Mt. Sumagaya to Mt. Lumot Traverse: Climbing the Edge of Northern Mindanao

When I was little, I would normally stare at the huge clustered pile of mountain soil for hours and imagine what’s under all those trees. I’ve always been fascinated by these timeless creation of nature: trees, vegetation and greenery surroundings. Naturally, I didn’t think twice upon learning of a Sumagaya-Lumot adventure. I had the good fortune of climbing numerous mountains in the past but this is one traverse I decided to write about…and actually the first for that matter. And honestly, too overwhelming not to share with like-minded individuals.

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The foot of Mt. Sumagaya

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Mt. Sumagaya stands at a height of about 2,248 meters (7,375 feet). The mountain rose to prominence during the crash of Cebu Pacific Flight 387 on its slopes in 1998, one of the deadliest aviation incidents in the Philippines (Wikipedia). But according to the local Higaonon people, the crash site is actually called Mt. Lumot (2,320 MASL) which literally means “moss”.

We boarded the 7PM Lite Ferries cruise from Cebu on a Friday and docked at CDO the next morning at around 7AM. I was with DASH Trekkers and we were to meet the CDO mountaineers. Hunger struck so we immediately searched for the nearest food stall and ate breakfast. We’re quite lucky that they also sell personal effects like toothbrush and toothpaste which I was too clumsy to forget during packing. Our contact is a veteran tour guide by the name of “Jumong” (yes, the South Korean historical period drama series) whom we met at the Agora terminal. There we were also introduced to 3 lovely ladies (Kris, Kathy and Vivian) along with our second tour guide, Ar-ar.

While at Agora, we bought a packed lunch for our jump off. A van was already hired in advance and off we rode to Mat-i, Claveria. Few kilometers to our destination point, our guide distributed a list of our names to the local police station, municipal tourism board, 58th IB station and 58th IB area in charge for them to know our whereabouts and our plan to assault the mountains. Arriving at around 10:45AM, we briefly stayed at the Barangay Captain’s porch for courtesy call and logging of names. Shortly afterwards, we headed to our main jump off at Purok 7 arriving there an hour later. We took our lunch and refilled our water bottles for trail use. This was where the real battle began.

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We started our ascent around 12:30PM. The foot of Mt. Sumagaya is an open hill with steep incline. Calf muscles burned, hearts pumped for oxygen supply and the inevitable scorching heat all made us catch our breath once we climbed past it. 

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Inside the mountain, the breeze felt cool against our sweaty skin and the trees provided shade to reduce exhaustion from the sun.

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We trekked through the jungle, cutting our way through the dense trees until we reached the water source at midday.

At this point, we had to really refill our containers for use at camp site. This resulted to additional 4-5 liters of extra load to the already heavy back packs of our male friends. So off we went, continued our ascent of this unfriendly mountain. 

As I passed under the canopies, I couldn’t help but think I’m walking over hundreds of years of fallen leaves and more roots than God himself could map on a sunny afternoon. The dark slowly spread over the horizon and we were anxious to reach the summit. Finally after 6 hours of challenging and difficult hiking up steep rocky slopes, we had officially set foot on the summit of Mt. Sumagaya. The spirit gods were kind enough to let us set camp in the dark before pouring us with rain. Exhaustion, coupled with cold weather led us to decide against cooking dinner and ended up eating our leftover trail snacks inside our tents. We slept in silence, anticipating what’s to come the following day.

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Foggy Morning at the Summit

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Morning at the peak. Everyone had his/her own share of stories to tell during the assault. The peak is covered with mist but we could still see the entire Mt. Balatukan range. We started boiling water for coffee and cooked breakfast. 

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The Life Of Elle
Mt. Balatukan View from Mt. Sumagaya Summit
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Getting Pumped Up for Mt. Lumot

Traverse to Mt. Lumot requires more strength and endurance hence carbo loading is a must. After a hearty meal, we then set out to face the hurdles of Mt. Lumot. We took our time at the peak, leaving the camp site around 9:30 AM. 

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Mt. Lumot has a lot in common with Mt. Talomo. Trails are similar: uphill, downhill and general. Thanks to the trees and immense roots that we clung to for support. It has rich biodiversity and abundant water sources. Few moments since we entered the forest, rain poured again and I started to think that maybe it’s a rainforest after all (pun intended). So we trekked in the rain, taking a short break whenever we come across huge trees that could provide enough shelter.

Some trees were toppled by storm Pablo; that explained all the dislodged trunks we climbed and crawled out along the trail. By the time the rain stopped, we had already reached the next water source where we regrouped, cooked and ate lunch. Just as we were preparing to leave, rain teemed down again and it never ceased to drop until we reached Camp Niel Perez at 5PM. 

Before camp, we passed by the crash site of Cebu Pacific Flight 387. Remnants of the tragic plane crash such as clothes and shoes were still visible. It was raining and the eerie glow in the sky kept me from snapping a photo of the area. Instead, we offered silent prayers for our fallen brothers and sisters. 

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The rain may have neutralized the burning heat during trek but it also flooded most of the decent camp ground. All of us were drenched from head to toe. Fortunately, we were able to find an area and interchangeably pitched our tents in the rain. Once we changed to dry clothes, we were already hesitant to go out of our tents because of the mud. But then, we thought about all the crawling, jumping and Earth-kissing stunts, so what could be worse? We went ahead and prepared dinner amidst laughter of what happened that day.

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The next morning marked the last day of this awesome journey. Same drill: some hot coffee, soup and breakfast to warm our belly. Two of our friends said they saw a human shadow last night with flashlight pointed at their tent when everyone else were already sleeping. They kept mum then the shadow went away. Turned out, as per our guide, that the shadow/s belonged to a small group of locals who were catching frogs as they’re known to thrive in the rain. We left the camp site around 9:20 AM taking the Domingo trail. With all our used clothes wet from yesterday’s encounter, it added a significant amount of weight to our back packs which made the descent a bit harder than it already was. No other type of hiking causes more wear and tear on the joints and muscles than hiking downhill. The trail was almost all downward with only a few ascents. I imagined a reverse traverse would be an arduous one.

Three hours later, we reached the river where we took our lunch. This time, I could feel the pain in my toes and legs and I couldn’t wait to cross the next river and be done with it. Rain poured again; this never-ending downpour has no concept of the word stop. We were expecting a longer trek yet we found ourselves at the major jump off an hour later.

A shrine has been erected in memory of Flight 387; also serves as a jump-off point. After 3 days of toiling, this finally concluded our grueling and surprisingly enjoyable S2L mega traverse. Would I do this all over again? Nah, I think I’ll pass.

Suggested Itinerary

This was the original IT from our guide that was not followed due to schedule conflicts. I still recommend this to give everyone an estimate of the whole event. Should you decide to brave the S2L traverse, please contact Jumong at 0995-376-9836.

Day 1

3:00 AM – Meet up at Dunkin Donuts (Divisoria)

4:30 AM – ETD to Mat-i, Claveria

6:00 AM – ETA at Mat-i, Claveria

  •     Courtesy Call and Log book
  •     Eat Breakfast
  •     Prepare pack Lunch

7:00 AM – ETD to Purok 7

8:00 AM – ETD to Peak of Mt. Sumagaya

12:00NN –ETA at Dodong Bernie Sala

  •      Lunch
  •      Get water to be used in camp site

1:00 PM – Continue Trek to peak of Mt. Sumagaya

3:00 PM – ETA at peak of Mt. Sumagaya

  •      Pitch tent
  •      Prepare Dinner
  •      Picture-taking

6:00 PM – Dinner

10:00PM –Lights Off

Day 2

5:00 AM – Wake Up Call

  •      Prepare Breakfast
  •      Prepare Packed Lunch
  •      Picture Sunrise

7:00 AM – Eat Breakfast

8:00 AM – ETD for Mt. Lumot

12:00NN –ETA at Crash Site of Flight 387

     Lunch

2:00 PM – ETA at Camp Niel Perez

  •      Pitch tent
  •      Prepare Dinner

 6:00 PM –Dinner

10:00 PM –Lights Off

Day 3

5:00 AM – Wake Up Call

  •      Prepare Breakfast
  •      Prepare Packed Lunch

6:00 AM – Eat Breakfast

7:00 AM – ETD to Descent to Flight 387 Shrine

12:00NN –ETA at Flight 387 Shrine

  •      Lunch
  •      Side Trip Swimming at Waterfalls

2:00 PM – ETD to Gingoog City

4:00 PM – ETA at Gingoog City

     Wait for Transportation to CDO

6:00 PM – ETA at CDO

8:00 PM – ETD for Cebu (Trans-Asia Shipping)

 

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