MT. KALATUNGAN/TRAVERSE VIA MAKAUPAO PEAK
Talakag and Pangantucan, Bukidnon
Entry point: Brgy. Miarayon, Talakag
Exit point: Brgy. Mendis, Pangantucan
LLA: 7°57’18″N 124°48’09″E 2880 MASL (#5)
Days required / Hours to summit: 3-4 days / 15 hours
Specs: Major climb, Difficulty 8/9, Trail class 3-4
Features: Tribal domain, mossy forest, Top 10
Complementing the grand Kitanglad Range to the southwest is the Kalatungan Mountain Range, which, although smaller, has its own high peaks and perhaps even more challenging climbs. Everest climber Carina Dayondon has described Mt. Kalatungan, the chief mountain, as a “difficult climb”. Coupled with the logistic difficulty of climbing Kalatungan, it has grown a reputation as being one of the most difficult climbs in the country. Finally, to complete its credentials, it is now regarded as the 5th highest mountain in the Philippines at 2880 MASL (formerly, we considered it the 6th highest mountain in the Philippines based on a reading of 2824 masl).
Kalatungan deserves all its majestic appelations. Mijan Pizarro, among the most notable mountaineers in Mindanao, has favorably compared the mossy forest of Kalatungan vis-a-vis those of Dulang-Dulang. And, perhaps the strongest evidence for its biodiversity are the recent sightings of no less than the Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) in its slopes in 2001.
PinoyMountaineer is pleased to feature this mountain with information from Jan Pambid and Kat Ocol – friends of the blogger’s – who climbed the mountain in March 2009. They follow the classic traverse of Kalatungan which starts from Brgy. Miarayon in Talakag town. Here, the tribal ceremonies of the Talaandig tribe are held prior to an ascent; as in Dulang-Dulang, they consider Kalatungan as a holy mountain. While interacting with the tribe and the reigning Datu, Reo Biso, an interesting story about Kalatungan’s story and etymology may be heard — and I am isolating it as a stand-alone narrative courtesy of Jan Pambid:
Bukidnon legend has it that during the primeval Great Flood, only the Kitanglad peak remained above the waters – and therein grew a stalk of lemon grass (tanglad) hence the name of the mountain. But the Talaandig tribesfolk of Brgy. Miarayon [trailhead of the Kalatungan trail] clarifies that in fact, the Kalatungan peak too, stood above sea level. And whereas plant life survived in Kitanglad, animal life took a stand in Kalatungan’s summit, where praying mantis eggs were found. Hence, Kalatungan became the mountain’s name, meaning “praying mantis eggs” in the native tongues.
This and more tales are just a part of the cultural component of the trip, and it is always encouraged of climbers to take interest in the tribe’s ceremonies and folkways. Indeed, the datu’s words will ring true as you ascent the mountain, where praying mantis, various insects and other fauna could be found. The latest survey in 2003 showed no less than 129 animal species dwelling in Kalatungan.
The first part of the trail is open and like that of Madjaas, would consume three hours of trekking. Then the forest line is breached, after which the long trek continues, taking 8 hours to reach the summit campsite and involving a scenic “summit ridge” trail. Then, the traverse proceeds south to the town of, starting off with Mt. Makaupao, a component peak of the Kalatungan Range. It will take a dozen more hours to reach the town proper, and climbers (indeed, survivors) of the Kalatungan climb will tell you that the final leg of the trail is called “Dead Nails’ Trail” and for good reason. Indeed, the technical challenges as well as cultural and natural wonders of Kalatungan are a powerful invitation to climbers who must not miss Kalatungan in their list of must-climbs in Mindanao.
MT KALATUNGAN TRAVERSE MAKA-UPAO (WIJI)
1000 CDO Airport; ETD for Agora Terminal
1030 ETA Agora Terminal
1330 ETA Malaybalay, lunch
1400 ETA DENR (registration, secure permits)
0600 ETD for Miarayon
0900 ETA Miarayon (ride habal-habal going to Brgy)
1000 ETA Brgy; look for Datu Reo Bisto; tribal socials
1300 Buy Tribal Ceremony materials
1600 Tribal Ceremony
2100 Lights out
0500 Wake up call; prepare breakfast and packed lunch
0600 start trek
1000 forest line
1200 lunch en route. (+)H2O in Camp 1 along the way
1800 Kalatungan Summit
2200 Lights out
0500 Wake up call; Prepare breakfast and packed lunch
0600 Start descent
1100 Mt Makaupao (Wiji)
1200 Lunch en route
1700 Pangantucan camp (+)H2O
2100 Lights out
0500 Wake up call; breakfast
0600 Start trek
0700 Dead nails trail
1100 Town Proper; ride habal-habal to terminal
1400 ETA Malaybalay; late lunch; get certificates from PASU
1500 ETD for Agora station
1800 ETA Agora station; dinner
900 ETD for CDO Airport
Logistics. Arrangements in climbing Mt. Kalatungan are made with the PASU of the Kalatungan Range Natural Park, Mr. Vergilino Alima, +639282523558. His office will issue a permit, climbing certificate, and will also coordinate regarding guides and the Talaandig tribe. Ten is the ideal maximum number since there are limited guides and the tribe also wants to regulate number of persons climbing. As of March 2009 P300/day is the guide fee while P200/day is the porterage fee.
Transportation. From CDO’s Agora Terminal you can take a Malaybalay-bound bus, then from Malaybalay, take a bus/jeep to Kibanggay (P60) then finally take a habal-habal to the jumpoff. There is also, if you’re lucky, a direct trip from Agora Terminal to Kibanggay until 4 PM daily.
Tribal sacrifice. It is Talaandig custom for the following items to be brought for the ritual sacrifice: a live chicken, some local wine, white and red cloth, and rice.
Others. There is minimal cellphone signal coverage in the mountain, especially at the North Face (Brgy. Miarayon-summit). Two watersources are present: one in Camp 1 en route to the summit and the other at the Pangatucan campsite itself.
Excellent views of the highland trees, at par with the surrounding high mountains.
Kalatungan did not become identified as one of the Top 10 highest in the Philippines until recently, and although there are proposed elevations of Kalatungan as high as 2870 or 2880 masl, these are still unconfirmed. However, it is possible that Kalatungan would be upgraded as the 5th highest on the next revision of the “Highest Mountains in the Philippines” list.