Maldito – a Spanish word for “cruel” – was how a friend of mine described the climb to Mt. Aminduen’s Summit – Alto Peak. The mountain was indeed heartless and cruel but beneath that disguise lies a beauty that takes your breath away.
Our excursion began at the city of Ormoc, where we rented a monster multi-cab that took us to the jump-off area at the mountain Barangay of Cabingtan. A group of lively, entertaining and energetic local Tourism Officers greeted us with a very big “Mais” on their faces (Mais – a term used by the locals for smile 😊). And truly, I can say that the local barangay did a very good job at selecting their tourism officers – they were the best, they were fun people to be with. After an orientation of the mountain we were off on the trail.
We started on a gradual ascent on a mountain slope vegetable farm and then abruptly turned into an arduous continuous assault inside a fern-mossy forest. The trail was established although quite still untamed due to falling branches, toppled tree trunks and slippery rocks due to moisture from condensed air the night before. The almost unending assault finally ceased when we reached the shores of lake Janagdan, the sight was awe-inspiring. The locals mentioned that the lake was once a crater of an active volcano long time ago; and no doubt it once was, because the parameter of Mt. Aminduen is dotted with several geothermal plants, which only indicate that there is a strong geological activity happening inside the belly of the mountain.
We had our lunch by the lake, rested for about an hour and then started our trek towards the campsite. the trail became slightly less difficult and the view became more stunning. However, as with anything beautiful it has its price, the mountain collected its dues by way of injuring one of our female companions (Ms. Chai Navarro); she got her ankle sprained and it swelled really bad. Fortunately, our local guide (Kuya “ayuk” Danny) had contacts with the local rescue unit and they responded well and fast. The group, now less than one, decided to continue the hike to the campsite and rest for the night, in preparation for the big assault to the summit the following day.
The morning came fast, it was cold and gloomy but it was a sweet morning nonetheless. The smell of morning dews, the smell of breakfast and of the smell of adrenaline sweat made the new day something to really look forward to. The assault to the summit started off gradually and then eventually turned into one of the most challenging climb our group ever had. The terrain was steadily steep, loose soil and rocks falling; some sections require ropes to pass though and what made it even more exciting was that, we didn’t have any safety equipment but the improvised ropes that were prepared by the local guides. The terrain was indeed dangerous, one simple mistake could prove fatal but it was the perfect place to be at during that time, it was perilous but a mirthful experience to be in.
After hours of climbing we reached Mt. Aminduen’s Summit – Alto Peak. Sadly, the mountain did not give us a clearing, there was almost zero visibility due to thick fog and rain was threatening to pour. But it was a rewarding feeling to be up there, it was more than enough to see the mountain’s forest, its fauna and its magic!
Going back down was a different challenge altogether, by the time we started to decent the rain was already pouring strongly, the mountain’s water ways was filling up. The mountain’s terrain was already slippery in normal conditions, so much more when its wet. Going down was twice the risk as going up and to make matters worse we were cold-drenched in the rain. But we managed to return back to the campsite alive and in one piece 😊
We camped our second night near lake Danao, there we met our injured companion, Ms. Chai. We shared our experiences of Mt. Aminduen over dinner, shared our laugther, shared our moments – we shared Life!
Cheers to Mt. Aminduen! till we meet again
Some of Mt. Aminduen’s Flora and Fauna:
Our Local Guide Kuya “ayuk” Danny and Ate Janneth
Meet the Gang #DimenEU