The numerous karst formations that we see during our trips are some of the most overlooked natural treasures in the Philippines. Not only do they add beauty and awe to the already amazing landscape, they also form an integral part of the ecosystem in that area. They serve as immovable buffers against strong winds. But for avid rock climbers like us, these beautiful formations are challenging and exciting venues to partake in our beloved sport.
There are now a number of top-quality sport climbing crags all over the country. To name a few, there’s the massive Atimonan crag in Luzon. There are the lovely Cantabaco and Poog crags in Cebu. Iloilo has its own exceptional white rock in Igbaras. So, you can just imagine our hardly contained squeals of delight, joy, and excitement when we learned that Quezon, Bukidnon has its own bolted crag! Mindanao, the Land of Promise and a huge island known for its indescribable beauty, has its own rock climbing venue!
Following a hearty lunch after our vertical bivouac adventure, we decided to check out the Kiokong sport climbing crag, a small but high-quality crag very near the big wall. In fact, it is just a 10-minute leisurely hike away from the main road, and a 5-minute hike away from the huge Kiokong White Rock Wall.
Check out that beautiful, high-quality limestone wall! It even has some sort of a natural rock “stage” that serves as a belaying station, a platform for selfies, a lunch table, a bed, and more.
Here’s another view of the Kiokong sport climbing crag. As you can see, with its many features, it has a lot of potential for the development of easy, moderate, and hard lines.
The crag is easily accessible via a well-established trail that is used by local farmers and woodcutters who reside in the area. According to Mark, the Kioking crag was first bolted way back in 2001 when sport climbing was still in its infancy here in our country. At that time, the lack of popularity, equipment, and support forced Mark to abandon the project.
Now, the sport of rock climbing has made a rapid comeback. It was time to re-bolt the crag, which Mark and his team did in the last few years.
If you want a little more comfortable resting area, you can hike a little further and relax in this nice bamboo bench and table. The area is quite shady and cool and keeps your mind off the crag for a little while. Just make sure you don’t sleep away the afternoon; the place has some sort of mystical power to lull you to sleep.
There is a notable absence of huecos (we call them through-and-throughs) in the crag. Thus, all routes are protected with stainless steel expansion bolts.
Jboy and Vincent, the local sport climbing guides, have their own top-quality equipment, so climbers who don’t have their own gear wouldn’t have to worry.
All of us were pleasantly drained after our adrenaline-pumping vertical bivouac adventure and our delicious and hearty lunch. With a rather lethargic mindset, we decided to climb an easy 5.8-graded route.
The first bolt is quite far from the ground, which presents a potential ground fall. For safety, Jboy offered to climb so he could clip the first bolt.
See how high the first bolt is? With the quickdraw safely clipped to the bolt, I donned my harness and prepared myself to lead climb the route.
With large pockets and comfortable jugs, the route was definitely beginner-friendly and fun to climb. Footholds are also very sturdy.
Halfway through the route, the rock face cants to a slight overhang, which adds to the challenge. Numerous tufas, slopers, crimps, and knobs adorn the rock face.
Presently, there are 6 single-pitch routes in this crag and one multi-pitch (3 pitches) at the far end of the crag. With the growing popularity of sport climbing, Adventure Technology Outfitters is now planning to equip the crag with 20 to 30 routes.
Jboy worked on the route that I just lead climbed. He showed me a variation that they usually do, an ascent on a smoother space with less handholds and poor footholds. Yes, he is a strong climber! We learned from Mark that both Jboy and Vince are competitive climbers who have won in various comps. Wow!
The present routes are graded YDS 5.8 to 5.11. Expect a variety of graded routes soon.
After Jboy went down, Sweetie climbed the route top rope. Go, Sweetie, go! Her biggest challenge was not the climb itself; it was to unclip the quickdraws. You know that Sweetie is quite short, so the draws were almost out of reach for her.
Here’s a great view of the crag. As you can see, it’s slightly overhanging, so a fall is quite safe. The belay area is shady and adequate. And if you love to listen to the sound of nature, you would not be disappointed. The constant song of rushing water from the Pulangi river below us will serenade you as you climb.
We were simply too tired and too full to try out other routes. Blame it on the afterglow of the adrenaline rush of the vertical bivouac experience and the pleasant feeling of our tummies being full of our wonderful lunch. Hehehe!
After deciding to call it an afternoon, Vince climbed up to retrieve the draws and clean the route. Routes are equipped with bolted quicklinks where climbers can thread their rope to rig a rappel line.
Thank you very much, Vince and Jboy (not in the photo because he has to leave early) for introducing us to your lovely crag and assisting us in our climbs! You guys are definitely awesome guides!
Overheated after a climbing session? Sweating it out under the sun’s heat? Don’t worry. This adventure park has another wonderful—and refreshing—surprise for you!
Mark and Donnie had to do something before we head back to Valencia City where we were staying for the duration of our adventure. Since there was still plenty of time, Sweetie and I decided to go down to a secret spot in Kiokong where we can freshen up and cool down before our ride home.
To reach this secret spot, we needed to go down these slippery, steep steps towards the riverbank of the Pulangi River.
Pulangi River is a fast-flowing river that stretches 320 miles across Central Mindanao. It is the longest river in the province of Bukindon and is one of the main tributaries of the Rio Grande de Mindanao system.
Tall, overhanging limestone cliffs adorn one side of the river. This would have been a great venue for deep water soloing if not for the roiling river and the huge boulders immediately below the cliff.
The river flows through major municipalities and towns in Bukidnon. It is an important source of water for irrigation and drinking.
The Kiokong White Rock Wall is visible from the riverbank.
To get to this secret spot, we had to climb and descend over slippery boulders as large as cars and houses. We need to be careful because in some places, we can fall directly into the river. We don’t want to be swept away, do we?
After scrambling up and down the river-born boulders, we came across this strange hole in the cliff. A different echoing sound reverberated in this cavern.
Wow! After entering the cavern, we came across this beautiful fast-flowing underground stream. It was like a forbidding but enchanting gateway to the Underworld.
Locals call this hole Blue Water; you’ll see why in a few moments.
Isn’t that lovely? The name Blue Water comes from the fact that the deep pool inside the cavern is colored blue-green. The water is quite chilly, and it will refresh you to the bones.
Do not swim at the whitewater part of the pool. There’s an unseen sinkhole at the bottom of it; if a person is caught in that sinkhole, there’s a very real danger of drowning.
When we came in, sunlight entered the cavern at the right angle, making the water seem to glow. The source of this pure, clean, cool water comes deep inside those unexplored caves.
When swimming in these pool, be extra careful. The middle of the pool is quite deep, and the undercurrent is strong. In fact, we stayed near the side, ensuring that we only ventured to waist-deep water. Needless to say, do not venture inside the cave without proper equipment and the right training.
The magnificent and pure limestone karst formations in Kiokong are truly world-class rock climbing destinations. In time, with the wholehearted support from the LGU as well as the national and local climbing community, that vision of today will become a reality tomorrow. We will see, meet, and make friends with great rock climbers all over the globe. Who knows, we might get an actual visit from Adam Ondra, Sierra Blair-Coyle, Tommy Caldwell, and other world-renowned climbers!
More importantly, developing quality routes in these cliffs will increase adventure tourism and put verdant Bukidnon into the global spotlight of rock climbing.
Getting to Kiokong Crag
- If you’re from Cagayan de Oro, ride a regular bus bound for Davao and drop off right after the Pulangui Bridge at the boundary of Kiuntod, Camp 1, Maramag and San Jose, Quezon. Expect 4 to 4.5 hours of travel time.
- If you are departing from Davao, ride a regular bus going to Cagayan de Oro and tell the driver that you need to get off before the Pulangui Bridge at the border of San Jose, Quezon and Kiuntod, Camp 1, Maramag. Expect 3 to 4 hours of travel time.
We’re not sure how much the bus rates are for these routes. However, it shouldn’t be more than P 250 for any of these trips.
For those with private vehicles, you can park your car at the parking space in front of the staging area at the visitor’s center. The center is also equipped with a toilet and shower room for convenience.
Once you get off at the visitor’s center of Kiokong Eco-Tourism park, pay the entrance fee and follow the trail to the crag. The crag is at the left side of the trail.
- P 50 – Kiokong Eco-Tourism park fee
- P 300 per person** – rock climbing only with complete gear rental and guideship service
- P 300 per person ** – bridge rappelling only with complete gear rental and and guideship service
- P 500 per person ** – rock climbing and bridge rappelling with complete gear rental and guideship service
If you bring your own equipment and climbing partner and you are adequately trained and skilled in rock climbing, you can climb the crag without paying the guide fee. However, you still need to pay the park fee for maintenance.
* Unless indicated, these rates are in a per-person basis. We did not include our expenses for meals, snacks, tips, and other fees in this rate sheet as you may have different needs, preferences, itineraries, miscellaneous transportation, and sharing scheme from us. Note that all figures are subject to change without prior notice.
**All rates, excluding the entrance fee, requires a minimum of 5 persons.
1. For guideship services, get in touch with local guide Jboy Sanchez at 0906-8482057. You can also find him on Facebook; just type in his name in the search field.
You can also contact local Tourism Officer Judith Laspinas for more information about tourism in Quezon.
2. All routes are equipped with two-bolt anchors; the bolts are adjacent to each other with one slightly higher than the other. Routes are not equipped with descending rings. Thus, you need to clip two quickdraws—one with a short runner and the other one with a long one—to set up an anchor.
3. To get down, you need to set up a rappel. All routes are equipped with bolted quicklinks in which you can thread your rope.
4. As of the moment, there are 6 single-pitch routes and 1 multi-pitch (3 pitches) route in the Kiokong crag. But Adventure Technology Outfitters is now planning to equip the crag with 20 to 30 more routes of various difficulties now that sport climbing is slowly but steadily becoming popular. We should, therefore, see more routes in the near future.
5. The present routes are graded YDS 5.8 to 5.11. However, as more routes are added, so will the variety of grades. The ATO team is planning to put a good mixture of easy, moderate, and hard routes.
6. Since the crag is relatively new, we still don’t have a topo for it. We will publish the topo in the blog once we get one from Adventure Technology Outfitters.
7. The crag is solid limestone, but loose rocks still present some danger. We recommend wearing climbing helmets to protect your head from falling debris.
8. We strongly suggest that you bring packed meals since the carenderias, restaurants, and eateries are far from the park. As of the present, there is just one sari-sari store across the park. Or, if you have a portable burner, you can buy ingredients at CDO, Davao, Malaybalay, Maramag, Valencia, or some other place and cook your meals at the site.
9. Although there are plenty of lodging houses, inns, and hotels in Valencia and Maramag, there are none in the immediate vicinity of the park. Thus, you might want to camp in the Kiokong Eco-Tourism Park; there’s a nice campsite just 5 minutes away from the crag.
10. Don’t forget to register at the visitor’s center. It is proper etiquette, and it allows the LGU to track visitors in case of emergencies.
11. Keep the crag clean, and follow the Leave No Trace principles. In addition, check our previous post regarding rock climbing etiquette.
Just because the photos look cool and fun does not mean that you can take climbing lightly. Climbing is inherently DANGEROUS! Every time you climb, your life and the life of your partner hang in the balance. There are only three things that will happen in climbing: you succeed, you get seriously injured, or you die. Your safety depends on you and SOLELY on you! Thus before you go out there, it is vitally important that you get some basic training on climbing principles, techniques, and safety first.
Visit a local indoor climbing gym to practice for a few sessions before heading out to the big rock wall. You should also get training from professional guides. Although blogs (including ours), books, tutorial videos, and articles could be a good source of information, you should find a certified climbing instructor to properly coach you through the sport. We got our training from Cantabaco’s guides and climbing instructors, and even if then, we’re still learning. Let us be clear on one thing: we are NOT climbing instructors.