Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Mt. Cristobal | A Failed Traverse

It's hopeless, we're beaten I know. The rain poured harder and the wind blew stronger, as if we were damned by the heavens. Our situation tells us not to go any further beyond the summit of Mt. Cristobal for it can only make things worse. We were left with no other choice but to trek back to where we started.

The date was March 26, 2012, it was supposedly a Mt. Cristobal Traverse dayhike from Dolores, Quezon to Nagcarlan, Laguna but our plan was ruined by an unexpected harsh weather condition.


I was recently affiliated with a mountaineering group (Panik Kabataang Pinoy) whose members are PT students from the Pamantasan. Since some of its members, including me, just graduated last March 25, the group planned a post-grad climb (traverse) to Mt. Cristobal just a day after the graduation date. I haven't tramped its trail yet, so I was tempted to join.

Although Mt. Cristobal was dubbed as the "Devil's Mountain", never did I fear to hike it up. My curiosity overruled the fear brought by stories of mysterious disappearances and unwanted apparitions on its trails.

From Manila, we traveled to San Pablo City via a Lucena-bound bus (I forgot how much it cost). Then another jeepney ride from San Pablo City to Brgy. Sta. Lucia, Dolores, Quezon. An estimate of 4 hours travel time from Manila to the Jump-off. 
| Blogger's Tip: Don't fall victim to some greedy tricycle drivers if you don't want extra expense for this climb. The public market, where you can find the jeepney terminal to Dolores, is walkable from the highway.
Everyone showed an unwavering eagerness to push through the climb even though it was drizzling when we arrived at Brgy. Sta. Lucia (the jump-off for Dolores Trail) at around 09:00 AM. But it rained as soon as we started the trek along the concrete road. I got no poncho nor rain coat, at least I have a large trash bag which is good enough to act as an improvised protection against the rain. Then we saw sampinit or wild raspberry growing abundantly on the sides of the concrete road. It was my first time to see such kind of fruit so I gave it a try. It tasted sour with very little sweetness.

the jump-off point is also the location of a Smart Tower
on our way to Montelibano house

Minutes have passed, but there were still no hopes that the rain will subside. Pero wala nang atrasan, we want CrisTrav for our post-grad climb. After 30 minutes, Montelibano House finally showed up.
| Montelibano House is the popular stop for many Mt. Cristobal hikers. It is the last house you'll encounter along the Dolores Trail, thus it's also the last water source. Bladders and water bottles can be refilled in this house, only if you have permission from the owners.

the montelibano house
Mt. Cristobal's true challenge starts with the trail beyond Montelibano House. It was steep all throughout. Although there were roots and vines that helped us pull our bodies up,  the rain kept these natural supports wet and slippery. For 1 hour and 30 minutes, we suffered this kind of trail. The chills brought by the gusts of wind also made our trek a bit more challenging. As we near the crater campsite, we faced some narrow cliff-side portions of the trail. Indeed, Mt. Cristobal is worthy of a 6/9 difficulty.

some parts were really muddy, and slippery
obstacle course sa trail ng Mt. Cristobal
The rain never stopped even when we reached the crater campsite, which by that time was flooded. It was almost lunch time and we were desperate to look for a place to eat. We continued the trek, hoping to see a good place to eat our packed lunch.

Mt Cristobal is a dormant volcano. The flooded area is its old crater

We reached Mt. Cristobal's "Lovers' Lane" aka saddle, but the wind there was at its mightiest. We'll freeze to death if we stayed there longer so we walked further to Jones Peak. We walked over a maze of tall grass still on hunt for a good place to eat, lucky us we found a small campsite in the middle of the grassland.

We stayed there for lunch just in time that the rain subsided a bit. But because the wind was still there and blowing at its mightiest, we were shivering the entire lunch time. No one can speak smooth, every part of our body was shaking badly. Grabe talaga ang lamig. After lunch, we resumed tracing the maze-like path to Jones Peak. 
us lunching at the maze-like grassland area.
sorry for the blurry shot, malamig kasi e, I was shaking.
A combined power of strong rain and wind (aka Storm) welcomed us at Jones Peak. Thick clouds covered the view below. It was hopeless, we're beaten by nature itself. The wind kept whispering that we should not pursue the traverse anymore.

To give you an idea what we faced at Jones Peak. Please see this video by my fellow hiker. You will notice my improvised rain coat on 0:30-0:33.

cloudy Jones Peak, zero visibility.
we were expecting a view of Laguna's Seven Lakes, but obviously, there's none.
By 12:45 PM, we decided to trek back to Dolores because our instincts told us to do so. You know the saying - "always follow your instinct".

We followed the same trail we tramped earlier, but this time it was muddier. We were constantly hearing butts slamming on the muddy trail during the fast-paced descent. In less than three hours, we're back at Montelibano House. We knocked on the door but it seemed that no one was inside, so we just continued our descent towards the jump-off.

No jeep was available at the Brgy. Sta. Lucia jump-off. At first, we thought we'll gonna walk it all the way to the next barangay which is about 3km away. Thank God we met this man on the road who offered us not only a ride back to San Pablo City but also a place to freshen up ourselves.

They let us use their bathroom, served us hot coffee, and gave us a kilo of freshly picked sayote for a very cheap price. Excellent service from a local. oohyeah! Only then that I realized my camera was already shooting at its own. After spending some time inside my wet pants' pocket, water reached its system, thus it met its mortality - so sad.

We left for San Pablo City at around 4:30 PM, and by 8:30 PM, we're finally back in Manila.


This failed traverse on Mt. Cristobal is by far my most disastrous climb, but the experience I gained and the lessons I learned from it make it one of my best and unforgettable climbs ever. This climb reminded me that I'm not an invincible being, that I also have limits.




  1. Yan, May kayabangan ka rin kasi bro!

  2. there's always a next time Ivan... hindi naman aalis ang bundok na yan... jan lang sya palagi.

  3. idol.. galing ng pagkakakwento mo.. next tym ulit haha -raymond medina (PKP)

  4. Experience! At least you're all back safe. Sorry for the cam.. :( Yeah, Instinct really do helps at time.

  5. good day sir! me and my friends are also planning to do a dayhike traverse and i'm curious if a guide is really required for this? are the trails easy to find? and is there jeepneys and tricycles if we go earlier, say 4am? hehehe we're all first timers for climbing cristobal, thanks! :D

    1. madali lang yung dolores trail, parang wala naman ligaw so ok lang na walang guide. if you're seasoned hikers, kaya nyo na yun, medyo nakakalito lang siguro yung trail sa may crater pero kaya pa rin. I'm not quite sure dun sa trail beyond the summit, kasi nga we failed to traverse this mountain.

      regarding naman sa transpo, I'm also not sure if there are available trips on that wee hours.

  6. That was a gutsy attempt in such a foul weather - you added several levels of difficulty to the climb. Good thing nobody got hurt on the climb and nobody got sick afterward.

  7. Hi. I guess the man you met at the road deserves to be named. After all he had accorded your group nobody seemed to have asked for his name and he was simply addressed as a "local" instead. No hint of remembering the kind man by his name. So ungrateful (opinion).

    1. we did actually. nakalimutan ko lang tlga, I easily forget people's names.. sorry for that

  8. it's JONES PEAK. not james peak.. :))

  9. ...yup, we're all first timers when we climbed mt. cristobal....
    ...sa crater na nga kami nagcamp eh, not knowing na may better campsite pa pala na hindi visible yung trail papunta dun...

    ...pero no regrets, because it was really an incomparable experience....

    ....SOBRANG LAMIG KASI....hahaha....6 pm tulog na kami lahat sa sobrang lamig dulot nang malakas na ulan....

    ....planning to go back there for the traverse....

    ...thanks for sharing sir ivan....

  10. There's always have a next time! good that your all safe!



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