When I heard its name, I was thinking of a white summit, as white as the sand in the beaches with scattering green flora all over the place. Rising high in barangay Andap, New Bataan, Compostela Valley is the country’s thirteenth highest point . This mountain is also known as mt. Pandadagsaan. From the word “dagsa” which means “gather”, it’s a place where the Mandaya tribe gathers and carry out their rituals for bountiful harvest and thanksgiving. The mountain’s peak was made of limestone and when the sun’s ray hits the face of the mountain it made a white reflection. So that’s how it was named according to the orientation.
My climb on White Peak was actually seven years ago, that was on the year 2007. Up to this date, this mountain is still the hardest trail that I’ve made so far and a point in my mountaineering life where I could say that I am in my strongest physical condition. Muscles and joints on legs surrenders on this venture but not my energy level. Well, I don’t know, maybe I just ate something like “Popeye’s spinach”. hehe. As I tried to reckon, I had a more tiring experience on my other ascents than this one.
We were four on this climb and we trekked with TRIMMOC, a mountaineering org. We joined the 4th climb season that was opened by the municipality. A porter was required for every six person ( I think, I forgot) and will carry only a maximum load of 15 kilo, including the weight of the porter’s tent that you also had to provide . But if you want to lessen the load you can share the tent with the porter if you still had an extra space for him to sleep on. We already knew that there’s no source of water up the mountain, so while packing at home, we secured our water supply for cooking and drinking in an extra back pack and this pack goes to the porter. The White Peak climb lasted for three days, two days for ascent and the third day for the descent
The trail starts with a long river trek leading the path through the dry forest abounding with tall ferns. We stopped by the stream, the last water source and had our lunch along with other group of climbers. We moved along from dry to moist forest. Lush greens in different forms were shooting everywhere. During that time, the forest trail was not that established, that the guide had to use a bolo knife to clear the way so we can pass through the luxurious vegetation. Different kind of orchids and bryophytes were attached and hanging on to the trees and on the forest floor.
We reached the first camp at around seven in the evening. Even so, we still managed to make out a good meal and a little time for chit-chit-chat. During the night, water was already a problem by other groups.
The Rolling Fish Balls
On the next morning, the trail gets steeper as we made our way to the summit. Hunger strikes so we keep on climbing to find a flat surface but it seemed like the “face the wall trail” was forever. The rain was falling and coldness was beating us. We took a little shelter under the big leaves and ate our packed lunch even if we were in an inclined position. Our hands were shivering as coldness were creeping our body so we made a hot drink and cooked some fish balls too to get our stomach warmed. Just in time were about to eat the fish balls, the pan went down and all the fish balls were rolling down the mountainside. I can still remember the looks of my friends’ faces. We almost cried over that fish balls in disappointment. That moment will forever be in my heart. 🙂
The mountain showed us another level of its mossy forest. So rich and luxurious. A very nice area for ferns and Bryophytes studies.
I don’t see the ground anymore. We’re taking the path of fallen trees, branches and roots, piled and tangled together, some were even hanging on air.
Climbing high was getting harder but getting more amazing. Fogs were crawling in, the trees gets shorter and the mossy forest gets thicker, covering all the trees and carpeting the forest floor. It’s foamy and bouncy when you take your steps. This mountain has the fluffiest mosses I’ve ever seen.
The rain was pouring down hard on us. From dense forest, our feet carried us to an open and exposed slippery steep slope, with only grasses (mostly thorny), some shrubs and rocks to hold. Funny, that there were times where there’s nothing that you can grabbed on but the thorny plants on the cliff. Ha ha! What a fate. 🙂 There were long ropes on some risky parts of the cliff to avoid the fall if you lose your hold on the ground. They were installed vertically and horizontally. The long horizontal rope course was hard for it was affixed in a concave curve, only half of your feet stands on the ground and you still had to figure out which steps you are going. Actually it will not help on your balance, you just had to rely on sticking your body on the ground, the only thing it could do for you is to hold you off if you fall. This phase took a long time because only one person at a time must pass that rope, other groups of climbers were still ahead of us.
There was a man on the ridge ( I think were of the same age), sitting blankly on the ground and crying. H e was dehydrated and was left by his group. Leo gave him a sip on his bladder.
We hit the summit at around three in the afternoon and it became sunny while it was raining all day on our way up. We looked so messy and damp but happy. On top was a stunning view of mountain ranges. The trail was a mixture of everything. If you have plans of venturing this mountain, I would suggest to be minimalist and fit your stuffs in a day pack bag. It’s difficult to fit on the holes, passed through the trees and branches, bending and crawling with an overhead bags. It will make the trail harder for you and it will cost the life of your bag too.
The summit campsite was wide but you can’t lay the tent flat on the ground, it’s so bushy. We’re like sleeping in a floating bed that night. As usual, our summit habit was to wake up early and wait for Mr. Sunny boy to rise.
We break the camp by morning. The phasing on going down was too slow. This is one of the disadvantage of climbing on open seasons, the traffic.
We were stuck by the steep slope for how many hours. Nobody can make the pass on the long horizontal rope course, a lady pinned herself in the middle. She took the wrong steps on that cliff and figured that there’s no more steps in front. She had to make a turn but already caught by the fear of taking the step back. I know that feeling, I’ve been there before too. It’s hard to turn because the pack will push you off the cliff and you can’t see which way to go if you’ll crawl backwards. Others that were near her tried to help too but she refused. It’s difficult to get her without swaying the rope that she was holding. The rescuer came after a time.
On the way down, we helped another dehydrated person, Good thing that we really secured enough water.
It’s already dark when we reached the stream where we had our lunch a day ago. One of the TRIMMOC member got a sprained ankle, the worst thing was we still had to do river trekking where the river’s current gone wild too. It’s cold and we were wet.
I can hardly felt my legs. The fireflies and the bright stars cheered up the night. On the river bank, I saw climbers vomiting in the darkness, some were crying, some were lying, some were just sitting alone and some were asking for food. We’re glad we still had enough trail food left to give. Others were collapsed and rescued.
Maybe the mountain was just underestimated by others because the itinerary looks easy that’s why there’s food and water shortages.. Well, even us, it crossed our minds too, but we took the precautions seriously.
I was really glad that I was with Leo, Malou and Joan on this venture. The best buddies to be with on this climb. Even if Malou and Joan were just new to quests like these, they’ve shown their power, will, determination and never they complained.
This was the only climbing experience where I was trekking from morning till past midnight. We reached the jump off area past midnight and more climbers were still way behind us. We were all beaten by this mountain. Wounds, scratches, and other physical pains will fade away but the reward of seeing the nature’s beauty was far more great and another wonderful memories to keep.