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Climbing Mt. Matutum, South Cotabato May 24, 2014

Climbing Mt. Matutum, South Cotabato

GPS waypoint: N6 21.600 E 125 04.535
Location: Acmonan, Tupi, South Cotabato, Philippines.
Elevation: 2,286 meters above sea level (MASL)
Classification: non-active volcanic cone (although seismic activity was felt in August 2012)
Last known Eruption: 1911
Status: protected area due to threat to its biodiversity
Habitat to: 90 species of birds, 220 species of plant, 20 species of mammal, 10 species of reptiles and amphibians and at leat 10 endangered species

Climbing Back
After my last climb at Mt. Talinis with Cuernos de Negros in Sep 2011, I decided to go homeless and gave away everything that won't fit into my backpack - including all my mountaineering equipment - tent, cookset, stove, etc. I thought I've seen the last of my climbing days. But upon arrving in Gen San, Val and Joan (a yoga practitioner) invited Helen and the guest-teachers from the Marichi Yoga House (me and Jang) to join her crew in summiting Mt. Matutum. It was a tempting offer I couldn't say 'No' to, despite my initial apprehension.

climbing crew

We were joined by Joan's brother and his crew and later on grouped together with Dennis and Hanna (and their office crew) at the summit. We had the climb and the peak all for ourselves!

Porter Issue
By the jump-off, we lost a lot of time re-negotiating with the porters. They wanted more money for the climb and they were obviously having a beef with the LGU and they were taking it against us...or at least that's how it came across. After a long exhausting re-negotiation, it was agreed that they will only carry the load one-way, going up. Upon reaching the top, they would turn back and go home instead of carrying the load the following day. I believe it was Ramil and Bong who shared the porter's load on the way back.

Trail System
From the jump-off to Camp 1, it was a gentle ascent mostly along an open trail (no shelter) but the sun was hardly out which made for a forgiving climb. From Camp 1, it was entirely mossy forest. The climb became markedly technical - steep ascents that required 4-wheel drive (2 hands and 2 legs). But there was always something to grab (roots, rocks, etc.) to pull our way up. It has been raining the past few days so the blood-sucking limatiks were there for the ambush. But unlike the limatiks of Mt. Banahaw's Tinagong-Dagat Saddle, these limatiks are mild - they let go after a few blood-letting. You won't even notice them - they're gone fast, leaving only a blood-stained patch on the shirt. Along the trail, there was also a loud siren-like sound that permeated the forest. Some said they were birds, but Bong, our guide, said they're large cricket-like insects.

It was bone chilling at the peak. At daybreak, we scouted around the area. There were a few openings in the trees that allowed for a view. There are also a few tree trunks you could climb into to get a better view of the crater and the surrounding landscape. There wasn't a lot of room at the peak for camping.

Memorable Highlights

  • Good Samaritans, Dennis and Hanna - I brought my jungle hammock with me. It protected me from the rain and the mosquitos, but not from the chilling cold. Sensing the brutal cold, Dennis and Hanna repeatedly invited me to join them in the their tent. I gracefully said, '...if I can no longer withstand the cold', as I didn't want my needs imposed on anyone. Later in the night, with flashlight and walking with drenched socks through wet muddy ground, they came to my hammock to persuade me to join them. At that point, I was already freezing. I was glad they were there. I slept in the warmth of their tent, insulated from the bitter cold. Thank you Dennis and Hanna!!!

  • Ironman Ramil - Ramil is one of those iconic mountaineers talked about long after the climb. He has the waistline as big as a thigh but he carried a tremendous amount of load, both going up and down. When I tried lifting his backpack, it felt like a sack of rice. Going down, he had to carry what the porters carried up, as the porters left us at the summit. So instead of carrying less load, he carried more. Later on, one of the climbers got injured, so Ramil had to carry his backpack too! 2 heavy backpacks on Ramil's back as he managed the technical climb down. You Da Man, Ramil!!!

  • Fruit Cocktail - fruit cocktail is no biggie in the city. But to bring a barangay-sized can plus all the heavy cream to go with it up the mountain? That was pure luxury only Joan would pull off.

  • Restrain - during the frustrating re-negotiation with the porters, I noticed the restrain from one in our group. Let's just say he could have thrown his weight around like the Sheriff of Notingham - but he didn't. Or in Manila parlance, at the drop of a hat, he could have gone swinging, "Do you know who I am? Do you know what I can do to you? Do you really want to make me an muthaf$#%&*in piece of sh@#@t!!!". But no, he did not. He amicably talked it through the entire negotiation with no hint of arrogance whatsoever. I don't see that kind of restrain exercised in Manila. There is much to be said about the genteel demeanor and generosity of the people of Gen San (but let's save that for another blog).

Ending Thoughts
It was deja vu for me to be climbing again, being face-to-face with the many challenges of the mountain (and my own physical challenges). It almost felt like I revisited my past. Moreover, I relish the insight from the climb's highlights. The mountain is indeed the great equalizer - you carry your own weight, you get dirty like everyone else, limatiks attack you like everyone else, and collectively, you are all humbled by the magnificence of nature's imposing grandeur.

--- TheLoneRider

Thank you very much, Joan and Val for taking us along this amazing climb!!!

vertical profile Mt. Matutum

terrain profile Mt. Matutum
*** some pictures were lifted from the Facebook of some of the climbers. Apologies, can't piece together what picture came from whom :(
we rode on board the back of a truck for a bumpy ride to the jump-off with Helen and Jang all in the family we grouped-up with Joan's brother and company
our gracious hosts, Joan and Val at the jump-off to sign-in starting the trek off the local village all smiles
fixing up the static with the porters forging ahead rest stop at the start of the ascent the one and only water source at the start of the climb
keeping dry with Helen all smiles on another rest stop brushy trail public display of affection on a climb...priceless!
Guide Bong camouflaged snack time my Good Samaritans - Hanna and Dennnis water break
technical section Joan assisting setting up camp daybreak
well rested and energized Helen and Jang - smiles happy campers meal preparation
boyz in the hood sunrise on the summit top of the world chow time
fruit cocktail? expect the best from Joan with climb guide, Bong packing up for the descent class picture
with Jang climbing down rest stop - deja vu quiet moment
Ironman Ramil Jang savouring the snack back in the village, with fog-draped Mt. Matutum in the backdrop coming upon a carrot harvest
looking back to see Mt. Matutum the ride back home goodbye and thank you, Mt. Matutum  

Need a Guide?

  • Bong Celis - 0921.567.5541
    *** Bong is based in Davao and can guide you to Mt. Apo as well.

Climb Registration to Mt. Matutum (and other climbing details)

  1. register and secure the permit for the climb at the Municipal Tourism Council at Tupi Municipality, South Cotabato, P150 per person
  2. you will have to take the form for signature/approval with the Tupi Police Station (located within the area)
  3. porter is mandatory, P500/day/15 kgs
  4. for more details, you can visit their Facebook page

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May 24, 2014

»» next story: 108 Sun Salutations and Tour of the Manilay Ancestral Home, Gen San
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