Tag Archives: compostela valley

White Peak: The Tale of The Rolling Fish Balls and The Beaten Climbers

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.

River Trail on White Peak 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

I was listening music on mp4 while watching the rice to cook, then I fell asleep. (A snapshot by Malou)
White Peak Mossy forest
Mossy Forest

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.

White Peak's Mossy Forest
Leo, Malou, me, Joan.

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.  🙂

White peak's Mossy Forest
Mosses gets thicker

The mountain showed us another level of its mossy forest. So rich and luxurious. A very nice area for ferns and Bryophytes studies.

White peak's Mossy Forest
Leo

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.

White Peaks Mossy Forest
Malou
Moss wig. Sooo fluffy! 🙂
White Peak's Mossy Forest
Moss beard. Alma from TRIMMOC

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.

Steep Grassy Slope of White peak

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.

White Peak Summit
Look at our faces. Ha ha. Very messy.

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.

White Peak Summit Camp
Summit campsite
White Peak SUmmit
Waiting for Mr. Sunny on the summit.

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.
White Peak Summit

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.

Going Down from White Peak Summit
Stuck up.

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.

Going down...
Going down…

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.

White Peak jump Off Area

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.

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Enduring the Trail of Mt. Candalaga

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. Mt. CandalagaWe 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.

Hut in the Mids of Rice Fields

Pushing through…

The Road to Mt. CandalagaThen 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.Mt. Candalaga

Kids Basking in the SUnWe 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” 

Marangig Falls blocked by  this kids. But I think their back view adds more beauty of the sight.
Marangig Falls 

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.

Kevin went first.
Kevin went first.
There's Cris working its way in the middle.
There’s Cris working its way in the middle.
Spot me. :)
Spot me. 🙂

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.

Glenn working his way.
Glenn working his way.

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.

Leo on his way up
Leo on his way up
Joan going through...
Joan going through…
Joan finishing on top.
Joan finishing on top.

A long river trek with  leeches were still  waiting on top.Mt. Candalaga Trail

Mt. Candalaga
“Rafflesia mira’s bud”…. according to Mr. JP.

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.

Emergency camp
Emergency campsite
Chit-chat in the morning.
Chit-chat in the morning.

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.Mt. Candalaga TrailWe 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.

Kevin and Leo trying to pose a look that the water is not cold.
Kevin and Leo trying to pose a look that the water is not cold.

Mt Candalaga Waters

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.

Leo and Glenn, having a break on the mountainside.
Leo and Glenn, having a break on the mountainside.

Another rope course awaits on the trail beside the falling water…

Glenn coming up
Glenn coming up

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.

Camp 2
Camp 2

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.

Setting camp
Setting camp

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.

Evening chit-chat
Evening chit-chat

A good meal and a good sleep sufficed the beaten self.

Leo preparing breakfast.
Leo preparing breakfast.
Pork in potato soup
Pork potato soup

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.

There were lots of these in the area
There were lots of these in the area
Looking down
Looking down

Back to civilization.

The Sleeping Dinosaur

The Sleeping Dinosaur

This beautiful scenery called “The Sleeping Dinosaur” will greet you along the way as you’re heading to the city proper of Mati, Davao Oriental and coming from Davao City. As the name implies it looked like a dinosaur sleeping in the sea, with some parts of its body slightly immersed in the water. This one is worth stopping by and be grateful on how our Almighty God created the nature. And oh! Don’t forget to take camera with you.