Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The Kapatagan Trail to Mt. Apo

On July 26-27 was my very first Mt. Apo climb using the Kapatagan Trail in Digos City during the seminar conducted by Digos LGU to its aspiring guides and porters relative to its impending trail reopening which I hope would happen anytime this year. This move of Digos City somehow delighted me because it will solve the problem of trail congestion in Sta. Cruz area. Last March Bansalan Trail was also being opened for mountaineers. With this recent development the opportunity for ecotourism in Mt. Apo is now being equally provided to its surrounding localities, which also connotes identical chances for employment and environmental conservation.

Although the trails of Kapatagan and Sibulan share the same characteristics I personally witnessed the fast depletion of forested area in Digos particularly in sitio Paradise where farms of high-value vegetables encroached major portions of the Strict Protection Zone (SPZ) of Mt. Apo. Plantations of potato, carrots, bell pepper, cabbage and the likes have grown steadily in terms of land area. While we recognize that high-value crops planting means resolving economic issue but the lessening fragment of SPZ is also quite alarming. This predicament poses great challenge to concerned national government agencies like the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), National Commission for Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and even the Local Government Units (LGU).

Meanwhile, the vast farmlands from sitio Mainit (trail head) until the emergency camp in Upper Sabwag, which account for almost 60% of the entire trail, drained most of us. It has been my perpetual weakness to trek in an open area with the heat of the sun scorching. There are forest portions somewhere else along the way, but it would always return back to farmlands, something a trail man would always hate to see.

There was a portion where locals call it “Sukarap” rest stop. The small shed here provides shade to trekkers. There is also a water source in this part. As we had some short chat with fellow mountaineers in Sukarap I saw plenty of White-breasted Woodswallows gliding. On the other side following a short trail up northwest I spotted one Black-and-Cinnamon Fantail and numbers of Rufous-fronted Tailorbird, a specie endemic only in Mindanao island.  Aspiring Kapatagan guides Arjay and Joel were able to photograph a bird specie which I thought was either Magpie Robin or Pied Triller, or to some extent might be a Pied Flycatcher. In between Baruring 2 and Godi-godi campsite I saw fresh bird feathers scattered, maybe serving prey to slayer fauna.  

The flora species in Kapatagan trail are pretty much the same in Sibulan. Dominant trees are made up of Tinikaran and some almaciga. Giant ferns and mosses in tree branches are familiar sceneries. Wildflowers are anywhere else, in fact in greater numbers than what I saw in Sibulan trail. Several fallen logs from Upper Sabwag to Godi-godi campsite have made Kapatagan trail more exhausting.

Water sources are readily available from the trail head to Godi-godi but the major water source of the Kapatagan Trail is at the Baruring Rivers 1 and 2. Godi-godi campsite has fewer water source available but we were told by locals that when it rains the potable water there is sufficient enough to cater to large-group camping.

For more than a year that Kapatagan trail was closed the Godi-godi campsite serves as home to a lot of mountain fauna, most notable of them are the monkeys occupying a portion of the camp. At far south of the camp we saw a traditional trap we believed was left by locals as a hunting mechanism with some remains of monkeys as victims. Insects of different sounds were heard all over the place, in fact I saw one of them there.

At 5:00 AM the following day we trekked to the boulders side of Kapatagan using the ridge connecting Godi-godi to White Sand e-camp. The boulders here are totally different as compared to Sta. Cruz side. Unlike in Sibulan where after a trek from Tinikaran Camp 2 the sunrise can be visible, the sunrise spot in Digos trail is covered by Baby Apo, allowing trekkers to hike further up near a cliff of the largest sulfur deposit in Mt. Apo. The sulfur vent is the most prominent identity in Digos trail, which at times can also be detrimental especially if the smoke flows directly towards your direction. The 87-degree track is the convergence point of Digos and Sta. Cruz trails which lead to the dead crater lake and the Davao del Sur summit.

In all honesty I could only pray that the reopening of Kapatagan trail will be materialized this year to somehow provide alternative livelihood to its local guides and porters and at the same time minimize farming activities in sitio Paradise. 

Monday, July 16, 2018

Crisscrossing Mt. Loay to Kiblan route

My day hike schedule on Friday the 13th (July 13) was a harsh crossover climb featuring two dominant mountain ranges in Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur; Mt. Loay and the less-trekked Kiblan base located in barangay Coronon where the Binuangon Spring emanates. Kiblan stands for Kibarangan and Langan, two sitios in Coronon that assemble in a common point connecting the other sitio down east in Piton which eventually links to Coronon national highway.

Mt. Loay now starts to become very popular among day hikers in the region with its all-uphill terrain trail highlighted by farm lands and attractive summit. Add to that, this mountain will host a Vertical Kilometer race come August 18, making it an instant venue for trail running in Davao region. As usual, we were greeted with the beautiful view of the entire Sta. Cruz landscape and seascape in the summit. Mt. Bariraya (the one we referred to as G2 of the South), was very visible, making it the tallest peak in the strip made up of barangays Zone 2, Zone 1 and Coronon.    

I heard variety of bird species in the trail of Loay, most notable among them were White-eared Brown Doves and Zebra Doves, Bulbols and Collared Kingfisher. Just few steps from the trail head I saw one Pied Triller perching in one of the trees that formed part of the vegetation in Loay. Farm plants of banana and coconut are familiar sceneries in combination with vegetables and these wild edible mushrooms we commonly call “libgos”.

As we descended to a different path in Zone 1 ridge, we saw the 796 hill, the one visible in sitio Patulagon and Pintuan, dividing our vision to two famous companies in Franklin Baker and Seaoil Depot Plant. The same track was used by Vertical to Sky during the Mt. Apo Sky and Vertical Race last April 21. As we trekked further down to Kiblan, I was able to spot a different perspective of Mt. Bariraya at the back and the huge stone formation laid out in the hills of Langan. The trail was too tricky at times there were instances some of my climb mates stumbled along the way.   

After more or less two hours of downhill trekking we reached Kiblan junction, an area developed by the European Union-funded  project Upland Development Programme in the early parts of year 2000. The site has two hanging bridges, one being used as access to Langan while the other one serves as gateway to Kibarangan. I was told by my trail running colleagues that Kiblan was the jump off point to a more strenuous assault in Mt. Leong, the third summit featured in the Vertical to Sky Race last April.

A short trek up west from Kiblan is a natural pool that hosts congregated streams from Binuangon surface water basin. Here we were able to cool down and relax with the very cold pool water and the mini waterfalls adjoining its perimeter. Beside the pool is a lush forest shading almost the entire Kiblan.

After an excellent side trip we ran the remaining five kilometres of open trail from Kiblan to National Highway of Coronon.

This crossover climb in Loay and Kiblan was part of the annual basic Mountaineering Course conducted by the Local Government Unit of Sta. Cruz to its employees as a continuous effort to educate the participants the importance of environmental conservation and protection in view of the increasing ecotourism activities in the municipality.