MT. KANLAON (WASAY-GUINTUBDAN TRAIL)
Entry point: Brgy. Mambucal, Murcia, Negros Occ.
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: 3-4 days / 15-16 hours
Specs: Major climb, Difficulty 8/9, Trail class 4
The country’s largest active volcano and Visayas’ highest mountain is Mt. Kanlaon in Negros Island. As the highest mountain in the Visayas, it is majestic. As the country’s largest active volcano, it is fearsome. Its majesty lies in its forests, waterfalls, lagoons, and culminates in its crater, vast and desolate. However, this seat of majesty is also the source of Mt. Kanlaon’s volcanic wrath. It is, after all, one of the most active volcanoes in the Philippines. Its 1996 eruption killed 7 mountaineers – in an account vividly recalled to the blogger by Rey Castellos, the guide who rescued some of the foreign climbers and witnessed the eruption, barely making it alive. The blogger himself personally experienced this volcanic wrath when, on his climb to Mt. Kanlaon in February 9, 2008, Mt. Kanlaon spewed ash and stream – a phreatic eruption which obscured everything in the mountain. The ensuing rains and violent weather ultimately prevented him from reaching the summit.
The place that Mt. Kanlaon holds for the people of Negros is irreplaceable and important in many aspects of their life. Culturally, Kanlaon is central to the loyal mythology, named after no less than Kan Laon, the supreme deity. Some tribes also hold Kanlaon to be center of the universe – its crater a portal into the unknown source of fire and energy. Attesting to the plurality of legends the mountain has inspired, children also grew up to the tales of “La-on and the
Seven-Headed Dragon” . In this tale, a dragon appeared from the mountain, wreaking havoc in the whole island. In order to appease the dragon, the people had to sacrifice one beautiful maiden each year, until they have run out of women, save for the king’s daughter. The King, agonized, offered a reward to anyone who could kill the dragon. Then comes a prince named La-on, whose affinity with nature and animals helped him slay the dragon – winning the princess’ hand and
earning the mountain as a tribute for his feat, hence Kan Laon, meaning “The Exalted” Laon, later becoming Kanlaon.
Economically, the highland domain of Kanlaon is the source of vegetables and fruits in the same way that Benguet is the ‘Salad Bowl’ of Luzon. It provides a home for a lot of communities, who earn their livelihood from the forest products. Ecologically, Kanlaon is another biodiversity haven, home to about 197 species of flora and an impressive roster of fauna, such as the endangered Philippine spotted deer and the Visayan Warty Pig.
Of course, the geologic importance of Kanlaon attracts foreign tourists who want to see the country’s third most active volcano (next to Mayon and Taal) in its volcanic glory. But also because of this danger, close coordination with DENR is a must when climbing the mountain.
The most comprehensive trip to Kanlaon involves taking the Wasay and Guintubdan trails. The Wasay trail starts from the mountain resort of Mambucal, requiring two arduous days of trek just to reach the crater. Invariably, it has been compared to trekking in Mt. Halcon and is said
to be one of the most difficult and longest trails in the Visayas. The first day passes by dipterocarp forests, set in rolling slopes. The culmination of the seven-hour hike is Harding Sang Balo (Garden of the Widow), a campsite with a nearby water source. Here marks the transformation of the forest from the tall diperocarps to the montane variety.
The next day is a feast for the eyes. Although a total of 164 different obstacles lie in wait on this most difficult leg of the journey, dubbed by local guides as the “Killing Me Softly” trail, there are beautiful sights such as the lagoons (Samoc lagoon, PMS lagoon). These lagoons are actually old craters of Kanlaon. The breathtaking Margaha Valley is next, and finally, after crossing the valley ridge, the cone-shaped summit-crater. Said to be the center of the universe in some myths, the crater of Kanlaon is vast and deep, devoid of vegetation and is comprised of pyroclastic material. There is a sense of fear and wonder in camping in the summit area – the volcano can erupt anytime.
The third day is the descent to Guintubdan. This could only take five hours, and is easier than the Wasay trail. The highlight is seeing the Twin Falls of Guintubdan. There are other waterfalls in the area, although they have to be visited separately.
There are a myriad of sidetrip possibilities. To begin with, one can stay at Mambucal Resort prior to the climbing, dipping in its hot sulfur springs or swimming in the pools. There is also a lagoon and an available trek to several waterfalls. There are also the nearby mountains such as Mts. Silay and Mandalagan (N), and Mt. Talinis, also known as Mt. Cuernos de Negros (S). The nearby islands of Guimaras and Siquijor are also good options — although Guimaras is more of a
possibility when climbing using these trails (Siquijor is more proximate if using the Canlaon City trails).
Climbing Mt. Kanlaon – the active volcano and the majestic mountain – is truly a profound experience that must not be missed in one’s lifetime!
Travel from Manila to Bacolod City. After buying supplies at the malls/groceries;
proceed to Mambucal Resort via jeep or minibus (P35) where one can take dip at the hot, sulfuric springs or explore the waterfalls.
0600 Start trek
1000 ETA river area. Water source.
1100 Lunch at Giant tree
1500 Arrival at Hardin Sang Balo (Old NPA camp). Set up camp.
1730 Dinner / socials
0700 Break camp and resume trek
0900 Pass by lagoons (Samoc, et al)
1200 Arrival at Margaha Valley outer rim. Snacks / Light lunch.
1300 Negotiate trek at outer rim, continue to campsite.
1500 Arrival at campsite. Explore summit area.
1730 Back at camp; Dinner preparations
1800 Dinner / socials
0700 Descend via Guintubdan trail
1000 ETA Rancho Dos; water source
1200 Arrival at Guintudban. Tidy up and have lunch
1400 Take last trip to La Carlota City en route to Bacolod
1700 ETA Bacolod City.
The person to contact is Sir Angelo Bibar, the Park Superintendent of Mt. Kanlaon National Park (MKNP). Very kind and accommodating, he may be reached at +639173011410. Although checking the PHIVOLCS bulletin is prudent, the DENR is updated anyway and won’t allow any climbs if there is an alert level hoisted. Thus DENR is the only institution to contact. They’ll also be the ones to arrange the guides. Rate is P500/day for the guide exclusive of food and tent that you have to provide. Park fees cost P320 per person (P220 if student).
An easier option, fast getting popular, is the reverse of the above itinerary: you go up via Guintubdan and descent via Wasay. Considering that there is a risk of having to abort your climb on bad weather if climbing via Wasay, this is the itinerary of choice for those who want
to make sure they can reach the summit.
Transportation from Guintubdan to La Carlota City is limited since the last trip is 2pm. However, one can rent a tricycle to La Carlota City beyond this time.
The 1996 eruption of Mt. Kanlaon claimed the lives of 3 climbers: the rest had to be rescued by helicopters. It was a dramatic volcanic event, with ash being spewed 1.5 kilometers up in the air. Rey Estelloso, our guide who was also the guide during that fateful incident, says he was just 16 when the eruption happened and they could even see flaming cinders being hurled from the crater, exploding in the ground like grenades. He also says that Kanlaon is one of the the country’s deadliest climbing destinations. One climber who fell on the Margaha Valley ridge had to eat tissue paper for seven days before being rescued! Truly one must exercise caution in climbing Kanlaon.
WEATHER OUTLOOK (MURCIA)
The blogger thanks Sir Angelo Bibar for facilitating his trip to Mt. Kanlaon; as well as the Sanicas and Agarao families of Bacolod City and Victorias City. Crater photo courtesy of Sir Ogos Asuncion.