Mt. Kanlaon: Terrifyingly beautiful

This mountain has been in my bucket list since I started hiking, and now I’ve finally completed the highest peaks of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao! 🙂 Mt. Kanlaon in Bacolod is Visayas’ highest peak and the country’s largest active (!!) volcano.

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It was a DIY birthday climb planned by one of my hike mates in Mt. Apo, so it was a mix of new and old faces in our group of 6. Kanlaon is part of a DENR-protected park, and we had to submit documents prior to the climb (tip: they can have the waiver notarized for you to avoid the hassle :)). They also only allow 1 group of maximum 10 members to enter per day. Yes, we had the mountain to ourselves!

Day 0

Flew from Cebu to Bacolod early evening. Interestingly, the plane flew over Mt. Kanlaon and the view was amazing. We had a taste of Bacolod’s famous chicken inasal for dinner before heading to sleep at Bacolod Business Inn.

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Day 1

From the hotel, we rented a van to take us to the Guintubdan jump off, about an hour away. The trail started out flat, then continued to mostly ascent. There were a lot of fallen trees, boulders and dried up streams which resembled Apo’s trails. I must admit I underestimated this mountain – I wasn’t physically or mentally prepared so I wouldn’t say it was easy. The toughest part however was fighting the cold. I brought the same gear I used in Apo, but this time they weren’t enough to keep me warm at all. By the time we arrived at Camp 1 around 4 hours into the climb, the cold had already crept in.

We pitched camp at the saddle campsite just before sunset. From here, Margaja Valley was just wow. The summit can also seen from where we were, a mere 20-minute final assault.

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No one in the group had any decent sleep on our first night. Even the bottles of alcohol we finished didn’t help. We could literally hear the winds howling throughout the night, sometimes it felt like we were on the beach hearing waves, and not on top of a mountain!

Day 2

The plan was to do a sunrise assault, but the weather made it too dangerous and we decided to wait it out. Again the winds made the final assault extra challenging – they were really really strong they’d blow me over if I stood straight. We walked into the fog and I had to crawl my way up the trail of mostly loose rocks. Thankfully, the skies cleared when we reached the crater summit.

It. Was. Out. Of. This. World.

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Feels so surreal to be standing at the edge of an active volcano’s crater. We even got a sea of clouds!

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When we got back to the saddle campsite, we moved out to Pagatpat and from there climbed down the monkey trail to Margaja Valley, enveloped in fog.

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After lunch, we headed off to Camp 1 which served as our base for the second night. The initial plan was to descend via the Wasay trail, but it was twice as long and more difficult and we will be pressed for time. We expected Camp 1 to be much warmer because it was much lower in elevation and not as exposed, but the cold was consistent. Haha!

Day 3

Our third and final day was the last stretch of descent, where the trails were less intimidating. We also made a side trip to Buslugan falls, a three-tiered falls which required some rock scrambling. The water was cold and crystal clear, and it was a relaxing end to our expedition. From the falls, the jump off was less than an hour away. We were back by around 1pm, and just had enough time to go back to the city, take a shower and eat before our flights back to reality.

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I wish I could’ve been more prepared for this climb, but the company of (old and new) friends and THAT summit made it all worth it. Highly recommended!!

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