Maladies and Malaise on Mt. Kanlaon (Part 2)

The second day of our Kanlaon climb was when the proverbial (and literal) shit hit the fan. The rain was unrelenting and the fog was so thick that our guides were adamant on cancelling the summit assault. We either had to stay put on the campsite and wait out the bad weather or go down the mountain without reaching the peak. Neither option was appealing.

So we badgered, begged and negotiated with Kuya Caloy and Kuya Islaw, our dutiful guides, if we could at least try the summit climb and see how far we can go. We’d turn back if it got too dangerous. As it turned out, we didn’t have too far to go. After a 15-minute descent to Margaha Valley, we were welcomed with such a heavy cloud cover that we couldn’t see each other at 10 feet apart. We went back to the campsite, looking forward to a full day ahead of doing nothing.

Second day on the campsite

Second day on the campsite

My full day, however, was spent writhing in pain inside my tent and taking a crap in the rain. The water sources in Mt. Kanlaon were stagnant which compromised the water quality. I found this out the hard way when I drank water that the guides fetched in Margaha Valley and was subsequently hit by diarrhea. By night fall, I was weak, cold, dehydrated and quietly crying out for my mother. The guys donated what remained of their clean water, juice and energy drinks which, along with triple doses of Loperamide, helped alleviate the rapid electrolyte loss.

The sky was overcast and it was still raining on the third day. We had already given up hope of seeing Kanlaon’s crater. Over breakfast, we soothed our disappointment by planning a great side trip after the climb.

Break camp on the third day

Break camp on the third day

Just as we were packing up, the skies cleared and the strong winds subsided. Change of plans: we’re going to the summit! Kuya Islaw was still unconvinced and we later learned the reason for his extreme cautiousness. A few years ago, he saw a climber he guided fall off a cliff and die on Makawiwili Peak.

I promised that no one in our group would fall off a cliff on his watch although some people (I’m looking at you, Ed) made this a little challenging. Ed likes to do jump shots in dangerous places such as next to an abyss or on a high rock. I’ve seriously considered tying him up or putting weights on his feet just to stop him from doing those stupid stunts.

From Pagatpat campsite, it takes about two hours to reach the summit. We trekked for about half an hour on Margaha Valley and then started an hour-long continuous ascent to the saddle camp. From there, it was only a 20-minute climb to reach the peak.

The summit assault was neither very long nor extremely difficult but it was one of the most grueling hikes I’ve ever done. I was still feeling weak from dehydration and was on the verge of blacking out on the trail. I had to hold on to a branch or tree root with each shaky step so I wouldn’t collapse. Halfway through the trek, I wanted to give up.

The group’s pace was suffering so I told Dante to let the others go on ahead since I was in no shape to make it to the summit anyway. He refused and was intent on pushing me to continue. And so it was on a pace of a sickly snail that we reached the peak.

The group on Margaha Valley

The group on Margaha Valley

Assault to saddle camp

Assault to saddle camp

Niel with the sea of clouds at saddle camp

Niel with the sea of clouds at saddle camp

The summit was covered in fog but everyone was ecstatic that we managed to get there despite the weather conditions. The clouds cleared a little for about five seconds, just enough for us to get a hazy glimpse of the crater.

Crater of Mt. Kanlaon. This was as good as it got.

Crater of Mt. Kanlaon. This was as good as it got.

People going nuts upon seeing the crater.

People going nuts upon seeing the crater.

We got a relatively better view of Kanlaon’s grandeur on our descent via Sitio Mananawin. There was still a lot of cloud cover but the lush greenery and beautiful slopes of the mountain can be seen. The Mananawin trail is open for the most part and considerably steep. It gets very hot and humid when the sun is out and navigating through the thick bushes can be tricky.

Descent to Sitio Mananawin

Descent to Sitio Mananawin

Slopes of Kanlaon

Slopes of Kanlaon

Lunch break. Our last day happened to be Trajan’s birthday.

Lunch break. Our last day happened to be Trajan’s birthday.

I lost my dignity sometime in the last hour of our descent, when Dante carried my backpack because my knees were already buckling. We reached Sitio Mananawin at around 4:30pm, still plenty of daylight left for photo ops with the mountain that made the last three days exhausting, difficult and amazing for us.

kanlaon 499_-2_-3_-4_tonemapped

kanlaon 524

All pictures except for the crater shot are courtesy of Niel Jarina.

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