Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Conquering the Roof of Visayas: Mt. Kanlaon

Two weeks ago, I joined the 9 participants and 2 guides of Trail Adventours, to climb Mt. Kanlaon for three days via the Guintubdan trail. Initially, I arranged with Mr. Angelo Bibar my own permit and a guide to do a solo traverse via the Mananawin-Guintubdan trail. But I realized that it would be boring, so I joined the party of Trail Adventours, even though it will cost me more.

Mt. Kanlaon is the highest mountain and most active volcano in the Visayas group of islands. Pinoy Mountaineer has this technical description of the mountain, with my own revision:

Negros Occidental

Entry & Exit point: Guintubdan, Ara-al, La Carlota City
LLA: 10°24'44"N, 123°7'55"E, 2435 MASL (#27)
Days required / Hours to summit: 3 days / 8-10 hours
Specs: Major climb, Difficulty 6/9, Trail class 3

We met and have had our breakfast at Jollibee Restaurant in Bacolod's Lacson St., while waiting for our other trekmates who are flying from Manila that Friday morning. Once we're complete, we boarded a yellow XLT-type jeepney that will bring us to the jump off point. The vehicle gave me my first "topload" experience from La Carlota Market, to admire the scenes along the route.

We passed lots of sugarcane plantations, as well as durian and mangosteen orchards. 

At the foot of Mt. Kanlaon, we saw many farms for raising fighting cocks (roosters), a favorite pastime and gambling habit of some Filipinos. 

A friend of Jhoc Nalda (our lead guide), warmly welcomed us to his Guintubdan home and served us our lunch of adobong manok (stewed native chicken), prior to our 3-day hike.

By 12:30 pm, we started our hike to our target campsite, estimated to take us around 4 hours. We registered first at the Guintubdan Ranger Station with our permits, before passing a vigorous natural spring. 

This water spring seem to come from an underground stream that gushes out of the surface, creating the cold and clear pool of water below. It is where the trail "Guintubdan" got its name, as it means spring water in Ilonggo language.

The initial part of the trail is already steep, making me perspire while carrying my 13-kg heavy pack, despite the cold mountain climate. When we took a break after 30 minutes, Genel and I who were both wearing dry fit shirts, have literally smoking bodies as our sweats turn into steam. That was also our first encounter with limatiks, as they fell only on our bodies, which only means that our emitted steams signaled our presence.

So the fear of catching limatiks became our motivation to continue our hike without much break from walking, except when we had a snack break, and when we made a short detour to a cascading waterfall below. Even this waterfall is infested with limatiks, many of them crawling or "waving" their bodies on the rocks.  

Whenever we stop, we do it on an open area and we don't sit, to minimize contact with immediate surroundings. Anyway, I will discuss the limatiks business at the end of this post.

The trail is not all that steep. However, there are so many vegetations, fallen trees that we need to cross over or under, and also muddy trails. Mossy forest ensued, making the place quite eerie like some scenes from Lord of the Rings movie.

Mt. Kanlaon is also a birdwatcher's paradise. On some parts of the trail, talking is prohibited by the signage below.

Before 5 pm, we reached campsite no.1 with water source almost right beside our tents. We pitched our tents and started to cook our dinner meals on the cramped area. No socials this night, since we have to cook our meals and leave for the summit by 5 am the following morning.

It was very cold on the early morning, so it was hard to get up as planned, made us leave the camp by 5:45 am. Some porters carried our lunch food, while one was left to watch our tents. The trails are more difficult this time, as we have to cross 3-4 small rivers with steep and slippery trails, and more fallen trees as well. After about 2 hours, we reached the Pagatpat ridge.

Then in a few minutes, we saw the Margaja valley, the old crater of Mt. Kanlaon. The summit is starting to be visible from this point.

From the forest, the trail became covered with grasses and okra-like plants. Fog now envelops the saddle and the summit from time to time. Sometimes its clear, while sometimes there is limited visibility.

Later, the trail became very steep, about 70 degree inclination. Now the vegetation gave way to rocks and stones, and the wind became stronger as well. It took us about 40 minutes from the forested area until we reached the mountain volcano's summit.

What we saw on the summit is an eye opener, as we marvel at the imposing crater, that VERY BIG HOLE, a gateway to the Earth's interior. I felt like a speck of sand on Sahara desert, when looking at this grandeur around me. Somehow, it made me respect nature's geological formations, and admire the Creator's omnipotent capabilities. 

There are portions of the summit with stone line markings, signifying that they are off limits. They might collapse anytime after an earthquake early this year left cracks on those part of the ground. Besides, the volcano might erupt anytime, like during the 1996 eruption when 3 mountain climbers died, while the rest have to be airlifted.

Anyway, we just took pictures whenever the fog clears.

When we cannot stand the cold wind, we try to hide behind the pyramidal stone portion. 

While we were consuming our pack lunch, the wind became unbearably stronger, while the fog turned into a rain cloud. Its not rain droplets we are getting, but fine mist which is so much colder. 

We finished our lunch immediately and started our descent. Not letting anyone out of view, as visibility is limited to just a few feet. The porters told us later that some hikers before had died on that weather condition, due to disorientation and fell on the ravines.

It rained hard during our descent to our campsite, where we stayed that night. Socials were done after dinner, and we decamped before 7 am the following day. Past 10 am, my group have arrived at the natural spring where we enjoyed swimming, and cleaning our stuff at the cold water. After lunch of tinolang manok (native chicken in ginger soup), we rode the same jeepney that took us back to Bacolod City.

Notes about Limatiks:

In Mt. Kanlaon, there are two types of limatiks we encountered. There is the brown limatik which crawls from the ground, and I found one who had entered my shoes but was blocked by my thick socks. Another type is the green-yellow-brown striped limatik that can be seen hanging on the branches and leaves. 

My trekmates who were bitten by limatiks didn't know that they have been victimized, until they pulled up their pants or removed their shoes. You see, limatiks secrete anesthetic and anti-coagulant substance. So the host victim would not feel a thing, and the blood would continue to flow out of the wound up to an hour after the bite. Below are the actual photos of the bites from our group.

Those who were not bitten applied chemical repellants on their skin, like efficascent oil. On my case, I dipped my hiking shirt and pants to a tobacco solution, and applied the solution on my skin before the treks. 

I think its very effective, as I was not bitten, even if I wore trekking shorts on our descent. Many limatiks landed on my clothes and arms, but they could have been turned off by the tobacco solution. I placed a few live samples on my tobacco solution bottle, and they all turned weak then died.

For more limatik info and precautions, visit Pinoy Mountaineer's post here.

Unique animal seen: a small land crab about 1" in width, bright red color of the whole body. I found the little critter hiding below a stone step during our descent. When I moved some leaves that obstructed my view, 2 limatiks immediately stuck to my hands, hehe. I was not able to take a photo, but it could be an undocumented crab species.

If I will be given another chance to climb Mt. Kanlaon, I would like to try the Wasay and Mapot or Mananawin trails.

Many thanks to Ma'm Suzette, Sirs Al, Genel, and Ron, for some of the pictures I used on this post. I only used my camphone at the summit to conserve its battery. :)

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  1. Hi sir just asking if how did you make the tobacco solution were going there this month


    1. I bought 2 whole dried leaves of tobacco from the wet market, submerged them on a large basin with water, turning the water into brown solution. Then I submerged my trekking clothes there overnight, before I hang them dry the following morning. Contrary to my expectation, the clothes does not smell of tobacco.