I was edgy and yes, I was rattling. With the cold air enveloping the highlands seeping into my veins, I was shivering incessantly. Yet, it was only past our preparation time, just moments away from the start of our 3-day expedition. With breakfast already served, hiking gear packed to the fullest, the ritual carried out by the ‘datu’, the time to start the traverse of the 2nd and 4th highest summits in the Philippines had commenced.
Notwithstanding last night’s heavy downpour and the inclement weather, I trod the soft soil still hopeful for a change in conditions. We walked courageously while the ground continuously pulled us down.
What was supposed to be a simple walk started with the ankle-deep mud-trek that antagonistically pulled us back as we marched forward; so much so that when we reached the forest line, I sighed and whispered to myself “3 days pa” then resolutely continued panting.
Our group began to spread diversely until I was left standing all alone in the trail. Sometimes I walked with my eyes closed to allot my aching body a small breather. With every step I took, I felt being sapped of energy. By the minute we reached the halfway point of the trail, exhaustion filled me to the bone. I dropped my huge bag, ate lunch and slept to oblivion.
I gulped my meal for a mere 5 minutes and opted to sleep away the whole 30 minutes of rest we had. Who wouldn’t? It was freezing cold. Sitting in fetal position, I slept so soundly that I even had a fleeting dream. I wished I remembered it, but no, I wasn’t able to. It would’ve been great if I did.
I was bolted out of this reverie when one of our groupmates shouted “tara na”. My momentary respite was over. I asked Sir Bogart, our guide, if the trail to the summit would stay the same. The answer to my silly question was a hard-lined “yes”. It was uphill from then on.
The clouds began to blanket the sky as the lowly sun succumbed to its cover. Small droplets of fog gave me goose bumps as we tramped the moss-laden trail of the misty mountain. All of a sudden I was transformed to Sam and Frodo from the Lords of the Rings. The whole atmosphere was overcast. I couldn’t see from 10 meters ahead. All I could remember from this point to the summit was dark green and brown.
For 4 rainy hours, I was forcing my feet to inch every little step. Agnes waited for me and stayed while I rested. As my eyelids involuntarily closed I said to her “Humihinto na magisa yung mga paa ko” for they were indeed stopping at their own accord as if they had brain of its own.
It was then that I realized that our altitude was almost the same as Dulang dulang’s summit. In 1 day, we climbed from 1200 MASL all the way to 2900 MASL. After my oxygen deprived body slowly rejuvenated, I started to stand up and walk. After only 10 minutes, we reached the summit campsite. Wasn’t it funny that as close as this to our goal, I had to have that 5-minute break?
Like a déjà vu, I dropped my bag and proceeded with the position I was already accustomed to. Moments later, as if taking whatever little endurance left in us, the overcast clouds dropped in torrents. We scrambled inside our tarp, all 6 of us. This time, I wasn’t the only one sitting in fetal position.
We shivered and waited. We hanged on and hanged tough. The sun was nowhere to be found beneath the foggy sky. It was eerie as the mossy forest down below looked upon us as if in tease. It was the start of a chilly night.
It took us about 20 minutes to gather our strength and brace for the cold rain. I could even remember the tough Ivan Brinas Cultura standing still, seemingly unconscious: like a windows vista running on a Pentium 3 computer. I tried to make a joke to make him laugh but he never moved, he never reciprocated, he never even looked. This was the time I realized that we were almost freezing.
By 6:00 in the evening, all bodied souls atop Dulang dulang were already inside their temporary abodes. All of us were numb, all of us were cold. I was almost convulsing when I slid inside the warmth of my sleeping bag. At an almost 2000 meter gain, my brain could only take enough of the thin air.
My head was almost bursting, my breathing was obscure. As I closed my eyes, I prayed for the sun to shine upon us the next morning. That night I slept soundly and happily assuming the position that I liked best to ward off the chill. Day 1 was over, but the supposed hardest part of the expedition was mere hours ahead.
I was awoken by Agnes at late time of 05:30 AM. The cool breeze still engulfed us but at least a hint of sun was touching our flaps. As I went out to collect our cooking utensils, the sudden burst of blue and orange brought an unanticipated smile on my numb face. The weather was so good that we could see the summits of Kitanglad, Talomo and even Mt. Apo from afar.
Starting at the hot time of 09:00 AM, we were already 2 hours late of our supposed 2nd day schedule. Fearing the possibility of trekking with no sun to guide us, we went down the very steep path in a hurried pace.
Albeit the steep down slope, we found the maze-like trail very much enjoyable. I loved this part so much that I ran as fast as I could through the obstacles to stick to the pace of our guide. We ran, jumped and crawled for an hour and half until we reached the ridge that connected the 2 majestic mountains. We regrouped and rested for a short while.
As I sat on the mossy ground, I was puzzled at how in just 2 days, the ‘mountains’ were able to play with my emotions. Astonishing as it was, I was close to stopping this mountaineering madness; but now, once again I found myself in love with the sport. It was conflicting indeed, but maybe I just didn’t like the boring/stormy/rainy/gloomy part.
Being threatened with the odds of night trekking, we persistently hiked on a very fast pace. I couldn’t even remember a time when our group went at a speed of almost running but that day, time was of an essence. We ran across obstacles, we hurdled atop fallen trees. Obviously, nobody liked climbing in the dark.
After hiking for a long 3 hours and a half, we finally reached the emergency camp of the trail. Sir Bogart was even surprised as he sensed our renewed spirits. Laughing and giggling he kidded us, “Night trek lang pala panakot sainyo e.”
Well, it was really scary. I didn’t like the thought of climbing a supposedly 90-degree rock face without the friendly rays of the sun. We had our lunch there and prepared for the last leg of our assault.
We started the final trail with a full stomach. The downpour once again started to torment our bodies, but it didn’t really matter. All I could think from this point onward was getting inside the dry bunkhouses atop the summit of Kitanglad. With every bit of patience I got, I hacked away thorny leaves and sharp grasses away from my body.
This part of the climb caused almost all of the lacerations I had incurred in this expedition but still, I was having a great time. We continued upward, crawling and pulling our way through until finally finishing the last hurdle of this ascent. One by one, we started to assault the almost-hundred-meter-90-degree rock face to Mt. Kitanglad.
|start of steep assault|
As we assaulted the very steep path, our guide advised us to give adequate space to accommodate each climber. It was nerve-wrecking indeed, but with hearts as tough as steel, we fiercely clamped our hands on hand holds, bravely facing the very steep ascent.
|no one got a photo after the few meters of the assault.|
With the only view I could see were Agnes’ foot sole and the wet brown handhold that was saving me from a huge fall, heart wrenching thoughts raced through my mind. My only anchor was uttered prayers whenever I had a chance to take a rest. I prayed not only for me but also for my group mates whom I couldn’t gaze upon from my position.
Undoubtedly, this was the tallest and the steepest among the rock faces I’ve climbed but with every bit of strength, luck and perseverance, all of us had successfully beaten all odds sans the rope. Maybe it was a silly decision to forego rope support but fortunately, we were able get through without it. In a matter of 6 hours, we could finally see the transmitters of ABS-CBN and GMA towering from the summit of Kitanglad.
The trail after the cliff was an easy walk in the park: for 30 minutes, we imbibed the ambiance of the mountain range jacketed by tall trees and spiky grass. It was like a walk of fame after the harrowing climb. Oblivious to the downpour, I was so ecstatic that I didn’t even bother to wear my jacket.
Exactly 6 hours and 20 minutes from Dulang-dulang, we stood as one with the towers on top of Mt. Kitanglad. Yelling “D2K na tol”, I slapped a high five on each and everyone’s hand. The clouds obscuring the view did not even put a dent on my happiness. Mountaineering can be a pain in the ass sometimes but this feeling of satisfaction is one of the few things I needed to push through and continue surmounting these heights.
We reached the bunkers by 03:20 PM, too early for dinner yet too late for lunch. Our guide, Sir Bogart, even told us that he was surprised we were able to do the traverse for only 6 hours and half saying, we were the first group he guided from Manila that matched their average time. Well, he scared the hell out of us when he said that we would be night trekking the assault after starting the hike 2 hours late. After talking to the people at the summit, we decided to chill, literally, inside the houses watching the military men play billiards. Yes, that's right. Billiard table at the summit.
From then on, it was pure fun and relaxation for the team. Ivan cooked Spaghetti Pesto for dinner as other members of the group rested, mingled and giggled. We posted our signage and went to sleep at a late time of 12:00 MN. We woke up by 06:00 AM, went down Kitanglad by 08:20 AM, and finished the whole expedition in a relaxing down climb to Sitio Invatas by 01:00 PM. By 05:00 PM, we went back to CDO to relax at the Mapawa nature camp as a truly remarkable ending to a very unforgettable expedition. (more on Mapawa in a different article)
This D2K climb made me realize that mountaineering can be compared to a feisty lover. It would toy with your emotions and make you feel ballistic for various reasons however, at the end of the day it would still give you the love and satisfaction you needed to keep the relationship going. I might have given thought to stopping but after experiencing the nerve wrecking and heart wrenching yet amazingly satisfying 2nd day of this traverse, it made me love the adventure sport more. Mountaineering would really make a person insane… in a very good yet disturbing way.
|ridge line traverse from D2 summit|
|next target, Mt. Kalatungan (PH #5)|
|prayer cloth offerings to the gods of D2|
|Mr. Batang Lakwatsero|
|on the edge|
|beautiful Bukidnon canyons|
|sea of the clouds from D2 summit|
day 1 (no hikes)
04:00 - meet up at NAIA Terminal 3
06:30 - departure for CDO
08:30 - arrival at CDO, go to agora terminal
09:00 - departure from Agora Terminal to Malay-balay
11:30 - arrival at Malay-balay, lunch
13:00 - introduction and briefing by Sir Oyec of NORMMS
13:30 - buy chicken for ritual sacrifice
14:00 - departure for Lantapan
16:00 - arrival at Lantapan
18:00 - prepare dinner
19:00 - attend ritual sacrifice by Talaiindig Datu
21:00 - lights out
day 2 (8 hours and a half trek time)
06:00 - prepare breakfast
07:00 - breakfast, prepare for climb
08:00 - start trek
10:00 - enter forest area
12:00 - lunch
13:00 - continue hike to summit
16:30 - arrival at summit
17:30 - pitch camp, prepare dinner
18:00 - dinner
19:00 - no socials, early lights out
day 3 (6 hours and 20 minute trek time)
05:30 - wake up call, prepare breakfast
07:00 - breakfast, break camp,
08:00 - sun was up, dry up things
09:00 - start traverse to Kitanglad
11:00 - arrival at the start of ridge
12:45 - arrival at e-camp, lunch
13:30 - start steep assault to summit
14:45 - arrival at "80-90 degree" trail
15:00 - arrival at fork to west peak
15:20 - arrival at summit
17:30 - prepare dinner
18:30 - dinner
19:30 - socials
23:00 - lights out for some
day 4 (4 hours 40 minute trek time)
05:30 - wake up call, prepare breakfast
06:30 - breakfast, explore summit area
07:30 - prepare things for descent
08:20 - start of descent to Sitio Invatas
12:00 - arrival at the marker sign of Mt. Kitanglad
13:00 - arrival at Sitio Invatas, haggle prices for Jeep
14:00 - back at Malaybalay, late lunch
16:00 - arrival at St. Patrick Academy
17:00 - departure for CDO
19:00 - arrival at CDO, dinner
20:00 - departure for Mapawa Nature Park
21:00 - arrival at Mapawa Nature Park, relax, socials
23:00 - lights out
How to get to Dulang-Dulang
From CDO, take a bus from Agora Terminal bound for Malaybalay. From Malaybalay, board a jeepney bound for Lantapan.
What you need to do / What you need to bring
If planning to hike Dulang dulang or Kitanglad, it would be advisable, safer and much easier to ask help from Mindanao Mountaineering groups such as, NORMMS (Northern Mindanao Mountaineering Society - Sir Oyec - 09063492585 ) and BUMOC (Bukidnon Mountaineering Society - Sir Bogart - 09058352999 ) to name a few. They would gladly help arrange your climb, get permits, briefing, etc. etc. without asking for monetary payment which was very nice.
Guide was 2500 Php for the whole 4 days, which was okay knowing how hard the trail is and how well they took care of us. Porterage fee is 500 per day. Registration fee is 170 Php per person.
Talaindig tribe datu needs 1 Chicken per 5 persons of the group, 2-meter white cloth and 2 eggs for the ritual sacrifice.
*Thanks to Bryan Cuesta and Ivan Cultura of Batang Lakwatsero for some of the photos in this post
*We'll add photos from Ron Tan once he shares it. He was the only one capable of capturing the ridge and the 90-degree trail as the camera he used was waterproof.
*And yeah, we don't have photos from the ridge to Kitanglad, it would be much better if we could've shot even 1 photo of the supposed 90-degree trail but nope, no one got a photo while scaling.
*Kudos to Sir Oyec of Northern Mindanao Mountaineering Society (NORMMS) for helping us arrange this expedition. Big thanks also to Sir Bogart of Bukidnon Mountaineering Club for guiding us through this 4-day ordeal, Kalatungan ah!