“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for?” You are damn right, Robert Browning. I’m taking that to heart with this list of mountains I want to climb. I’ve only been climbing regularly for a little over a year so most of these peaks are way beyond my current capabilities. Still, I never imagined I could do a D2K traverse or reach the summit of Guiting-Guiting but by some miraculous twist of fate, I did. So I guess it doesn’t hurt to be a tad overambitious. At the very least, it would be fun to see just how far you could go.
1. Mantalingajan, Palawan
Mantalingajan is the highest peak in Palawan and is said to be one of the most challenging climbs in the country. The back-trail route normally takes five days (although one mountaineering group did it in three days) while the traverse could take 6-7 days.
As I’ve mentioned before, this was the mountain I missed out on a couple of months ago. I had to call off the climb three days before ascent due to various reasons that were beyond my control. I still feel a pang of disappointment over it but, like all things in life that don’t go your way, you’ve got to take it in stride and hope that you’ll have a better shot next time. I’ll get my shot one of these days.
2. Victoria, Palawan
It’s no coincidence that number 2 on my list is another mountain in Palawan. The province has a lot of peaks that have barely been explored and the level of biodiversity in its forests is astounding. Mt. Victoria figured in international news in 2009 with the discovery of an endemic pitcher plant the media branded as a giant rat-eating carnivore. This sounds crazy cool except that the experts who discovered the species didn’t find an actual rodent in it. The pitcher, which has a volume of at least 1.5 liters, might end up trapping rats and other vertebrate prey inside but this would be accidental and rare. Insects are still the main diet of these carnivorous plants.
Stewart McPherson, a member of the three-man team who discovered Nepenthes attenboroughii (named after British broadcaster and naturalist David Attenborough), wrote an account of their climb. Incidentally, I was able to meet Volker Heinrich, another member of the team, during my first trip to Bukidnon last year. I stayed in the pitcher plant farm he owns and got an informative lecture on these fascinating carnivores.
Digression aside, it would be great to climb Mt. Victoria if only for the chance to see the famous pitcher plant that three European nerds trailblazed to discover.
3. White Peak, Compostela Valley
I’m not a believer in love at first sight but it always happens to me as far as mountains are concerned. I saw photos of White Peak on a random blog post and immediately decided to put it on my climb list. I’ll worry about how to survive when I get there. A lot of experienced Mindanaoan mountaineers say it is a very grueling climb and one they wouldn’t care to go back to for a second try. There were talks of scarce water sources, difficult trails and holy-shit-what-have-I-gotten-myself-into moments.
4. Hamiguitan, Davao Oriental
Two words: pygmy forest. I’m actually sold on any kind of forest but one that’s full of century-old, natural bonsai trees sounds pretty awesome.
The soil in the pygmy forest contains high concentration of heavy metal compounds such as iron and magnesium, which makes it infertile and habitable only to certain plant species. This ultramafic soil (yes, it has a fancy name) also contributes to the stunted growth of trees. The almaciga for instance, an endemic evergreen tree which normally grows up to 65 meters, only has an average height of 2.4 meters in Hamiguitan’s pygmy forest.
I wanted to climb this mountain when I was in Davao Oriental last month but it was closed for evaluation as a UNESCO heritage site. Locals say it will probably open next year. I’ll be there for the ribbon-cutting.
5. Sumagaya-Lumot traverse, Misamis Oriental
Lumot literally means moss. Mt. Sumagaya and its secondary peak are known for their thick mossy forests and I could just imagine how amazing they are. Mossy forests have an added allure of looking magical and other-worldly. The forests of Dulang-Dulang and Kalatungan have often been compared, albeit with more than a hint of exaggeration, to Fangorn in The Lord of the Rings and the forests of Pandora in Avatar. Anyhow, why settle for CGI when you can see places like these for real?
Mt. Sumagaya became prominent, however, for a more tragic reason. It was the crash site of Cebu Pacific Flight 387. The Cagayan De Oro-bound plane slammed into its slopes on February 2, 1998. All 104 people on board were killed. Today a shrine stands at the foot of the mountain, serving as a memorial for the victims.
6. Pantaron, Bukidnon
I have this ambition of climbing as many mountains in Bukidnon as I can just because. I’ve climbed three so far and I’m hoping this could be my fourth. I learned about this mountain through the Kitanglad Integrated NGOs, a local non-government group that works with indigenous peoples in the province. My exposure with them gave me a greater appreciation of the cultural and sociological aspects of the mountains in Bukidnon. KIN is currently working with the Matigsalug tribe in the town of San Fernando at the base of the Pantaron mountain range.
A climb of Mt. Pantaron is not feasible at this time though. According to local contacts, security conditions are unstable due to armed insurgency activities in the area. I’m still keeping this one on my list and hoping that it won’t remain a pipe dream for long.
7. Madjaas, Antique
This is arguably the highest peak in Panay Island and I’m half-Ilongga so I thought it’d be cool to climb a mountain in my mother’s birthplace. (That barely makes any sense but I’m just throwing around random reasons at this point.) I could practice my rusty Ilonggo and 10 words of Karay-a (the local language in Antique and in parts of Iloilo and Capiz) while meandering on the trail.
As with all mountains on this list, Mt. Madjaas is a demanding climb. Mountaineers tell of sweltering treks on open trails, slogging through thick vegetation in the forest, and careful maneuvering on the edges of ravines and ridges. Here’s hoping the rewards would be just as incredible.
8. Kanlaon, Negros Occidental
I met someone from Bacolod a few months ago who won’t stop raving about how beautiful Mt. Kanlaon is. He happens to be a great vegetarian cook (he managed to make me like veggie meat, which I usually abhor) and I had a blast talking to him in Ilonggo (which I rarely get to do these days) so of course, I believed him. It’s a rule: people’s credibility increases a thousand fold if they bribe me with food and speak my family’s native language. Also, other mountaineers who’ve been to Kanlaon have confirmed that it is indeed stunning.
The mountain is an active volcano, however, and has claimed the lives of seven mountaineers in an unexpected eruption in 1996. It was closed in February 2012 when cracks appeared on the crater following a magnitude-6.9 earthquake in the Visayas.
9. Halcon, Oriental Mindoro
I may finally find it worthy to call myself a mountaineer if I get around to summiting this mountain. Halcon has gained a reputation for testing the mettle of even the most seasoned climbers. The treks are long and arduous, and the weather is highly volatile. A number of mountaineers have died while attempting this climb, a testament to the inherent risks of mountaineering that should not be taken lightly. Halcon is still officially closed for climbing but there has been news that it is set to open in 2013.
10. Pulag, Benguet
Yes, I’m the loser who hasn’t climbed Mt. Pulag yet. It is one of the most popular climbs in the country; nearly every weekend is booked with climbers attempting to reach Luzon’s highest peak. Even some of my friends who aren’t mountaineers have already been there. Whenever I mention this in mountaineering circles, I often get a look of pity and disbelief.
“Talaga, di ka pa nakapag-Pulag? (Really, you haven’t been to Pulag?),” some would say with barely concealed condescension. One guy haughtily responded with “Ako limang beses na (I’ve been there five times).” He may have been expecting a medal for that or something.
So, if only to shed off my loser status, I would really really like to climb Pulag and get a picture of that sea of clouds everyone is harping about.
After I check these mountains off my list, maybe then I’d have the nerve to go big time and attempt to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro or the Matterhorn (yeah, right). What’s on your list of dream climbs?