Revisiting Mt. Talinis

Revisiting a mountain can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, there is the familiarity and comfort of returning to a place you know and love. On the other hand, there is the possibility that the magic of the first visit may have faded. It’s a balance between the excitement of rediscovery and the anxiety of being let down. Revisiting Mt. Talinis for the third time falls into the latter category – all because I made the ultimate mistake of underestimating the mountain.

Mt. Talinis is considered one of the toughest mountains to hike in the country. It is not the hardest, but even for experienced climbers, it can be an exhausting, knee-breaking trek. From the entry point in Apolong, Valencia, it takes anywhere from 7-12 hours to reach the summit crater lake. It takes another 40 minutes to an hour to reach the highest point of the mountain.

I did the Apolong out and back trail in 2016 and then the Apolong-Bediao trail in 2019. The Apolong out-and-back trail is the longer route so understandably, we had to do a 3-day climb. The Bediao exit is much shorter so a 2-day climb is manageable. So I chose the Apolong-Bediao trail and decided to just do a 2-day climb in preparation for my Mt. Apo trip.

I was overly confident to climb this time because I already knew what to expect. After all, I had already climbed the mountain twice before. Boy, was I wrong! This is Cuernos de Negros we’re dealing with, the effing horns of Negros!

To Valencia

The day started at around 5:30 AM when the driver of our chartered multi-cab fetched us in Bacong, Negros Oriental. I had specifically arranged this chartered transport prior to the trip because public transportation bound for Valencia can be a little challenging, especially at dawn. There are jeepneys that can take you to Valencia but then you still need to find a habal-habal that could take you to the entry point in Valencia.

It took about 30 minutes to reach Valencia where we met up with our guide and porter. The introductions were brief and it was time to go!

The moderate incline at the beginning, the gradual change in elevation, and the beautiful view of Apo Island from a distance – as I said, I already knew what to expect. I even knew exactly where the water sources were located.

After a few hours of steady hiking, we reached the halfway point at around noon. The place is called the guard house where there is a small hut, a dining area, a water source, and a bathroom for the hikers to use. The guard house is one of the few spots in Mt. Talinis where forest rangers can spend the night.

We rested for a while, ate lunch, and had a short break before continuing the hike.

Twin Falls, Camp Rancho, and Kaipuhan Sulfur Vents

If it were up to me, I would have skipped Twin Falls and proceeded immediately to Camp Rancho. But since it was my sister and her boyfriend’s first time in Mt. Talinis, it would be such a big miss if they can’t witness the beauty of these majestic waterfalls. So we paid a brief visit to the infamous Twin Falls and took some before heading back to the trail going to Camp Rancho. 


Eventually, we reached Camp Rancho and took a quick break. If we had initially planned for a 3-day climb, Camp Rancho would have been the perfect campsite that day. The sky was clear and there was no one else other than some cats and chickens in the nearby hut. 

But we felt like superhumans that day so we resumed our hike and off we went to the Kaipuhan Sulfur Vents. If there’s one word to describe this place, it’s otherworldly. The bleached rocks and dead trees surrounding the bubbling sulfur vents are eerily beautiful. Standing in the midst of it all makes one think you are the only living thing in this barren landscape. We only spent a few minutes in the sulfur vents because inhaling the rotten egg smell of sulfur can be harmful at high levels. 


The seemingly endless, knee-breaking ascent to the summit crater lake

The final ascent is brutal with steep inclines and constant climbing. It’s the same uphill climb all the way to the lake. My legs were heavy, my back was aching, and my lungs were burning. I expected this brutal ascent but what I didn’t quite expect were the changes in the trail. As far as I can remember in my first two climbs, Lake Nailig, which is the summit crater lake, was only about 2 or 3 hours away from the sulfur vents. Only this time, the trail changed because of Typhoon Odette a little more than a year ago. I was told that because there were so many fallen trees, they had to make another trail going to Lake Nailig.

After 11 hours of grueling climb, we finally reached the lake. So damn tired, but so damn grateful because we arrived at the summit crater lake with all our bones intact.


We immediately set up our camp in a newly cleared area. Lake Nailig is still a beauty. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for the campsite area. There were a lot of fallen trees, probably some remnants of Typhoon Odette, or probably the area was purposely cleared to make a bigger campsite. I will never know for sure. I was too tired to ask.

The rest of the evening was pretty much uneventful. After dinner, we immediately went inside our tents to sleep. There was one more thing to do the next day and that was to climb the final ascent to the highest elevation.

A clear view of the mountains is all about luck.

A friend said that to me a long time ago. I don’t believe much in luck, only this time I started to think he might be right. After almost an hour of hiking on tree roots, we finally reached the iconic centennial Maribojoc tree at the highest point. Unfortunately, the fog was thick and impenetrable.

I climbed Talinis three times, and I still didn’t get a clear view from the top. It was as if the mountain was laughing at my efforts. Our guide, Jason, even went further to joke around. “You’ll finally get a clear view, probably on your 10th climb”, he quipped.

With a view or not, it was still an achievement to have reached the summit once again.

The long way home

We descended and went back to the campsite for breakfast. At around 10 AM, we broke camp and said goodbye to Nailig. Bediao Trail, as far as I can remember, is shorter than Apolong. The same difficulty, but shorter. It only took me four hours to reach the exit point last time. Unfortunately, we were surprised to find out that a big portion of the old trail was now impassable. Much of it was part of private property which has now been sold to a new owner. There were rumors going around that a viewing deck will be built there.

So we had to literally circle around to a new trail which was extremely steep and dangerous. The agonizing descent took longer than we expected. It took us almost 7 hours to reach the exit point. My feet were throbbing, but luckily, my knees cooperated the entire time. I almost cried when I finally saw the multi-cab driver waiting for us.

Revisiting Mt. Talinis made me question myself again

On the way back to Dumaguete City, I asked myself why do I keep on subjecting myself to such knee-breaking climbs like this? But I think the answer is obvious. Life in the lowlands doesn’t make me feel alive enough.