Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Bukidnon: The Kolkol Range Misadventures

Kolkol Range is a prominent land mass situated in Maramag, a southern municipality in the Province of Bukidnon. Though it is highly visible when one traverses the Maramag to Wao (Lanao del Sur) highway, not much information can be found about this mountain as it is not among the top climbing destinations of this highland province. Without knowing what lies ahead, I and my friends Dax and James, went there for a day hike. Eddie, a caretaker of James's farm, tagged along as our escort while Jomar, a young boy we met in the jump off barrio of Purok 6, San Roque, was taken in as our guide. Jomar told us that we will pass along a tall waterfall on our way to the peak and it got us more excited.

The ascent started immediately after we crossed the river which separates the mountain's foot from the barrio proper. A rocky road in-between sugarcane fields was followed by muddy trails as it rained the day before. Trail hiking would not have been a problem for a distance runner like me, but then I made the wrong choice of using my Merrell Waterpro Ganges sandals. The right foot's rear strap would snap off during steep ascents so I have to adjust it often.

After an hour of hiking, we came across a stream. Jomar told us we need to trek along this creek upward so we can get to the falls. The outsoles of our footwear proved no match to the slippery boulders so we decided to go barefoot.

It was one arduous trek as we climbed boulders, passed a hideous hole covered in vines and hang on to fallen tree branches to cross to the other side. After what feels like an eternity of trekking, we finally came out of the water and into the mountain slope vegetated with wild sayote. We thought we're already near the big waterfall but a few hundred meters later, Jomar told us we're already on our way to the peak. He thought we're not interested to see the falls anymore since we got out of the creek when we're still not supposed to. 

Despite our dismay, and since we really want to see the falls, we decided to backtrack and trek upstream once again. Our consolation were the beautiful small cascades we passed through. There was one spot where it would have been nice to take a dip but we thought it is much better to go swimming once we reach the big falls.   

And then we passed by an area where a landslide obviously happened. Looking at the boulders and soft soil on both sides, it dawned on me that this trek is actually DANGEROUS! A landslide could happen and crush us to death anytime. Suddenly, I am not interested in seeing the waterfalls anymore. All I wanted was to get out to dry lands as soon as possible. We would later learned that our guide is not that well versed with the trail. He could remember which way to the big falls and I was just glad when we finally got out of the creek and ascended up to the hills.

The sun was up and intense when reached the opposite side of where we came out of the water first. In this spot we caught the panoramic view of the vast farm fields down below, and Mt. Musuan and Pulangui River from afar.

We approached two old men working on a farm and asked if they knew which way to the big falls. They pointed farther ahead and realizing that it would involve another long and treacherous hike, we decided to forego it. Instead we climbed the nearby hill and then ate our lunch.

Jomar pointed to the highest peak of Kolkol Range where they planted a wooden cross last Holy Week. He said we could just go to that spot before descending back to our jump off. But then I saw that to go there, we need to go through another hill, descend and then ascend again to the highest point. Then Jomar pointed to the slope where we need to descend since it is the shortest route in going down below. Seeing how steep and dangerous that slope is, I suggested that we should not go to the peak anymore and just go down via a more safe trail established by farmers in the area. But then all my companions are curious in going farther and higher so I have no choice but to tag along.

Going to the the second highest peak was so difficult since the trail was already covered by grasses. It drained much of our energy that we decided not to go to the summit anymore. And also from the distance we could see the rain fast approaching so we need to go down immediately. To go down fast, we have to descend through the steep slope I mentioned earlier. Despite my fears, there is no point in turning back since the other way in going down is already too far away.

The first part of the descent was the hardest and most dangerous as I can't find something stable to hold on to. I was so scared that I already doubted if I am strong enough to overcome it. I was squatting on the steepest portion of the slope not knowing how to turn my body around so I can go down easier. It took me awhile to get over the hump until an idea popped into my head. I asked Jomar, who went down ahead, to remove my sandals. It gave my feet more flexibility and traction and I was able to gain leverage by planting one foot on the soft soil. After that I was able to turn my back and the degree of difficulty lessened.

The steep and dangerous slope where we made our descent

I guess the descent took us more than an hour. James and Dax both suffered mild cramps along the way. And when we finally reached the flat grounds, I couldn't be any more be grateful to the Almighty.

The Lost Boys survived getting lost once again!

The hike back to the barrio took us another one hour but I did not mind it as we were already on an established trail. It rained upon going back to James' farm in Barangay Base Camp but I see it as nature's way of cooling down our tired and battered bodies.

Native chicken soup at James' farm house in Brngy. Base Camp  re-energized our tired bodies after the tough climb.

The Kolkol Range day hike was the toughest I experienced so far. As a runner, I always thought that I am fit and strong enough for any adventure out there. I realized that no mountain should ever be underestimated and it is better to climb not only well-prepared but also well-equipped. I also realized that I have the inner courage to face my fears. If I backed out on that steep slope descent, it would have taken us a long, long time to go down using another trail and rain and darkness may have caught up on us.

Nature really has its own way, not only in humbling us, but also in drawing out our inner strength. Yes, we weren't able to conquer Kolkol Range as we did not reach its summit. But in surviving its tough and dangerous trail, we were able to conquer ourselves.


  1. so interesting! now i know how to trek this mountain. been dreaming of this for eternity...

    1. I suggest sa Purok 6, San Miguel imo jump off kay didto daw maagian ang daghan na waterfalls.

  2. Ang hirap naman ng pinagdaanan nyo sa trail, but i guess worth it naman siguro. Ang ganda ng mountain na yan.

    1. Sobrang hirap Marco. But it's all part of the adventure. :)

  3. Wow Great Trekking you had........


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