Friday, November 28, 2014

Announcing the 2015 Mt. Kerinci (3805m) Expedition in Sumatra, Indonesia on April 29 to May 5, 2015

Exactly a year after our successful trip to Mt. Rinjani, the highest mountain in Lombok, Indonesia, I will be organising a trip to Mt. Kerinci, at an impressive 3805 MASL the highest mountain in Sumutra, Indonesia and one of the country's great volcanoes. As part of the  Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra, Mt. Kerinci is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, home to various tropical species including the Sumatran tiger and 375 bird species.


Day 0 (April 29)
Arrival in Kuala Lumpur or Jakarta en route to Sumatra
Early arrival in Padang*

Day 1 (April 30)
Arrival in Padang - Must arrive by 0800H*
Proceed to Kersik Tuo Village

Day 2 (May 1)
Trek to Mt. Kerinci Base camp

Day 3 (May 2)
Summit assault
Descent to village

Day 4 (May 3)
Sidetrip/hike: Lake Gunung Tujuh 

Day 5 (May 4)
Travel back to Padang

Day 6 (May 5)
Head back to KL or Jakarta then Manila 

For inquiries, contact Daniel at Please send the following information:

Hiking experience:
Contact number: 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Hiking matters #434: Mt. Mayo, a major forest climb in Tarragona, Davao Oriental

When one thinks of hiking in Mindanao, Mt. Apo and the now-famous mountains in Bukidnon come to mind. But I have always been attracted with the idea of pursuing lesser-known destinations, which provide me the opportunity to learn more about our country by allowing me visit other places. And of course, there is always the curiosity in what lays within those distant peaks.

The Davao Oriental - Compostela Valley area has always been on my mind, and truth be told we have attempted to visit several times, only to be thwarted by landslides, impassable rivers, and mountain closures. For instance, in 2011 we were already in Davao City preparing for a White Peak hike when we were told by the tourism officer than the rains have all but shut down the roads, and we instead headed to Mt. Matutum - on the other side of Davao.

High in the pantheon of southeastern Mindanao are Mt. Candalaga, White Peak, and the newly-minted World Heritage Site, Mt. Hamiguitan. But there's more to this trilogy in the region. Mt. Mayo, for instance, has long been famous among local hikers, taller than Mt. Hamiguitan and home to a nice mossy forest. Fresh from our successful Mt. Candalaga hike, we decided to do it - but still hoping to maximise the trip further, we decided to attempt a dayhike. We were guided and accompanied by local explorer Alex Paguyan,

The habal-habal ride from Mati was arduous - and oftentimes downright scary. Ian said it best when he quipped that his soul must have fallen off the motorbike in the rugged, often precarious ascent! It was already 0830H when we finally managed to start trekking from the village (7.04864 N, 126.28274 E, 395 MASL) - way behind schedule in what would turn out to be a long day ahead.

With its overgrown rough roads that gradually wind into even-more-overgrown forested trails, Mt. Mayo reminded us of Mt. Labo, which we also did as a (very long) dayhike a year ago. Abaca workers and hunters passed through the trails, giving us a slice of life in a mountain that has been inhabited by the local Mansaka tribe for centuries. The trail tot he summit, however, is barely trodden, and we were told that we were only the third party to visit in as many years.

As we went higher, the trails became denser, with the forest maintaining cover throughout. Fortunately and crucially, we reached the campsite (7.0930 N, 126.30658 E, 1372 MASL) by 1130H - which suggested that it might be doable to reach the summit before our cut-off time of 1400H.

Past the campsite, however, en route to the ridge that ultimately connects to the summit, the trails have all but disappeared. We had to descend through three creeks, with the trail fragile and badly eroded, necessitating the application of climbing skills. I began to wonder if we would reach the summit at all!

Fortunately, the trails cleared a bit once we were up the ridge. The forest has turned mossy - not as mossy as the primeval jungle of Kalatungan or Dulang-Dulang - but still lush and charming. By 1401H, or just one minute past our scheduled time, we reached the summit (7.0885 N, 126.31719 E, 1761 MASL) It was already raining at the time and we just rushed some photos and after a few minutes began our descent.

With the adrenaline gone, the descent seemed even longer than the ascent and the thick rainclouds plummeted us into darkness as early as 1500H. The rains seemed to have animated the limatik, which came upon my feet with a vengeance. The limatiks (or, in Cebuano, alimatok) in Halcon are still more aggressive, but the ones in Mayo are close enough. Mud, leeches, thorns, rain, darkness: these are not nice things, but they are the stuff that jungle adventures are made of. As 18-time Halcon climber Cynthia Sy later told me: "You cannot imagine how many nights I have spent without sleep, walking in the mud and the rain."

Finally, by 1900H we found ourselves being warmly welcomed in this house of our Mansaka guide. We didn't want to risk riding a habal-habal at night - and under such muddy conditions - so we gladly accepted the invitation to spend the night there.

The limatik wounds would linger for a while, but I was thankful that we managed to climb Mt. Mayo, truly a major climb, and a worthy challenge in Davao Oriental. En route to Mati the next day, I had a habal-habal injury which forced us to return to Davao. Fortunately, my condition improved and we still managed to climb Mt. Apo. Sadly, we couldn't explore the still-inaccessible Mt. Kampalili and the more manageable Mt. Puting Bato but that would be for another time. Thank you Alex for guiding us - and a big thanks too to our Mansaka guides for finding our way through the dense jungle, and for the hospitality. The native chicken cooked in bamboo was unforgettable!

Hiking matters #432: Mt. Candalaga, Day 1: To the campsite
Hiking matters #433: Mt. Candalaga, Day 2: To the summit and back
Hiking matters #434: Mt. Mayo in Tarragona, Davao Oriental
Hiking matters #435: Mt. Apo via Kapatagan dayhike

Hiking matters #433: Mt. Candalaga, Compostela Valley Day 2: Up the summit

Walking through fallen tree trunks en route to the summit of Mt. Candalaga
Continued from Hiking matters #432: From Camp 2, we woke up early, hoping to reach the summit in time for an early morning clearing. It was estimated to be a 2-3 hour hike, but given the fact that the mountain hasn't been climbed in over two years, we took that estimate cautiously, hoping that there weren't fallen trees obstructing the trail.
Starting early for the summit
Our fears were realised, with some landslides and eroded sections, some of which render the trail practically impassable, save for tree trunks that act as 'bridges'! Fortunately, the trunks were still large enough to be comfortably crossed by all of us - but I have to admit that it did raise my heart beat a bit!
At the summit of Mt. Candalaga (around 1761 MASL)
We reached the summit at 0615H, after 1.5 hours of trekking. The summit was surrounded by a nice mossy forest. There used to be a stone that served as a landmark but it has been completely buried by fallen trees! We hung around for a while, hoping that the clouds would clear, and when it didn't we decided to head back.
Majestic Mt. Apo as viewed from Mt. Candalaga
On the way back, however, we were treated to a view of Mt. Apo, across the Davao Gulf! I immediately recognised the massif on the right as well as Mt. Talomo on the left - truly the grandfather of Philippine mountains. For the first time, I am seeing its eastern face - and has a fan of how the mountains stand in relation to each other, I was thrilled.
Tagbibinta Falls: the reward at the end of the trail
By 1130H we were back at the trailhead, and Tagbibinta Falls awaited us as our postclimb reward. On the same time, we made our way back to Mati, where we prepared for our next climb.  Thank you to the Maragusan Tourism Office for accommodating us! And to Sir Ian for driving us all the way to Compostela Valley. With White Peak still closed at the moment, there's still at least one more reason for me to go back in this beautiful place.
At the summit of Mt. Candalaga with Coby Sarreal (L) and Ian Tesaluna (R)

Hiking matters #432: Mt. Candalaga, Day 1: To the campsite
Hiking matters #433: Mt. Candalaga, Day 2: To the summit and back
Hiking matters #434: Mt. Mayo in Tarragona, Davao Oriental
Hiking matters #435: Mt. Apo via Kapatagan dayhike

Hiking matters #432: Mt. Candalaga, Compostela Valley Day 1: To the campsite

For several years I have dreamed of climbing Mt. Candalaga, certainly of the more notable mountains in Mindanao. Along with its neighbour, White Peak, it has made me mindful of Compostela Valley and the possibilities this little-explored area has to offer for mountaineers. This month, I finally had the opportunity to visit, once again with hike buddy Jacob Sarreal. We were hosted and accompanied by Davao-based Ian Tesaluna, who had also joined me in Indonesia and Cebu recently.
It was a roadrip: Sir Ian drove us from Davao City to Mati, passing through a section of Compostela Valley as well as San Isidro, the major staging-off point for Mt. Hamiguitan. We met with the tourism officers of the town who told us that the newly-proclaimed World Heritage mountain is not for opening until next year at the earliest. Then we passed through Mati's most famous landmark, the Sleeping Dinosaur that beautifully faces Pujada Bay.
From Mati, we took the shortcut to Maragusan, taking our chances for a Mt. Candalaga hike. Fortunately, we were allowed by the tourism officer, and we decided to stage the hike the following day, spending the intervening night in Haven's Peak Resort, which offers nice views of the town. We were told that it would be the first time for a couple of years that there will be a hike in Mt. Candalaga, after its trails were damaged by Typhoon Pablo - the strongest typhoon to hit Mindanao - in 2012.
There are two trails up Mt. Candalaga, which can be combined in a  two-day traverse. In the past, most hikes originated from Marangig Falls, which features a series of waterfalls leading up to Camp 1, the usual campsite for Day 1. However, we were told by our guide that this trail is still "not passable" at the moment, and so we opted for the alternate route via Tagbibinta Falls in Brgy. Coronobe.
We started trekking at 0731H. It was immediately forest, interrupted only by pockets of talahib. Amazingly, there was a sea of clouds hovering above the valley as we went up! Giving us a warm welcome were some limatiks, some of which were relatively big but not as aggressive as the ones in Mt. Makiling.
To our surprise, before 1100H we were already at Camp 2, the main campsite (7.3229 N, 126.1827 E, 1574 MASL)! Surrounded by ferns, it was big enough to comfortably fit six or seven tents, and though not used by hikers in a long time, is also a resting area for hunters and other locals. With the summit projected to be just two hours away, we could have aimed to visit already, but we decided to just chill out in the campsite for the rest of the day, hoping for better weather the next day.
Camp 2 of Mt. Candalaga. We did a clean-up of the campsite the following day

Hiking matters #432: Mt. Candalaga, Day 1: To the campsite
Hiking matters #433: Mt. Candalaga, Day 2: To the summit and back
Hiking matters #434: Mt. Mayo in Tarragona, Davao Oriental
Hiking matters #435: Mt. Apo via Kapatagan dayhike

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