also, before commencing with the climb, the local tribes require climbers to offer sacrifices. As a sign of respect for the local tradition and belief, the ritual must be done. The ritual involves slaughtering a chicken as a sacrifice. You can pay them and they will do the ritual for you if you cannot stand witnessing their ritual. Before heading on the the jump-off point, we stopped by the local hub where we bought our necessities like food and water.
Right after arriving at the jump-off point, we had a quick orientation with our guide together with the blessing of the local chieftain. Because it was already late, we needed to hasten our pace to get to the base camp before the sun sets. Of course, we have different paces and so we relly cannot dictate the time we arrive at the base camp. It was already chilly at the trail by late afternoon. Suddenly, raindrops started falling which quickly escalted to a heavy rain. I did not mind wearing any rain coat thinking I needed a shower that day. The rain did put an extra challenge together with the slippery trail. As we kept heading on, the trail slowly transformed to a lush forest, completely erasing the traces of the concrete world.
It was already dark when we arrived at the base camp. Everyone was soaking wet from the rain. We need to change to our dry clothes quickly as the temperature at the forest has started dropping. Soon, fog surrounded our camp and fireflies started their dance.
While we were busy arranging our packs for tomorrow’s early start, our guide and his companions were preparing our food for the night. The food was so delicious. Kudos to our guides. I don’t know, maybe they took some culinary courses at the side.
Past-midnight, at around 2AM, we quickly prepared for our early ascent to the peak of the mountain. It was still dark and chilly, but I never mind putting on my jacket since I know I will be sweating later throughout our ascent. Indeed, not an hour has passed, we were already panting and sweating like roasted pigs. But the cold air somehow lessened the stress. Now I get it why our guide intentionally scheduled our ascent before dawn.
The cold air really helped in lessening our exhaustion and the darkness masked the steepness of the trail. It gave us no idea on how far the destination nor how steep the next step is. Engulfed by the fog and mist, our only vision was where we are stepping at, which motivated myself to keep moving forward.
Few more hours and the morning light started leaking from the horizon. The fog started fading and the air warmed-up. It was then we got an idea on how high we still have to climb. I was in awe watching the view below while the vegetation along the trail started unwrapping from the shadows.
Passed the challenging steep and open trail section called “Buko-Buko sa Anay“, we reached the part of the trail where we had a magnificent view of the Muleta Waterfall flowing down the crevice between the peaks of Kalatungan and Lumpanag. We stopped for a while to catch some breath and eat our breakfast.
We did not stay there as we still have a long way to go and the sun has started spewing its harsh rays. The trail has wide variety of bushes, from varieties of grass to flower shrubs.
Few more steep steps and we arrived at the dense forest of the mountain. Here we got to relax a bit. The trail was flat, the air was cool, and the trees covered us from the sun’s rays. There are few plants and foliage on the forest that quite captured my interest. Most of the tress are covered with moss or trailing vines. A sign of a well preserved forest indeed.
To get to the peak of the mountain, we have to climb once again another set of steep open trail until we reached another forest covered area where the junction towards Mt. Lumpanag is located. We left our heavy bags at the junction for easier assault toward the peak of Mt. Kalatungan.
The assault towards the peak is now easier without carrying our heavy bags, but we still have to conquer the heights and the heat.
As we got nearer towards the peak, the vegetation dramatically changed. Common forest trees started to thin out while trees commonly seen at high elevations started to appear. Then as we gained more elevation, trees started to fade with just thick grass remaining.
Reaching at the top was a wonderful moment. It was a relief with a magnificent view, making it a rewarding moment. The peak was flat and surrounded by shrubs and grass. I feel like you can pitch several number of tents on the area. Unfortunately, pitching of tents at the peak is already prohibited by the tourism council due to several cases of violations from previous visitors.
At the top it was cold, yet you’ll get directly exposed to the harsh rays of the sun. We did not stayed there for too long since we still need to be at our camp before lunch time. We descended back towards the junction area where we left our bags, and traversed towards the shoulder of Mt. Lumpanag where we pitched our camp.
It was already passed noon when we arrived at the campsite. Right after pitching our tents, I took the chance to catch some sleep. Dinner also came early so that we’ll have more time to rest, knowing that we will set-off early the next day to summit the peak of Mt. Lumpanag.
NOTES AND REMINDERS
- Listen attentively when an orientation is given.
- Never litter. Be a good example of a mountaineer. Leave no trace.
- Bring necessary amount of toiletries. You might be spending several days with no shower.
- Bring enough potable water for consumption for several days. Especially if you have a sensitive stomach and cannot adapt to natural waters in the mountain.
- If you have a sensitive stomach, better be prepared with OTC medications like loperamide.
- Bring extra batteries for your gadgets and flashlights.
- When camping, make sure to pack even the tiniest bit of trash and bring it with you when leaving the campsite.
- Lastly, enjoy and appreciate what the mountain can offer.
- Remember that this is not a race of whoever gets at the peak first.
- Don’t forget your souvenir pictures.
- Surely, you’ll gain friends, self trust, and self reliance by the end of the adventure.