Bluewater Resorts

Friday, October 19, 2012

Mt. Kanlaon | Guintubdan - Wasay Aborted Traverse

*The photos I'll insert are ones taken the day after the climb inside the DENR ranger station

*We've already summited Mt. Kanlaon 6 months after this fateful climb. You can read the new article and complete itinerary here:

Since February of 2012, we've been burning our butts off getting ready to pursue the highest mountain in Visayas. We climbed Mt. Ugo, Tirad Peak and the three mountains of Bakun to prime ourselves for the expected ordeal climbing Kanlaon would entail. What we didn't know then was the hard decision we would be facing as we hiked the trail. A decision that if chosen erroneously could spell the difference between life and death. 

As we were on the landing strip of Silay-Negros Airport, the brewing storm on the east coast of the Philippines was supposed to be flying northward. It was forecasted to exit early through Aurora virtually missing the whole of Visayas. We checked the news, scoured for information and after much deliberation, we decided to push through with the climb.

On touchdown, Negros thankfully rewarded us with a sunny day although a bit cloudy. We were welcomed by the airport’s view deck showcasing the summit of Kanlaon. Gratified at how generous mother nature could be, she did not give me an inkling that it would be the last time she would allow me to see the highest point in Visayas for the whole trip.

tower down
Planning to traverse Kanlaon via the Wasay trail ending the hike at Mambukal Resort, we headed for Guintubdan reaching it before night fall. Relaxed, relieved and ecstatic, we giddily reminisced all of our climbs as a group; not knowing that this expedition would be the most memorable of them all: in a very bad but educational way.

At 5:00 AM we were all up and about. We all had a quick breakfast, prepared our gear and prayed for good weather. The fog engulfing the whole area seemed ominous but at least the place was still devoid of rain. We prayed, stood and started the trek.

The start was easy: just a little bit of steepness from the trail. We crossed some highland villages until there were no more signs of civilization all around. We trekked for about an hour to reach the start of the forest, confident to be at the summit before 4 O' Clock when suddenly, the downpour started.

Inch by inch, with enough precaution, we steadily continued the hike. It was tough and tiring yet my optimism did not diminish until the rain became more intense the further we got into the trail. 

dripping wet gear
Every step we took was grueling with the puddles of water becoming little streams of mud. As an added blitz to the aggression, the rain got stronger and stronger by the minute. As small streams turned into torrents, I was getting confused which trail to take. It was a bit frightening thus giving me good reason to talk with the guys if we should continue with the climb. After 4 grueling hours of downpour, would it be time to abandon the pursuit?

We deliberated and argued about the best solution to the problem we were facing. We asked the guides if it would still be safe to continue the hike. Finally, we all came to the conclusion of aborting it. 

It was a fair decision for all of us however, tracing back the trail we trod before experiencing this war zone, we faced a dilemma: the dead and dry river that we easily crossed 3 hours ago would have to be expected at that time to have turned to a raging river. 

big branches all over the place
We suddenly were in a situation where we needed to choose between 3 options. 1st was to continue the hike to the summit and stay there giving us enough height not to be trampled by the flood. But since the trail to the summit was cut by thigh-deep flash flood, our 2nd option was to stay at the campsite. 3rd and last option was to go back to the jump-off where we would have a sturdy shelter, enough rations of food and civilization that could see us though the next 3 days. The problem with option 3 was the need to cross the river surged by flash flood waters.

It was absolutely a hard decision to make. We all had our choices and we all had our spat but in the end we decided to tackle the solutions one by one. First, we set up a reconnaissance team to survey the dead river up the trail and see if we could cross it up to the summit, 2nd was to set up the emergency shelter at the camp site we were in and 3rd was again to set up a 2nd reconnaissance team to check on the status of the dead river we crossed down below.

wet wallet paraphernalia
By 11:00 AM, the first survey was finally going on. Other members of the group waited at our camp discussing about other solutions we could come up with. At the height of approximately 2,000 meters, our bodies were practically freezing but our minds were still alert and our spirit resilient.

After 2 hours of waiting, the team went back with bad news that the river up the trail was swollen up to their waists rendering it not crossable for our standards. Option 1 was dumped immediately and we proceeded directly on discussing option 2 and 3. 

I was never enthusiastic about option 2’s staying at the camp site we were in, but 1 of the 3 guides insisted that it was a much safer alternative than crossing the now un-dead river down the trail. Most of us though were not comfortable staying at a typhoon sensitive area in the middle of the night; thus giving us enough reason to start the 2nd reconnaissance. The survey took another grueling 2 hours but at last, it produced good news.

dripping wet slushy money
The river was raging and swollen but it was still passable to all persons in the group. After 4 hours, we finally started the trek back home.

Going down, it was hard to recognize the trail as the water eroded almost all the footsteps we left behind. We stomped our way through the much limatik infested trail. After an hour and half down climb, we finally reached the flash flooded river.

Although it was passable, the scenery was nerve-wrecking. I was used to crossing raging rivers as a child in Nueva Ecija, but not like this wild river whose rampant waters cascaded straight to an almost 40-foot waterfall. Yes, it was that dangerous but we all had the right tools for the job. 

all bags hanging
The river crossing was just 5 meters across but understandably, being swept away in it could cause us our lives. Providentially, we were equipped with a 30 meter climbing rope which we anchored to a fixed fixture at the starting point. Attached to the rope, each passer would be afforded security from being swept away in case he/she slipped accidentally. 

For utmost safety and efficiency, we had to anchor the other end of the rope at the other side of the river bank. Our guide volunteered to cross the river to execute the plan. It took us about 30 minutes of preparation: fortunately, as we were tying the knots on both sides, the flood water started to subside.

comfy quarters
One by one, we crossed the river, cautiously unbuckling our waist straps and giving every member of the team an assigned job in any event of accidental slippage. One by one, the other side started to fill with our members. Climber by climber, we all successfully crossed over. After an hour tackling the very precarious river crossing, we started the remaining 1 hour trek back to Guintubdan. 

Walking down the path, I unexpectedly had a very clear view of the revived waterfall down the river we just crossed. Like a giant washing machine, a big whirlpool was churning right in the middle of it, trampling everything it contained. The thought of slipping right through it gave me goosebumps, thankful that we've all made it through unscathed. I prayed to God and praised him for protecting us through the whole ordeal. We were all safe and sound hiking down a very easy trail to the DENR station.

After an hour of down climbing, we were back at our quarters, a bit shaky after the experience but relieved having a secure haven to cover us through the storm. Once again I thanked God and immediately texted my mom that we did abort the climb. We waited 1 year for this expedition to push through only for it to be aborted at the very first day but still, I was glad we were all safe and sound. 

fall in line
On hind sight, it was fortunate that this ordeal happened on the 1st day rather than the next. It would have been a disaster if it happened that way.

We stayed at Guintubdan for the remainder of the supposed climb, witnessing the wrath of the storm wrecking the trees and towers of the town. We were so blessed that when it happened, we were within the comfort of a warm and sturdy house, protected from debris and harm. We waited days for the storm to pass until finally, the sun was shining on us again.

one whole room for drying
After 3 days at Guintubdan, we spent the remaining 3 days of our trip at Mambukal Resort, savoring the cold weather, hot springs and other amenities. Quite a respite after the punishing storm! Indeed, it was our reward after the torment. We woke up chilled and ran at the hot spring. We ate lunch then went back to the hot spring. We ate dinner then dipped again at the hot spring. It became our haven. Mambukal suddenly became the summit we were attaining. 

After 6 memorable days in Negros, we went back to our homes with an unfinished task but we brought with us a very complete experience. Experience that will nurture us: both as a climber and as a person. We learned how to trust each other and how to work as a team overcoming adversity through careful planning and thorough execution. It was a bit sad that we didn't get to see the spectacular summit of Kanlaon but come to think of it, the peak will always be there for us to climb another day.

signage taken down

**We've already summited Mt. Kanlaon 6 months after this fateful day. You can read the narrative and complete itinerary here: 

*Thanks to Ron Chester Tan for most of the photos in this article
*Credits to Bryan Cuesta, Ron Chester Tan for this awesomely wild experience. Revenge climb next year!!!


  1. Whew. Good you guys are safe and sound.

  2. Good that you're all safe.

    We are quite luckier, as our group experienced a 1-hour clearing at Kanlaon's summit on 13 October 2012. The rains and the wind forced us to descend, and it rained until the next day, as we got back to Guintubdan.

  3. Going on a climb in stormy weather? Not my cup of tea even when I was a young, adventurous field worker in Pinas. We lost a co-worker on a flooded river that was thought to be an easy crossing. He lost his footing and was carried by the raging water downstream to what would have been an avoidable death. I was not with the team then... or I would have preferred to wait for the water to come down to a safer level before crossing, even if they think I'm chicken.

    1. Yup. We wouldn't trek on a stormy day either. Problem that happened is, it didn'nt even rain at the start of the exped. we were caught off guard right in the middle of it and next thing we knew we were inside a brewing storm. We just tried to cross the river cause it was swelling and swelling and thankfully because the next day, the storm was on its full onslaught.

  4. after reading all of these, yung nakasimangot na mukha ni Agnes sa last picture describes everything!

    1. hahahaha.. si dane lang ang nakatawa! hhehe. enjoy pa dn naman pero sayang din! hehe. oh well. april next year daw maganda umakyat.. sana me seat sale ulet! hehe.

  5. wow. good decision.

    last august 2012 ako umakyat. luckily, walang bagyo and very clear sky.

    1. minalas talga kami. hehe. we've booked another flight this april. hopefully maganda na ang weather at maakyat na namin ang kanlaon. hehe.

  6. wow, sayang po mam, sana nabasa ko ito ng mas maaga :) were going on march. and wishing for a very safe climb. thanks for the blog po :)

    1. We're going back this april and hopefully ok na ang weather para ma-complte na din namin ang kanlaon. goodluck and safe climb sa inyo din this march! thank you.

  7. We will climb Mt. Canlaon this coming March 2013. We are from La Carlota. sana Magkasabay tayo.

    1. Hi! We will be a month late on your climb, we will be climbing Kanlaon mid April via Guintubdan-Wasay Trail. Hopefully this time we can finish the traverse! Thanks!

    2. hi maam, when exactly in april do ur team wish to re climb mt. canlaon?

    3. Thanks maam. We will ascend possibly on apr.13 and descend on the 14th via guintobdan - mananawin (masulog) trail.

    4. Hi po. I am Bernard. I am from Bukidnon. I would like to join your mt. Kanlaon climb. This is my facebook profile in case you wish to know me more. Pls also text me 09124625287.

    5. We've already passed our booking form to the denr in Mt. Kanlaon along with the participants of the group. I'm not sure if we can add an additional climber since the permit has already been approved.

      Thank you.

    6. In the event na magkakaroon po kayo ng vacant slot for an unexpected reason, please text nyo pa rin po ako 09124625287 at least week before the climb. tnx po.

    7. Hi, Anonymous, kayo po ba yung nakasabay namin this last week sa hike and greeted us nung paakyat kayo sa summit?!

    8. Yes maam kami nga yun. Na re-sked kami apr 14-15 intstead of 13-14 dahil sa aming mga work schedules. Congrats again maam and to your group. Na overtake nyo pa kami along the way paakyat. Next tym uli maam baka makabalik kayo dito sa negros, pls do invite us on ur adventures...Pls do visit our facebook accnt @ Central Lacarlota Riders..Thanks

    9. Congrats to us at ang ganda ng panahon nung asa summit tayo, super ganda ng view! For sure babalik kami sa kanlaon but maybe early next year.

      Will add that FB account! Thanks and more climbs!

    10. Yes maam, we're blessed by a good weather all thru-out the climb. kahit nga nung pa baba kami sa open field going to sition mananawin maganda din yung panahon.

  8. It was a wise decision you made. I will wait for the tales of your revenge climb. We're scaling Kanlaon August 2012. Good luck on your April climb. Here's to a safe climb and perfect weather! :)

  9. Wise decision. We also had the same experience a month before you did. We had the reverse trail from Wasay to Gintubdan. We we're already on our 2nd night when heavy downpour prompted us to abort the climb. Safety is always the number one priority for every climb so I think what you did was the best and the right decision to make at that time...

    1. Yep. there's always next time so its better to abort the climb than risk it. Hopefully we will have a better weather during our climb this april! thanks.


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