K2DL Day 1 (Sunday):
We woke up at 3am and started preparing breakfast and packed lunch. The plan is to leave the bunker house at 5AM so we can start trekking early but let’s not kid ourselves and accept the fact that most Pinoys are still fond of sticking to the old Filipino time habit. Everyone was already geared up at 5AM but the truck that will carry us to the jump off point arrived at 6AM. Because it rained last night, the ascending, rocky and muddy road to the foot of Mt. Kitanglad required skilled driving. Halfway through, we had to get off the truck, hike up and just let the truck carry our bags. Trek started at 7AM. Just by looking at the trail, I knew that this mountain will put up a good fight to knock anyone down on bended knees. Mt. Kitanglad is the 4th highest mountain in the Philippines. At a height of 2,899 MASL, it is part of the Kitanglad Mountain Range in Bukidnon Province and home to the country’s oldest and surviving cultural communities – the Bukidnons (highlanders or mountain-dwellers), Higaonons and Talaandigs. According to my friend Wikipedia, “the name “Kitanglad” was derived from a legend that there was once a great flood that submerged the native lands of Bukidnon and only the tip of the mountain, the size of a “tanglad” (lemon grass), remained visible (“kita” in Visayan)”.
I normally think of myself as someone who can pull every climb no matter how major it is just by “winging” it but the first 2 hours of our ascent took its toll on me. I thought of all the spare time I’ve wasted instead of cardio training to prepare for a traverse like this and I hated that feeling of regret. Our group stuffed our bags with a 5-day worth of clothes and supplies without porters so climbing is like carrying a third fraction of yourself against gravity. The gullible me actually believed one of the guides who said that we should be at the summit by 11AM in time for lunch. And I experienced the slap in the face reality gave me when I set foot at the summit at 1PM. In the lowlands, this hour meant a scorching heat but in this spot, it’s a shivering cold with fogs covering the towers and grasslands. The National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) is strategically located in the mountain’s highest point as it overlooks the whole provinces of Bukidnon and Misamis. NGCP staff were generous to provide us with drinking water and comfort room usage.
After lunch, we continued trekking downhill around 2PM and were told to hit Mt. Dulang-Dulang (D2) Summit at 7PM. Descending was pretty easy until we reached a vertical drop where roping is essential for passage. Have I told you about my fear of heights? I could see myself putting the game face on, chanting a string of prayers and trying to conceal the fright. Good thing was, past the escarpment, sections that might have seemed difficult before ended up looking like a walk in the park. The three of us were tagging along the other groups with minimal distance, walking in silence.
Darkness spread and I could see my team mates’ heavy stomping turned to zombie walking. In my mind, I started questioning the logical facets of night trekking. My head was messed up because of the cold brought by the rain, hunger and fatigue. I tried keeping up with the boys though my feet and knees were already in disagreement. Then Ronald voiced out what I had in mind and suggested an emergency camp. This trek was no longer justifiable and it posed more danger to go on in the dark considering the technicality of the trail ahead. Jumong supported our decision to stay the night rather than compromise efficiency. Incidentally, the other group also decided to set up e-camp while the first group pushed for D2 summit, believing they would arrive at 8:30PM latest. We later found out, as per their porter that they reached the summit around 12MN – an unholy hour when all of us e-campers were already sleeping.