Friday, May 15, 2015

Mt. Kanlaon - Summer Climb with Tribu Tagbu

(Credits to my Tribu Tagbu friends for some of the pictures in this post)

The grand Mt. Kanlaon

Never in my wildest dream that I will draw myself near a volcano, more not on its crater. Well, as the song goes "Nothing is Impossible", that never-in-my-wildest-dream thought did come true. April of 2015 me and my wife, along with 11 other friends set foot on top of the highest peak in the Visayas region , Mt. Kanlaon, Canlaon City, Negros Oriental, Philippines. (Or Mt. Canlaon). 

Tribu Tagbu in Toledo Port.

No words, not even the most expensive cameras, nor any other expensive gadgets to record, can capture the fascinating sight i personally witness with my own eyes, but allow me to share my Mt. Kanlaon experience. 

I recently joined Tribu Tagbu (headed by Fritz Hortelano) because of my wife. Our Mt. Kanlaon adventure was more than a month of preparation and planning. We even had series of pre-treks in advance for the major climb, and i was able to join 1 of those treks that you can read here.

Standing at an elevation of 2,435 meters above sea level, this active stratovolcano is the highest peak in Central Visayas. Because of Mt. Kanlaon's colossal size, it is visible from many parts of Cebu, specially the Western part of Cebu.

The best time to go to Mt. Kanlaon National Park is during the summer season between February and May. It'll be difficult or impossible to hike through Mt. Kanlaon during the monsoon season, I've heard many adventurers who halted their trek because of the risk involved when the rocks and the trails are mostly slippery.

According to my research, there are many trails you can take to reach Mt. Kanlaon peak and th
ese are:

•Mapot (Canlaon City, Negros Oriental side)
•Mananawin (Canlaon City, Negros Oriental side)
•Guintubdan (Murcia, Negros Occidental side)
•Wasay (Murcia, Negros Occidental side)
Our group (Tribu Tagbu) decided to take the Mapot trail with the help of 2 experienced guides (Kim and Tata) and 1 efficient porter (Jun). Such a cool group i would say.

Oh, yes! we love Toledo!

From Cebu South Bus Terminal, we arrived in Toledo City's Port in the morning to catch the 2nd fast craft heading to San Carlos City across the Tañon strait. We had our breakfast in Toledo City, and our lunch in San Carlos City.

In San Carlos Bus Terminal.

After riding a tricycle to reach San Carlos City's Bus Terminal we then jaunted a trip to Canlaon City at the base of Mt. Kanlaon through a small bus. From there we were fetched by our guides through a minivan with an open back compartment, 2 vans were needed for our group.

Tribu Tagbu in Kanlaon's town proper.

On our way to Mapot Camp.

We had a quick debrief when we reached the Mapot jump off point and then went straight to the Mapot Basecamp after 2 hours of walking within series of farm trails. It was a slow yet awful walk under the harsh sun and the dry-dusty trail adding the effect. To think, that was just level 0 when it comes to the degree of difficulty that we had to face the following days.

Ivane going uphill to Mapot Campsite

The slow yet grueling climb to Mapot.

When we arrived in Mapot’s basecamp, we rushed in preparing dinner and in setting up our tents. Immediately the fog and darkness hugged the entire place in no time. We had ample rest in preparation for the real action the next morning.

Cabbage farm.

The famous Bao-Bao (Turtle Hill).

Kim, our guide wearing his smirk.

a beautiful sunset in Mapot Basecamp.

Kat, Shiela, Ivane and Russel doing the yoga.

Our festive meal in Mapot basecamp.

Tribu Tagbu from L - R: Ericson Gucela, Shiela Cruz, Mark Joseph Gesite, Ivane Gesite, Russel Marie Capus, Fritz Jay Hortelano, Christian Rey Martinito, Kat Romero, Donnel Demetillo, Joseph Tapasao, Hyra De La Cruz, Junry Zabate and Perci Mansueto (Bottom)

Right after we had our breakfast the next morning and refilled our individual water containers we then started our journey to the majestic Mt. Kanlaon. The Mapot basecamp was the last site we saw signs of civilization, right after we reached the tree line and as we went uphill, it was a totally different experience. The trail started becoming moist and cold, that is why wearing proper clothing (protection) is vital in climbs like this. It was for me a grueling hike, especially with the full packs we were carrying and the pacing we need to maintain to reach the next basecamp before sundown.

nearing the treeline

Fritz and Russel with Shiela going downhill.

We had our lunch break in the Kutitap camp. it was supposedly the last water source but there wasn’t any when we arrived the place, good thing we had more than enough water that we got from the Mapot camp. We didn’t waste time and got back on our feet to head to the Makawiwili camp hoping for a clear view of the mighty Mt. Kanlaon.

Kim and Kat in Kutitap.

Kim and Hyra in Kutitap.

Tribu tagbu with Jun (our porter, wearing red at the back) and Tata (in Kawasaki pullover)

uphill going to Mt. Kanlaon.

What is distinct when you reach the Makawiwili camp are the cogon grasses that covers the entire place, and yes, we were lucky enough to have a clearing when we reached the place and witnessed the enchanting Margaha Valley. I hate heights, but I was still blown away by the sight and so the rest of us. Though because of a tragic accident last April 2015 (Holy Week) 29 hectares of Margaha Valley was scorched, it will take years for the carpet-like grass to grow and recover its natural beauty.

Nearing the Makawiwili Campsite.

Ivane with the Mighty Mt. Kanlaon (Margaha Valley)

The scorched Margaha Valley.

Sad view of the Margaha Valley.

After few minutes of rest, we then head to our final destination for the day, the Eastern Saddle Camp of Mt. Kanlaon. It wasn't a pleasant hike but the much needed rest and dinner was a motivation for most of us. We reached the campsite before dusk, we had enough light to prepare dinner and set our tents up.

A display of colorful tents in the East Saddle of Mt. Kanlaon.

prepping for nightfall.

A superb view from the top of Mt. Kanlaon.

Christian, Kat, Ivane and I, reached the old crater's peak first from our group.

Ivane getting a glimps of the old crater from its rim.

Striking a pose from the peak of Mt. Kanlaon.

The following day was another surprise for me, we went up to the Crater Summit and was amazed by the splendid sight of the entire Canlaon. It was one of the greatest experiences in my life that money cannot pay, I was fortunate enough to witness in my own eyes how clever nature is in creating such a grandeur. It took me minutes to grasp the entire idea that i was on top of Mt. Kanlaon and nothing else came out of my mouth but words of applaud. I told myself, I will continue to climb mountains to pay tribute to nature and pay tribute to life as a whole.

After realizing that we were beyond the schedule to reach the last barge bound to Cebu from San Carlos at 3pm, we immediately ate breakfast, packed up and started our descend back to civilization through the Mananawin Trail. We ate lunch along the way and still failed to catch the last barge. I was doomed, I still had work that night (I ended up going to work 3 hours late). When we reached the town proper, I separated from the group after knowing that there were still barges bound to Cebu in Sitio Basak and rode a motorcycle (just imagine the speed we had trying to catch that trip), but in hapless circumstances I still wasn't able to catch those barges. I ended up going back to the group and we decided to travel far south to the town of Tampi to catch a late trip bound to Santander, Cebu.

Ivane going downhill with a little help of a blue rope.

Kat trying to get a hold of free healthy snacks.

Patay na Sapa (dead river)

Ericson looking up at a tall tree in the Pula trail.

It was a helluva travel, yet fun and exciting at the same time.

My two cents:

  • Go on a pre-climb to limber or at least go to the gym at least a month to condition your legs and build that endurance.
  • The fast craft is nauseous, find any meclizine to ingest few minutes before your travel, and bring a liniment to be safe.
  • Conserve water as much as possible, you cannot tell if the next water source will indeed provide you water.
  • Always follow the trail and follow the guide/s' advice.
  • Arrange transportation with your guide ahead of time.
  • Do not bring things that aren't necessary.
  • Come up with a committee for your group, like those assigned for the Food, Cleanup, and other stuff.
  • Never leave trash behind and be responsible enough to respect nature.
  • Stick to your schedules to avoid getting left behind by buses/barges

Let me express my gratitude to the following (amazing) people for such a great company during the climb:

  • Ericson Gucela
  • Shiela Cruz
  • Ivane Gesite
  • Russel Marie Capus
  • Fritz Jay Hortelano
  • Christian Rey Martinito
  • Kat Romero
  • Donnel Demetillo
  • Joseph Tapasao
  • Hyra De La Cruz
  • Junry Zabate
  • Perci Mansueto
(Credits to my Tribu Tagbu friends for some of the pictures in this post)

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Kan-Irag or Sirao Peak - Cebu

It’s been a while that I haven’t gone on trekking or mountaineering, not until my wife’s co-workers that  I already considered friends decided to go on a major climb to Mt. Canlaon (or Kanlaon as locals call it), the highest peak in the Visayas (Philippines). Yes, a major climb, in Mt. Canlaon!, can you imagine that? After years of no practice, I was scared. But our group who we call Tribu Tagbu, that I just recently joined, thanks to Fritz our team leader, the group decided to have series of preparatory climbs (treks) to limber up for the Mt. Canlaon adventure.  
Stop under the mango tree
Tribu Tagbu decided to have one of the practice-climb in Sirao Peak, with an elevation of  750 meters above sea level. Though it’s nothing compared to the Mt. Canlaon’s elevation of 2,435 meters, but at least there was a practice climb that I think helped a lot of us to prepare for the major climb.  
There are 2 trekking trail options to reach Sirao Peak; The easier trail from Kan-Irag Nature Park or the more difficult trail from barangay Budlaan. We decided to take the strenuous route to practice. We started around 9am in the morning and reached Sirao Peak in the afternoon around 2pm. The Kan-Irag trail will only take you more or less 2 hours to reach Sirao Peak depending on your pace. 

Barangay Sirao view

There were, of course several stops in between to rest. The trip through Budlaan going to Sirao Peak also included a quick visit to the hidden Kabang Falls, it’s not a mighty waterfalls but its decent enough for a quick dip especially in the scourging heat. We had our lunch in barangay Sirao's basketball court on our way to the peak, and yes, the trail itself is a combination of few paved road, dirt roads and even unpolished paths. It’s a good starting trek for beginners or for those who are preparing for major climbs. 
Kabang Falls in Budlaan

Kabang Falls top view

2nd level of the Kabang falls
Since our intention was to practice, we brought heavy loads to practice our backpacks and to condition our muscles, we brought our usual heavy materials like sleeping bags, tents, at least 3 litters of water. A friend even brought gym plates to condition himself, and yes we were serious.
Me in Kabang falls

On our way to Sirao from Budlaan
It was a nice trek, just like the other treks I had before, regardless of the exhaustion from bringing heavy loads and the muscle-sore brought by the extended walks, the sunburns and the hassle, nothing really beats the feeling when you reach the top, you see your friends achieving the same goal of reaching the top together, to feel the cold air, to watch the scenery and to still chin up and free a smile! That feeling is priceless, it remedies stress and the daily worries we left at home or at work.

almost there
we made it to Sirao peak

resting on the rocks

Sirao peak view from the top