Mt. Mantalingajan Traverse
Brgy. Ransang, Rizal to Brgy. Malis, Brooke’s Point, Palawan
February 18-21, 2013
The better part of me wants to stay modest and self-deprecating about this but damn, this is the proudest moment of my mountaineering life. For the first time since I started climbing, I finally earned the full confidence to call myself a mountaineer. So please indulge me while I shamelessly brag and shout from the rooftops: We traversed Mt. Mantalingajan! And we did it in four days!
The Manta Trav is one of the most, if not THE most, difficult climb in the country. Mt. Mantalingajan, the highest peak in Palawan, straddles five towns in the southern part of the province. Traversing it requires climbing numerous peaks on the mountain range, and trekking on barely established and very dangerous trails that were probably not designed for human use.
I’m still at a loss on how to describe the terrain, particularly the traverse route, in a way that would accurately convey how hellishly brutal they were. To give you a rough idea, here are some of my feverish rants during the climb:
Ang magsasabing may mas mahirap pa sa Manta Trav, sasapakin ko!
Leche, minor climb ang G2 (Guiting-Guiting) kumpara dito.
Konti na lang, iiyak na talaga ako… (I was really on the brink of tears while saying this.)
Wala na akong kaluluwa. I’m a walking automaton.
Hinding hinding hindi na ako uulit ng traverse, kahit bayaran pa ako.
But Mt. Mantalingajan was our ultimate dream climb and we were willing to go through hell to achieve it.
Believe it or not, Jet, Fred and I managed to accomplish an amazing feat on this climb. According to our guide and a local mountaineer in Palawan, we are the sixth group so far to do the traverse and the first to finish it in four days.
We are not the fastest, the strongest or the most experienced of mountaineers. You won’t be impressed when you see us hike. My pace is slow and steady, my sense of balance is pitiful so I often end up falling on my ass, and I instinctively scream for my mother when faced with a daunting trail. While we won’t win accolades for speed and strength, we made sure to make up for it in endurance, patience, obsessive pre-climb preparation, strict adherence to the itinerary, time discipline and teamwork.
We did not set out to make history or break records when we planned this climb. We aimed for a five-day itinerary, which a couple of groups have already done, and made contingency plans in case we had to extend up to six days. The four-day itinerary was a casual idea we toyed with during the pre-climb meeting but didn’t take seriously. It was only on the second day of the trek that we realized we could actually achieve it. Our pacing was good, our morale was up, and we were hitting the targeted campsites earlier than scheduled.
We had to contend with a lot of maddening obstacles though. There were heavy rains a few weeks before the climb so numerous parts of the trail were made even tougher by fallen trees and landslides. On the third day of our climb, Tropical Depression Crising hit southern Palawan. We had to do the summit assault and the traverse to Brooke’s Point, which were the most torturous parts of the climb, amidst continuous rains and strong winds. There was no clearing whatsoever on the summit. To top it all off, the two reliable water sources, Paray-Paray and Tabud River, inexplicably dried up despite the rains. It was like some cosmic force was on a mission to make our climb even tougher than it already is.
Despite all the misfortunes we had to deal with, we finished the traverse safely and well ahead of our itinerary. Most importantly, the three of us remained great friends. When we started out on this, we had one overarching goal: walang siraan ng pagkakaibigan (there will be no end-of-friendship). The sheer exhaustion and stress of the climb can take a heavy toll on people and relationships. There were squabbles and conflicts along the way but we got over it and just laughed at our silliness over rounds of beer afterwards.
I have Jet and Fred to thank for bearing with me whenever I got cranky and ill-tempered while stressing over the pre-climb prep. These guys have the patience and tolerance their mothers would be proud of. They respected and trusted my decisions as team leader and were very helpful and cooperative in all aspects of the climb. I couldn’t have asked for better climbing buddies.
I’m so proud of this climb and I’m so proud of our group not just because we traversed Mantalingajan in four days. Records are fine for bragging rights and talking shit on Facebook but not for much else. I’m proud because of how we achieved this climb: we worked as a team, we had a game plan and we executed it well, and, despite all the miseries we went through, we were having the time of our lives.
And by having the time of our lives, I meant we totally camwhored to our hearts’ content.
I’ll write a more detailed account of our Manta traverse in the coming days but for now, I’ll sit back and enjoy the surreal moment when we finally made our dream climb come true.
Photo credit: All photos are by Jet Reyes, except for the ones where he’s actually in the picture (obviously).
- Mantalingajan Traverse: Prologue (nagbabasangpinoy.wordpress.com)
- Mantalingajan Traverse: Day One (nagbabasangpinoy.wordpress.com)
- Mantalingajan Traverse: Day Two (nagbabasangpinoy.wordpress.com)
- Mantalingajan Traverse: Day Three (nagbabasangpinoy.wordpress.com)
- Mantalingajan Traverse: Day Four (nagbabasangpinoy.wordpress.com)
- Flora and Fauna of Mt. Mantalingajan (nagbabasangpinoy.wordpress.com)