Was I glad it was morning. After spending the night not getting any sleep because of the grueling cold, I was only too happy to see sunshine. Jay and I went up to the summit for our psychic rewards after the previous day’s punishing climb. And all we saw was fog. Very thick fog.
I already had my chance of seeing Mt. Dulang-Dulang’s breathtaking summit views on my first climb so I wasn’t all that bummed that we didn’t get a clearing. I felt bad for Jay though for missing out on this but he was still a good sport.
Ben had an awarding ceremony to attend early the next day so he had to get back to Malaybalay later that day. He’s got all sorts of things going on and is kind of a local celebrity in Bukidnon. He was even interviewed on TV a couple of times!
The downside of having a semi-famous personality as a guide is he’s so in demand he’d have to leave you while on the traverse. His initial plan was to descend from Dulang-Dulang and just have our porter guide us on the traverse and descent from Mt. Kitanglad. However, it was also Pele’s first time to do the traverse and he had no idea what the trail is like. So plan B was Ben would go ahead of us and secure the rope on the steep ascent (there is a rope-assisted segment where the slope is almost at 90 degrees) but we’d be on our own during the actual trek.
The plan seemed to sit just fine with everyone else so I played it cool and gave a curt nod. I didn’t want to look like a sissy in front of all these tough mountaineers. In my head though, I was already imagining all sorts of scenarios on how I was going to die on the trail. It was the first time for all of us to do the D2K traverse and we’d be doing it without a guide. The rest of them probably had nerves of steel but I was insanely terrified.
The start of the trek involved scrambling down a muddy, rocky, slippery and very steep trail. And this was not even the hardest part. After hours of interminable walking, slipping, sliding and clambering over or squeezing under tree trunks, we reached a clearing and decided to have a late lunch there. Then it rained. Hard. We quickly put up a flysheet and huddled underneath it while eating cold tuna flakes.
The rain was still pouring when we packed up and continued with the hike. We donned our raincoats and braced ourselves for the ascent to Mt. Kitanglad. It was tough as shit. The trail was perpetually uphill and there were only cogon grasses to hold on to so you could pull yourself up. It was reminiscent of the final assault to the summit of Mt. Iraya in Batanes, only this was maybe five times harder. Halfway through the climb, my hands and arms were already bruised and bleeding.
Then came the damned 90-degree wall. I seriously considered turning around and walking all the way back to the jump-off point in Lantapan just so I wouldn’t have to go through this. The 50-meter rope fell short so we had to climb the first few meters on our own. The cogon grasses at the side were too far for me to reach. There were only slippery rocks and loose soil to hold on to and they didn’t seem stable enough for me to entrust my life with. I also didn’t have the strength to boost myself up; I could feel my heavy backpack weighing me down. I was hugging the wall and trying not to lose my foothold but I also knew that I could not stay still for too long. My legs were starting to cramp and my arms were getting tired.
I finally got hold of the rope, which helped a lot but I still had to use all my strength to move up and I didn’t have much left by then. I was utterly exhausted. It took forever trying to crawl up that wall and there were instances when I really thought I was going to fall to my death. Kudos to Daisy and Jay for being so patient with me. (Seriously, thank you, guys.) When I finally reached the top, it was pure bliss. I would’ve done a crazy celebratory dance if I wasn’t so tired.
The rest of the trek was a piece of cake after that. The trail was still muddy and slippery but after surviving that torturously steep ascent, everything else was easy. We reached the peak of Mt. Kitanglad at around 5pm.
Unlike the pristine environment of Mt. Dulang-Dulang, the Kitanglad summit is crammed with transmitters of the major TV networks. There are also staff houses and even a basketball court. Most hikers stay in the DENR bunkhouse. Unfortunately for us, it was locked when we got there so we had no choice but to pitch our tents again and spend another night sleeping on the ground. We are so beyond hardcore.
The rain never stopped and even got so bad we practically ran out of cuss words in cursing the cold. We had dinner while again huddled under the flysheet. I was so hungry I ate instant noodles with my fingers only to realize halfway through that my hands were covered with mud. I didn’t care; I was beyond disgust (and basic hygiene) at that point.
We went to sleep as the rain pounded our tent but I had a smile on my face as I settled into my sleeping bag. That day, I went through something far beyond my capabilities and survived. I couldn’t be happier.
- Maladies and Malaise on Mt. Kanlaon (Part 2) (misadventuresoftintin.com)
- Mantalingajan Traverse: Epilogue, Lessons Learned and a Million Other Things I Want to Say (misadventuresoftintin.com)