The online portal for hiking in the Philippines, Pinoy Mountaineer has the most comprehensive list of guides for mountains and outdoor destinations in the country, as well as bulletins to keep you updated with the local mountaineering scene. This blog is authored by Gideon Lasco, physician, anthropologist, writer, and environmental advocate.
BAGUIO CITY – One of my favourite Cordillera hikes is none other than Mt. Ugo – I have climbed this mountain at least six times from 2008 onwards; the memorable ones include the Ugo-Pulag traverse in 2013 and an Ugo traverse dayhike in 2015. It’s been four years since that latter hike and it’s only now that I managed to find the chance to go back and do it again, this time as another dayhike but to and from Brgy. Tinongdan in Itogon. For this latest Ugo dayhike, I was joined by good friends Coby, Daryl, and Christine.
Fortunately, we had great weather all the way up – and auspiciously, we were welcomed by a furry dog in Lusod village. It’s always refreshing to see animals in or along the trail, and “Chewy” tried to join us but to his (and our) disappointment, he was forbidden to do so by the local folks!
Unlike the Kayapa trail that is now accessible by habal-habal for the most part, the Tinongdan trail has retained its original glory and we were hiking through pine forests – with scenic views – throughout much of the ascent to the summit. The only change is that vehicles can now reach Km. 3 of the trail running signposts from the barangay hall; even so, the hike still involved around 13 kilometres each way. With a 1400-meter attitude gain, the ascent is comparable to Pulag via Akiki.
Thankfully we had great conversations along the way, leading me to conclude, and later post, that “laughter is the best trail food”. Bar a trio of hikers who were descending, we had the trail to ourselves – another bonus of going to Ugo instead of the more popular Cordillera trails. After 7.5 hours of hiking we were all at the summit of Mt. Ugo, which now had a marker that says 2220 MASL: I dispute this reading; based on multiple and independent sources the elevation of Ugo is closer to 2160 meters.
Rainfall at the summit signalled to us that it was time to descend, and so we traced our path which this time around had turned into a stream. Thankfully, the heavy rains did not last and in its stead was a beautiful mist that enveloped the pine forest. What a great Ugo dayhike! Although prices have gone up (there’s now a P200 registration fee, plus P1000 guide fee), Mt. Ugo remains a hiker’s paradise and I wish it would stay that way for many years to come.
After doing Mt. Ibuki and Mt. Nosaka, we proceeded to the highlight of the trip – a hike up Mt. Odaigahara (大台ヶ原山) at the border of Mie and Nara prefectures. At 1695 MASL it is not as high as the mountains of the Japanese Alps but it is majestic in its own right, earning the distinction of being part of a UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Reserve.
Odaigahara is an easy hike but poses some logistical challenges for public transport: the once or twice-daily bus runs only on certain months- and one must take a Kintetsu train from Osaka’s Abenobashi station prior to boarding the bus. But once there, the rewards are abundantly clear.
Passing through the Uemichi path and its gentle ascent, we first headed to the main peak – Hidegatake – 1695 meters above sea level. As this is the summit of Odaigahara, my arrival there marked the completion of my 25th Hyakumeizan – one quarter of the 100 Famous Mountains of Japan!
From Hidegatake, we passed through the dwarf bamboo, as well as the blighted spruce and cypress trees of Masakitoge and Masakigahara. This is a very scenic part – I don’t mind hiking endlessly in such a beautiful scene!
As one final highlight we visited Daijakura Rock, a cliff-like viewpoint. From that point we took the longer route back to the parking lot, making it in time for the 1430H bus – but because it was Golden Week and there were so many people we had to wait for the next bus.
Odaigahara is a very easy hike and even with the extended course and numerous stops we managed to compete the trek in less than 4 hours – the travel time took longer than the hike itself. But it lives up to my expectation of the Hyakumeizan – and makes me more excited to pursue more of the 100, hopefully in the coming summer! Thank you Jeion Paguio, Tokyo-based Filipino hiker, for joining me in the three hikes!
0709 Shin-Osaka to Yamatokamiichi via Tennoji, Osakaabenobashi
0851 ETA Yamatokamiichi
0900 Kamiichi Bus stop no. 1 -> Odaigahara
1051 ETA Odaigahara. Start trek
1430 Finish proper.
1530 ETD Odaigahara
1721 Back at Yamatokamiichi.
1738 take train to Osaka
1920 ETA Shin-Osaka
A day after the hike up Mt. Ibuki we decided to rest and just to visit Kobe and Uji – two places in Kansai famous for beef and matcha, respectively. The following day, however, we resumed our hiking with a relaxing dayhike up Mt. Nosaka ((野坂岳) in Fukui, Japan. Although it’s just 914 MASL, one starts near sea level, making it still a worthy hike. From Shin-Osaka we took a train to Fukui and then took another train to Awano station; from Awano we walked up the road to a campground and then started the hike proper from there.
The hike was thoroughly pleasant; the trail was well established and there were no real difficulties as we hiked up a beautiful forest of beeches and other interesting trees (there were some leftover sakura). As we ascended, Lake Biwa came into view with the surrounding mountains.
Three smaller peaks presaged our arrival at the summit proper, which offered nice views of the Hira Mountains as well as Mt. Ibuki itself and its distinctive dome shape. Although it lacks the grandeur of many of the Hyakumeizan, Mt. Nosaka turned out to be a worthy stop – especially if you’re already in the area.
OSAKA – As part of my series of birthday hikes I went back to Japan to continue my Hyakumeizan quest. Joining me was Jeion Paguio, a friend I have in common with the Sarreal brothers – and someone I’ve hiked with since 2008 (Mt. Amuyao). The goal was to hike at least two of the Kansai Hyakumeizan and do some sidetrips armed with a JR Kansai pass.
On our first hiking day we took the train to Maibara, where we changed to Ominagaoka; we then to took a bus to the trailhead of Mt. Ibuki. At 1377 meters, this mountain is famous for its dome shape and its heavy snowfall – unfortunately we were too late in the season to catch the last of the snow.
From Ibuki, the hike was actually quite straightforward and as it was Golden Week, there were many hikers along the way. There were numerous switchbacks on the way up, typical of many Japanese mountains. Also typical is the fact that there are different “stations” that allow you to gauge your progress. Overall, it took us around four hours to reach the summit.
The summit was a big and there were a lot of people – owing in large part to the fact that there’s actually a road that cuts the walking time to just 20 minutes for those who don’t want to hike. Of course, we took the long route, and like the Japanese, I don’t have any problem in having an easy and a difficult trail co-existing for different people as long as the mountain is kept clean.
0730 Shin-Osaka to Maibara, Maibara to Ominagaoka
0845 0Bus to trailhead
0901 Trailhead of Mt. Ibuki. Start of trek
1432 Take bus back to Ominagaoka
1448 Back at Ominagaoka
1531 Leave Ominagaoka
1626 ETA Shin-Osaka
Yet another limestone-filled dayhike in Rizal is Nagpatong Rock in Brgy. Cuyambao, Tanay. This hiking destination is not really a mountain per se but nonetheless is a nice and easy trek, beyond the scenery atop the impressive rock at the end. Last April 27, 2019, I joined UNHCR and Trail Adventours for a hike that aimed to raise awareness about refugees and other displaced persons.
Leading the hike was Atom Araullo, with whom I had been planning a hike since last year; I was also glad to be reunited with my Visayan Voyage buddies Coby and Guido Sarreal, old hiking buddy Javi Cang, bloggers like Angel Juarez and Ferdz Decena, as well as media and UNHCR representatives.
The hike was really straightforward and. pleasantly enough, passes through shaded woodland sections – despite some exposed areas. It takes just an hour or even less to reach the ‘base camp’ before climbing up the rock.
The only inconvenience was queuing up the series of ladders, ropes to climb up ‘Nagpatong Rock’ itself. This can lead to considerable delays especially when hiking on weekends – one has to go up really early, or hike on weekdays. Factoring in the delays, one can get stuck for 30-60 minutes before being allowed to climb up.
The rock formation, however, is quite rewarding, offering views of the Tanay mountains including Irid and Tukduang Banoi. Hikers who want more considerable latitude gain will be left disappointed, but I can understand why it’s on the list of people who just want to spend some time with nature. It’s also worth noting that one can continue on to Mt. Masungki as part of a loop hike: it will only take 1.5-2 hours to get to the summit, and around the same time to return to the trailhead – for a longer day.
It has been 10 years since thefirst Amputee Climb in Mt. Batulao and I am glad that many amputees, and PWDS in general, are discovering the outdoors as a meaningful, enjoyable, empowering place. Alongside Mu Sigma Phi and Physicians for Peace, one of the long-time advocacies of Pinoy Mountaineer has been to make the outdoors an inclusive place, and to help normalize disability by enabling PWDs to climb mountains.
Last April 13, 2019, I had the opportunity to hike again with our friends in the Adaptive Climbers of the Philippines (Mon, Al, Alex), as well as my Mu Sigma Phi brods, who have continued the commitment to support this initiative. This time, our destination was not very far from Batulao where it all started: Mt. Talamitam, at 630 MASL an old hiker’s favorite.
Hiking Talamitam was a breeze; it eventually got very hot but it was well worth it – especially for Veneranda Mateo and Henry Ballas who were hiking for the first time! Kudos to everyone for your advocacy and dedication. Let’s continue to make the outdoors an inclusive place, and let’s keep trying to normalize disability in all aspects of life!
For mountaineers, movement is a matter of pursuit and pleasure – but for many others it is a matter of escape and hardship. This is particularly true for refugees fleeing violence, persecution, famine, or disaster: the UNHCR – the UN Refugee Agency – estimates that people refugees cover a combined distance of 2 billion kilometres every year just to get out of harm’s way. Despite the fact that this kind of struggle is found around the world, refugee issues are unfortunately marginalized in public discourse.
The “2 Billion Kilometers to Safety campaign” seeks to change this through the symbolic – but meaningful – act of counting the distance one covers in recreational activities like running, hiking, or cycling – and adding it to a worldwide tally that seeks to match the distance refugees travel: the above-mentioned figure of 2 billion kilometres. Aside from showing solidarity with refuges (hence, the hashtag #StepWithRefugees), the campaign seeks to raise public awareness as well as financial resources for refugees around the world.
Pinoy Mountaineer joined UNHCR and their outdoor partner, Trail Adventours, as well as bloggers and media reporters in Nagpatong Rock last April 27, 2019 to learn more about this campaign. Atom Araullo, UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, shared his personal experiences covering refugee communities, stressing that the Philippines, particularly Mindanao, has a lot of internally-displaced persons – making it an important national concern. He adds that the coming decades might see another category – climate refugees – among which many Filipino might be numbered, given our vulnerability as an island nation. The Philippines has a long history of welcoming people seeking refuge in our archipelago – and hopefully the UNHCR campaign both of this past as well as a future for which we must take responsibility.
For more information about the #StepWithRefugees initiative, click this link.
Pinoy Mountaineer with UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Atom Araullo, who talked about the importance of raising awareness regarding refugees around the world.
Pinoy Mountaineer is pleased to announce that the 6th National Mountain Cleanup Day will be held on June 15, 2019, with the theme: “Clean Mountains for a Cleaner Philippines“. The logo, created by Wey dela Peña, links the event with the Independence Day commemoration, signifying the inexorable links between the nation, the environment, and ordinary citizens. The rationale for this activity was expressed in the occasion of the first NMCD in 2014:
It is nice to hear people say “ Tapat mo, linis mo” – clean up your backyard. But what about the mountains, and what about the forests; the open spaces between your place and mine? This mentality can clean up houses and backyards, but not nations, but not mountains. We need to look beyond our little spaces and open ourselves to problems that confront us as a nation. We need to move beyond “Tapat mo, linis mo”. We need to think “Tapat natin, linis natin”.
As with previous NMCDs, this is a completely voluntary effort and we will once again invite hiking clubs and individuals to take part by organizing their own cleanup hikes on that day. Details of the can be found in the Guiding Document for the 6th NMCD (click here).
Continuing the annual tradition, the sixth NMCD is envisioned to live up to being an annual reminder to the public of the importance of having clean mountains, as well as a set of simultaneous activities organised by different groups that will clean up mountains and other natural areas in different parts of the Philippines. Alongside cleanup activities, measures geared towards the sustainability of cleanliness – including local ordinances, guide trainings, and awareness campaigns, are also encouraged.
SCHEDULE AND VENUE
The sixth NMCD is scheduled to be held on June 15, 2019, although groups are most welcome to organise their cleanup hikes in other dates. The venues are the mountains and areas with hiking activity that are both within and outside the designated Protected Areas by the government.
1. At the national level, Pinoy Mountaineer will be coordinating the initiative in consultation with the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources. The local events however will be organised by different groups, which we encourage to coordinate with local government agencies.
3. There will be a designated coordinator for each clean-up climb who will be responsible for the participants and the conduct of the hike and the clean up. All coordinators must have basic mountaineering skills and must have experience in organising hikes.
1. Any hiking or outdoor club, civic organization, or group of individuals may join the NMCD. Groups are at liberty to select their target mountain for clean-up. However, there may not be several groups doing a clean-up in a single trail or area.
2. Participating groups are responsible for the safety and well-being of their participants.
3. Every group must have a designated coordinator.
4. The coordinator for each climb must make sure that his participants are sufficiently fit to participate in the activity, have sufficient mountaineering skills and experience, knows what to do in case of emergency, and is aware of the Leave No Trace principles. If a participant is below 18 years of age, parental consent must be secured.
5. The maximum number of participants per group is 18. However, this is just a general guideline. The policies set by the mountain authorities (i.e. PASU, ENRO, barangay officials) take precedence over this guideline.
6. The organising party will coordinate with the Protected Area Management Board through the Park Superintendent. If the mountain is not a protected area, the organising party should instead coordinate with the local government unit in charge of the mountain. The following should be endorsed and consulted:
a. The number, names, and contact information of participants
b. The itinerary of the hike
c. Areas that will be cleaned up
d. Emergency plan
e. Waste disposal plan
7. In case there are several groups seeking to hold clean-up activities, the Park Superintendent will determine the maximum number of participants for each group, as well as how the groups will be divided according to target areas of clean-up. In mountains not falling under protected areas, should designate a lead coordinator for the clean-up efforts for the particular mountain, and discuss beforehand to designate particular areas to be cleaned by each group.
8. In protected areas, the Park Superintendent will designate the designated waste disposal facility. Otherwise, participating groups are requested to coordinate with the relevant LGU on where the garbage will be disposed.
9. All participants must treat every clean-up climb as a regular hike and thus they must have contingency plans, designation of tasks (i.e. lead, sweeper, medic). Importantly, every team should have a first aider who can respond to injuries like cuts that may be caused by picking up garbage.
10. Participating groups should feel free to organise other activities concurrently with the clean-up, including, but not limited to community outreach, dialogues and lectures about Leave No Trace principles, among others.
GARBAGE COLLECTION AND DISPOSAL
1. For the purposes of the event, garbage is defined as any material that was brought by humans to the mountains and does not serve any useful purpose. Common garbage in the mountains include various kinds of plastics, glass bottles, cans, any form or piece of paper, cloth, or any other material left by humans. All forms of garbage should be collected from the campsites, trails, peaks, and other areas of interest.
2. Participants will be advised to use garbage bags to collect the trash. Each participant should try to fill one or two garbage bags depending on the number of trash on the trail. The bags must be of sufficient thickness to withstand being transported through the trail. If in doubt, consider using two bags for double thickness. Biodegradable, environment-friendly garbage bags are preferred.
3. Participants should wear rubber gloves or equivalent for sanitary reasons, as well as to protect themselves from possible cuts or injuries from sharp trash like bottles. Special precaution should be exercised when handling glass shards as well as opened tin cans, as their edges can cause injuries.
4. Participating teams should consider bringing other tools such as a hand trowel that can assist in retrieving buried cans, glass, and other forms of garbage.
5. The sweeper, or the last person in the group, must ensure that no trash bags are left behind, and that they are not left in huts, rest stops, not even in the trailhead, regardless of the existence of trash cans there. Only the designated waste disposal area should be considered. If necessary, groups should transport the garbage with them to a point where proper waste disposal is assured.
6. At the designated waste disposal facility, the groups should measure the weight (i.e. in kilos) and volume (in number of bags) of the garbage they were able to collect. In the absence of a designated waste dis
7. In cases where locals would demand that participants leave the garbage in certain places, like campsites, participating groups are encouraged to abide with the chain of waste disposal as long as this can be done amicably.
IMPORTANT: CALL FOR FEEDBACK
In order to improve on future clean-up days and also to guide future clean-up activities, participating groups will be requested to submit the TRASH DATA FORM to the PASUs, LGU, and to firstname.lastname@example.org for consolidation. The form will be sent to group coordinators an posted on the official NMCD FB group.
It’s the season of flowers in many parts of the country, and over the past few weeks, we have seen a blossoming of people’s interest in them, particularly of our indigenous species – from the narra and the banana to the balayong and the molave.
One flower that has stood out, particularly for hikers, is the rafflesia: the family of some of the world’s largest flowers that’s actually found all over the Philippines – but has hitherto been sidelined in our imagination.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer features the rafflesia in its April 16, 2019 issue with a feature article by Maricar Cinco
But this is changing thanks to the efforts of mountaineers and outdoor lovers, who have taken to social media to share sightings of this fascinating flower, as well as the conservationists and park officials who are making sure that the flower is preserved in its natural habitats. I have seen this flower only a couple of times prior – once in Sabah and once in Mt. Napulak, Iloilo, I consider myself very fortunate to have seen several of them in Mt. Makiling last March 31 together with my friends.
I see the attention to the rafflesia as a positive development. As a hiker, I’ve always wanted my fellow hikers to look beyond the summit and appreciate the wonders of the trail – which to me has become the real highlight of any hike.
As an environmental advocate, I’ve always seen appreciation as the beginning of awareness and then advocacy: it is only by making the forest come alive to the public that we can persuade them to care about environment issues. On Twitter, I see young people likening the rafflesia to the Pokemon Vileplume – and if referencing anime is what it takes to realise that the real world is even more fascinating than the virtual one, then so be it!
The rafflesia is one of the reasons Mt. Makiling was declared an ASEAN Heritage Park, and hopefully, the attention towards the rafflesia will translate to the promotion and protection of more rafflesia habitats all over the country. Hopefully too we can adopt this flower as one of the symbols if not of our country then of our rich biodiversity. Let a thousand rafflesias bloom!