By Jasmin Padios-Ybañez
DIPOLOG CITY — Mt. Talinis on my bucket list, checked.
Are you willing to risk life and limb to fulfill your bucket list? I just did.
Conquering a steep mountain means countless dangers, high risks, and hardships lurking around, from the very first step you set foot at Negros Island’s second highest peak at 1,903 meters above sea level (next to Mt. Kanlaon).
Mt. Talinis, which is Bisayan for “spear-like” or “pointed”, is popular for serious mountain climbers who only want a tough trail before reaching the summit, aside from its panoramic view, and the mystical pine tree perfectly situated at the peak, giving one the best view of Lake Nailig.
From my hometown here in Dipolog, this Mt. Talinis had constantly lured me the past three years because of its primeval trail being preserved by the locals, the different features one gets to experience along the way like Lake Nailig, the Twin Waterfalls, the sulfur area, and the enchanting mossy river (trekking via Yayang’s Trail), the kind and helpful tour guides, and even the pack of serious climbers along the trail who come from all over.
Back in 2017, after enjoying climbing the 3,003 steps of Linabo Peak (which gives one a 360-degree of Dipolog and the marshes of Dapitan), an acquaintance urged me to climb Mt. Talinis; I just shrugged my shoulders, and never paid attention to the idea. It was only during the pandemic that I got the chance to check it out on the Internet.
Right there and then, I got captivated by the mysterious-looking view of Mt. Talinis, plus the innate adrenalin rush in me to conquer the mountain someday. That was the moment the idea of climbing Mt. Talinis germinated.
And now, all those Talinis-related dreams the past three years have come to fruition. I had imagined the breathtaking view (I was truly in awe), the treescape, the mountain scenery. I had imagined the cold thin air on my face. I had imagined listening to the chirping sounds of the birds in the wild, and the burble of the waterfalls, bubbling over the mossy rocks. I had imagined myself on top of the pine tree with my signature yoga tree pose, wearing my fave sports attire complete with running cap and hydration pack vest, and donning an “intriguing” costume. I had simulated the exhilaration of ‘forest bathing’ while hiking through the mountain range. I even had envisioned an Instagrammable photo at the peak, and the viral feedback it could garner once I posted it on social media.
It feels funny now on hindsight, but never did I imagine the arduous climb itself.
Because the plan (to do the climb before 2023 ended) was half-baked, I was not able to put in time to train hard for it. Eventually, I was mentally- and physically-challenged by Dec. 29.
My local guide, fellow 116-kilometer ultramarathon finisher Edgar Balandaca, and I started climbing Mt. Talinis while the moon was still up so I assumed we were going to have a perfect weather (although as they say, “No one can predict the weather nowadays.”) The weather changes drastically at high elevations.
Halfway up, it started to drizzle, enough to wet our clothes once we reached the summit. The trail was muddy, and slippery, and we had almost- zero visibility.
The Apolong Trail (coming in from Limottakna) is the longest, and considered by many as one of the harder trails going up, being almost 95% cliff.
The climb started smoothly — with me simply excited and in high spirits, but I was shattered by the reality that I needed to plod through unpredictable terrains of rocks of varying sizes, huge roots, fallen trees, thick wads of dried leaves, bushes sticking out; and that I needed to cross rivers that would soak my shoes. (I’m not too fond of soggy shoes.)
Even as a long distance runner, I would still find myself catching my breath as the elevation went higher and higher. I was just thinking, “When will this ever end?”
Climbing over giant roots, stepping over rocks covered with thick moss, and skipping over fallen tree trunks and heavy branches, I needed both hands to grip on anything hard and stable to pull myself up. I outbalanced myself many times (without calling the attention of my patient guide) but my usual valiant personality kept telling me to get up, and press on.
Guide Edmar’s favorite line: “Okay pa ka, Ma’am Jas?” to which I would always answer: “Yes, payrrr!”
Treacherous as it looks, I responded to the challenge of conquering Mt. Talinis “just for a day hike” by trekking the longest and toughest trail — as if the mountain had cast an enchanting spell over me.
My eyes enjoyed feasting on the different flora along the way. I took photos and one-minute videos along the way, and before long, I would be trailing behind Edmar. (No Spotify playlist for me so I could enjoy fully the natural sounds from the forest.)
First side trip. Almost halfway to the summit, we reached the untamed Twin Falls. I was mesmerized by its unique cascading of water. Just like twins, sometimes they are fraternal. Each waterfall has its unique features. The first waterfall is slender, and looks like a long slide in a public swimming pool. The second is grandeur-looking, and displayed an exquisite beauty that captures the imagination and evokes a sense of tranquility even as it produced a thunderous roar. The rushing sound of the Twin Falls seemed to create for me a symphony of nature’s power.
Second side trip. After being surrounded by green bushes and leaves for hours, I was shocked by the scenery of the Kaipohan Sulfur Vents before me. The trees looked burned, as if they came from the forked flames of the campfire, though the soil is white and yellowish. A scene from an old horror movie crossed my mind. The thick fog around made it look scarier. (On our way down, Guide Edmar actually asked me if I wanted to make another stop at the sulfur area; I vehemently declined.)
Third side trip. It was more foggy by the time we passed by Lake Nailig, so I wasn’t able to appreciate much the “mighty and slow-moving” body of water. As I was trying to intently look at the fog-covered, gleaming Nailig, it evoked for me a profound sense of peace but also a tinge of melancholy. Maybe because it is seldom visited, Lake Nailig appeared desolate, with its motionless interior.
Fourth side trip: On our way out of the forest, Guide Edmar suggested another trail which, he said, is actually shorter but that we needed to cross “Mossy River” three times. We trekked through an almost-abandoned route called Yayang’s Trail. The bushy area is made up of Gantao ferns and other wild types of ferns.
While hiking down, Edmar was actually clearing the trail as it clearly had not been used for some time now; so from then on, I would refer to it as “Edmar’s Trail” as he was literally trailblazing this route.
While crawling on my knees on Edmar’s Trail as the piled-up dried leaves were too slippery, I was bitten by several ants, almost regretting that I agreed to take this supposedly shorter route. (The uphill route seemed shorter for me, although it was indeed very steep, and filled with too many crags.)
But when a Mossy River flaunted itself before my eyes, I was mesmerized once again. The scenery — which one only sees in tourism posters/postcards — was surreal, making me forget whatever exhaustion I was feeling that time. The assymetrical riverbank, the balance of the rocks, and the symbolism they projected looked like the river was landscaped and constantly maintained by meticulous Japanese garden masters. The rocks were covered with plentiful moss, and flowing through them were intricate trills as the water murmured in a shallow area. The Mossy River sounded like it was reciting a sweet poem for me then singing a melody, while water flowed onward to her destiny.
The zenith. The mystical-looking pine trees with intertwined roots added to the summit’s attraction of Mt. Talinis. It overhangs on a precipice, just enough to give one a better look of Lake Nailig.
At 6,243 feet above sea level, the cold fog embraced me, making me shiver, I could hardly open my mouth. (I was slightly shaking while having our lunch.)
The peak of Mt.Talinis is considered an “upper montane forest” or mossy forest. All the trees are almost covered with club moss. Even though I was shaking, still I got the chance for a pictorial (but not with my fave attire and intriguing costume as I had played in my mind).
We hang around, and waited for almost two hours for a clear window to appreciate the view of Lake Nailig but dark clouds continued to hide the sun. We gave up, and decided to begin our descent, as we were also racing against the sunset.
Getting down. Descending from the peak is a critical aspect of any outdoor adventure, demanding a strategic approach to ensure safety and efficiency. The descent involves a combination of physical technique, environmental awareness, and careful planning.
During our descent form Mt. Talinis, I tried to maintain proper body position, although I knew sliding is inevitable. I always think about safety measures, and am always extra-cautious around cliffs, ledges, and loose rocks.
Respecting the forest is a fundamental aspect of mountain descents. Adhering to the principles of “Leave No Trace” helps minimize the climbers’ impact on the ecosystem, and preserve the natural beauty of the surroundings.
If going up Mt. Talinis was unlimited “uphell”, there was also unlimited “downhell” — as runners normally refer to arduous routes.
After about 13 full hours within the Mt.Talinis range, I finally got a glimpse of the night lights of Dumaguete City from afar and above.
The agony. After about 30 minutes of downhill backriding in a motorcycle from Limotakna in Apolong, Valencia, I reached my hotel in Dumaguete — drenched and trembling in exhaustion. My arms and legs were too stiff and tired, I couldn’t even get out of my wet clothes; my daughter had to assist me. The next days saw me walking with a limp.
Because I had promised my daughter this vacation, we crossed to the next island, and strolled Siquijor, suffering from soreness on my hands and feet and legs. (Pamaol pa more).
I concluded that the body pains I experienced from climbing Mt. Talinis was double in intensity compared to the physical pains I endured after running my first 53-kilometer ultramarathon.
So would those pains stop me from climbing mountains again? Not at all.
The joy. The happiness experienced at the summit is multi-faceted. There is the physical exhilaration, the rush of endorphins, and the sheer pride in conquering a formidable peak like Mt. Talinis.
Beyond the tangible rewards however, lies a deeper, more profound sense of fulfillment. A joy born from the realization that one has ventured beyond her comfort zone, embraced the unknown, and emerged victorious. I conquered Mt. Talinis in 13 hours.
Conquering Mt. Talinis is a celebration of my human spirit’s ability to persevere, adapt, and triumph over adversity. It is a reminder that challenges are not obstacles to be feared but opportunities for growth and self-discovery.
The joy of standing at the summit, and climbing the signature pine tree are testaments to the resilience of the human spirit, a celebration of the relentless pursuit of goals, and a recognition of the beauty that lies in the journey itself.
In conquering a mountain, I find it not just a physical triumph but a profound and enduring sense of joy that resonates within the core of my being.
Only gratitude. I would like to take this chance to thank local guide Edmar Balandaca who turned out to be an “all- in-one” kind of guide. He offered to carry my DSLR camera and power bank, on top of his already-full backpack complete with a First Aid kit; he acted as my photo-documentor, videographer, porter, and driver. When Irma Faith Pal referred me to Edmar as their perfect guide when they also went up to Talinis years back, she said I would be safe with Edmar as he’s also a registered nurse who would watch out for our physical well-being while climbing. So indeed, I was confident that Edmar was my guide.
I give back all the honor and glory to our Almighty for the guidance, protection, and provision during the entire climb. (Passing by the Rancho on our way home, some campers there, who opted to settle down first before making it to the summit, kindly offered us nilung-ag na saging which actually sustained us for the next three hours.)
Passion. I now agree that indeed, the sport of mountain climbing is not for everyone. Definitely not for the faint-hearted because the mountains can be ruthless, although the prize it offers is beyond anyone’s imagination.
Mountain climbing is an unconventional and dangerous hobby or sport. It is challenging and rewarding as well. Physically, it strengthens your muscles and increases your stamina. Mentally, it can alleviate symptoms of depression. As a high-intensity activity, it requires your full attention which could divert your mind from other problems.
Studies reveal that mountain climbing greatly improves mental health. It also breaks down social barriers. It exposes us to people from all walks of life.
But for me, climbing is a passion for answering the lure of the mountain.
The author is a loving wife and a doting mother to their unica hija. In most of her running races, she goes by the bib name ‘AtletangGuro’ being a teacher of the Department of Education at the Sicayab National High School, and a visiting lecturer at the Jose Rizal Memorial State University in Dipolog City. In December 2023, she completed the 116-kilometer ultramarathon from Dumaguete to Guihulngan, her farthest distance to date.
Author’s email: [email protected]