January 26, 2013 by Iris D.
Mt. San Cristobal (1,470+ masl)
Nagcarlan, Laguna/Dolores, Quezon
January 21-23, 2013
The new year brings a lot of new changes. For one, I’ll be taking on a job that has regular work hours (my weekday hours are no longer mine, huhu). That is why we wanted to maximize the time we have left to do weekday climbs somewhere both of us haven’t been to. We chose Mt. Cristobal for its proximity.
Mt. San Cristobal, or simply Mt. Cristobal, is a potentially active volcano lying at the border of Nagcarlan, Laguna and Dolores, Quezon. It is ironic that the mountain named after St. Christopher, patron saint of travelers, has so many tragic tales and folklore, and is called the “Devil’s Mountain” as a counterpart to Mt. Banahaw being the “Holy Mountain”.
Attendance. Since we planned to climb during a weekday, and camp out for 2 nights, many of our usual company couldn’t make it. So it was just us two (Pred and me).
Itinerary. Since it would be both our first time to climb Mt. Cristobal, we both had done a lot of research on how to get there to make sure we don’t get lost. The itinerary below is what our actual trip had been. To get to the jeepney terminal behind the public market at San Pablo City, we suggest alighting at the San Pablo Municipal Cemetery across 7-11 by the stoplight (M. Leonor Street), a little further down SM San Pablo and San Pablo Medical Center. Then you can just walk to the public market; it’ll save you 40 pesos from a trike ride, and give you a little warm-up.
|Time||Activity||PhP (per person)|
|Day 1: January 21, 2013|
|05:30||ETD 7-11 Shaw Boulevard to San Pablo City
|07:45||ETA San Pablo City (San Pablo Municipal Cemetery)
|08:15||ETD San Pablo City to:
† Takes a while to fill up; you can rent the entire jeep if you want.
|08:45||ETA Sitio Parang (jumpoff)
|09:10||Start trek (610 MASL)|
|12:50||ETA Crater Campsite|
|13:20||ETA Bulwagan Saddle; Lunch|
|16:30||Prepare dinner (Grilled hotdogs)|
|Day 2: January 22, 2013|
|10:00||Prepare Brunch (Leftover hotdogs; Pizza)
|12:30||ETD Trek to pseudo-summit aka Jones’ Peak|
|13:20||Back at campsite (Bulwagan Saddle)|
|17:00||Prepare Dinner (Leftover ham and pizza)|
|Day 3: January 23, 2013|
|07:00||Breakfast; Break camp|
|08:00||ETD Bulwagan Saddle; Start descent to jump-off|
|12:15||ETD Return trip to Pan Philippine Highway by rented trike: PhP300**
** The trike ride to Dolores would be cheaper (PhP 120), but you’ll have to wait for the jeep to San Pablo City at Dolores to fill up.
|12:45||ETA Pan Philippine Highway
Return trip to Shaw Boulevard (Lucena Lines)
|Total per person (transportation, guide, excluding food):||712|
The total cost per person (excluding food allowances for a group of 2) for this trip was PhP 712. Not bad considering the experience in Mt. Cristobal. You can even lower it down if you’re three or four in a group (but please, please, not so big a group!), or if you take the cheaper transportation mode getting back to Manila.
Schedule. We planned to have rode the bus to Lucena at 05:00, but we were set back by 30 minutes since we rode the bus at Shaw Boulevard, not at the terminal in Cubao where buses leave strictly on schedule. This was expected; we were still on schedule although with an offset. If you’re planning a trip, make sure to account for these variables and give allowances accordingly.
Orientation. There wasn’t an orientation, but we logged our names at the store beside the chapel at the jump-off point in Brgy. Sta. Lucia. They gave us a number to contact in case we needed assistance (+63 928 271 6896). If you’re climbing Mt. Cristobal, consider using a SMART sim as it has a cell tower in the area.
Ascent. From the jump-off point, the trek to Montelibano’s house takes around half an hour on a combination of cemented pavement and dirt road. You’ll pass by a yard of sayote (chayote), a SMART transmission tower, and a field of coconut trees. Mind you, it’s also pretty steep, so it could still be tiring if you’re carrying a full pack. At Montelibano’s House, you can rest for a bit or refill your water; just ask kindly if anyone’s in the house.
From Montelibano’s, the trek to the crater is mostly upward (with a bit of going down); flat ground is scarce. It could be challenging for short-legged mountaineers (like me), as gaps between roots could be high. You will have to hold on to trees and plants, but be cautious because thorny plants such as teka-teka abound. We had to climb through fallen trees, hold on to roots (lest we fall off the ravine), and near the crater, do a bit of rock-climbing. Expect drizzling and fog. The forests teem of life; you’ll notice moss and mushrooms on trees, hear the bird calls all around, see civet and other animal droppings on the trail–Pred luckily saw a monkey pass by. The trail has minimal trash, but sadly, the same could not be said at the crater campsite.
Campsite. At the crater campsite, after feeling happy at having reached the clearing, the second thing you’ll notice is the trash and signs of human activity. On the roots of one tree rest two big empty bottles of alcohol and remains of campfire. Cigarette butts also litter part of the campsite.
It was drizzling when we reached the crater, and we’ve heard that it turns into a swamp when it rains. Indeed, the soil was wet with some puddles forming. Good thing we planned on camping at the Bulwagan Saddle further up, nearer to the pseudo-summit. We trekked again, and reached the Bulwagan Saddle around 13:30. The campsite was cleaner, and a bit spookier than the crater. Tired and weary from the trek, we decided to set camp and rest, leaving climbing the pseudo-summit for the next day. We paid our guide, who funnily enough is also named Alfred, and from there, it was just us two.
The Bulwagan Saddle was so called probably because it does look like a hall. The trees form beams, and the branches and leaves build a canopy over the clearing. The fog sets in early, and gives an other-worldly glow to the forests. At night, it is so quiet, all you will hear are the crickets, the owl hoots, the wind blowing and the pitter-pattering of rain on leaves that sound like footsteps passing by your tent. It was also very cold, with the temperature dropping to 13°C (with wind chill).
The next day, the rain has let up. We prepared brunch, and got ready to climb the pseudo-summit.
Summit. From the trail to the Bulwagan Saddle, you’ll notice several trails on either side.
On the left (North side), there are two trails. The right trail is a winding path of tanlak and bamboo grass that leads to the traverse trails and the pseudo-summit, also known as Jones’ Peak (c/o Gideon Lasco of Pinoy Mountaineer). (The actual summit is inaccessible.) We encountered four locals in search of tanlak fruits, used for relieving difficulty in breathing or asthma. When we arrived at the peak, the fog was blocking the view. I prayed for a momentary clearing, and it was granted. When the fog partially cleared, the view was magnificent. You can see the lakes and the mountains beyond. It was well worth the effort of the climb.
Other campers. Since we camped on weeknights, there wasn’t anyone else to share the campsite with. The only other people we encountered in the mountains were locals in search of tanlak fruits, who where near the peak at the most opportune time (they confirmed the direction to the peak as well as which trail leads back to the jump-off).
LNT practice. Both campsites at the crater and the Bulwagan Saddle, are not as pristine as everyone would’ve liked. There was minimal trash at the saddle– we picked up some plastic on the grounds– but not so for the crater. At the crater, there were bottles, cigarette butts, wet wipes, among others. We would’ve wanted to pick them up and bring them down, but the descent was already difficult. On the trail, we saw two large Gatorade bottles (we couldn’t pick them up even if we wanted as we’re likely to fall off the ravine if we do), and plastic wrappers of junk foods (probably trail food).
Descent. The descent was pretty uneventful (except for the many times we slipped because of the loose earth), but every step was a struggle. About a fourth of the way down, my knees were already trembling. I find descents more mentally exhausting than ascents; I was combating exhaustion, stomach ache, and blisters on my toes, and the stress on my knees weren’t helping. This one had me annoying Pred with my frequent questions of “How far still? and “Are we there yet?” Hehe. I was hopeful we could do a major at Montelibano’s house, but there wasn’t anyone inside when we arrived. But the same two beautiful cats (who also welcomed us during the ascent), greeted us and renewed our energy.
Further down, the locals kindly invited us to ride their jeepney so we don’t have to walk, but we politely declined, as we wanted to complete the trek by foot. At the jump-off, the lady storekeeper allowed us to use their CR for major, thankfully. We bought some snacks from them as we waited for Kuya Alfred, our guide/tricycle driver, who’ll be driving us back to the highway. Pred is very happy with the folks in Dolores, as they’re very kind and accommodating.
|Length of trek||★★★☆☆|
Technical Difficulty. Overall, we loved this climb, although I found that it wasn’t as easy as many mountaineers make it out to be, especially for beginners and/or petite (i.e. small) people. Lots of assault, requires holding on to roots (big gaps between footholds, loose earth, ravine) and some rock-climbing near the crater.
Steepness/Inclination. From the jump-off to the peak is more than 600m gain in elevation through winding paths. As mentioned, there are lots of assault. With a full pack, it is not a walk in the park.
Length of Trek. The trek from the jump-off to the summit takes about 3.5-5 hours (one-way, depending on your pack, and pace).
Weather. It didn’t rain heavily, but it drizzled a bit. There was fog, and we imagine the possibility of it obscuring vision, so it could be dangerous to do nighttime trekking. Fog sets in early and it was cold, so plan accordingly.
Threats/Danger/Risks. Mt. Cristobal poses the same risks normally associated with mountain climbing (slippery rocks, loose earth, ravines). But be wary of thorny plants.