Saturday, September 3

Cuernos de Negros

When I read the fb posts on some of my friends stating 'booked' i knew it was for a trip, either just a mere sightseeing trip on a beach or a climb or could be both. Curious, I asked bugs, 'headed where?' she replied "Mt. Talinis.' Booked my ticket as well, went home for the holidays with a thought that I will finally climb the mountain that I see everyday of my life as I was growing up the province.

Sunset view from Triad, Mt. Talinis from afar

True, I grow up seeing the mountain ranges of Negros, the peaks of Mt. Talinis, every single day of my  life in Siquijor. Who will not, where we live is a six kilometer road that leads to the town and almost a kilometer of it is a boulevard by the shore that gives a magnificent view of Dumaguete. But of my more than 30 years of passing by Dumaguete every single time that I go home and of my more than 10 years of being a mountain lover, I never really had a chance to pass by and climb Mt. Talinis.

 Until a group of my AMCI friends organized one lead by Mher and I set it to my mind that 7 months from December I will be able to climb the place. August 24, what was suppose to be a fun climb turned out to be a major one. Despite the bad weather, 13 climbers from Manila were all excited to board the plane headed down south. It was really a bad weather, this is the most turbulent trip I ever had on my countless flights to Dumaguete, the stewardess had to stop serving drinks in some instances for the ride is so bumpy.

View of Mt. Talinis from the boat to Apo Island
We arrived Dumaguete Airport greeted not just by the organizers of the Silliman's 110th Founder's Day Celebration but also by the cool weather due to the rain. Our trip coincides with the tropical storm Mina which all of us thought it will not affect down south for the direction of the storm is up north, to the mountain ranges of North Luzon, that's according to the weather forecast. 

Our guide and companion on the climb already waited for us outside the airport on a jeep big enough for the 15 of us  to fit with our fully loaded packs. We travel to the town of Valencia for almost an hour and stopped at the police station where we had to register. Policemen and civilian people alike who were present at that time were really curious what comes to our minds climbing the mountain on that bad weather. They said, if it's raining where they are posted all the more that weather up in the mountain would be worst and dumpy, rivers could swell and leeches could be alive. That made me think, what could be the worst scenario that could happen to us. 

at Valencia police station picture from Julius album
They made sure that we put all the necessary information especially our contact numbers and our guides contact numbers, in case of emergency. They made sure that the group has enough basic gear needed to cross a river and to open trails in case it will close due to fallen trees.  Be it the weather nor that policemen's concern did not stop the group from climbing the mountain. After the registration and taking a late breakfast the group on jeep proceed to another 20 minute ride to the jump off of Apolong Trail.

at Casaroro Falls
Up to where the jeepney can carry us, the road was so rough and inclined that we need to finally stop, final packing with loads being distributed we started our trek. It was an easy trek on the road, after almost 20 minutes of trek we stop at Casaroro Falls signage, this is the last water source for day one. And since it is already almost noon, the TL decided to just have our lunch here. He also announced a change of campsite since we started late already and the weather condition seemed like will not improve on day 1.

After almost an hour of rest, the group started it's ascend. It was through a trail that follows the big water pipes that supplies drinking water in the lowlands of Valencia. As we slowly gain elevation, we also felt Mina's fury as rain and strong winds constantly hound us. As the rain did not stop, we follow the trail that passes by farm lands and forest trees and lush bushes cold and wet. Sometimes we pass by trail that's full of water it becomes stream and at times muddy area that we call it kumunoy.

I was with the lead right behind  Manong Paping our lead guide with my two climbing buddies, Jepoy and Aaron with our TL Mher, Lester and Julius. Until we had to cross the first river, it was just a short and shallow one. After that we were already following the river side until we had to cross a longer and deeper one.  The river was below the hip deep not raging but not so calm as well. Despite the river's condition the team decided to put a life line, just a rope for every person to hold on to while crossing. After the entire lead crossed, we decided to wait for the rest of the team, enjoy the beauty of the water despite being cold with wet clothes on. Trail to the campsite will just be rolling anyway, according to our TL. But after almost an hour of waiting, we decided to start our trek, it was so cold already, TL and Jepoy stayed to wait for the rest of the team. What was suppose to be just a rolling trail leads to an uphill ascend at times we had to use our hands in order to go up. We still pass by one stream, a short but deep and with slippery rocks.

Rancho Yayong serve as our muddy campsite
 After more than 3 hours of trek we finally reach Rancho Yayong, a farm away from civilization with only one house around. Alas, the owner was not around, we can only ask shelter from it's roof beside the walls  outside of the house. The rain did not stop so we have to brave ourselves to pitch our tents under the rain, my first time to pitch my tnf rocky 23 having the flysheet to stand first. The rain did not stop nor the weather improved, it even get worst, hearing the sound of the gusty wind while we rested on our tents.

At sulfur area, beside the trail
Day 2 of our climb the weather did not improve, it seems like it even get worst. We left past 9 in the morning while the rain is still pouring, enter some bushes until a forest line. On the trail we can already notice the sulfuric smell, is there a volcano nearby? I wonder. Until we notice a site of dead young trees beside the trail. This is because of the sulfur, as much as i wanted to stop, see the source and take some pictures, I decided to proceed with the lead pack, it's getting colder staying longer in one place. The trail is leading uphill with some parts we need to use our hands as well. It leads to ridge of the mountain range until it goes down to Nailig Lake. On our way going down the ridge the wind was really furious, I think that was my first trek scared of being hit by fallen trunk of trees.

Nailig Lake, picture taken by Jeffrey Ledesma
Two hours and fifteen minutes of trek, we reached the second campsite:  Lake Nailig, our suppose to be first campsite as well. The lake is high, that's what Manong Paping said. We tried to look for a better campsite until we decided to settle for the flat area near the lake where we had to cross a deep stream. I tried to ask Mher if there could be a better campsite a bit covered by trees to protect us from the gusty winds and away from the water. I  was afraid the lake might overflow but he assured me that will not happen for there is no source of water higher than we are situated. With is assurance, we decided to settle on that place. But because the rain did not stop I don't want to open my backpack and pitch the tent. I wait for the boys to set up the kitchen tarp first. They had difficulty pitching the kitchen, the wind never stop blowing not just in one direction but from different directions.

Nonetheless, they were able to set it up, we settled under the tarp when the rain poured again but we cannot even sit straight while inside. With the help of the guys that I was able to set up my tent still not on a very nice way. I was so worried that the pole might snap due to the winds that keeps on blowing.  No one dared to  do an assault to Nailig Peak, as  originally planned, the weather is so bad, there will no view to see anyway. After lunch we had nothing to do but play games in the boys' tent until we need to go out and cook dinner. The highlight of the day is the food, despite the weather, we still able to cook the best food: white pasta, beef curry, milk fish, mountain salad and drinks. I settled in my tent praying that the wind will not break my poles and the lake will not overflow.

Third day is a relax day for us, we took the time to take pictures on the lake despite the no view at all. We left for the final descend. The weather improved, it wasn't raining that hard anymore and the wind is not as strong as yesterday. We reached another lake, Yagumyum,  the foot of the trail going to Mt. Talinis Peak. But because there is still no view to see, the group decided to just relax at the shore beside the lake. On the final descend it was the most slippery part of the trek, no one was spared by  the slippery trail even Manong Paping. We ended our trek at Magsaysay in Dauin.

Truly, a climb to remember. I haven't been trekking again this wet both on the trail and on the campsite. It seems like this is just going back to a training climb that no matter what the situation is the team will proceed with the climb. And this too is my training climb to an expedition that I will be doing soon. Trekking on a cold condition, cold not may be due to high altitude but due to the fact that I am wet and cold due to the rain and wind could be a simulation  of up to how long can I withstand on cold condition. The comment of Ai struck me when I was pitching my tent on the first campsite when I make a sound feeling so cold, she said, papano na lang kung mag-aconcagua ka. that statement made me think. Second thing is the test of my patience while on the campsite doing nothing. This is a simulation again on times that it will be our rest days, how will I deal with it. Though at this time I was with group of friends whom we entertain each other by doing different games. And this is my another training of carrying load, not may be 25 to 30 kilograns but at least heavy enough for me to practice.

Another great climb with great people. 'Til the next adventure.

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