Best Local Mountain Climbs
Information and photographs from The Pinoy Mountaineer. For the suggested itinerary at the end, breakfast can either be served at 5.00am before leaving, or as a brunch upon return to The Astley Residence (most guests do the latter, but take energy snacks and water for the climb)
Mt. Pamitinan has a more established trail that takes roughly 1.5-2.5 hours going up. The first part is forested, passing through some attractions such as an ancient balete, the rock climbing. The Hapunang Banoy Junction is a rest area prior to the second, rocky part the trail. This part will be enjoyable to those who are used to rock climbing or bouldering, and a bit of a challenge for beginners – for whom it will be manageable, but requiring of concentration and care. The rocks are surrounded with bamboo trunks, some of which have alternating sections of holdable green and thorny brown trunk segments. Wearing gloves is recommended to ensure a comfortable grip on the jagged edges of the rocks and keep your skin off thorns.
There are several viewpoints along the trail, culminating in the summit which has a 360-degree view. To the North, one can see Mt. Hapunang Banoy and a distant Mt. Arayat, and from northeast to south, a vast swath of Sierra Madre mountains, thankfully still green. To the west on the other hand are the rapidly-growing towns of Rizal, and the more immediate scenery of Wawa River and Mt. Binacayan.
Suggested morning itinerary for Mt Pamitinan:
0520 - Leave Timberland Heights to drive to Brgy. Wawa
0600 - Arrival at Brgy. Wawa. Register at barangay hall / tourism office
(Set Waze destination as ‘Montalban Tourism Office’)
0630 - Start trek up Mt. Pamitinan
0730 - Arrival at Hapunang Banoy junction
0900 - ETA summit
0930 - Start descent
1100 - Arrival at Brgy. Wawa. Drive back to Timberland Heights
1145 - Arrival at The Astley Residence
Mt. Binacayan, which is shorter than Mt. Pamitinan by just a few meters, has two different approaches, both of which feature a profile similar to Mt. Pamitinan, though the latter is a bit more unexplored. Instead of a forested ascent, however, Binacayan offers a more agricultural terrain, followed by the same rock and bamboo ascent. The final leg is through a ridgeline with thick foliage, requiring long steps and reaches from one limestone formation to another.
The summit offers similar scenery, with a more extensive view of the meanderings of Wawa River – and of course a profile picture of Mt. Pamitinan, which partially eclipses Mt. Hapunang Banoy. The entire hike takes 3-5 hours, depending on the guide’s choice of trail – though this should get easier as the trail gets more established.
Another interesting climbing experience can be experienced at the Masungi Georeserve, about an hour's drive east of The Astley Residence. The trails to the two peaks within this limestone karst reserve, Tatay and Nanay, include concrete paths, rope ladders and hanging bridges, so can be tackled by beginners and more experienced rock climbers alike.
Photograph by Nicole Reyes/Rappler
Read this First-Timer's Guide to the Masungi Georeserve on Rappler for more photos and information on visiting this unique location. Unlike climbing Mt Pamitinan and Mt Binacayan, visitors to the Masungi Georeserve must make reservations at least a week in advance because only limited numbers of climbers are allowed at any one time. Bookings can be made through the reserve's website. If you plan to visit the Masungi Georeserve on the day you leave, you'll be able to combine it with a drive along one of the Philippines' most scenic highways - the Marilaque Highway. There is a good guide to driving the full length of the Marilaque Highway on xyzAsia magazine.