Monday, May 28, 2012

Mt. Kinabalu Expedition 2012 – Travel Report

Mt. Kinabalu is located in the City of Kota Kinabalu, Province of Sabah Borneo in Malaysia. It is Malaysia’s first World Heritage Site as declared by UNESCO and it also happens to be Southeast Asia’s highest summit at 4,095 masl (meters above sea level). With the influx of mountain climbers visiting this mountain everyday due to its tranquil trails, it has become widely known as Asia’s most popular hiking destination.

I personally climbed this mountain last May 22-23, 2012 with a good friend Councilor Oliver Enot via the Timpohon-Summit-Timpohon route. We made our reservation through the Sutera Sanctuary lodges which is one of the easiest accesses to scaling Mt. Kinabalu. We paid the entire climb package of at least PhP 11,000.00 excluding airfares from Davao to Manila and Manila to Kota Kinabalu.

Low's Peak - the highest point
Aside from enjoying the climb, I also considered the climb as a way to gather ecotourism benchmarks and have it all archived for reference and replication in the Philippine setting particularly in Mt. Apo where I am handling the trekking program. I am pleased therefore, to take note some of the strategies employed by their concerned authorities especially in the aspects of bookings and reservations, designation of tour guides and porters,  trail maintenance and management, among others.


Kinabalu Park Headquarters
Climbing Mt. Kinabalu requires an early booking of at least 4 months before the actual climb and should be fully paid 2 months before; otherwise you will be refused due to full bookings in the Laban Rata dormitory. The package cost is inclusive of Permit Fee, Climbing Insurance, Buffet Meals for the entire climb and accommodation at Kinabalu Park Headquarters and Laban Rata dormitory. Mandatory fees not included in the package are guide fee, transportation from the headquarters to Timpohon Gate (jumpoff point) and Certificate of Climb.

Climb Proper

The journey of conquering Mt. Kinabalu begins at Timpohon Gate (1,866 meters). Altitides range from 1,981 at the first rest stop to over 4,000 meters at the peak. The climb can be challenging and strenuous. What’s good about this mountain is that unlike any Philippine mountains, one will no longer bring a tent, sleeping bags, cooking set and camping stove because this will be provided by Sutera through its mountain lodges and restaurant.

Start of Trekking from Timpohon Gate
From Timpohon Gate to Laban Rata took us 4 hours while the ascent to the summit was a chilling 3-hour climb which started at Laban Rata in a very early 2:00 AM dawn. There were a total of seven designated stopovers along the trail before reaching Laban Rata, all equipped with potable water systems and climbers’ huts. The huts also serve as tourist information corners where all details of the climb are posted.

Laban Rata Restaurant and Dormitory

The trail is mostly open and established. There are trail signs along the way starting from Timpohon gate to Low’s Peak (4,095 masl). Ropes are also placed in more risky tracks particularly when ascending from Laban Rata all the way to the summit.  

Flora and Fauna

Mt. Kinabalu park is known for the abundance and diversity of its plant life, within one of the most ancient vegetations in the world. There are over 1,200 species of wild orchids and 40 varieties of oak in its forests, not to mention the countless varieties of rhododendrons with blooms ranging in hue from deep red to pale pink and white. Masses of moss and ferns weigh down the trees of the Montane oak forests of the upper regions. Flowers are to be seen everywhere on the trees, in the shrubs, along the banks on the forest floor and even peeping out of the rocky crevices of the summit. Orchids such as the white necklace orchids are as delicately beautiful as their namesake.
Some of Kinabalu Park's Flora and Fauna
The Bornean mountain ground squirrel Dremomys everetti are often spotted scampering about in the scrub vegetation while the mountain tree shrewTupaia montana are easily spotted along the mountain trails. You may even come across a red-necked keelback snake sunning itself along your path. 

The variety of birds ranges over a wide selection and over half of all of Borneo's bird species can be found in the Kinabalu National Park. Amongst them are Mountain Black Eye, Mountain Black Bird, Borneo Bright Eye, Euphrasia borneensis, and the now 'not-so-friendly' nor so easily sighted Friendly Kinabalu Warbler.

The Peaks

The spectacular Low's Gully divides Mount Kinabalu into its Western and Eastern plateaus. There are several trails leading to lesser peaks besides Low's Peak. These are very tough routes and intending climbers must obtain written permission from the Park Authorities for any exploration outside the conventional trails. Experienced guide are compulsory.

St. John Peak
Western Summit Plateau Attractions include South Peak (3,921 metres) and St John's Peak (4,090 metres). Both may be climbed in half a day but are recommended only for more experienced climbers. St John's is particularly tricky. Other major peaks are Ugly Sisters (4,086 metres), Alexandra (3,998 metres) and Victoria (4,090 metres).

The terrain on Western Plateau is rocky but smooth, showing the effects of glaciations. The trail calls for use of ropes to negotiate the challenging climb.

Special Concerns

With Pare Dockie near the South Peak 
Although one of the highest mountains, Mt Kinabalu is one of the easiest peaks in the world to conquer. It takes just two days and climbers don't need any previous experience at mountain climbing. At sunrise, the views from the Mt Kinabalu's summit at Low's Peak are spectacular, making all the effort worthwhile. Anyone with a reasonable level of fitness and the willpower to push through fatigue and discomfort can climb to the summit of Mt Kinabalu. It is achievable and incredibly rewarding.

Special Thanks

Behind my great climb to Mt. Kinabalu are the following persons and agencies that have extended assistance. They are all worthy of my thanks and appreciation.
  • PAIC Office
  • Sir Andy Ugdoracion of CIBTC
  • Department of Tourism XI
  • TDEVS Services, Inc.
  • Tinikaran Outdoor Shop through Hon. Oliver Enot
  • Mr. Bryan Gabañete of White Peak Outdoor Shop
  • Engr. Albert Gabriel
  • Mr. Danrev Broñola
  • Mr. Hardy Joy Desuyo
  • Mr. Lito Roque of SAVERS
  • LOGSAC Pips

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Presenting Mt. Apo’s LOGSAC Gully

While climbing Mt. Apo and its surrounding environs, there is only one portion of the mountain that’s very vivid – the ditch starting from the tail of the Tinikaran Camp 2 jungle and the trail head of the boulders usually used as rest stop area of mountaineers before a tough boulder assault. This duct extends to as far as Tolits rock approximately 750 meters long.
A picture showing the entire Mt. Apo perspective. Red arrow shows LOGSAC Gully
However, it was never fathomed nor explored. There were efforts already to breach the said channel either ascending or descending but all efforts were in vain. Others were frustrated because of the strong sulfur smoke.

Climbing buddy Hardy Joy Desuyo enjoying the sulfur scene located at the entrance of the gully.
It was in year 2004 that we traversed the upper portion of the gully to the original boulders path. I was with Papong, Jason Salinas, Manolo del Rosario and Jovany Tajores when we did that tricky challenge. We have seen the very dangerous features of this gully, although at one point we were delighted to witness its majestic looks. The highest vertical point of the gully measures approximately 25 meters long. The couch was very soft and hot which is attributed to the many sulfur outlets. During heavy rains, this gully is filled with flowing water directly gushed to the jungle of Tinikaran.
LOGSAC gully is shown here subdividing Mt. Apo's Boulder Face.
It was only during our March 16-18, 2012 climb that I and Jonas christened that channel as LOGSAC Gully, inspired by the more popular Low’s Gully of Malaysia’s Mt. Kinabalu. It is still located within Sta. Cruz area of Mt. Apo and has been a dramatic part of the already-trendy boulder face.   

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Papong fulfills Snow Mountain “Dream Climb”

For the third time in less than two years, LOGSAC’s Danrev Broñola has fulfilled another international climb, this time he climbed Taiwan’s Snow Mountain dated May 12-14, 2012; ably completing a spring assault amidst hardships brought about by extremely cold temperature, lofty altitude and  complex visa application.

The Black Forest
The climb took him 3 days to complete the itinerary that included a jump off from the trail head to Chika Cabin to 369 Hut to the summit and back to the trail head. The entire climb stretches a total hiking distance of approximately 10.9 kilometers.
Enjoying the Snow Mountain Summit
Snow mountain measures 3,886 meters above sea level and is Taiwan’s second highest peak. It has also been considered the most beautiful scenery in the entire Taiwan. The mountainscape is spectacular, with its beauty beyond compare.

It is the third mountain climbed by Papong outside the Philippines following his previous ascends of Mt. Kinabalu in Malaysia last February 2011 and Mt. Everest North Base Camp last October 2011.
Sunrise at Snow Mountain
The LOGSAC family warmly congratulates you Papong for another milestone achieved in your checkered mountaineering life. Cheers…. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

TCRP 2012: The Ultimate Survival Challenge

It was a nice and hard experience spearheading a climb of twenty eight (28) anti-human trafficking advocates from all over the world last May 2-4, 2012 via Sta. Cruz Trail, Davao del Sur. The climb was dubbed MT. APO ULTIMATE SURVIVAL CHALLENGE by The Chain Reaction Project (TCRP), a non-government organization based in Singapore whose primary purpose is to fight human-trafficking problems in the country. Resources generated out of this advocacy climb will benefit the “CENTRE OF HOPE”, a project of the Visayan Forum Foundation, Inc.

During the 3-day climb, TCRP participants have put their survival skills to the test and eventually faced off on a high pressure emergency situation. With my team leading the expedition and one survival and tracking expert from ZeroRisk International, the team was able to withstand the firm challenge. It was especially hard on our part considering that all of the participants are first-timers to Mt. Apo and majority was women.

The TRCP expedition team in an assault to the boulders of Mt. Apo. Photo courtesy of Roxy. 
I have mounted an easy itinerary for them to cope up with the time as we left Davao City by 3 AM on May 2 and camped at Tinikaran 1 on the first evening. However, we were disturbed by an early afternoon rain and when we arrived in Camp 1, we could hardly set up our tents because the ground was wet and muddy and the temperature has lowered down. As TCRP leader Tingjun would put it, the Tinikaran 1 experience was a “nightmare”.

The second night was spent camping at the summit campsite. Photo courtesy of Roxy.
The second day was a lot better with the sun welcoming as warmly. We trekked through the boulders and arrived at the summit not later than 3:00 PM after a treacherous assault via sulfur and rocks. The evening temperature also was quite bearable and there was no rain on the second night, allowing the team to loosen up.

The descent from the summit all the way to Davao City was another hell of an experience. After traversing the boulders for more than 3 hours, the team was back to the jungle which had given some other team members several reasons to cry. The muddy trail gave us seven injured members. They could hardly walk that I need to hire a horse to ferry them from Basakan and Tumpis areas to sitio Calamohoy where our vehicles were waiting. The buddy system was very effective as I assigned some of my crew to assist and secure injured participants. The good thing was that all the expedition members came back to Davao City alive, kicking and smiling.
The expedition team on top of the Philippines' highest peak. Photo courtesy of Roxy.
This Ultimate Survival Challenge was another ordinary climb for me but it gave me extraordinary experience. It was so far the hardest climb I organized given with the different outlooks and emotions of the participants who are of different nationalities. It gave me lessons to improve my skills as a mountain guide.

However, I am glad that in my own little ways I have contributed to TCRP’s sense of purpose of helping the victims of human trafficking. I would therefore like to thank all members of my LOGSAC team and other personnel for technically assisting me with that larger-than-life expedition, to wit: Oliver Enot, Lito Roque, Michael Gapula, Noel Bartolome, Axel Merca, Hardy Joy Desuyo, Glenn Mark Bauya,  Darwin Juntilla, Kervi Palanca, Jonas Florencondia and Kristian Jeffrey Mellina. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Matanao Cave exploration by Faridah and Trecelyn

Led by local guides from Matanao, Davao del Sur; LOGSAC’s Faridah Lumpapac and Trecelyn Cabaluna enjoyed a different trip last holy week by exploring Matanao’s caves and tunnels on April 5-7, 2012.

Being first time cavers, the duo had a good time delving into Matanao’s natural cave formations. According to Faridah, they had to go through some slight mountain trekking before reaching the cave’s porch at sitio Talambato, Barangay Asbang. Inside the cave was a mammoth structure of stalactites and stalagmites. There was also a river portion of the cave where they had to dip into so that they could reach the other side of the cave.

Matanao has already been noted because of the presence of many caves. In fact, there were mountaineers before suggesting to declare this town as the caving capital of Davao del Sur. However, due to minimal interest to ecotourism, it was not materialize.

Matanao is a remote town situated southwest of Davao del Sur. It is bounded by the City of Digos, and the Municipalities of Magsaysay, Bansalan and Hagonoy.