The Heights and Depths of Our Three-Day Mt. Pangasugan Climb

Mt. Pangasugan, Baybay City, Leyte

Mt. Pangasugan was a dream waiting to happen. Deemed “The Last Frontier in Eastern Visayas”, this notorious mountain range has been hibernating on the waiting list—yearning for the day that it’d become a reality.

It all began almost a decade ago when I first stepped into Baybay City, Leyte, the hometown of our OG travel buddy, Badeth. Back then, we were just crazy weekend travelers who were seeking an escape from the demands of work—wanting to take a breather from the fast-paced life of the Queen City.

Armed with nothing but crazy youthful energies, we were able to explore the humble city and its neighboring towns. But one destination remains far-fetched with every visit we make: Mt. Pangasugan. The hopes of scaling this towering mountain dwindled further when Badeth declared her decision to cease hiking after our successful ascent to Mt. Hibok-hibok in Camiguin, claiming she was too old for all these shenanigans.

Unexpected Invite to Mt. Pangasugan

Two weeks prior to the scheduled climb, Shiela invited me to join their Mt. Pangasugan three-day hike. Of course, the initial reaction was to say yes. But it was too short notice. I was already bound for Lanao del Sur—and I was uncertain whether my body would be up for a major climb the following week.

Parang Spartan Trail lang. XD

However, I think fate had other things in mind. The trip to Lanao del Sur was postponed—and so there I was, together with Alton and Kimmy, boarded on that 8pm boat trip to Baybay City. Hailing from Mahaplag, Shiela met us at the terminal where we had our breakfast and prepared our lunch and other last-minute buys before we began our climb to Mt. Pangasugan.

Day 1: Rivertrek to Hammock Campsite

From Baybay City terminal, we traveled to Barangay Kilim where we ventured on a rough habal-habal ride going to the jumpoff at the Nursery (Leyte Reforestation Project-CSVFA Office and Nursery). There we met our guide Sir Felbert Polea and porter.

Jumpoff at Nursery with porter-guide

After signing the waiver and paying the environmental fee, we then began the five-kilometer upstream river trek going to the hammock campsite. But what we thought was a regular river trek turned out to include bouldering and direct ascents on areas that are impossible to cross. It is to note that the trails used by hikers pre-pandemic were no longer accessible because of the destruction brought about by Typhoon Odette and Agaton.

Welcome to Mt. Pangasugan unli-river trek HAHA

Personally, the trek was a struggle because it was the first time that I’d hiked with a heavy load. If you’ve been following the rantings of this blog, you’ve probably known how I’ve been scammed to transition and join road and trail runs—events that are highly supported by marshals and aid stations.

Nakadaug raman tawn siya nako HAHA
Kaya pa besh?

I even thought that my last major climb to Mt. Hamiguitan in 2019 would be the end of this hiking craze. But here we are, carrying once again what seemed to be the weight of the world.

We arrived at the hammock campsite past lunch. There we began setting up our hammocks. Compared to most major climbing destinations, Mt. Pangasugan does not have a big flat campsite area to accommodate tents. Hence, the preference for hammocks and flysheets.

Katong wala pa mi idea nga one day ra diay ni magamit nga hammock XD

For someone who used to have motion sickness, I’m not really sold out with hammocks. I don’t even own one. But thanks to Jet and Tribu Kutod, I was able to secure a trusted hammock for the event. We went on to prepare dinner and slept early, knowing that we had so much to cover the day after.

Day 2: Unexpected Twists and Turns of Our Mt. Pangasigan Major Climb

I’m not certain if it’s fatigue, but I slept well on my first overnight hammock experience. We were awakened by Shiela’s morning call, asking us to prepare breakfast and lunch, as well as to get ready for the hike to Mt. Pangasugan’s summit.

The hike began with a direct ascent to Garapata Avenue. After catching up with our breathing, we continued the hike to Luwak Peak, which is infested with limatiks, ticks, mosquitoes, and, from time to time, sightings of vipers.

Baging and ugat sa kahoy combo. HOTDL
Kita ka ana? Di pa na mao.
Hello, good morning!

My least favorite part of the hike was traversing through mountains via landslide areas. Like, you literally scramble through loose soil, hold on to shallow-rooted plants, and navigate your way around cliffs. Of all the days, I also forgot to bring gloves. Hence left with no choice, I had to hang on to my dear life to those rattan spines.

Limatiks ready to attack.

So, here’s the scenario: you step on loose soil and hold on to those rattan plants while the limatiks feast on your face and arms and the fire ants on your legs and hands. Yes, welcome to Mt. Pangasugan.

Lunch at campsite. Last meal of the day. HAHA.

We reached the original campsite, Cambasio Campsite, by lunch, and after eating, we then commenced with the last two segments of the hike: bouldering upstream and a final assault to Pangasugan Peak via Marabong Ridge.

Wild boar skull.
One of the many dart frogs found while river trekking.
Agaton aftermath.

This is where the epic part of the hike comes in. In the initial itinerary, we were expected to arrive by 1pm. However, because of some unavoidable circumstances, we arrived at 5pm. That means, we must cover 14 kilometers back to where we left our hammocks and hiking packs—with no dinner and snacks at hand.

Finally, summit’s viewdeck.
Mandatory group picture at the peak. “Manaka gyud tag peak kay di nata mamalik diri.” XD

Marathon Math would say it’s possible to be back at the campsite by midnight. But our depleting energy and headlamp say otherwise. By ten in the evening, most of the members of the group decided to do an emergency camp. Felbert was able to locate a hidden cave, where we stayed until daylight.

Emergency camp inside that batcave. “May pang mga kwaknit niuli na. Kita, natrap pa.”

Damped from the other day’s hike, fog began to creep its way up the mountainside, enveloping the streams and peaks in an ethereal embrace. Simply put, it was cold. I’m not one to shiver right away but that night, it was inevitable. While Alton immediately succumbed to sleep, Shiela, Kimmy, and I huddled to radiate warmth and hopefully survive the next day.

Day 3: TRAIL RUN Back to Campsite

Past midnight, the cold became even more unbearable.  And time, as they say, slowed down as we waited. Patience became our greatest adversary. As most of you know, patience is my weakest attribute.

I tried my best to feign sleep, but it becomes increasingly elusive the more I attempt to surrender. And so, I waited. I must finish what I started. While most view this as an inconvenience, I reckoned us fortunate to have been blessed with such fine weather nonetheless—no storm, no heavy downpour. The skies were clear. All we have to do is to wait.

Despite the lack of sleep, we began the journey back to our campsite at the break of dawn. Thanks to my limited experience in trail running—which usually starts late at night until the next day—I was still able to catch up with our guide.

But this does not hold true for my fellow hikers. Deprived of both dinner and breakfast, they struggled to persevere on the hike back to the campsite. Halfway, they asked the guide and me to go ahead so that we could prepare food once they arrived.

Summoning my final reserves of energy, we hastened our pace, fortunate that the path was downhill, aiding our progress. And just when we were about to reach the campsite, the porter, who was supposed to guide the rest of the pack came behind us announcing that the rest of the group decided to take a full stop. Exhausted and drained of energy, they chose to wait for food before making their way back to the campsite.

In an instant, the guide and I partnered to whisk food for everyone upon arriving at the campsite at ten in the morning. It is noted that I don’t usually cook either at home or during camp. I grew up with parents who used to sell food and a brother who’s working in the food industry. So, we have to manage with whatever I’m capable of preparing. HAHA.

By two in the afternoon, the rest of the group arrived. With a boat back to Cebu to catch, I asked permission to go ahead of the group, afraid that might not be able to report back to work the next day. Since it was going downstream, we finished the river trek back to the Nursery by four in the afternoon.

Thank you for guiding us and keeping us safe all through the three-day hike.

I waited for an hour, hoping that the rest of the group could still catch up but to no avail. The guide met them halfway while I proceeded to meet Badeth. My journey to Mt. Pangasugan began with Badeth—and so it is but proper that the story ended with her, as well. I crashed their Mother’s Day celebration before they drove me to the port by eight—the same time the group arrived at the Nursery.

OG FlipFlips Gang. Salamat sa pag-adopt ug pagpa-gatecrash sa inyong Mother’s Day.

Mt. Pangasugan: A Climb to Remember

I’m not the fastest hiker. Neither was I the strongest. But here’s what I’ve always committed to: I always finish what I start (bahalag ma-DNF HAHA). I’m a firm believer that conviction does win. And so, we must not fall like most tragedies that begin red hot only to fizzle out at the end. Because far more important than passion, it’s perseverance that allows us to move from one milestone to another.

Mt. Pangasugan is not for the faint of hearts. And I guess I finally understood why Badeth never dreamt of scaling this mountain—even locals who used to guide hikers up the summit have resigned from the job and opted to work in construction or as habal-habal drivers. The mountain is such a formidable foe: from its unique terrains to the plants and animals that inhabit the forested area. As Kim puts it: “Wala may dili delikado aning dapita.”

The three of them rated Mt. Pangasugan as their most difficult climb yet. With the limited experience I have, I think all mountains are hard to scale. They all present inherent challenges, be it the diverse terrains, unpredictable weather conditions, demanding physical preparations, and intricate logistics. Yet, it is precisely these aspects that captivate us and fuel our enthusiasm—that’s why we like it.

On top of the view, it’s the experience that keeps us wanting for more: the friendships forged, memories gained, lessons learned, and eventually, stories to look back on. Recalling everything, we all feel amused by those what we thought were near-death experiences—when we thought we’d die of hunger, snake bite, or hypothermia. Truly, there are certain notions that are later overturned when reality hits.

I’m forever grateful to Shiela, Kimmy, and Alton for allowing me to experience and reconcile with all these thoughts during our Mt. Pangasugan climb. My first hammock camping was memorable because of all of you—on top of the bonding experience we had inside the cave.

Lubot sa barko. Mandatory group pic at this natural structure. Yes, there’s a cave in the middle of that gigantic rock formation. Calling out those rock climbers out there! Here’s your adventure.

Of course, all this was made possible because of our guide and porter. Each climb unfolds a unique narrative, yet it is the first instance where I witnessed individuals who were truly in their element amidst the mountains—as if it were their natural playground. To consider Mt. Pangasugan their playground is a testament to the remarkable strength of their spirit. May our climb not be their last. Hehe.

Salamat kaayo sa inyong pagpasensya. Hinaot nga grasyahan pa kamo sa Kahitas-an. :)

Now, should we revert to major climbs? Or should we continue scamming with road and trail run? Hmm.

Mt. Pangasugan Itinerary

Day 0

  • 8pm – ETD from Cebu Pier 3 (Lapu-Lapu Shipping MV Rosalia) bound for Baybay City (Online Booking here)

Day 1

  • 3am – ETA Baybay City
  • 6am – Meetup at Baybay City Terminal/ Breakfast/ Last-minute Purchase of Camping Essentials
  • 7:30am – Cienda-Nursery/ Jumpoff
  • 8:00am – Start of Trek
  • 12noon – Lunch on Trail
  • 1pm – Arrive at Campsite/Setup Hammock
  • 4pm – Prepare Dinner
  • 6pm – Dinner and Socials

Day 2

  • 4am – Wakeup Call/Prepare Breakfast
  • 7am – Ascent to Garapata Avenue/ Luwak Peak
  • 12nn – Lunch at Cambasiao Campsite
  • 1pm – Assault to Pangasugan Peak via Marabong Ridge
  • 5pm – ETA Pangasugan Peak
  • 6pm – Start Descend
  • 10pm – Emergency Camp at Cave

Day 3

  • 4am – Start of Trek to Cambasiao Campsite
  • 10am – Arrive at Hammock Campsite
  • 2pm – Trek back to Nursery
  • 4pm – ETA Nursery

Important Notes if You’re Planning to Climb Mt. Pangasugan

  • Mt. Pangasugan is not beginner-friendly. It is advisable to do pre-climbs (or other major climbs) prior to hiking Mt. Pangasugan.
  • According to our guide, Mt. Pangasugan was coined from the word “pangaso” or hunting. This is a literal hunting ground among many locals. The biodiversity of Mt. Pangasugan is very rich. Hence, it is expected to see a lot of vipers, wild boars, poisonous frogs, and many other species.
  • As mentioned, I forgot to bring gloves with me. So, imagine the battle scars I brought home with me. Therefore, make sure to wear armguard and gloves with you. This will also serve as protection against hantik and limatik—though the latter will intentionally enter whichever part of your clothing is accessible to it.
  • You will literally do river trekking from the beginning until the foot of the summit. So, if you’re not comfortable with your shoes getting drenched in water, do wear reliable trekking sandals.
  • Mt. Pangasugan is not open all year round. Facing the Pacific, Eastern Visayas is prone to typhoons and heavy rains. Therefore, major climbs are usually scheduled during the dry season (February to May).
  • For guideship, feel free to contact Felbert Polea. He is the current president of the Mt. Pangasugan Guides.