Monday, February 28, 2011

Mt. Cristobal

Dolores, Quezon; San Pablo, Laguna
Major jump-off: Brgy. Dolores, Quezon > Traverse to: San Pablo, Laguna
LLA: 14.064° N 121.428° E, 1470 MASL (600m gain)
Days required / Hours to summit: ASCENT- 4.5 Hrs. TRAVERSE-6 Hrs. TOTAL-10.5 Hrs.
Specs: Major Climb
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The Backpackers:
Ivan Laurence Ignacio
Angelica Cawaling
Heinz Lopez Alvarez, Jr.
Mon Sarmiento

Mt. Cristobal: Traversing the Devil's Mountain
By: Heinz Lopez Alvarez, Jr.

February 26 to 27, 2011 - Perhaps the most uniquely anticipated climb among mountaineers and enthusiasts of all time because of the curiosity it brings as this mountain is known for "hair-raising stories" which, they say, were actually experienced both by mountaineers and the locals. For the two Backpackers, Ivan and Heinz, this climb was extremely exciting because of the above mentioned reason; second, it was their second major climb; and third, it was Ivan's birthday climb.

From Left: Ivan, Angel, Shine, G, Will, Mon, Heinz, Rex, and Louie (ducked)

The group boarded a JAC Liner bus at its Buendia Station soon as the headcount was found complete. Composed of nine climbers, they traveled Manila to San Pablo City, Laguna, for an hour and fourty-five minutes (09:30 AM - 11:15 AM) while pretty much  preoccupied with "what lies ahead".  The drop off  spot was Jollibee- San Pablo City, where the group's guide, Kuya Lito, was already waiting.

for The BACKPACKERS' Mt. Cristobal 2012 adventure article, click here

It is best and recommended to hire a Guide specially when traversing Mt. Cristobal as crossing over to the other side challenges mountaineers with not-so-established and puzzling trail, not to mention the trail's difficulty. Guides charge around P1000 to P2000.

A "beautiful devil's mountain"
Ivan, the climb lead , gave a half-an-hour opportunity so everyone could buy take-out meal for lunch from the fast-food store. And yes, the group ate while the jeep was running towards Dolores, Quezon, which took a quarter-of-an-hour drive. (11:45 PM - 12:00 NN).

Lunch in a running jeepney.

Dolores is a 5th class municipality in the province of Quezon, Philippines. According to the 2007 census, it has a population of 26,312.

The group stopped at Dolores Market. It was a small market but seemed just enough to serve the locals. It was an interesting experience shopping there because vendors, who were locals of the town, told horror stories instead of fairy tales. Got scared? Nope. The group just got even more excited to find the real score out!

The jeepney did the initial climb. After a 30-minute ride elevating up from Dolores town proper, the group had reached the starting point of the climb, which was the threshold to Brgy. Kinabuhayan. It was a good position from where one could visibly see the two mountains standing side-by-side, Mt. Cristobal to the left and Mt. Banahaw to the right.

Mt. Cristobal as seen from the jump off point.

The course is on!
The early phase of the course was assembled with an on-and-off cemented trail. There were limited trees along the way. Good thing the temperature during this climb was relatively cold to manageable.

Proper outfit and protection depending on the weather during a climb is always recommended.  During sunny season, the initial part of the trail going up to Mt. Cristobal can be extremely hot.

Not too far from the jump-off point was the known Montelibano's house. The group had a generous amount of rest at it's backyard and readied for the next phase of the trail.

The Montelibano's house
Girls in Pink.
The next phase of the trail was unexpectedly more enjoyable. Most of the first timers in the group thought iot would be more challenging. It was not. Yes, there were difficult trails of course but what made it an enjoyable climb for us was the fact that the trail was amidst a pristine forest, almost a virgin. Trees were all verdant with branches and trunks covered by the wild moss; flora and fauna were lovely; wild plans were everywhere; and, the cold breeze just literally removes our tiredness away!

Trail through the forest.
Wild flowering plants are scattered through the mountain forest of Cristobal.
Under a tree with its trunk covered by wild vines and moss.
The trek was made easier because of those huge and thick trees. Plus, the cold breeze!

Reaching the crater was a delight. That was where we built our camp. It was surrounded by untouched trees and covered by verdant grass. It was definitely cold. Fog made our view blurry. Imagine you are in Baguio City early in the morning when the sun is just about to rise. It's cold and fogs are too low, right? That was exactly how it felt and looked like when we reached the camping ground - the crater.

A foggy camping crater.
Building the camp by the crater of Mt. Cristobal.
After building the camp, we all settled and prepared dinner. Preparation was sandwiched with horror stories that somehow made everybody felt scared a bit. Deaths in Mt. Cristobal, evil spirits, ghostly elements, magic, anting-anting, name it.

Socials started half an hour after dinner. It was good taking in alcohol while in a cold place like on top of a mountain. It made us felt the warmth from inside. Topic were anything under the sun. But the later part was dominated by Mon's love story.
Dinner time.
The Spirit comes alive during Socials.

It was already late at night when everybody decided to enter and flattened their backs inside their tent. Everybody was hoping to have a peaceful sleep in that cold mountain top. But it was Mt. Cristobal...

When surroundings were already quiet... while everybody was submitting self to sleep... I and my best friend Ivan heard footsteps. They were HEAVY FOOTSTEPS which gave us an idea that they were made by a huge creature. And it sounded like it was just right outside of our tent! Was it what they call "The MANAO" guarding the place?

Daddy Wil and Gie woke up the earliest. So the rest were lucky to have a very good breakfast when they opened their eyes early on that second day. Yes, everybody deserved a good breakfast because the next course, which was traversing the Devil's Mountain, gave challenges that were almost death-defying!

Colorful plates for eating pleasure on a mountain top.
Everybody took responsibility of cleaning the camping ground, packing up things, and folding tents after that breakfast.
The break-camp.
We left the crater and the camping ground as clean as how we found on day one.
The crater view taken from the camping ground area.
We met two groups who took group pictures with us: Team Hayok and Team Wastado when we were on our assault to the summit.

When mountaineers meet other mountaineers.

The summit of Mt. Cristobal had no majestic view. But it is Jones' peak that offers the best viewpoint on top of Mt. Cristobal which stands 1,460MASL.

This was where we could have seen the 7 lakes from. But because of the thick fogs, we barely saw what could have been a nive view. Better luck next time to us!

Almost half of the descent was difficult. Almost everybody got slid. There was a part when the only way you could advance going down was to hold on to cogon grasses. Muddy and very steep sloping trail really tested our strength, balance, and determination. Who did not want to go down, anyway?

Going down the slope.

It was a very long descent. It seemed endless especially for the girls. It took us 6 hours before we reached the road! And, the good news was, a spring was waiting for us where we took washed away dirt before going back to the city.
Washing session: time to look civilized again!

From The Backpackers' Lead


Out of 32 climbs this is so far, the most difficult climb ( 6/9 )

I just want to say I loved the pristine forests, the eerie crater and the company of my hiker buddies.

***Heinz, Rex & Mon sleepover in the apartment
***Meet up at JAC Liner Pasay
***Meet Kuya Lito at Jollibee San Pablo City, Laguna
***Last minute shopping at Dolores, Quezon public market where the vendors warned us of being respectful and the creatures that we might encounter in the mountain. Mon then joked the two vendors as the Holy vendor and the Devil vendor.
***Arrived at the jumpoff point where we got a dramatic view of Mt. Cristobal (Devil's Mountain) on the left and Mt. Banahaw (Holy Mountain) on the right

We were greeted by the very cold weather! There's something in that chilly air that will make your hair rise! Hehehe

***First part of the trail is a trek to the psychic Montelibano's house
***Entered the pristine forest of Mt. Cristobal, trekked for four hours until we reached the crater

In the forest, the mossy trees were so dramatic that it reminded me of the Elven forest of The Lord Of The Rings.

We also saw several flora and fauna inside. We saw the famous poop of civet cats which when recycled by locals, become coffee beans.

***Camped at the crater where it was the first time that I personally saw a quicksand (kumunoy)
***Ate a very good dinner and had socials where the star was... who else? Mon!!!

I want also to note that Heinz and I HEARD a big creature's footsteps near our tent - could it be that the 'Tumao' wanted us to know that he was there watching. But aside from that, there were no other strange things.

Notable socials moment was the discussion between Gie and Mon.

Mon's wordS for the night: 1.) GHEI 2.) PAKIKIBAGAY 3.) KAIBIGAN

***Ate a very good breakfast courtesy of Daddy Wil and Gie
***Broke camp and started the assault to summit

We met two groups who took group pictures with us: Team Hayok and Team Wastado. See you at the next summit mga ma'am and sir!

The summit of Mt. Cristobal had no majestic view. But it is Jones' peak that offers the best viewpoint on top of Mt. Cristobal which stands 1,460MASL.

***The difficult part surprised us: the Traverse to San Pablo! Daddy Wil, Dangie and I literally worked our butts off to slide down the mountain slope. Angel, Rex, Dangie,Wilson and I started to slide one at a time. There was one point when Angel slipped and rolled over to me which caused me to slip too, Rex labelling it as a perfect bowling moment.

I was also glad to hear that the same thing happened at the front pack - Shine, Louie, Mon, Heinz and even Kuya Lito - slipped during the descent!

The most prone to injury was Shine - who got her feet and hands injured by the Lipa leaf.

When we were out of the forest, we were still shocked that we were still at least 500MASL! We were even higher than Mt. Tayak - a nearby hill beside Mt. Cristobal!

***AFTER SIX HOURS of walking through different classes of trail - we finally reached the road!

Angel broke down in tears when we entered a mountain trail! MMK moment!

***We went to the spring where we washed up and picked up by our service

***Post climb at Jollibee San Pablo City and after it was time to say goodbye!



Photo Selection and Captioning by: Heinz Lopez Alvarez, Jr.

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