Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Mt. Kalatungan Trail Run: Tougher Than Tough


Traversing through multiple challenging summits, one of which stood at 2,907.8 meters ASL while another at 2,819.78 meters ASL, within a day is an extremely tough challenge. While climbers usually allot 2-3 days to hike this arduous trail, we were given only 14 hours to finish the route plus the extra kilometers in going back to town proper. Such was the challenge presented by the recently-held Mt. Kalatungan “Tougher Than Tough” Trail Run in the Municipality of Pangantucan, Province of Bukidnon.

Considered as the 5th highest peak in the county, Mt. Kalatungan proudly stood at 2,907.8 meters above sea level. Together with Mt. Wiji (2,819.78 meters ASL), these twin peaks form part of the Mt. Kalatungan Range Natural Park which has an estimated total area of 55,692 hectares bordering Valencia City and the municipalities of Pangantucan, Talakag and Maramag. A long-time favorite of hardcore mountaineers, Mt. Kalatungan is known for its enchanting mossy forests, breathtaking ridges and majestic waterfalls. It plays an important host to a diverse flora and fauna and is also considered as home of the Philippine Eagle
   

Mt. Kalatungan “Tougher than Tough” Trail Run was organized by Pangantucan LGU and AURA Organization. It aims to promote environmental awareness and also showcases Mt. Kalatungan as one of Pangantucan’s tourist spots. As it was an opportunity to climb the twin peaks for the first time, we joined the intermediate 28K category (other distances were 50K and 5K) which started at Brngy. Mendis, traversed through Mt. Kalatungan and Mt. Wiji and finished at the Municipal Hall of Pangantucan.


After the 50K runners were set off from the municipal hall at 2 AM, the 28K participants were transported to Brngy. Mendis. About 7 kilometers away from town proper, this barangay is the usual jump off for hikers in climbing the Kalatungan Range.

We were given rice packs and after a short briefing, the run started at about 3:30 AM. From the barangay it was mostly an open, single-track trail which we passed through carefully as it was still dark. The ascent started after passing through the makeshift bamboo bridge until we reached the View Deck, 3.6 kilometers from barangay proper. Race marshals served us coffee and puto maya and we also refilled our water.

From the View Deck, it was another 2 km of hike in going to Buko Buko Sa Anay ridge passing through the forested Kikikoka Peak. Daylight caught us in Buko Buko and it is here where Mt. Kalatungan started to reveal her hidden beauty.


Along this ridge, view of Muleta Falls can be seen from afar. I believe that this falls is still unexplored as it has no established trail yet. 


We did not let the opportunity pass by without taking photos of the gorgeous scenery.


The climb along Buko Buko was very tiring as the sun’s heat was starting to grow intense.


From the open trail of Buko Buko, it was a relief to enter the dense forest with moss-covered trees which enchanted us to no end. 


It leads all the way to Sako Camp and finally to the Junction where volunteer race marshals prepared our food for breakfast. It also has a nearby water source and we were able to refill our water bottles. We then packed some eggs and hotdogs so we will have something to munch on come lunch time.



From the junction, it took us more than half hour to climb Mt. Kalatungan Summit. We passed through another enchanting forest and an open, garden-like area.


Finally, after 6 hours from gunstart, we proudly reached the 5th highest peak of the Philippines.


The clearing gave us clear views of the neighboring Mount Kitanglad Range.


Also at the peak is an open flat ground which I believe is a camp site.

From the peak, we descended back to the Junction and again refilled our hydration.


The trail to Bamboo Camp followed next. While it was mostly downhill, it was also very technical and often times we have to hold on to tree trunks and roots for safety.


Passing through another moss-carpeted area was so surreal as the surroundings look like scenes culled out from fairy tales.

After about a kilometer, we reached the Bamboo Camp, named so because of dwarf bamboos abundant in the area.


It was then followed by another tough climb to Mt. Wiji. The challenging trail is dotted with dead trees and boulders. We couldn’t find trail makers in this part of the route which made us wonder if we’re still on the right track.


It was already noon time and mountain was shrouded with fog. We heaved sighs of relief when we finally reached the peak of Mt. Wiji.  It was manned by two race marshals who are also local mountain guides. It is here where we took some time to rest and partake our lunch.

If you think the worst is over as we have already passed through the peaks of Mt. Kalatungan and Mt. Wiji, then you’re definitely wrong. What followed next was the long descent through the dreaded Dead Nails Trail.


Interrupted only by three minor hills, the long incline heavily took toll on our leg muscles used to stabilize against gravity. We passed through open trails, ridges and dense forests which never seem to end. Then rain poured hard which made the trail more difficult to pass through. I stopped taking photos from hereon as I have to secure my cellphone in a waterproof pouch.

After about 6 kilometers, we finally came out of the forest and into Sitio Mahayay. We refilled our water at a station manned by locals. From here, Mendis Barangay Proper is still 2 kilometers away then another 7 kilometers to the finish line at the municipal hall.

As we only have 2 hours left before the 14-hour cut off, we started to quicken our pace. The rain already stopped but we have to be careful as the grounds were very slippery. We started running faster upon reaching the barangay road which connects to the national highway.

Finally, after 13 hours and 36 minutes (per official race time) we touched down at the finish line. We were among the last finishers but still we felt victorious after having successfully completed the tougher than tough route within cut-off time.

Our Mt. Kalatungan Trail Run experience was very fulfilling and unforgettable. We get to climb the Philippines 5th highest peak and experience its breathtaking views and rich biodiversity. In traversing one of the country’s most difficult climbs, we went beyond our limits and discovered what we are truly capable of. 

Top: Awarding and Tribal Party; Bottom: Finisher's Medals, Certificate and Malou's 3rd Place Trophy

Congratulations to Pangantucan LGU, Pangantucan Tourism Office and AURA Organization for the successful event! Special thanks to the marshals and volunteers for keeping us all safe and hydrated during the race.  

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