Pluto trail was accessed via municipality of Bansalan, Davao del Sur for two hours from Davao City. When we were there, we took another hour of a motorcycle ride, then a long hike on the road. This was the first time that I brought my younger sister Prescilla with me. I used to take Moondays with me, the other younger sister of mine. We were all eight on this journey. Leo also came with Sir Denz, his boss. As we were hiking, I enjoyed watching over those field of healthy green peas and green onions. Some peas were getting out on the road that I really wanted to snatched one of them. 🙂 At the end of the road we met Sir Denz’s porter named Blah’. I really like this guy, he’s full of energy and stories, one of the best porter I’ve known.
We spent half of the day trekking in an open trail of hills and farms. The heat was exhausting.
Another field of carrots was on our sight and the generous farmer gave us plenty of his nice carrots, I think I added two kilo of it in my pack. Ha ha!. Yeah, I know that the extra weight will drag me down but I couldn’t say no to it and we were really enjoying munching those carrots while hiking over the hills 🙂
Moving on, we journeyed through a seemingly like an unending open trail of hills, from scorching heat of the sun to the foggy and grassy slope. This is Pluto trail, one of the entry point of the country’s highest peak, Mt. Apo.
At around two o’ clock in the afternoon, we almost set an emergency camp in the hills, my sister was fainting and perspiring cold sweats . We stopped and after a long rest, her body regains strength and good to go. We pushed through because the hill was not a good site to camp.
There’s no water for cooking, it was very open and exposed to cold wind.
Moving forward, we passed the forest line and hit the first camp before dark. The sleep was uncomfortable because of the sun burnt neck, it hurts.
The next morning, I still had plenty of carrots. hehe. Even I and my sister had already eaten a lot of these carrots along the way, there’s still more left.
Everybody’s preparing to leave the camp and go for the summit.
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.
Knowing that this mountain is standing tall in Compostela Valley, I think of it as ” Ah, it’s part of the mountain ranges.” It’s also the place of waterfalls, hot and cold springs, and folktales. The home of the corpse flower, Rafflesia mira, named after its decaying smell.
We’re all six on this journey. The tourism officer told us to dropped by a certain store, and from there we will meet our trail guide. When we got there, no guide showed up. So we took a hot and long hike to the foot of the mountain, hoping that we could find our new guy. We passed by on the rice fields and an old little hut surrounded by the greenery. I would love to sip my morning coffee in one of those hut on its balcony.
Then we stopped by a house with a carabao. There we met Jeli, our new guy. He said that it’s late, we’ll never reach the first camp in time, not even the emergency campsite. to go, our job was on the line if we we’ll not follow the schedule. We told him that we’re good to go and we’re ready to do night trek. So, we went on.
We make way through a bushy trail, then we got out to a river. We stopped for lunch at Marangig falls, the first waterfall to welcome us. We saw a group of local kids basking in the sun by the river. According to folktales…
“Nearby residents sometimes heard the horn of Doña Marangig ship, the rocks would move and the river overflows. On the ship were white people”
Kids ravishing the beauty of Marangig Falls. Having them added more beauty to the sight.
We used a roped ladder as an entry to the forest.
Did this only in Mt. Candalaga. hehe. The emotion of having fun and being scared were mixed. The ladder was very shifty, slanted and slippery that you can’t get a gold hold on it. Some of the steps were broken and some steps were too high to stepped on. So I was not really relying my 100% fate on it. And my load was pulling me down because I can’t just lean towards the mountainside If I wanted to rest my arms. The crevices and roots was a great help to me.
We finished the course, then we had to pass on the side of the slippery wall of stone. Waters were dripping on its sides. Had to be careful or fall right straight to the rocks below.
Then we did a lot of river trekking and river crawling and I had to make my crawling faster to get up because leeches were coming excitedly to taste my blood. The abundance of the plant called alingatong added the twist of the trail. We had no idea what it was until we started scratching. Any part of the skin that touches the plant will be irritated and it gets really itchy that you want to scratch it like crazy. The most affected parts were the arms and legs. It lasted for two to three weeks.
We enter the forest again and another rope course awaits in going down. We used the rope that was lent to us by the Tourism office. In getting down with rope, gloves were useful. It protects the hands from getting hurt by friction. When I went down, I went down fast, My load was pulling me down. The ground was loose and dry. Remember that we were soaked and wet by the river. Ha ha, imagine what we might look like. We just laugh at our faces.
We went back to river trekking again, then another roped ladder beside the falls.
A long river trek with leeches were still waiting on top.
Another steep assault in front of us and It’s getting dark so we stopped to ready the lights. We made it to the emergency camp by the river before 6 pm. Just in time. We still managed to cook hot and spicy pork stew and chop suey for the night.
The campsite is a little piece of flat area encircled with river. One of the nice thing on this mountain is that you’ll never run out of water. There’s water source everywhere, potable and cold.
Moving on, we crossed rivers and forests.We stopped by a catch basin of water because Leo and Kevin couldn’t resist to dip on it. “The water is refreshing and very cold. ” , they said. We just watched them enjoying the water. After a while, we found out that lots of leeches were bathing with them too. Ha ha! oh how they jumped out of the water so quickly.
The path led us to the mountainside again. Must be watchful with the steps because the grounds were not stable. It’s dry, loose and easily eroded.
Another rope course awaits on the trail beside the falling water…
Looking for a way up, the water from cascades were blocking the sight and piercing the eyes and getting in the nose. The rope was just up to the middle then must rely holding on to the crevices of the slippery rocks.
The rest of the trail was in the forest and it’s raining hard. I thought were done with leeches. But there were more leeches on the way, from the grounds, leaves and trees. I’ve never seen leeches that many in my life and they were moving so fast. I don’t want to rest and sit on the ground. I just wanted to keep moving. This was the scariest trail of my life. I felt like were in a big bowl filled with leeches and nowhere to run. We hit the second camp before dark and summit is just an hour away.
I checked on the sides of our tent and the leeches were like nailed on it and they point on directions in a synchronized way where they sensed movement but they’re gone when the night came.
Leech sucking blood.
A good meal and a good sleep sufficed the beaten self.
In the morning, we explored the area and enjoyed its beauty and richness, had our breakfast, then we descent. Going down was not bad at all.
This photo was taken a long time ago during our training course in mountaineering in the midst of Epol forest. This was one of the training challenge where we had to set up fire for cooking rice with a twist. We had to cooked it over the river and using resources that’s available only in the site. When it’s done, the training master will test the food. The rice should be perfectly cooked. We passed this challenge.
Mt. Matutum is an active stratovolcano, its last recorded eruption was on March 1911 (PHILVOLCS). The fourteenth highest point of the country.
After five hours of a bus ride from Davao we reached Tupi, South Cotabato proper at around seven in the morning and had our breakfast. Then, we headed to the municipality’s tourism office and settled everything that concerned about the climb. There were four of us on this trip (Leo, Ken and Martin). We took a habal-habal ride (without the roof) going to mt. Matutum checkpoint and met our guide.
While on our way, we passed through a vast pineapple plantation. I was really having fun on that part of cool, smooth, and up and down ride over there. It was like a kiddie ride for me. The smile and laughter were all over my face, not worrying about the super bumpy and steep ride that we usually met when going to mountainous places. As we went along, I finally came to see mt. Matutum up close. I took a shot of the beautiful mountain while still on that habal-habal ride.
Our guide already awaits for us at the DENR checkpoint. While looking at the mountain, Leo said, we will probably hit the summit at three o’clock in the afternoon (But it didn’t turned out that way. 😦 ). And I said “goodthat’s very nice”.
We started trekking at 9:00 am. We passed by an avocado plantation, fields planted with different crops, hills and community of settlers. The people there were warm and accommodating. The Kablon Farm can also be found in the area. And I said,” Wow, I l super loved their durian jam product. So here is where it came from”. 🙂
We reached the forest line, wherein you can also set a camp on this site. The last potable water source is also located here and no more water can be found along the way except the water source from the crater which had a rustic color, smells, had to use filter if you don’t want to drink some floating substances with it, and had to boil it first before drinking.
After filling our bottles with water, we started ascending. Sadly, we really didn’t fill our containers with water that much because our guide told us that there’s a lot of water up there. The trail was a continuous steep path until reaching phase 1 at 11;45 am. We stopped here for a while and had our lunch.
At this point, we already felt the exhaustion. We weren’t able to sleep last night. A good sleep is a must before climb.
While eating, I heard the birds singing in different and some weird tunes. Never heard most of it before. Through this, I could tell that this mountain is a home to diverse species of birds. The temperature started to dropped down, so, we continued to ascend. The next flat surface will be at the summit. The forest gets thicker and colder as we moved on.
The diversity of ferns was surely awesome.
There were, I think two species of flowering plant that seemed to be ubiquitous starting from the forest line up to the peak of the mountain. Of course, I was able to collect data for my ant study while we were trekking, my climb buddies tried to helped out too.
I don’t know, but something weird happened up there in the forest. Still thinking if I’m going to share it or not. Maybe soon.
Our pacing was just fine. We’re so exhausted ( I think, because we didn’t sleep a day before the climb) but still pushing hard to not stop, We wouldn’t want to get caught by the darkness. It’s risky and it’s our first time to do that mountain. We usually see to it that our line was not broken by calling the attention of the lead person that you’re following if he’s no longer visible to your sight and checking if the pack behind you still follows you. We do this thing in all our treks.
The three of us regrouped, Martin was no longer in sight. We tried to call his attention by calling the last syllable of his name in an abrupt and quick utterance to reduce noise. But we can hardly hear our own voice. We tried clapping but it didn’t work because it made a dull sound due to the dirt that was all over our hands and little energy was applied in clapping. I was disappointed to myself for not bringing my whistle. Still, we managed to laugh at ourselves.
Are we there? Then we started to asked this kind of question over and over. The forest was so tricky. I f you look ahead, you will see light at the end of the trail, so it will made us think that summit was just nearby. We moved fast to get there only to find out that there awaits a harder trail upon reaching that mark. ” Oh no…“, says me. The trail was like this for about over and over. 🙂
More crawling through the holes and under the roots and huge fallen trees and logs (You’ll kissed the ground). The hard part here was when I wont fit through the passage because of my pack that I had to unpack. You had to Cling on the trees and leaping were also needed. I think I was the only one who had a good dinner. After taking like three spoons, the boys hurriedly went back to their tents. They said it’s cold. Ken didn’t even came out, he was sleeping flat after he pitched his tent . Well, I finished mine. I wont say no to food. hehe 🙂
The next day was fine and sunny. We had a nice and good meal. We will leave after lunch so I had a lot of time roaming around the area and search for my precious ants.
We left the camp at 11: 45 am and after three and a half hours, we reached the base.
Before the sun came up, we forced ourselves to get out from the comfort of our sleeping bag and tent, put on our head lamp, sip on some hot coffee, and made a quick ascend (at about 15 to 20 minutes) to the summit of the mountain. it’s still dark when we reached the top. we sat down into the ground and silently waiting for the sun to rise.
So that’s it. Sunny boy came up, and we greeted him happily. I usually said my prayers during this wonderful moment and time.
After devouring ourselves with the Lord’s wonderful creation, we went back down to the campsite.