Mt. Halcon - the most difficult to climb in the Philippines?

One album from my classic climb photo collections before the dawn of the age of digital cameras. This is a brief glimpse of my climb on Mt. Halcon in Baco, Mindoro in the summer of 2002. 

I wasn't able to document the climb every step of the way like my other climbs. I don't have a camera during this climb, so bear with me if what I have for you are a few summit photos. The rest are just climb memories and a few stories in between.
On the famous ledge of Mt. Halcon



Mt. Halcon is considered as one of the most difficult mountain climbing destination in the Philippines while Mt. Guiting-Guiting is regarded as the most technical. It is said to be even more prestigious to climb than the Philippines highest - Mt. Apo. What makes it difficult to climb are the combined effects of the elements/factors of nature which intricately embodies this mountain.

DIFFICULT TERRAIN

No mountain is easy to climb, but Mt. Halcon basically defines the word difficult. The start of the trek is an immediate breath racing hike. This will go on for an average of eight hours on the first day alone. On the second day, get ready for an even steeper climb and another eight hours of tiring trek. Ooops, wait, you just got to the summit, double that, and you just climbed Mt. Halcon. Congratulations! That's your first element/factor to consider - the terrain.
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TINY WILDLIFE


A mountains' biodiversity can only be showcased by the abundance of its animals and plants species. Halcon is known  to be the playground of striped limatiks (tiger leeches). Where there is enough land animals they could feed on, these tiny, acrobatic limatiks thrive. It is considered an indicator of forest health and biodiversity. But to the climber,  they are such an annoyance. Sucking your blood at the most conspicuous body location, (your a** for example for the climber behind you to see) where you'll bleed continuously. Nothing serious though, just uncomfortable. Limatiks are Halcon's second element/factor to watch out for. 

Learn more about what limatiks can do to you HERE!

A LIVING FOREST

Being in a tropical setting, the mountain has its own micro-climate. This means that the mountain has its own weather created by the rainforest that enables the water cycle to persist.  Halcon is the headwaters of Dulangan River, one of the major river system of Oriental Mindoro. Water is the third element/factor.

In October2004, Prana Escalante from the USTMC climbed solo in Mt. Halcon, to follow her group who climbed a day before her. She was reported to have climbed along and was seen last by another group on her way to Dulangan River. Her lifeless body with only her underwear on, was found by the Mangyans (indigenous group of Mindoro) downstream of the river more than a week after her disappearance. Instrumental to her demise, was the rain, the river and her climbing alone. Rest in peace Prana.
This blanket of cloud could well be on its way to luring you to sleep after the tiring assault.

IT'S COLD UP THERE

Closing in on the summit, one gets to higher elevation. Here, the element of air or wind becomes more dominant. The trail to the summit camp is the ridge of the mountain range where climbers are prone and vulnerable to wind chills.

The combination of water and wind is proven to be deadly on Mt. Halcon. On October 19, 1994, a group of climbers from different organization climbed Mt. Halcon at the height of the typhoon Katring. Inexperienced climber - Neptali Lazaro, succumbed to hypothermia on that fateful night. It was his first and last climb. [1]
The sunset which marks the end of a tiring day, promises a new and exciting day ahead.

WHY CLIMB IT?

Mt. Halcon despite its reputation became a legend to climbers. They used to say that if you haven't been to Halcon, then you haven't experienced climbing at its worst. As if that's a good thing! I would like to remember Mt. Halcon for its beauty and not for its treachery.  This view for example is the greatest reward after a great deal of climbing and near breathlessness.

Mt. Halcon was closed to climbing in 2006 and did not re-opened since then. Many eager climbers are patiently waiting for an opportunity to climb it, to add to their long climb list. I hope to have that opportunity too. I have my fingers crossed... 

Photo Credit:
Scanned photo prints from Peter

References:
1. Chronicled in Bubuekak.multiply.com - as reported on Action Asia News [Thanks Lee (+)] 

Update: as of March 2013: Mt. Halcon is officially open for climbing. 

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