Off my Bucket List, On my Brag List: The highest, The Farthest, The Most Difficult and The Most Beautiful Mountains

December 26, 2010 Mountain Climbing

Completing my bucket list of mountains, I'm concluding the first decade of the new millennium with a bang. 

Here's a roundup of my adventures from 2000 to 2010, featuring the highest, the farthest, the most difficult, and the most eventful.

The Highest List

Mt. Apo (Kapatagan-Kidapawan traverse)

As the highest mountain in the Philippines, Mt. Apo has much to offer. What captivates me most about this majestic peak is its diverse terrain, with the boulder fields standing out as my personal favorite, despite the pervasive scent of sulfur in the air.

The first glimpse of the boulders emerging from the mossy forest creates a truly dramatic scene. I also appreciate the wilderness ambiance of Goody Goody camp, the passage through swampland leading to Venado, the Boracay lunch camp nestled in the heart of the boulders, and, of course, the river crossing at Agco River.

However, one aspect that left me disappointed was the behavior of some guides. Constant reminders were necessary to ensure they adhered to the "leave no trace" principle. Sadly, Goody Goody campsite was marred by the presence of empty bottles, detracting from its natural beauty.

Mt. Kinabalu

Mt. Kinabalu, ranking as the 20th tallest mountain globally, marks my highest climb to date and represents my sole international climbing endeavor.

The journey from the Tipohon gate to the Laban Rata rest house, standing at 3,270 meters, spanned an entire day. Along the way, we encountered porters carrying an array of supplies, even a toilet seat.

To our surprise, dinner buffet service awaited us at the Laban Rata rest house, catching us off guard as we had brought our own provisions.

On the second day, we reached the summit shortly after sunrise, reveling in the breathtaking views from the summit plateau. Although we could have spent hours there, the freezing temperatures and the line of other climbers waiting for their summit photos prompted us to descend.

The descent took over 6 hours, leading us back to the jump-off point. Despite the ensuing muscle soreness, the entire experience proved to be immensely rewarding.

Mt. Kanlaon

My most recent triumph, Mt. Kanlaon, stands as the highest peak in the Visayas. This mountain holds special significance for me, akin to a home mountain, as my mom hails from the nearby city of San Carlos, where I spent numerous vacations gazing at the grandeur of Mt. Kanlaon.

An active volcano with an elevation of 2,435 meters, our three-day hike along the Mapot-Mananawin Trail was marked by an exhilarating e-camp at Makawiwili Peak, a chilly camp at the shoulder, and numerous thrilling slides down the Mananawin Trail.

Mt. Pulag

Standing proudly at 2,292 meters, Mt. Pulag reigns as the highest peak in Luzon and, in my opinion, one of the most picturesque mountains. Its popularity extends far beyond the mountaineering community, capturing the fascination of all who yearn to witness the famed sea of clouds, traverse the enchanting dwarf bamboo groves, and explore the mystical mossy forest.

I've undertaken several successful ascents via the executive trail, via the Ambangeg-Ambangeg route, and with each climb, Mt. Pulag never ceases to amaze and inspire me.

The Farthest

Mt. Iraya

On my initial visit to Batanes, I made a silent pledge to return and conquer Mt. Iraya—and fulfill it, I did. The summit of Mt. Iraya, towering at an elevation of 1009 meters, treated us to unparalleled, sweeping vistas of Batan and the neighboring islands.

Fortune favored us with clear skies, a splendid reward following the strenuous ascent through Mt. Iraya's dense forest, particularly the challenging last 30-45 minutes.

The most difficult
Mt. Halcon

They say you're not a true Pinoy mountaineer until you've conquered Halcon. For me, it was the most well-deserved round of "congratulations" and welcoming hugs. Ah, the memories of how we stirred the mountaineering community with this climb, and the warmth I received from my fellow mountaineer friends still lingers.

Halcon is undeniably challenging, but its myriad surprises more than compensate for the effort. Its varied landscapes, dense forests, numerous waterfalls, majestic rivers, and breathtaking views make Halcon an irresistible lure for mountaineers.

Moreover, Halcon holds a special place in my heart as a host to many firsts—the first limatic experience, the first time witnessing a moonrise, and yes, even the first time taking care of business in the mountains. Haha!

The Most Beautiful List

Mt. Talinis

The ethereal landscapes of Mt. Talinis transport you to a realm that feels almost otherworldly. The sulfur forest, with its haunting ambiance, creates an atmosphere that's truly out of this world. The twin crater lakes, Balinsasayao's Lake Nailig and Lake Yagumyum, add a touch of magic to the scenery.

The trails, winding through Mt. Talinis' diverse flora and fauna, are nothing short of fascinating, often bordering on the surreal. Known as Cuernos de Negros or the horns of Negros, Mt. Talinis stands proudly as the second-highest peak in the Visayas, reaching an elevation of 1,903 meters.

Mt. Ugo

The enchanting scent and majestic sight of pine trees dominate the landscape of Mt. Ugo, as if a meticulous gardener carefully arranged them to create a breathtaking panorama. Nestled in the heart of the Cordillera region, Mt. Ugo holds a special place in my heart, as it serves as the birthplace of Trails to Empower Kids (TREK).

At the summit, where the air is crisp and chilly, you'll be treated to awe-inspiring views of the major Cordillera mountains. The traverse of Mt. Ugo spans two to three days, navigating through occasionally challenging trails that weave through Indupit, Domolpos, and Lusod Village. And, who knows, you might even have the pleasure of crossing paths with Clarabelle.

Mt. Kabunian

As majestic as its namesake deity, Mt. Kabunian stands as the most renowned peak among the trio of Bacun mountains. Named after the highest deity in Kankaney mythology, Kabunian, this mountain boasts unparalleled beauty.

Along the trail, near its summit, one encounters a captivating sight—wooden coffins affixed to the side of the summit's walls, echoing the rich cultural history of the region. The panoramic views from the trail are expansive, accompanied by the cool and refreshing mountain breeze that graces every step of the ascent.

My Most Memorable
Mt. Bulusan

In a stroke of fortunate timing, I seized the opportunity to camp at Mt. Bulusan just before its recent eruption. Our ascent commenced rather late, following nearly 24 hours of land travel from Manila to the jump-off point. Thankfully, the trail proved to be less challenging than expected.

Upon reaching the expansive campsite, we were greeted by a handful of already pitched tents. The cool weather, intermittent rain, and a peaceful night's sleep set the stage for a memorable camping experience beneath the dormant majesty of Mt. Bulusan.

My most difficult minor climb
Mt. Kalisungan

Climbing Mt. Kalisungan with Guys4Mountain was challenging, yet equally enjoyable and rewarding. 

Our expedition leader, Edwin, ensured an early start for a prime campsite, allowing us to witness a beautiful sunset over the seven lakes of San Pablo from the summit. 

Despite challenges during the descent, like slippery trails and insects, the stunning scenery made the entire experience worthwhile. The Mt. Kalisungan climb with Guys4Mountain was another memorable adventure.

Other Good Travels