Mount Kalatungan: An Unforgettable Journey To The Chief Mountain

Mount Kalatungan: An Unforgettable Journey To The Chief Mountain

I was only 7 years old when I found out that I could fly. But it was also the time when I realized there were monsters and ghosts renting space inside my head. For years, I’ve battled and listened to these voices that whisper my deepest secrets, dreams, and fears. And I would often silence their echoes and bravely just continue on my journey. Somehow, I could hear these voices getting louder as I waited patiently alone in a forest in Mount Kalatungan.

I just conquered Mount Kalatungan and completed my mission to hike the five highest mountains in the Philippines.

I should have been in a positive mood.

And I should have felt like I was at the top of the world.

Moreover, my happy hormones should have been skyrocketing.

Mount Kalatungan: An Unforgettable Journey To The Chief Mountain

Yet something happened as I descended from the summit of Mount Kalatungan.

That’s why these voices were having a field day inside my head.

I stood up, drawing on the last of my strength to uplift my spirit and stretch my injured ankle.

This was the moment everything could have gone downhill. 

This was when I was expected to crumble and surrender.

But I didn’t.

I had to finish my journey and my story. 

Suddenly, I heard rustling leaves and light footsteps coming my way.

Could this be the antidote and answer to the screaming voices?

My journey to Mount Kalatungan

Day 0 at 08:07 PM

My journey to Mount Kalatungan is a tale of two islands. 

One is a vast, underrated landmass with untouched mountains, rich cultures, and jaw-dropping views. 

The other is not a geographical entity but a person—a solo traveler navigating the wilds of Mindanao. 

For the past seven months, I’ve ventured to Mindanao mostly alone, hiking through the rugged terrain and joining organized hikes to scale the tallest peaks in the Philippines.

And Mount Kalatungan, for me, wasn’t any ordinary hike in Mindanao.

This was the grand finale and the last destination of an unexpected journey.

As I fastened my seatbelt on an airplane bound for Davao, I realized the person beside me was a fellow hiker.

Ironically, he and his brother were also about to hike the “Chief Mountain”, Mount Kalatungan.

We talked a lot and shared stories on our journey to completing the 5 highest mountains in the Philippines. 

Like me, Mount Kalatungan was the last mountain on his top 5 list.

Then, out of nowhere, he asked me one question that had never crossed my mind.

“How does it feel to be a solo joiner?”

Day 1 at 11:55 AM 

Being a solo joiner comes with a few perks.

It’s liberating, drama-free, and gives you more opportunities to meet and engage with different people.

But it can be lonely at times.

When that fellow hiker asked me about my solo adventure, loneliness was surprisingly the first thing that came to mind.

Don’t get me wrong.

Hiking doesn’t make me feel lonely because I always engage with others. 

But maybe, the hours I spent on airplanes, hotels, and land trips alone made these experiences feel lonely.

Well, I didn’t feel lonely during the ritual and orientation of our hike to Mount Kalatungan.

Mount Kalatungan: An Unforgettable Journey To The Chief Mountain

It was jam-packed, to say the least, with three different groups and over 80 hikers. 

I admit.

It wasn’t my cup of tea.

Even though it can be exciting, I’ve never been a fan of mass climbs.

On the bright side, I met a lot of new friends as we made our final preparations for our hike.

Plus, I finally met Camille in person, who has been my Facebook friend for almost two years.

Day 1 at 12:15 PM 

The hike had just begun, and everyone was geared up and ready to face the challenge.

Although I didn’t sleep the previous night, I was feeling good. 

Mount Kalatungan: An Unforgettable Journey To The Chief Mountain

Then, it rained, making the trails to Mount Kalatungan more slippery.

And guess what?

Photo by Camille

It felt refreshing and re-energizing.

Camille and I hiked at our own pace and made stops when we needed a breather.

Of course, we also paused whenever we saw something stunning and interesting.

The other hikers, however, seemed to be in a rush.

Photo by Camille

I get it.

The view deck, the sleeping area, can only accommodate about 30 hikers.

Everyone, except probably us and a few hikers, wanted to sleep there.

And somehow, this reminds me of how people live these days.

Every time I leave my house, I see people in constant motion.

Why is everybody rushing?

Why are we rushing through life without taking the time to enjoy it?

And what’s driving us to live at such a rapid and dizzying pace?

Is the finish line worth it?

Is the final destination worth all the pain and sacrifices?

Why do we push so hard for the future when we’re not sure what it holds?

After hours of hiking through Mount Kalatungan’s verdant landscapes, we arrived at the view deck and campsite.

Was rushing to the finish line worth it?

Not exactly.

Perhaps, for some hikers, it was worth the mad rush.

But to me, it wasn’t worth the effort.

While we did secure space in the view deck, we gave it to the other hikers.

Instead, we pitched our tents in a more peaceful area of the campsite.

Although convenient, the sleeping area in the view deck was a little crowded and too noisy.

There was no privacy whatsoever in the view deck.

And if you’re in the middle of the view deck, and you need to take a shit at night, you’ll have to step over other people sleeping.

We badly needed to sleep, and we didn’t think the view deck could help us get that.

I was so glad we didn’t rush to the view deck, because it was absolutely not worth it.

Day 1 at 06:39 PM: Mount Kalatungan View Deck

Thanks to the persistent rain and chilly weather, I got to rest and catch some z’s at the campsite.

Afterward, we went to the Mount Kalatungan view deck to have dinner with the rest of the crew.

Everything was a breeze.

It had all the signs of a successful and safe climb until I discovered the charger to my headlamp was missing.

Would it affect me later on?

I didn’t think so, but it might be a sign of an unfortunate event coming.

Day 3 at 04:32 AM: The hike to Mount Lumpanag

My headlamp’s batteries were almost empty, and I was hiking through the dark in the vast wilderness.

Eventually, my headlamp ran out of batteries as we approached the summit.

And the weather?

Let’s just say it wasn’t in our favor. 

Not only was it freezing, but it also rained and had some howling winds.

But it was nothing compared to what happened to me the previous day.

I was even surprised to make it to this day.

With resilience and a little creativity, I finally made it to the top of Mount Lumpanag (formerly known as Mount Wiji).

Since my headlamp wasn’t working, I had to find another solution.

I strapped my phone tightly to my head and turned on its flashlight.

It wasn’t perfect, but it was good enough to help me survive this hike.

When I was young, I was alone most of the time, and I had to be resilient and creative to solve problems on my own.

And this mentality has helped me weather the storms throughout my life.

But my mother always says, “No man is an island.”

And she’s right.

I needed someone to help me survive these challenges.

And I need more positive people to light me up through the dark days.

Day 2 at 2:53 AM: The hike to Muleta Falls View Deck

Everything seemed perfect.

The weather was nice, and we started our hike early.

From the first campsite, we climbed our way to Buko-Buko sa Anay and Muleta Falls view deck.

Despite the minor hiccups and never-ending assault, it wasn’t a pain in the ass.

Soon, daybreak came, symbolizing optimism, hope, and the promise of a new day.

Mount Kalatungan: An Unforgettable Journey To The Chief Mountain

Shortly after, we arrived at the view deck, mesmerized by the stunning view of Muleta Falls.

We were the first to arrive at the view deck, and we had a lot of time to snap pictures and soak up its beauty.

It was picture-perfect and surreal.

Mount Kalatungan: An Unforgettable Journey To The Chief Mountain

But for some reason, I fucking hated it.

I loved the view, the company, and the serenity of this place.

Mount Kalatungan: An Unforgettable Journey To The Chief Mountain

In fact, everything was almost too perfect to be real.

Mount Kalatungan: An Unforgettable Journey To The Chief Mountain

Yet, deep inside, I knew something awful was going to happen.

Mount Kalatungan: An Unforgettable Journey To The Chief Mountain

It was the calm before the storm.

I knew it was coming because that’s how real life goes.

As Kurt Cobain once said, “Nobody dies a virgin… Life fucks us all.”

Day 2 at 7:26 PM

Mount Kalatungan was a thing of beauty.

Mount Kalatungan: An Unforgettable Journey To The Chief Mountain

From the enchanting forests to the overlooking views, this hike was filled with stunning sights on every corner.

Mount Kalatungan: An Unforgettable Journey To The Chief Mountain

Along the way, we made stops to enjoy the beauty of this magical trail in Mindanao.

Mount Kalatungan: An Unforgettable Journey To The Chief Mountain

The mossy forests of Mount Kalatungan reminded me of my hike to Mount Dulang-Dulang.

Mount Kalatungan: An Unforgettable Journey To The Chief Mountain

Besides the heavenly setting, this hike was a wondrous escape from the daily grind.

The thing is, getting off-grid is a treat and a pleasure I rarely enjoy.

Every day, I have to deal with family madness, work demands, and those never-ending to-dos that keep stacking up.

Almost every month, I fly to Mindanao to get away from it all and enjoy the masterpieces Mother Nature crafted.

Suddenly, Mindanao became my favorite place on earth.

I hate it when people talk shit about Mindanao.

It’s a misunderstood paradise that doesn’t get the respect and love it deserves.

The island is also home to some of the nicest people on earth.

And guess what?

It feels safer than many parts of the Philippines.

Day 2 at 09:18 PM: Mount Kalatungan junction

After hours of hiking uphill, we arrived at the “junction”, an intersection where hikers leave their heavy backpacks before climbing the summit.

I was moments away from completing a mission that I never thought I could accomplish in my lifetime.

The summit of Mount Kalatungan was calling, and it was time to conquer one of the most challenging mountains in the Philippines.

Although my preparations for this hike weren’t much, I was ready to complete it.

Furthermore, my body was in good condition and had tons of energy left.

Before we could start our climb to the summit, though, we had to rest and eat some snacks.

Day 2 at 10:06 PM: The climb to the top of Mount Kalatungan

The trail to the top of Mount Kalatungan was slippery, wet, and remarkably muddy.

The heavy rains and huge amounts of climbers have made this trail a bit challenging.

Getting to the top may not be extremely difficult, but getting down on this trail would surely be tough.

On the way up, we bumped into some of the people on our hike.

They had a blast, but they also said getting down was a pain in the ass.

Day 2 at 10:36 AM: Mount Kalatungan summit

Did I dream of completing the 5 highest mountains in the Philippines?

Was Mount Kalatungan even on my bucket?


The truth is, I never had planned on completing these mountains.

I only hiked to escape the endless grind and trappings of modern life.

But here I was, enjoying the beauty of Mount Kalatungan.

Although the views weren’t exactly spectacular, the feeling of completing a tough mountain made this hike special.

Mount Kalatungan: An Unforgettable Journey To The Chief Mountain

We snapped pictures of the signage, roamed around the summit, and shared stories of our hike.

Our spirits were high, and we only had to hike downhill to complete our hike today.

Somehow, I could never shake off that ominous feeling.

It was just too perfect.

Day 2 at 11:26 AM

The descent from the summit of Mount Kalatungan wasn’t particularly challenging. 

I’ve encountered trails far more treacherous, where ropes are necessary and cliffs send shivers down your spine.

As I was going downhill, something happened.

I slipped and stretched, twisted and turned my left ankle in a rather awkward way.

I never thought my ankle could be turned in that position.

And damn. 

It was extremely painful.

I was grimacing and trying to control my breath.

The people near me were concerned and asked if it was okay.

I put some weight on my ankle to test it and see if I could still walk despite the injury.

Unfortunately, it didn’t feel good. 

There was no mobility, strength, or stability on my left ankle.

How would I survive this major hike?

How could a one-legged man complete the climb to one of the toughest and highest mountains in the Philippines?

I still have a day and a half left to complete this major climb.

The toughest part? 

Most of the remaining hike was downhill, demanding stability and strength from both ankles.

Day 2 at 12:37 PM: Mount Kalatungan junction

The descent from the summit was grueling.

I breathed a sigh of relief when I heard the music and chatter of the hikers from the other groups.

We immediately applied first aid to make sure the injury didn’t get worse.

There were no ice packs available, but there were pain relievers and painkillers.

I tried to stretch it, and for a while, it felt good.

And people were worried and concerned, and some thought that I needed to be rescued or something like that.

Even though the odds were against me, I knew I could pull this off.

I’ve survived many battles and storms both in life and in the mountains.

But for this one, I wouldn’t have to do it on my own.

My mom was right.

I’m not a freaking island. 

Day 2 at 01:15 PM: A forest in Mount Kalatungan 

I was alone in a mystical forest, and doubts were creeping inside my head.

The rest of the group went ahead, and Camille had to return to the junction because she left her cap.

I tried to think of positive things to turn off these voices.

I always had a vivid imagination.

I could imagine multiple worlds and characters and create different scenarios and stories while just sitting down.

But sometimes, this imaginative mind can lead to overthinking and create toxic voices inside my head.

I checked my phone to see my daughter’s face, and it was helping me silence these ghosts and monsters.

I stood up and heard Camille’s light footsteps and voice.

Thus far, she had been one of the few positives in this unexpected turn of events at Mount Kalatungan.

She and the other friendly people in Mindanao were constantly checking up on me.

She never left and was patiently waiting for me as I gingerly hiked downhill.

And people like her are slowly restoring my faith in humanity.

You see.

I wasn’t always an island.

I belonged to a community, a group of friends, and a family. 

But I was betrayed three times by three different people in the past three years.

The worst part?

One of them was supposed to be my greatest supporter and cheer leader.

Day 2 at 02:10 PM: Ardua non timeo

I’m a Bosconian, and I fear no hardship. 

Ardua non timeo.

That’s the motto that my alma mater kept preaching while I was in high school.

Growing up, I didn’t really understand the meaning of that motto.

Maybe, I was too young and naive to understand. 

Or maybe, I didn’t go through tough challenges to test my fortitude and strength.

“Ardua non timeo” is Latin for “I fear no difficulties” or “I fear no hardships.” 

It’s a phrase that conveys courage and determination in the face of challenges.

On our way to the Bamboo camp in Mount Kalatungan, I kept murmuring these words to silence those monsters in my head.

Going down was challenging, and I even had cramps in my right calf because my right leg was doing the work of the injured ankle.

There was no need to panic.

I could do this.

I breathed deeply and said ardua non timeo.

Take baby steps, and walk at your own pace.

And did I mention we navigated a technically challenging monkey trail along the way?

On top of that, I was carrying a hefty 15-kilogram backpack.

Because we were moving at a glacial and meticulous pace, some people from the other groups went ahead of us.

Eventually, we arrived at a muddy area leading to the Bamboo camp.

Photo by Camille

Suddenly, I could walk faster with less pain.

I even ran for a couple of meters to test it out.

I just figured out something.

I discovered the right foot positions and movements to avoid discomfort.

And I had one more weapon left in my arsenal to complete this hike: adrenaline.

Day 2 at 06:40 PM: Bamboo Camp

I’ve never seen my ankle this fucked up.

It was swollen and was as round and big as a baseball.

I have a high pain tolerance, but this one was different.

I could feel twinges of pain whenever I moved my body.

It doesn’t sound or look good, but I was willing to bet my kidneys that I could end the hike on a positive note.

I discovered three A’s that would help me survive this ordeal:

  1. Adjust
  2. Adapt
  3. Ask for help (no man is an island)

Day 3 at 4:51 PM: Mount Lumpanag Peak

I made it to the top of Mount Lumpanag with grit, determination, and adrenaline.

It was tough, especially since I had one good and healthy leg.

Mount Kalatungan: An Unforgettable Journey To The Chief Mountain

The summit was freezing, and some had to hide in the grass to keep themselves warm.

We waited for the sun to come up to see the stunning view from the summit.

Mount Kalatungan: An Unforgettable Journey To The Chief Mountain

Sadly, we had to abort that mission because it seemed hopeless, with the winds howling furiously and the sky turning dark gray.

Mount Kalatungan: An Unforgettable Journey To The Chief Mountain

We took pictures and went on our hike.

Day 3 at 06:18 AM: The hike to the base

We have this narrative that flawless means greatness.

In sports, undefeated athletes are considered better than those with Ls on their record.

But that narrative is complete bullshit.

People who fail and suffer setbacks are strong and deserve more recognition.

At least, they know how to adjust and stand up on their feet whenever they fall.

On our way down, I found out people also got injured on this hike.

There was a young man from the other group who pulled his hamstring.

Another member of our group bumped his knee on a massive rock hidden in the Danger Zone of Mount Kalatungan.

Mount Kalatungan: An Unforgettable Journey To The Chief Mountain

Despite their setbacks, they pressed on and completed the journey, proving that failure doesn’t hinder greatness – it even fuels it.

Day 3 at 10:30 AM

“How many mountains have you climbed, sir,” asked one of the guides.

“I don’t know,” I replied. “It’s too many to count. I have climbed steeper, taller, and more challenging mountains before, but this was the first time I got injured.”

“That’s okay,” he said. “We all have good days and bad days.”

He was right.

Along the way, I learned a couple of important lessons.

First, asking for help is not a sign of laziness or weakness. 

No man is an island.

We all need someone to survive and thrive in this world.

We need someone to cheer us up when we’re down.

And we need someone who wants to see us rise once more

Second, I’d rather have these physical injuries than emotional trauma. 

Physical wounds heal, but emotional scars can linger for years. 

Every scar tells a story of overcoming. 

So, let’s embrace our physical scars as symbols of strength and healing. 

Mount Kalatungan: An Unforgettable Journey To The Chief Mountain
Photo by Camille

And let’s work to heal our emotional scars, too, because true freedom comes from healing within.

Day 3 at 12:30 PM: End of the hike

We freaking did it.

After a grueling battle with the mountains on an injured ankle, I have completed this major hike.

Mount Kalatungan: An Unforgettable Journey To The Chief Mountain

And there was no way I could have done it without the help of the friendly people on this hike.

Perhaps, this is a sign to break down the barriers and stop living like an island.

Perhaps. Maybe. Probably. Definitely.

What is the difficulty level of Mount Kalatungan?

Mount Kalatungan has a difficulty level of 8/9. It’s often called one of the most difficult mountains to climb in the Philippines.

Where is the Kalatungan mountain range located?

The Kalatungan mountain range is located in Bukidnon, Northern Mindanao, Philippines.

How to get to Mount Kalatungan?

The easiest and most convenient way to climb Mount Kalatungan is to join an organized hike from either Cagayan de Oro or Davao City in Mindanao. There are many tour operations in Mindanao that offer this hike in Bukidnon. You can contact ANAK APO Adventure if you want to hike this mountain.

Sample Mount Kalatungan itinerary

Day 1

  • 02:00 AM: Meet-up in Davao City 
  • 06:00 AM: ETA Maramag, Bukidnon 
  • 07:30 AM: Grocery/breakfast
  • 09:00 AM: ETA Barangay Mendes
  • 09:00 to 11:00 AM: Ritual and orientation
  • 11:00 AM: Lunch
  • 12:00 PM: Start hike
  • 03:00 PM: ETA View deck
  • 06:00 PM: Dinner
  • 09:00 PM: Lights off

Day 2 

  • 02:30 AM: Wake-up call/ coffee
  • 03:00 AM: Start hike
  • 05:00 AM: ETA Buko Buko Sa Anay
  • 06:00 AM: ETA Muleta Falls view deck/ breakfast
  • 07:00 AM: Resume hike
  • 11:00 AM: ETA Junction/lunch
  • 12:30 PM: Start hike to the summit
  • 01:30 PM: ETA Mt Kalatungan summit
  • 02:00 PM: Back to junction
  • 04:00 PM: ETA Bamboo Camp
  • 06:00 PM: Dinner
  • 09:00 PM: Lights off

Day 3

  • 02:30 AM: Wake-up call/ coffee
  • 03:00 AM: Start hike
  • 05:00 AM: ETA Mount Lumpanag summit
  • 06:00 AM: Breakfast
  • 07:00 AM: Start descent from the summit
  • 10:00 AM: ETA Rest Area 1
  • 12:00 PM: ETA Rest Area 2
  • 02:00 PM: ETA Sitio Mahayahay
  • 04:00 PM: ETA Brgy Mendes
  • 05:00 PM: Travel back to Davao City

Aldrich Infantado is a travel junkie and a writing aficionado who loves to share amazing travel tips to his fellow travelers.

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