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Beginner Mountains: A Lover’s Recollection

beginner mountains philippines

This is my go-to answer, if you ask me which mountain I recommend for you to climb.

 “What is a good beginner mountain to hike?” Just one of the questions every regular mountain climber frequently hears. Still, it’s a tough question. It’s like being asked to choose a favorite among all the things you loved at some point.

What Exactly is a “Good Beginner Mountain”?

“Good” can mean a lot of things. It can be trails of low difficulty, a sea of clouds view, or having multiple side trips after hiking. Similarly, “beginner mountains” are defined loosely. Since given suffice preparation and will, even first time hikers can take on most mountains.

As with love, you have to experience mountain climbing for yourself to know which one is the best for you. Coming from someone who fell in love with mountains, here is a list to start with. Read it not like you are hounding for adventure suggestions, but the way a woman recalls her past loves:

 

Beginner Mountain #1 Mt. Pico de Loro

A girl never forgets her first love. I have a lot of sentimental feelings about Mt. Pico de Loro, being my first climb in 2013. I declined my first invite to climb here, remembering an incident back in college that left me wounded on a hike. But would you believe that now, I have climbed Mt. Pico de Loro five times already! I have even been a professional guide here.mt pico de loroHowever, Mt. Pico de Loro isn’t what it used to be. The initiative to create a New Trail for the Old Trail to recover is plausible. But the summit is already badly eroded. There used to be grass and rock crevices for the assault. Now, it’s only loose, slippery soil. Unlike trails you can alter, there’s no substitute for the summit.

Still, the sight of the Mt. Pico de Loro’s summit and the monolith is love at first sight. Even after five climbs. It still reminds me of why I started climbing mountains.

 

Beginner Mountain #2 Mt. Manalmon

It’s more of a hill than a mountain, but you go to Mt. Manalmon for various other reasons. Here you can go cable crossing, spelunking at Bayukbok Cave, and even twin-hiking Mt. Gola. You can also swim at Madlum River, provided it’s not rainy season where tragic flash floods are common. Mt. Manalmon may not challenge you altitude-wise, but for a location near Manila, there are plenty of activities to do here. It can inspire even the most casual of hikers to commit.

 

Beginner Mountain #3 Mt. Manabu

What began as a side trip later became a full-blown climb around the rosary-shaped trail of Mt. Manabu. The climb, I can hardly remember. But what’s indelible in my taste buds is the civet coffee brewed at Station 5 of the trail.I cannot say if the civet coffee is 100% authentic. And they perhaps have questionable issues on animal rights for caging civet cats. But the unlimited free-taste coffee in Mt. Manabu is just priceless. The taste and experience of drinking it along the trail is richer than the ones at expensive cafés in the city. Mountains and coffee are truly a lethal combination.

 

Beginner Mountain #4 Mt. Maculot

Too easy even for a beginner. It’s almost like you are being coddled when climbing Mt. Maculot. There are too many stops, shops, and benches. I’m not saying this because I’m such a good climber that I can do away with comforts. But when I climb mountains, I want to be in the wilderness, not on a road with wayside malls.Still, the view from the rockies, the summit, and the grotto consisting of the clear reflection of the Taal Lake is stunning. It’s almost like cheating, because you get an amazing view at Mt. Maculot for such a sweat-free climb.

 

Beginner Mountain #5 Mt. Sembrano

A mere hike at the beginning, but a tough half an hour-long assault later on. Once you reach the campsite of Mt. Sembrano where fresh coconuts are served, you will probably be on all fours afterwards.DSC_0826The summit of Mt. Sembrano is also an open trail. Meaning, it’s best to ascend before noon since no trees will hide you from the scorching sun. But the vantage point at the top is vast. You can see the entire province of Rizal, the Laguna Lake, and the windmills of Pililla. You’ll soon forget about the dirt stuck on your nails and the struggle of your lungs moments before.

 

Beginner Mountain #6 Mt. Daraitan

Anyone who has climbed Mt. Daraitan will claim this is not a beginner climb.

The perpetual assault at Mt. Daraitan was characterized by steep inclines and sharp rocks. But the iconic limestone summit and the view of Sierra Madre was a breathtaking sight. At that time, I congratulated myself for climbing Mt. Daraitan when most people would head straight to Tinipak River. I soon found it was too early to celebrate.The traverse from the summit to the river was indeed a “downhell” climb. I confess to suppressing bitter tears of hardship. In my mind, it took us four hours with my knees giving away. My ass threatened to hit the ground at every slope (which happened rather often).

It was so comforting that Tinipak River was indeed pristine. What most people say about reaching summits, I said when I plunged into the cold riverbed: it was worth it.

 

Beginner Mountain #7 Mt. Pamitinan

Another limestone-rich mountain to climb is Mt. Pamitinan. The trail is famous for cliffs that have been the subject of many (rather show-offy) buwis-buhay shots.DSC_0122The highest peak of Mt. Pamitinan is pure solid rock that you have to climb over, making it a challenge. And the view atop are rich greens and peaks of Sierra Made, extending as far as the eyes can see. Indeed you will want to savor the sight. But you will have to leave soon, since the space is small, and the climbers are many.

Mt. Pamitinan is also a part of a famous pentalogy climb. Exhausting as it may seem, some people actually have the stamina to climb five mountains in one day.

 

Beginner Mountain #8 Mt. Tagapo

This was the site of my first overnight at the mountain. We pitched a tent, cooked at campsite, and got up in the morn bath-free. Mt. Tagapo is the highest point of Talim Island, which is located at the center of Laguna Lake. To put it simply, it is the highest peak within the largest island within the largest lake in the Philippines.If the location is not interesting enough, Mt. Tagapo also provides a 360 view of Talim Island, named so because of its dagger shape. The mountain affords you of the view of the provinces surrounding Laguna Lake and the glittering skyline of Ortigas from afar. Mountains do look better with bonfire light, and even the simplest of meals on top taste like fine dining.

 

Beginner Mountain #9 Mt. Batulao

You are allowed to sing that line, “love your curves and all your edges” at Mt. Batulao because of its vertically jagged trails. There are about three rope trails along the way, primarily because the soil has been badly eroded. Traffic is also undeniably heavy especially on weekends. But by the afternoon, the dinosaur back-looking trail will already be empty, left to the beauty of the setting sun.DSC_0932Alas, the splendor of Mt. Batulao has been tainted by the multiple illegal registration booths along the trail. This has spurred the #BoycottBatulao movement. I hope this issue gets addressed soon, but I won’t discourage anyone from climbing. When one finds something very beautiful, no doubt others will take advantage of it. Mountains are no exception.

 

Beginner Mountain #10 Mt. Pinatubo

Born a year after the tragic eruption, people would often relay stories about Mt. Pinatubo when I was a kid. Adults talked about the rain of ashes, and days thereafter without a streak of sunlight. So naturally, I was always curious about Mt. Pinatubo.DSC_0144Imagine my excitement when I embarked on that trip. The thrill of a Mt. Pinatubo trek is riding 4×4 jeeps across ashen desserts. It’s striking to see halved mountains, rocks painted in mineral red, green and yellow, and aeta kids playing nearby. Mt. Pinatubo’s crater lake is a sight to indulge in, and it left me in awe of how something beautiful could come out of something so tragic.

 

The mountains are the surprise loves I never expected to have. It’s hard to believe that in the course of two years, I have climbed so frequently. And yet I think the passion will not be quenched soon. Hopefully this would inspire you to create love stories of your own — preferably written in short breaths and burning lungs while beholding the view from the mountaintop.

 

This article was earlier published at Manila Bulletin‘s Lifestyle Section on March 6.

 

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62 Comments

  • Reply
    Jamie Christine Bertillo
    October 22, 2016 at 9:17 AM

    Wow.. Ive been to some of those and I would say I would love to climb them again. And I totally agree with what you said, “A girl never forgets her first love.” Mine is Mount Pamitinan. Pico de Loro has the best 360 degrees view I’ve seen so far. The ridgeline walk in Batulao is one of my favorites. Maculot and Manalmon is still in my list.
    Mam, Try nyo po Mount Ulap in Benguet, everybody’s fave. Hindi ka magsasawa sa view and cool wind. And Binacayan too, the meandering Wawa River below makes the view more dramatic..

    • Reply
      Sam Coronado
      October 24, 2016 at 11:15 PM

      Jamieee! Good to know. Pangarap ko Mt. Ulap, Mt. Ugo, and Mt. Pulag (kaso syempre marami tao). Hindi pa ko nakakapag-bundok sa Benguet! Goals yan! Hahaha. Magkaiba ba ang tanawin ng Pamitinan sa Binacayan?

      • Reply
        Jamie Christine Bertillo
        October 27, 2016 at 4:20 PM

        You should really try Benguet Ms Sam. Cordillera mountains are my favorite. Mount Ugo is my first overnight climb, and my best climb so far. Grabeee ang ganda ng trail. If gusto nyo din po sabayan ng rice terraces traverse, I suggest Mt Kupapey in Mountain Province. Pulag is still in my bucket list.
        Almost same lang po ang view ng Pamitinan and Binacayan. For me, mas picture perfect lang sa Binacayan kasi sya ung pinakamalayo na sa residential area so puro bundok talaga and the river below is super. The best chance for sea of clouds amont the 3 Wawa mountains. If you have time po, you can check out my write ups at https://jamieinhernook.wordpress.com/
        Mas magaling lang po kau magsulat. Simple joy ko lang magsulat. 😀

        • Reply
          Sam Coronado
          October 27, 2016 at 7:45 PM

          Wow will do Jamie! Salamat din sa tips. Dream climb ko talaga yung mga nasa North. Sana, sana, mapuntahan na 🙂 Will check out your blog too! 🙂

  • Reply
    Bernadette Angelie Pangilinan
    October 19, 2016 at 10:27 PM

    Wow! You hike a lot! I never thought I’d love mountains too ’cause I’m such a clumsy girl but after my first hike to Masungi last week, I know I need to go on other hikes more often! I am literally jotting down the mountains you listed. And also, can’t imagine drinking coffee in the middle of the hike. It’s gonna make me look for a comfort room for sure. Haha!

    • Reply
      Sam Coronado
      October 20, 2016 at 1:32 AM

      Haha!! Good points of concern on having to pee after coffee haha! Thankfully I didn’t experience that in the two times I climbed Mt. Manabu and drank the coffee. I’m so happy you liked hiking. I hope you discover more beautiful ones. Glad to be of help 🙂

  • Reply
    John Rodgers
    October 7, 2016 at 4:59 PM

    I do wish I was in a little better shape to try some of these but I am getting there. Down over 100 lbs in the last year and much more fit. Just did the Everest base camp trek with my wife but the bike I am not so sure about. Hope that you can find many more trails to climb.

    • Reply
      Sam Coronado
      October 7, 2016 at 10:39 PM

      Hi John! Thanks for commenting here. I hope you do get in a better shape. But even if you haven’t yet, this might help you physically and even mentally. Congratulations on your weight loss and Everest journey!

  • Reply
    Carola Knubben
    June 23, 2016 at 12:05 AM

    These mountains look amazing. I always love the views from a mountain. I really loved the picture of Mt. Pinatubo. So beautiful! Also Mt. Manalmon looks very nice to me! I’ve never been to one of these mountains before, but I’d like to. I’ve been to Austria and Andora and I loved that!

  • Reply
    Cai Dominguez- Travelosyo
    April 16, 2016 at 12:39 AM

    I’m just starting to love climbing. I’m glad to know that we both climb the same mountain. Hahaha I will never forget. Pico de loro 🙂

  • Reply
    Kat
    April 15, 2016 at 4:02 PM

    I’d only been to two in this list: Mt. Daraitan and Mt. Batulao.

    I’d have to agree that Mt. Daraitan is not for beginners. Assault starts the moment the mountain trail begins. There’s no warm-up climb. We had two beginners in our groups, and one of them sported bruises in knees after our climb here.

    Mt. Batulao was my first climb after a long hiatus. This was about two years ago, when mountain climbing is still not mainstream and there was no queue in the mountains even on weekends. Easy trail, beautiful view. I’ll recommend this to those who’d like to try mountain climbing for the first time and then suggest to advance to mountains far from Manila, with better summit views and lesser crowd.

    • Reply
      Sam Coronado
      June 23, 2016 at 2:31 AM

      Great insights! I agree on the fact that Daraitan is NOT a beginner mountain. It was hella difficult, esp the traverse to Tinipak River. My knees almost gave away.

  • Reply
    Stargazer Writes
    April 9, 2016 at 11:18 PM

    Everything is so beautiful! The nearest mountain in my area is the Mt. Apo. But due to the recent fire incident, I don’t think I’m going to climb it soon.

  • Reply
    Mark Villar
    April 8, 2016 at 10:08 PM

    I wish I have more courage to climb more mountain like you did. But I still have hopes for more years to come. Nice post!

  • Reply
    Peachy @ The Peach Kitchen
    April 8, 2016 at 9:21 PM

    I hope I do get to climb one of these mountains someday with my daughters. Which is thee asiest to climb?

  • Reply
    Kaye - I Love Keisha
    April 7, 2016 at 4:46 PM

    I truly admire those who have the will to do this kind of adventure. I’m sure you need loads of energy to do this.

  • Reply
    franckxethee
    April 6, 2016 at 10:43 PM

    You should try Mount Marami too. It’s near Pico de Loro and the shots are awesome at their Silyang Bato.

  • Reply
    RJ Dancel
    April 6, 2016 at 8:19 PM

    I always love visiting your blog. Nakakainggit your travels, but for me, this has become a reliable source for planning my future travels. I just love you blog. Keep it up please and don’t stop writing!!

    • Reply
      Sam Coronado
      May 27, 2016 at 1:44 AM

      Thanks so much for the support RJ!! 🙂

  • Reply
    Ronalene Soluta
    April 4, 2016 at 11:28 AM

    I’m so envious reading this post. I really have a this unexplainable thing for mountains and forests but it is such a shame that I haven’t experience mountain-climbing yet.
    Anyway, thank you for the list of beginner mountains.. hope to experience this soon.

  • Reply
    Dorothy Mae C. Torretijo
    April 4, 2016 at 9:25 AM

    OMG! I wanna experience Mount Climbing! All your photos are beautiful.

  • Reply
    franckxethee
    April 4, 2016 at 8:57 AM

    Batulao is a good start but can be tiring if you ascend its several peaks. I should try the other mountains here.

  • Reply
    Yan
    April 4, 2016 at 4:04 AM

    I remember our hike to Mt. Manabu and also (internally) questioned why they have cages for the civet cats. The coffee was underwhelming though haha.

    • Reply
      Sam Coronado
      May 27, 2016 at 1:46 AM

      Aww! So sad you didn’t enjoy it. I had three cups but was too shy to get my fourth 🙁

  • Reply
    Jean Dalida
    April 3, 2016 at 9:59 PM

    How I wish I got all the powers to climb mountains! Pico is also my first climbed and it was really ahhhh tiring but oh so fulfilling!

  • Reply
    Lea
    April 3, 2016 at 8:42 PM

    Mt. Ulap is also a great beginner mountain! It’s the only mountain I have climbed mostly because it’s near my hometown and because I’m more of a beach girl. Having the opportunity to climb these would be a nice experience though. Thank you for this list!

    • Reply
      Sam Coronado
      May 27, 2016 at 1:46 AM

      You’re so lucky! Mt. Ulap is my dream mountain 🙂

  • Reply
    Joanna
    April 3, 2016 at 8:33 PM

    You are lucky to live in a country with so many mountains to climb. I live in England and except going to the Lake district, there are really no other mountains around. I do have “my” cliffs though, which I love to hike on in summer, when there is no wind.

    • Reply
      Sam Coronado
      May 27, 2016 at 1:47 AM

      Wow, I didn’t know that! I bet your cliffs are breathtaking.

  • Reply
    Jojo Vito
    April 3, 2016 at 8:24 PM

    wow, these are good collection of mountain to hire for the beginners :0

  • Reply
    Milton Coyne
    April 3, 2016 at 7:29 PM

    yay! thank you for this Sam… I am so serious to fulfill my goal to have my first mountain climb this year… Since I am from Cavite, i think the best mountain to choose from this list is Pico De Loro, i have heard that the new trail is a lot easier (except the monolith because I don’t i have the courage yet to climb that haha)

    • Reply
      Sam Coronado
      May 27, 2016 at 1:47 AM

      I’m from Cavite too! It was exhilarating to get to my/our hometown’s highest peak!

  • Reply
    mumwrites (@vixquips)
    April 3, 2016 at 5:17 AM

    climbing mountains is something i would love to do in this lifetime, i hope to visit a number of the mountains you mentioned, starting with mt. pinatubo.

    • Reply
      Sam Coronado
      May 27, 2016 at 1:48 AM

      Go for it! Mt. Pinatubo is highly recommended 🙂

  • Reply
    Marge Gavan
    April 3, 2016 at 4:10 AM

    I see you’ve already scaled a good dose of mountains, good job. I’ve only been to Mt. Pico in this list and I didn’t even get to the summit haha…

  • Reply
    investmnl
    April 2, 2016 at 11:36 PM

    I’ll save this link. So, when the time comes that the sporty, nature-lover in me kicks in, I’ll already have the list of mountains for beginner hikers. Thank you! 😀

  • Reply
    Prerna Sinha (@maaofallblogs)
    March 29, 2016 at 5:44 PM

    I recently did a 3 km trek near Mumbai with my kids. It was a medium level trek and was fun. I burnt a lot of calories and all this while having fun and a sense of achievement.

    • Reply
      Sam Coronado
      May 27, 2016 at 2:06 AM

      Wow, I’m so happy you do it locally, and with your kids!

  • Reply
    Dunja
    March 28, 2016 at 6:03 PM

    I think every hiker has it’s own Mt. Pico De Loro, their first hike, somewhat similar to first love. That one hike that made you fall in love with hiking (even though it may not be pleasant experience). Every view you photographed is breath-taking, my favorites are Mt. Maculot and Mt. Tagapo. I can only imagine how wonderful it looks in person 🙂

  • Reply
    ASKSonnie
    March 28, 2016 at 3:07 PM

    Mountain climbing became popular in your generation. During my college days, it’s not even on the to do list of the most adventurous amongst us. I have not experienced climbing a mountain yet, unless what we call hiking from Manila to Antipolo church counts, haha.

    I love the view of Pinatubo, great shot!

    • Reply
      Sam Coronado
      May 27, 2016 at 2:00 AM

      Blame it on social media to overpromote travel!

  • Reply
    mirandamiller03
    March 28, 2016 at 10:42 AM

    I have never had a desire to climb a mountain but I do love all of the pictures you posted and thankful they are people in the world which love to climb, I’m just not one of them. Great post for someone who is thinking about making a climb.

  • Reply
    Arrianne Guzman
    March 28, 2016 at 6:31 AM

    Pico de Loro is also my first climb!!!! Just last Nov. Haha. But for me, it’s not really for beginners ahaha. I find the trail a bit difficult for beginners. And I’m on my way to my second climb this April. Hope to climb more mountains! I’ll take note of your list 🙂

  • Reply
    thezafragroup
    March 27, 2016 at 4:58 PM

    I love your photos! The view up top is always breath taking. It sure is amazing. I’ve never really gone hiking but I would definitely love to give it a go especially after seeing your pictures. It kind of lit a spark within me that’s encouraging me more to go. lol

    I do know that coffee from the mountains is unlike any other. I’ve tried from this place in Negros Occ. called Don Salvador Benedicto. It was definitely different and it was amazing.

    Keep doing what you’re doing. It sure is amazing! Would love to get into this some day. Thanks for sharing.

    • Reply
      Sam Coronado
      May 27, 2016 at 2:02 AM

      Thanks so much for dropping by, Pete!! 🙂

  • Reply
    Clair Kelly
    March 27, 2016 at 4:42 PM

    I don’t know if I will ever get a chance to climb any of these mountains, but they look so beautiful! I’m glad that you have found this passion. Really great pictures too.

  • Reply
    Postcard Pretty
    March 27, 2016 at 10:51 AM

    Admittedly, I’m more of a beach person than a mountain person. I am a Cebuano but I’ve never been to Osmeña peak even! But your photos–are breathtaking! I realize that I am missing out so much. I am curious about doing Mt. Pinatubo. Do you think it’s a good mountain to take on for a first timer like me?

    • Reply
      Sam Coronado
      May 27, 2016 at 2:03 AM

      I envy you for being in Cebu! So many natural wonders there. Yes, Pinatubo is a great start. Very easy hike and very rewarding sight 🙂

  • Reply
    Missy
    March 26, 2016 at 7:20 PM

    I once climbed Mount St. Victoire in Provence, France and I was so tired! After that I swore off climbing, but your article has has inspired me to give it another try. I feel it’s because I didn’t know what to expect. Although Mt. Maculot doesn’t seem to be your favorite haha, I think I’ll start with that. Maybe I’ll also give Mt. Pinatubo a try. I’ve heard from some who are not so athletic that it is doable

    • Reply
      Sam Coronado
      May 27, 2016 at 2:04 AM

      Sosyal ng first climb! Go ahead for Mt. Pinatubo!

  • Reply
    ROBERT LEE
    March 26, 2016 at 12:10 AM

    VERY NICE! I have had only one opportunity to hike and that was at Mt. Manabu. I remember the old man in the picture. Yes, the coffee is free and drink all you can. Yes, it does taste good. And yes again, I am not sure if it is really civet coffee.

    Go to the other station and they will tell you it’s not!

    • Reply
      Sam Coronado
      May 27, 2016 at 2:07 AM

      It’s really debatable. Haha. Nevertheless, love the coffee and the fact that it’s free!

      • Reply
        ROBERT LEE
        October 5, 2016 at 9:38 PM

        I think the coffee is not totoo na sinasabing … the expensive one, yung galing sa … civet. Kasi diba there are stations. Sila sila din ang nagsisiraan. While the one that offers coffee says galing daw sa civet, sabi nung nasa isang station, hindi naman daw iyan totoo. Barako lang daw iyan.

        • Reply
          Sam Coronado
          October 5, 2016 at 11:11 PM

          I have my doubts too. I have to say the coffee was REALLY good, the one served to us in a thermos. But the one being sold, I’m not so sure. And a part of me does not care too much kung civet coffee or not. The abuse of civet cats bother me too much to even hound for the real thing.

        • Reply
          Sam Coronado
          October 5, 2016 at 11:11 PM

          I have my doubts too. I have to say the coffee was REALLY good, the one served to us in a thermos. But the one being sold, I’m not so sure. And a part of me does not care too much kung civet coffee or not. The abuse of civet cats bothers me too much to even hound for the real thing.

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