Friday, March 29, 2013

Mt. Talomo (Talomo-Apo Traverse) | Struggle to Success

From January 17 to 28, I went to Mindanao to celebrate my 21st year. I scaled some of the highest mountains in the country, visited an island and explored its wonders, stayed in some cities and discovered how each differs from my hometown, Manila. It was a 12-day long journey - fun, exciting and crazy.

Summary discussed in this link: Mindanao Mountain Madness

Mts. Talomo-Apo Megatraverse makes up the first leg of my epic adventure. For 4 days, we were inside the wilderness of these mountains, survived all the elements that pounded and tested us physically, mentally, emotionally, socially and spiritually. A one of a kind adventure, certainly an experience to be treasured.

This post discusses the first three days of struggle inside the notorious but gorgeous trails of Mt. Talomo.


Day 1 - January 17, 2013

It was Thursday exactly 12 midnight when I came at the airport. I was 4 hours early for my flight to Davao. Well obviously, I am excited. My companions weren't there yet so I seated at one corner, tried to catch some sleep while waiting for them, but I couldn't... I am so excited, truly greatly excited. Well, who would not, especially if you know that something great is waiting for you. I waited six months for this climb, finally it paid off.

Two hours before our flight, my buddies for this climb arrived. I greeted them with smile, they greeted me back with smiles even bigger, haha. I know for sure, they, too, were really excited for this would-be-an-epic adventure. We're a bunch of 13 individuals who came from different walks of life, in fact, I do not know most of them personally, some I only met at the airport, but we all share the same passion for the mountains and that passion binds us all.

At the boarding gate with my Talomo-Apo Climb companions. I will be seeing these faces in the next 6 days.
excited ang lahat.
this is it.. ready for take-off.
We left Manila at 04:10 AM
Touch down Davao City at 05:45 AM.
I was so ecstatic upon seeing the summit of Mt. Apo from my window. Sa wakas, maakyat na kita very soon.
Sir Arj Seron of Angtad Mountaineers was our contact person for this Talomo-Apo climb. Basically, we kept in touch with him in the past 2 months to arrange all the things necessary for our climb - guides, porters permits, and all that jazz. He also arranged a transfer vehicle to bring us from the airport to Brgy. Tamayong, Calinan District, the jump-off for Mt. Talomo.

While waiting for our service, I took some random photos here and there, it's my first time to be in Davao City (actually in the whole of Mindanao) so please understand.
It is always important to bring only the things that we truly need in the hike. Take note that over-packing can slow you down on the trail, and sometimes can be disastrous. That's why before we left for Mt. Talomo, we went first to Sir Arj's house to repack our things and leave the unnecessary items for the 4-day Talomo-Apo Megatraverse. From 16kg, I was able to reduce my pack to about 13kg, awesome!.

repack! The total weight of my pack based on Cebu Pacific's baggage check in was 16kg. It has a 12-days worth of clothes and supplies. Syempre dinala ko lang ay yung para sa 4-days Talomo-Apo... iniwan ko muna yung mga gamit ko para sa Samal Island side trip and D2K. After repacking, naging 13kg na lang.
From the city center, it took us an hour and half to reach the jump-off of Mt. Talomo (breakfast on the road). Then from the jump-off, we transferred to a small elf truck to reach the trail head located at Sicao Village.

siksikan sa elf truck. 20 minutes ride to the trail head.
the trail head lies on a banana plantation at Sicao Village.
We began our trek at 10 AM. It was not an energy draining ascent, but the mud on the trail made our trek a bit uncomfortable. Then I looked up on the sky, it was awful. Clearly, a perfect weather was not to be expected on our hike.

easy start at Sicao Village
After 40 mins of trekking on the open muddy trails of Sicao Village, we entered a forest that was still very muddy. So muddy that at some parts of the trail, your whole foot would be engulfed and stuck.

ankle-deep mud.
there were trail signs all over.
At around 11:20 AM, the muddy forest turned greener and greener until it shifted to a thick mossy forest. It was beautiful, very beautiful, and the trail was still very manageable. I was smiling the whole time, bukod sa maganda yung trail na dinadaanan, hindi pa kami masyadong umeeffort sa paglalakad.

After about an hour, we reached the first water source, regrouped there then proceeded again through the beautiful mossy forest trail.

start of the seemingly endless mossy forest trail.
Beyond the first water source, the uncomplicated mossy forest trail slowly gained complexity. The mossy trail, though still beautiful, became an obstacle course of fallen trees, we ducked, we hurdled, we crawled, we strode, we balanced over mossy logs, we clung on roots and branches. Aarrggh!  I couldn't remember how many time I hit my head on a branch. Then for the first time we encountered steep (very steep) potions in the trail. The smile that I was wearing earlier was now a frown.

should I go under or over the logs?
yes, the trail has turned difficult, but still, the moss-covered surfaces were amazingly beautiful.
Akala ko madali lang pero 3 hours pa lang ang lumipas, sobra na kaming na-challenge, sobrang ginutom ako sa first leg ng trek. By 1:30 PM, we reached the river. Lunch break at last.

at this river, we had our lunch.
At 2 PM, I resumed trekking on the steep obstacle laden trail, crawled here, hopped there, clung here, ducked there, then it would become so steep again. I remember, there were even parts that required us to enter an old giant tree.

Five hours from the time we started trekking, I realized something -  Mt. Talomo was so very unwelcoming.

mossy trail ulet, mauumay ka sa mossy forest
grand masters of the trail. Mam Ron and Mam Matet.
parang mga hindi nahihirapan sa trail, ang lupet!
the summit of Mt. Talomo as seen from the trail, and it was still too far!!oh my.
Even thought the trail was so difficult to deal with, I must admit, it's way much more stunningly beautiful than the ones I saw in the Cordilleras.
It was around 4:30 PM when we arrived at Camp 1. Here, we heard that some from our team were struggling on the trail. The idea of aborting the climb and to call for rescue started to cross their minds, but we did not let them do that, encouragement from the rest of the team pushed them to continue the fight however painful.

We left camp 1 at 5:30 PM, all our head lamps were set for we know night time will soon caught up with us.
From camp 1, the difficult trail of Mt. Talomo has become more challenging and steep. Our pace was greatly slowed down, energy diminishing.

we negotiated on Mt. Talomo's difficult trail even on the absence of daylight. sobra kaming na-challenge
At 7 PM, rain started to pound us and it was starting to get really cold. "When will this end?" - I asked myself while trekking. I noticed everyone was moving slowly, no doubt we're all hungry and exhausted for the day..  But we have to push for the campsite no matter what. Then by 10 PM, at long last, after trekking for 12 hours on an incredibly challenging trail, I reached Lumot Campsite. Big relief! As soon as I finished gobbling my dinner and changed my wet clothes, I called it a day. Haaayy, Before I fell asleep, I recollected the day's events, then realized that I just experienced the worsts in my entire mountaineering career.. not pretty sure if I must be excited for tomorrow's hike.

Day 2 - January 18, 2013

Second day of our Mt. Talomo adventure, I woke up without feeling any pain. Am I excited for the day, still I am! Now that I've fully recharged myself, I'm ready again to face Mt. Talomo. The time was 06:30 AM, we only have 2 hrs and 30 mins to prepare, eat breakfast, pack again and resume our day long trek.

Lumot Campsite, as its name suggests, is certainly a wonderful world of moss. Never realized that until the day breaks. Parang lumot na tinubuan ng mga puno. ganda!
It was surreal, every inch of the area was covered with layers of moss. Even the very ground is a bed of moss. That's the reason why I had a very good sleep last night, parang nakahiga lang kasi ako sa kutson!
At 9 AM, our trek began. We assaulted the summit of Mt. Talomo which is just 10 mins away from Lumot campsite. Surrounded by a forest still covered by layers of moss, the summit area is also an ideal place to set up camp. For 30 mins, we stayed at there to rest and pose for some group photos.

colorful flora of Mt. Talomo's summit.
summitted my first mountain in Mindanao.
Then at 09:45 AM, we left the summit to carry on with the trek.

mahabang lakaran na naman.
Here's my friend Jay, our team leader.
here's everyone, still smiling in the first few hours of our 2nd day trek.
We trekked continuously for 4 hours from Mt. Talomo summit up to mini Cabacan River where we had our lunch. Just like yesterday, the trail was full of fallen trees and steep parts. The trail was so muddy, I slipped a number of times. We did a lot of scrambling, crawling, balancing, striding and many more [insert acrobatic stunt here]. Aside from these, we also encountered a lot of limatiks, I had a lot of bites on my feet.

to give you an idea how steep the trails of Mt. Talomo are...
we did a lot of scrambling on our second day.
bloody limatik bite
It was around 2PM when we arrived at mini Cabacan River where we ate our lunch. 45 mins lunch break
From the mini Cabacan river, we pushed for the main river. Limatiks are very prevalent in the area, but I don't care anymore, all I have in mind was to rest and end the day.

Cabacan River at 3PM
in the past 5 hours, the trail was very muddy... it's a great opportunity for the whole team to clean up at Cabacan River.
"Where are we spending the night?" I asked one of our guides. "At Basinan Campsite," he said, "with our pace, it's still 6 hours away". I fell into silence and just resumed trekking.

Past the Cabacan river (we left the river at 4PM), the trail was still full of challenges. Logs here and there, muddy and steep trails, and river crossing too. We had no choice but to go through all of it, even in the absence of daylight.   

My patience was really put to test, we've been trekking for 5 hours non stop but still there's no sign of the coveted Basinan Campsite. Weary and hungry, all I was thinking was the Basinan Campsite. "Nasaan na ba yang Basinan Campsite?" I asked myself repeatedly. Gusto ko na lang matapos ang araw na 'to!

almost there, konting tiis pa.
At 10 PM, after a daylong trek (a total of 13 hours), we arrived at Basinan Campsite. Aaahhh! rest time finally.

Day 3 - January 19, 2013

It was morning again, 3rd day of our epic adventure. I checked outside, it was raining pretty bad. Oh my! I sat inside our tent, fetal position, wondering what's waiting for us that day. Then all the struggle, pain and hardship in the past 2 days came to my senses. I should be ranting and regretting and ranting that I put myself into this, but instead, I smiled. I realized that my love for the mountains surmounts it all.


For more than an hour, we were just inside our shelters. We can't move, the wild pour of rain restricted us. It didn't subside until around 07:30 AM.

it's raining at 6 AM
Good thing the sky opened, for an hour at least, allowing us to eat breakfast and pack our things again. Sinamantala namin ang pagkakataon, we did everything the fastest we could. At 10 AM, we bid goodbye to Basinan Campsite and continued moving towards Mt. Apo (Basinan Campsite lies between the two great mountains).  

mga taong plastic
batang plastic
The trail on our third day was more gentle than the previous days. Still mossy, still muddy, still steep, obstacles were still present but significantly fewer. Running was possible. Occasionally, rain poured down over us, making the trail even muddier and slippery.

slippery log bridges
muddy forest trail
Unlike the previous days, our trek on the 3rd day did not take long. After only 4 hours from Basinan Campsite, I heard my companions screaming and shouting for joy. "Lake Venado, Lake Venado..."

follow the story here: Mt. Apo | Into the Highest


  1. ang gaganda naman ng "grand masters of the trails" mo Ivan.

    nauna ko nabasa yung blog ng friend mo in re- climb sa D2 quoting "the great Ivan Cultura standing still" lalo ako tuloy bumilib dahil nauna pala yung great traverse of the south (or maybe of the PHL)

    I salute you dun sa pag-encourage sa mga kasama, tama si sir Gid sa isang FB post nya na mas mahalaga ang companion sa climb kesa sa summit

    btw, nice pictures, pamatid uhaw samin mga "tambay" (a.k.a di makaakyat) :)

  2. Beautiful mountain! Great climb! Ang ganda nang bundok pag summer..

  3. Ang ganda ng mossy forest!

    Very challenging ang pag akyat dito. Parang di ko kakayanin. :)

  4. grabe lang habang nakikita ko ang mga pics ng dinaanan natin. Parang gusto ko madulas sa kinauupuan ko ngayun... andudulas talaga ng mga yan...

  5. Grabe ung mossy forest sobrang gaganda kaso mukang ang hirap tumapak dun! haha! tas ung haba ng mga trekking niyo pamatay!:)

    Challenging nga tong "Megatraverse " niyo Sir Ivan:)

  6. sir tanong lang po, magkano po ba gastusan para sa talomo apo? sir

  7. Your trek was truly a megatraverse! Only a few may have the guts to take the trail 'til now.
    Well done sir Ivan

  8. sino po guide nyo dito? hingi po sana ng contact. :)



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