A Tale of two mountains

April 29, 2013 Mountain Climbing

(published at Commuter Express, April 26)

I have climbed many mountains but there are two I am most fond of -- Mt. Apo, the country's highest peak and Mt. Pulag, Luzon's highest.

Of course, there is so much pride and joy in being to able to stand proudly at the country's rooftop. But, that is not the only reason why I fell in love with Mt. Apo.

It took us three days to traverse Mt. Apo, using the traditional Kapatagan to Kidapawan trail, but during those days, I was filled with awe marveling at different sights. We were treated to a variety of terrains like mossy forests, lakes, swampland and rivers. The boulders, which lead to the summit, were my personal highlight. Bouldering was difficult, especially with the stench of sulfur wafting in the air, but it was a really unique sight to behold. Plus, we got to pick and eat wild berries.

Mt. Pulag, on the other hand, has been the inspiration of many photographs and subject of a lot of travel stories. Its summit is like a mirror of heaven, where we get to stand on top of the clouds. Aside from the sea of clouds, Mt. Pulag's mossy forest and grasslands are equally beautiful. Freezing and waking up to catch the sunrise are all part of the experience.

Writer Aldous Huxley said, “My father considered a walk among the mountains as the equivalent of churchgoing.” That is Mt. Pulag for me.

The Impact of Tourism

Sadly though, our sanctuaries have been suffering the impact of the deluge of tourists, not just mountaineers.

A few weeks ago, mountaineers were alarmed at the plans to construct step trails ascending to the peak of Mt. Apo. The project proponents said that the plan would curb further destruction of the natural park.

Similarly, photos of the current trails conditions of Mt. Pulag were posted and reposted online. These were heartbreaking and a lot of mountaineers, including me, got emotional about this. It really breaks our hearts to see the effects of irresponsible climbers on the mountains we respect so much. It is like they completely ignored the Department of Environment and Natural Resources' briefing on mountain climbing.

It is simple, leave no trace. Any climber with a heart doesn't need to be reminded, but sadly it must come to this.

Mountaineering Summit

It would be an eventful gathering of the Mountaineering Federation of the Philippines this weekend and I expect there will be extensive talks on the Mt. Apo step trails project and hopefully, the Mt, Pulag rehabilitation project. The 35th Annual Congress will be held at the Samal Island in Davao from April 25-28, 2013. I just pray for enough guidance and wisdom for all the participants as they discuss the fate of the mountains we love.

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