Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Two-Thousanders of the Philippines

In the Philippines, there are at least 30 mountains with an altitude or prominence ranging at 2,000-2,999 meters above sea level. We call these mountains, the two-thousanders. These mountains are high enough to pierce through the cloud level, thus they exhibit, at a certain level, moist mossy environment; presence of endemic floral and faunal species; and most of the time, sea of clouds is seen from the summit.

The top highest mountains we have in the country are all two-thousanders, concentrations are in the Cordilleras, Mindoro Island, Panay Island, Negros Island, and of course, the mountain ranges in Mindanao. And more often than not, the highest mountain per region (16 Regions in total, NCR excluded) is a two-thousander.

(Edit: 3/13/15) I have so far summitted 60 mountains across the archipelago (all are listed in my Kabundukan Page) and among the list, 16 are two-thousanders, all of which are climb-worthy. However, I have 6 particular favorites among these high mountains.

(Edit: 6/1/15) Although it is really not a personal favorite, Mt. Halcon in Oriental Mindoro is another mountain that must be included in this list as well. It's my 61st mountain, and likely the last. See my input about this mountain in the "Other Noteworthy Two-thousanders" section of this article.

My top 6 favorite two-thousanders in the Philippines (so far). The mountains are with their respective elevations, sorted from highest to lowest.

Mt. Apo (2,956 MASL)

Found in the southern mountain ranges of Mindanao is the mighty Mt. Apo, the highest mountain in the Philippines. Aside from the forest trails and great bodies of water it harbors, this semi-volcanic mountain offers its visitors a unique trek-on-boulders experience.

I've hiked this mountain twice, both are extremely memorable. First was through the more challenging trail, the Talomo-Apo megetraverse which took 4 days in total, and the second was via the Kapatagan-Boulders which, for me, was more scenic.

Mt. Apo boulders and sulfur vents
view from the highest mountain in the Philippines
Mt. Apo's version of sea of clouds

D2K (2,934 MASL)

D2K is the collective term for Mt. Dulang-Dulang (2,934 masl; 2nd highest in PHL) and Mt. Kitanglad (2,899 masl; 4th highest in PHL). These two peaks of the Kitanglad range in Bukdnon is usually done in one go, as they're connected by a ridge line. It features thick mossy forests (one of the thickest I ever encountered), vertical ascents (almost 90 degrees), sea of clouds, and magnificent views of the lowlands. Read our hike here.

mossy forest of Mt. Dulang-Dulang
thick mossy forest en route to Kitanglad Peak
sea of clouds from the summit of Mt. Dulang Dulang, the second highest mountain in the country.

Mt. Pulag (2,922 MASL)

Mt. Pulag, the highest of all the mountains in Luzon, is probably the most popular mountain in the country at the moment. It is frequented not only by hardcore mountaineers, but also by tourists who want to experience the sea of clouds, a phenomenon that can be greatly appreciated at the summit of Mt. Pulag.

At least four trails exist in this mountain, Ambangeg being the easiest, is naturally the most popular. Mt. Pulag takes a spot in my Top 5 list because of my great hiking experience in this mountain via the difficult Akiki trail and the mystical Tawangan trail [Read here].

steepness of Akiki trail
the mossy Tawangan Trail (North Trail) [photo by sir Kevin Manuel]
the famous sea of clouds of Mt. Pulag

Mt. Kanlaon (2,435 MASL)

The highest peak in Negros Island is one of the country's most active volcanoes. It possesses amazing floral species and grandeur features like a massive volcanic old crater. Truly, this mountain will let you experience the ultimate volcano adventure.

Actually, this was my most favorite hike until G2 captured my heart. We did a 3-day traverse hike via Guintubdan and Wasay Trails, and I was stunned by all the amazing things we encountered.

Margaja Valley, the old massive crater of Mt. Kalaon
the volcano's active crater
one of the lagoons we passed by in Wasay Trail

Mt. Sicapoo (2,354 MASL)

The mountain which stands tallest in Ilocos region is also a favorite. The varying terrain, from rivers to steep ridges, makes it one of the most exciting hiking destination in the country. Considering the length and inclination of its trail, this mountain is a test of endurance.

An account of our 4-day hike in this mountain in my blog: Mt. Sicapoo | Catching the Penguin of Ilocos Norte.

At least 10 river crossings at the start of the trek.
found at its summit is a big rock known to many as the Penguin Rock
the very steep and deep ridges of Mt. Sicapoo

G2 (2,058 masl)

Mt. Guiting-Guiting, or G2 for short, in the remote island of Sibuyan in the province of Romblon is one of the Philippines' toughest hikes and hailed by many as the most technical climb in the country. The length of its trails, the many steep and sharp rock faces, and the famous "knife edge" will prove its notoriety. Not for the weak, most definitely.

Albeit the challenges, G2 is so beautiful in many levels. When I entered its realm last February 2015, I was dumbfounded! It's a total different world.

One of those many portions of G2 trail that proved there is beauty in difficulty.
Overlooking at G2's sawtooth ridge, a geologic marvel.
We had to deal with that narrow ridge line, famously known as the knife edge.

So where are these mountains located?
I have plotted all my mountain adventures in my Kabundukan Map, including the 6 favorite two-thousanders. Kindly check them out in this link.

Other noteworthy Two-Thousanders

In the Cordilleras, there is Mt. Napulauan (2,640 masl) in Hungduan, Ifugao, Mt. Purgatory (2,080 masl) in Bokod, Benguet, and Mt. Ugo (2,150 masl) in Itogon, Benguet. With their spectacular pine and mossy forests, these mountains showcase the beauty and charm of the Cordilleras.

cascading heights of the Cordillera mountain range as seen from the summit of Mt. Ugo. 
Pine forest trail of Mt. Purgatory
Mt. Napulauan's mossy forest
Mt. Tapulao (2,037 masl) in Palauig, Zambales is the highest in Central Luzon. Unlike its neighbor mountains in the region, which are often dry and treeless, this mountain has features similar to those in the Cordilleras—pines and moss. Hence, it is sometimes dubbed as the "Poorman's Pulag".

at the summit of Mt. Tapulao
Mt. Halcon (2,582 masl), regarded as the roof of Mindoro Island, and one of the three "knife-edge mountains" of MIMAROPA, is another notable mountain. There isn't many "ooohhs" and "wows" in this mountain since the trails actually look very typical, even the mountain experience itself is quite typical. To be honest, only the summit gave me that blissful feeling. Nonetheless, its challenging long trails and uneven terrain live up to its name as one of the toughest hikes in the country, and thus, it's still a must-try mountain.

the famed knife-edge of Mt. Halcon.
Another interesting mountain in Mindanao is Mt. Talomo (2,674 masl). Although it is often overshadowed by Mt. Apo's might, this mountain is as scenic and as marvelous as the latter. If combined with Mt. Apo (a Talomo-Apo Mega Traverse), it will surely give you a great, one of the toughest yet awesomest hikes in the country.

the challenging steep trails of Mt. Talomo

Dream Climbs Still

Of course, there are still plenty more mountains which remain untouched by my eager feet, all possesses unique splendor that are worth taking a climb. Hopefully, one of these days, I'll also experience these two-thousanders.

Mt. Banahaw (2,158 masl) in Quezon Province
Mt. Mantalingajan (2,086 masl) in Palawan
Mt. Madjaas (2,113 masl) in Antique
Mt. Mayon (2,462 masl) in Albay
Mt. Malindang (2,404 masl) in Misamis Occidental
Mt. Amuyao (2,702 masl) in Ifugao
Mt. Ragang (2,815 masl) in Lanao del Sur


  1. Bilib na bilib na ako sa pamumundok mo, Ivan. Glad to have met you when you first started climbing at nasali kami (walang choice) sa bday climb mo. Haha

    Next, intl naman. More bundoks to come! Chos

  2. galing sir ivan...
    tuloy-tuloy lang...
    siguradong maaakyat mo pa yung ibang two-thousanders...
    good luck at ingat sa bawat akyat...

  3. gaganda ng mga shots mo ivan! namiss ko tuloy pag visit sa site mo... ngaun ko naiisip na dapat mas physically fit na ako para sa mga ganyang akyatan para hindi na ako mag tatanong kung minor or major climb ba? lol

  4. Hello there!

    I wish to know, why do you have to climb mountains? Is it because of your passion?
    Because I am about to start doing it - a spiritual climb - finding my soul and making my life new.. .

    1. I climb for recreation, and to be one with nature. I am nature lover since birth.



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