Hiking matters #39: Happy new year!

2008 – the old year – was a very momentous one for the mountaineering community. I am glad that more and more mountains are being explored. Indeed, we are way past the age when people dream of Pulag and Apo. Now, more than ever, climbers are seeking new and more challenging destinations. In Mindanao we have White Peak and many others – I salute the climbers who took the extra mile to reach these places. A record number of people did the D2K traverse in recent memory – and there is also growing interest in less conventional Cordillera climbs such as the Bakun Trio, Mt. Tabayoc, and the Tirad Pass Traverse – Sagada. 
Personally, I was able to explore Mt. Mantalingajan in Palawan – perhaps this is my most significant contribution to the body of mountaineering knowledge last year. Through PinoyMountaineer.com and with the help of mountaineering clubs, we have been able to introduce other treks such as the Mt. Tapulao Traverse, Mt. Candalaga in Compostela Valley, and Cleopatra’s Needle in Palawan. With the growing number of mountains, we have been able to release a working edition of the Difficulty Scale for Philippine mountains.
Then, we celebrate the continued triumph of Pinoy climbers internationally, with six Filipinos joining the 2008 Everest Marathon in May, and Carina Dayondon being the first to finish among foreign female climbers, and Romi Garduce summitting Denali Peak in July – making him two mountains away from completing the Seven Summits. 
There was one tragic moment in  2008, however, which gives me pause: the death of three climbers in Anawangin in the middle of the year. We should always remember them and learn from their experiences as we face a new year.
2009 – the new year – promises to be an exciting one. Hopefully, we could already witness the much-awaited reopening of Mt. Halcon. “Exotic” destinations that deserve to be explored this year include Mt. Thumbpeak in Palawan; Mt. Hilong-Hilong in Agusan; Mt. Nangtud in Panay Island; and Dos Cuernos in Cagayan Valley. Personally, having begun Aguinaldo’s sojourn from Ilocos Sur, I would like to try trekking other parts of his journey. 
Then, perhaps Pinoy mountaineers should also begin setting their sights abroad: with pioneers ahead of us having begun climbing the Seven Summits, we should follow suit. Romi Garduce recommends Mt. Kilimanjaro for a start (and I know some clubs have already done this). Closer to home, we have Mt. Kinabalu in Malaysia.  
Let me reiterate my invitation for climbers to contribute to the growing body of knowledge in PinoyMountaineer.com. Join me as I try to document the beauty of the Philippine outdoors by sharing your experiences and information on mountains that are not yet listed in our database. This would make mountain climbing safer and more accessible. Side by side with opening up our mountains, of course, is the responsibility to educate new climbers about the importance of protecting the environment. Indeed, we commend the efforts of the UP Mountaineers and other clubs with environmental advocacies in 2008; we shall continue supporting such efforts in the future. 
Let us thank God for all our blessings in the past year and let us count on his guidance in the future. With these, I greet the mountaineering community a happy new year! More mountains to come! 

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