My Top 10 Dream Climbs in the Philippines

“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

Mt. Hamiguitan

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?

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78 thoughts on “My Top 10 Dream Climbs in the Philippines

  1. mzsura

    Kilimanjaro would be awesome. My sister in law did it a few yrs ago and i was bummed we couldn’t make it that time. Hopefully soon!

    Reply
          1. Nix Ocampo Pelekai

            mam may pulag ung mga frens ko s sep 29-30 ambangeg trail and u can join them if u want kc may 2 slots p n available. share ko n din syo it nmin s manta + contact persons ng manta and sicapoo. sn mameet kita s trail someday. i’m a fan 🙂

            Reply
            1. Tintin Post author

              Maraming salamat sir! Di ko pa nga lang sigurado sched ko sa last week of September kaya di rin ako maka-confirm pa. Pero sobrang thanks sa invite at sa IT and contacts! May mga naging kaibigan din akong mountaineers nung nasa Palawan ako, grupo nina Sir Mayo at Japong. Mas fan mo ako, sir. Nakapag-Manta ka na at traverse pa. Idol! Hope to climb with you someday, siguro pag bumilis-bilis na ang pacing ko para di naman masyadong nakakahiya at di ako maiwan sa trail. Hehe.

    1. Tintin Post author

      Well, one reason is halos lahat ng mga kaibigan kong climbers ay nakapag-Pulag na so sa ibang bundok na yung mga organized climbs. Ang mahal naman umakyat ng Pulag na solo lang. Hanap muna siguro ako ng grupong masasabitan. 🙂

      Reply
  2. flydaniel

    parehas tayo, gusto ko din akyatin kilimanjaro at yung bundok sa box ng toblerone haha. kaso sobrang extreme na yung matterhorn… kaya siguro kahit matanaw ko lang sya sa malayo ok nako 🙂

    Reply
    1. Tintin Post author

      Di pa ako nakapag-Apo sir. Gusto ko rin maakyat yun pero di lang sya kasama sa top 10. Balita ko kasi andami pa rin ng basura sa mga campsites tsaka hindi maayos ang park management ng bundok. Kaya di ako excited magbayad ng OA sa pagkamahal-mahal na permit fee tapos di maganda ang management.

      Reply
    1. jebuzinjamonk

      @Ivan lakwatsero, e hardcore kasi itong blogger na eto. Pang Bigtime kumbaga, isipin mo na lang Mt. Matterhorn, the ultimate Alps Mountain … 😉 hehehe Ano, ituloy na natin yung Tapulao sasamahan kita para dalawa na tayo maligaw..hehe

      Reply
      1. Tintin Post author

        Anuba, itigil na yang “hardcore” echos. Makukutusan na kita. At yung Matterhorn hirit ay tinatawag na joke. Kelangan talaga seryosohin? 😛 Sige, pati yung Palali mo. Akyat tayo Sunday? Not necessarily Tapulao or Palali, yung medyo malapit lang. OR another Maktrav attempt. Hahaha!

        Reply
        1. jebuzinjamonk

          hahaha… pambihira talaga yang Maktrav na yan! Una, yung invite mo naudlot, next time naman invite ko naman naudlot. I owe you that Maktrav na yan but not this Sunday meron akong social event eh… pwede Monday if you want para matapos na Maktrav na yan.. hahaha Ano? Game.. 🙂

          Reply
    1. Tintin Post author

      Oo tara! Nag-aaya nga si Mac sa Holy Week daw. Kaso yun ang sched ng HLGG for Babuyan Islands diba. Anyhow, maaakyat din natin yan sa malao’t madali. 😀

      Reply
      1. judy

        tara tin sa kanlaon- nka booked na ko for dumaguete june 2-6, ’13 (salamat sa piso base fare). wala pa akong kasama 🙂

        Reply
        1. Tintin Post author

          Wow! Kagagaling ko lang din ng Dumaguete. Ganda ng Mt. Talinis. Sige, we’ll see. My travel plans aren’t that far along yet. Hehe.

          Reply
    1. jebuzinjamonk

      Kenjo, Sir if you have local contacts on Mt. HilongHilong(2102MASL) we can set it up in the near future… Malvar trail is popular in the MFPI and would take 5days itenerary to the peak. Currently, local tourism allowed 6-10 pax per climb. I am already including this mountain in this Northeastern part of Mindanao(near in my hometown) in my bucket lists of mountains to climb. This mountain from Diwata Ranges is the highest peak of CARAGA.

      By the way Sir, are you from Cabadbaran City?

      Reply
      1. Kenjo

        Nope, I’m from Butuan which is about 30 minutes away from Cabadbaran, but I’m studying in Manila. I have contacts for another famous mountain in the region – Mt Magdiwata – I’ll ask if they know someone from Cabadbaran or if they can arrange a climb. I have sent PMs to environmental advocacy groups, Sak A Mountaineers (from) Cabadbaran and two other local mountaineers. So far, only (the rather uniquitous) Arnel Pasilan has replied.

        Dream climb ko to kasi nasa region ko, and I heard there are 7 falls in the area. The mountain has also been the subject of several biological studies and have been visited by local and international scientists.

        Kelan nyo po balak? Ngayon December sana ako kaso nagka signal number 1 dito last week. Weather here in Caraga is erratic, but it is usually sunny during summer. Baka gusto nyo po sumama? Plano ko rin po kasi Magdiwata and D2K also on summer para sulit ang bakasyon. 😀

        Reply
        1. jebuzinjamonk

          Sir during summer by April cguro. naakyat ko na rin ang Mt. MagDiwata sa San Franz. But as of now, dili pa yata ginapasakaan ang Mt. Magdiwata due to several issues on illegal mining on the area… Taga San Franz man ko. Weather in Caraga by this time until March is not good since tag ulan man nga season karon. as you know there are only two season in our place, wet and very wet… :)) much better time is mid-april talaga…. Invite me in Sir kung may sched po kayo sa Mt. Hilong2…

          Reply
          1. Tintin Post author

            Makikisingit lang sa usapan mga sir. 😀 Sama nyo naman ako diyan! Ngayon ko lang narinig yang Hilong-Hilong at Magdiwata. Pasuruya sad ko sa inyong mga baryo. Hehe. Tapos side trip tayo sa bayan namin, akyat tayo Matutum. 😀

            Reply
            1. jebuzinjamonk

              Sure Madam hardcore, you’re already in the no.1 list of the invitees. The group of Zambo mountaineers are already expressing their eagerness to join the climb & to discover the 7falls on the way to the peak of Mt. HilongHilong…yay! 🙂 taralets!

  3. Kenjo

    We’re all from Mindanao pala. Haha. Sure let’s sched Mt HilongHilong on April. ^_^

    Supposedly may anniv climb to Magdiwata today kaso nacancel dahil sa ulan – but from what I heard from the organizer mukhang pwede naman.

    Reply
      1. Kenjo

        Juancho Vicente, SAFMOC President. Baka kakilala mo at may mas malakas kang convincing powers na ituloy ang hike asap. Mukhang maaraw naman na diba?

        Meron pa akong contact na mountaineer from Butuan, na may contact din sa San Franz. Sana matuloy kasi malapit na akong umalis 😥

        Reply
  4. jebuzinjamonk

    Mt. Hilong-Hilong, 2,102 MASL; Straddling over the eastern portion of Cabadbaran and RTR is Agusan del Norte and Caraga’s highest peak. Seven major waterfalls, an ancient rock art, a carpet of giant white anthuriums, still undetermined number of virgin caves, nesting site of the critically endangered Philippine Eagle, habitat of the Philippine wildcat, flying squirrel, tarsier , and microscopic flower not found anywhere else in the Philippines (German botanist circa 1920) are just some of its main features. By degree of difficulty, it is recommended to climbers with intermediate and expert skills only. A climb to the peak via Malvar Trail takes 4 ½ to 5 days. This mystical mountain was venue to the 17th national MFPI mid-year climb in 2002.

    Reply
  5. jebuzinjamonk

    FYI lang: Mt. Hilong-hilong, situated in the Diwata Range, is the highest peak in Northeastern Mindanao with an elevation of 2,102 meters above sea level. A favorite destination of mountain climbers, Mt. Hilong-hilong is known for its pristine waterfalls, a lake and as a confirmed nesting site of the critically endangered Philippine eagle. This mountain is near the boundaries of Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur and Surigao del Sur provinces.

    Reply
  6. jebuzinjamonk

    The most prominent geographical feauture around CARAGA region would easily go to Mt. Hilong-Hilong, rising up to 2,102 feet makes it as the second tallest in the island of Mindanao.This tall mountain forms a vital part of the Diwata Mountain Ranges….a system of mountains that forms the Agusan Valley. The mountains’ height makes an important natural shield for Butuan from fierce Pacific storms coming in from Surigao. Its majestic views can be viewed from all corners around the region. The mountain is a perfect destination for the trekkers, climbers and adventurers who would want to discover its various waterfalls and enchanting lakes.

    Reply
  7. jebuzinjamonk

    Madam, pacensya na po sa sudden burst of excitement kaya nakapag post bigla dito sa blog mo… Anyways, just consider it as promotional campaign na lang po etong post sa bundok na yaon. Excited lang po masyado…Cyensa na po. you can delete it po if you find it an undesirable posts. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Tintin Post author

      Nagulat nga ako sa haba ng thread dito eh. May nag-aadik lang. Hahaha! Sus ngayon ka pa nahiya. Eh lagi naman nating ginagawang chatroom ang comments section dito. Go lang! 😛

      Reply
  8. LouiePac

    very good read. You might want to try Mt. Melibingoy (Mt parker), at the summit. I’m pretty sure you’ve been to its caldera na. Kapitbahay mo lang yan. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Tintin Post author

      Never been there, sadly. Yung mga malalapit pa sa Gensan ang di ko naaakyat. Mahirap kasi magpaalam when I’m at home. My parents freak out whenever I tell them na aakyat akong bundok. Hehe.

      Reply
  9. malds

    Nice list :). Ako dream ko right now Kanlaon. Just finished Apo nung nakaraang Holy Week and malaking pasalamat ko natapos ko sya lol. Ang sakit ng paa ko after. Pinagpapawisan ako maglakad lang haha.

    My friends who are a lot more experienced than me said we should plan for Kanlaon naman but since a lot of us are working (well them, ako student pa hehe) baka next year pa namin magawa ulit. Kelangan kasi nila mag leave para maka-akyat ng medyo matagalan. We’re thinking of doing Mt Purgatory sa Bokod next month tho. 2 days lang para makabalik as trabaho agad mga kasama ko.

    And re dun sa comment mo sa taas about Mt apo na madaming basura, ganun pa din :(. Yun yung panira sa napaganda kong experience lol.

    Nabigla nga ako na ganun, kakalungkot highest na nga in the Philippines and ang laki ng bayad para makaakyat di man lang nila maregulate ng maayos yung climbers.

    And kadamidami ng porters sana na pwede bayaran ng gobyerno para magbaba ng basura di nila ginagawa. Really sad.

    Reply
    1. judy

      malds, if i may reply sa post mo: hindi kailangan ng gobyerno magbayad sa mga porters para lang magbaba ng mga basura ng mga iresponsableng hikers. dapat sila (mga hikers) mismo ang magbaba ng sarili nilang mga basura…o kaya sa registration palang, ma remind sila na gawin ito…or better still, ung mga guides at porters na kasama nila, dapat hindi sila pababain hanggat hindi nila dala ang sarili nilang mga basura.
      dami talagang gustong umakyat ng bundok pero mga walang karapatan!

      Reply
  10. alvin cristal

    ,hi mam dalawa s n banget m n pontahan kona ung white peak at hamiguitan. pero pnakgusto kong akyatin sna halcon.

    Reply
    1. Tintin Post author

      Astig sir. Inaantay ko pa rin magbukas ang Hamiguitan. Balita ko nasira raw trail ng White Peak after daanan ng bagyo. Sana pwede pa rin akyatin in the future.

      Reply

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