Essay: An open mind on open climbs

by Gideon Lasco

In the past mountaineering in the Philippines seemed to be confined mostly to mountaineering clubs. In those days where Multiply and Facebook are things of the future, they would rely mostly on open climbs to attract new members. By “open climb”, I mean a climb organized by the club as their own climb, with a certain number of guests as participants. Just like any organizational climb there were climb officers (team leader, scribe, medic, rescue officer, etc.) and participants were briefed during a preclimb. Expenses were divided among the climb participants, although sometimes the guest had to pay a little extra since they’re still non-members. Organizers sometimes received subsidies as incentives for organizing the climb.

Today, with mountaineering getting more and more popular, open climbs are held in greater frequency. Most major mountaineering clubs plan out an open climb schedule for their fiscal year; outdoor shops hold open climbs, and even individual climbers now have the ability, thanks to the Internet, to hold their own climbs. organized its First Annual Charity Climb in Mt. Pulag last February – that, too, was an open climb (we will hold the Second Climb early next year).

Open climbs then began to evolve into a wider terminology, with varying degrees of organization. There are open climbs that are free-for-all: someone would just invite climbers to join him; kani-kanya sila nang diskarte afterwards. The organizer would act as nominal team leader but he has little authority over the climbers with whom he/she is climbing as equals. Some climbs are more organized, with preclimbs held to discuss food and itinerary matters. Still others carried on the concept of open climbs in the traditional sense, with the Team Leader wielding captain of the ship powers.

Then I am sure many would object to “commercial climbs” or climbs for profit which are often organized nowadays. When I contemplated the idea of holding a Climb for the Environment last June, a commenter even said that “THis is a modus operandi…pera lang ang habol nyo.” which annoyed me a lot — indeed open climbs have been generalized as commercial ventures, even though there are legitimate reasons for the expenses (i.e. a charitable cause, organizational expenses).

Joining an open climb is a matter of choice. If you think a climb is expensive then you can organize your own climb. Commercial climbs, in the first place, will not attract much participants because the actual cost of the climb, and how to do it, are posted in this website. Indeed, I don’t think the convenience of not having to organize a climb is the main reason why people join open climbs. There is the opportunity of meeting other climbers, getting a climb shirt, and so on. People climb for many reasons after all.

I am convinced that these developments are healthy for the mountaineering community. Let individual climbers exercise their choice of whatever climb to join. However, here’s my “Ten centavos’ worth” about this issue:

(1) The issue of responsibility – If something goes wrong, who is responsible for whom? There WILL ALWAYS BE a certain amount of responsibility on the part of the organizers no matter what waiver is signed or no matter, so organizers should always keep this in mind. But this responsibility has limits. Ultimately, there is also individual responsibility and if the organizers can demonstrate that they provided for sufficient measures of safety and security (i.e. screening of participants whether they are fit for a particular difficulty; making sure a doctor or a medic is on board), then the burden will now fall on the individual to explain his actions. If the Team Leader told you not to leave campsite without a buddy and you still did so — it is no longer his fault that you got lost. Hence, responsibility is shared. Mountaineering is a risky recreational activity to begin with and everyone must be aware of this.

Waivers, by the way, according to a lawyer-friend of mine, have little legal weight. Even if your participants sign a waiver but it is proven that you did not exercise due diligence as the “captain of the ship” or negligence was found on your part, you can still be held liable. Conversely, the individual can still be legally held accountable for his actions even if there is no waiver.

(2) The issue of profit – I have nothing against groups or individuals who want to get some profit from open climbs but the safety of the climbers and the success of the climb should still be your top priority. Never mind the nice shirts and the certificates although they are nice bonuses, remember that people care most about reaching the summit, remaining safe, and having fun. If you can achieve this then I’m sure people will not mind allowing you to get your fair reward from the climb.

(3) What goes on in a climb stays within the climbers – I believe this is still practiced by some groups to date and it is a very good practice. Climbing is a form of fellowship and it is not only in socials where you will get to know more about people, but also in the climb itself there may be embarrassing moments. With open climbs, we get to meet total strangers but it is good to still observe this so people will be more at ease with your company. Getting gossiped about after a climb is not a very encouraging. Organizers, I think, should not badmouth their participants afterwards especially since they themselves were the ones who invited them. Also, if a conflict or dispute arises within the climbers, they should try to resolve it amongst themselves during the climb, or the postclimb.

(4) Choose your mountains well. A Free-for-all Batulao climb is good; an open climb with just one preclimb up Pulag via Ambangeg is alright, but personally I will have reservations in organizing an open climb for difficult mountains, especially if I don’t know the participants well. Beyond Difficulty 6/9, I don’t recommend “walk-in” open climbs. Of course, there is a way to go about this: hold training climbs to be able to assess the participants more and prepare them for the challenging climb ahead.

To conclude this piece, I appeal to everyone to have an open mind on open climbs. They are nice venues to get to know fellow climbers and they’re an easy way for start-up climbers to gain experience quickly. Regardless of your reason for organizing or joining an open climb, do not lose sight of your own responsibility as a climber to help ensure the safety of the team, the meaningfulness of the fellowship, and the success of the climb.

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12 Comments on "Essay: An open mind on open climbs"

6 years 5 months ago

Hi to all,

Im a mountaineer and a member of a volunteer group who help physically and mentally challenged children, street children and orphans. Ang ginagawa po ng group namin ay kumukuha po kmi ng mga nasabing mga bata sa ibat ibang institution dito sa manila para sa sampung araw (10 days)na kamp sa napiling lugar ng group namin sa pilipinas (e.g. palawan, davao, baler etc ect)… ( yan po ang link sa group namin para d na ko magexplain ng mahaba… HINDI PO YAN PLUGGING, INTRO LANG PO…

As a mountaineer I use "Open Climb" as a venue to raise fund for my group.. Opo nag oorganize po ako ng "Climb for a Cause" or "Open Climb" kung anu man tawag nyo dun….

Bilang isang CLIMB ORGANIZER may mga bagay na dapat tyong isipin.. Para po sa akin ay ang mga sumusunod:

1. SAFETY – Lagi po nating sisiguraduhin na ligtas ang mga participants natin ( sa pre climb plang dapat discuss na sakanila mga dangers and preparations na kailangan nila). Siguraduhin din na may kakayahan ang organizers na umaksyon sa oras ng emergency (e.g. kupleto gamit like ropes, medecines etc)

2. BUNDOK – Isaalang alang din ang bundok na pupuntahan.. Like kung ilan lang ba ang maximum na participants na kaya iaccomodate ng bundok para naman hndi masira ang trail o ang bundok mismo.

3. VALUE FOR MONEY – alam naman natin lhat na mas mahal ang budget kapag "climb for a Cause" so dapat natin isipin na ang participants natin hindi pinupulot ang pamabayad nila sa atin. Dapat natin maintindihan na ang purpose ng climb ay hindi lang para makalikom ng pera kung hindi para din magbigay ng kasiyahan at magandang experience sa mga participants. Kailangan kahit papano matapatan natin ung pera na ibinayad sa atin ng participants.

4. CUSTOMER SERVICE – our participants is our customers, dapat kapakanan nila ang inuuna natin…

5. at ang huli ay TRANSPARENCY, as organizers kailangan open tayo sa lahat ng katanungan ng mga participants.. kung kailangan ipakita ang mga resibo pinapakita ko po sa kanila. Alam din po nila kung magkano ang budget sa climb at kung magkanu ang mapupunta sa funds ng org ko… Alam din pop ng participants namin kung magkanu ang nalikom namin na pera. Awa ng diyos kadalasan may mga nagdadagdag pa para sa funds namin.

At ang pinakahuli iniinvite namin lahat ng sumama sa "CLIMB FOR A CAUSE" during the awarding ng funds sa mga Officer ng Organization namin. Para alam nila na napupunta talaga sa tamang pupuntahan ang binayad nila…

As organizer para sa akin yang limang bagay na yan ang kailangan isalang alang pag gagawa ng isang climb.


1. Sana po pagsasama kyo sa isang organized climb leave room for mistakes para sa mga organizers. Kasi sabi nga nila " Tao lang" hindi kami perpekto.. May mga bagay na minsan hindi namin ineexpect na biglang dumadating..

2. Sana po isipin din po ninyo na hindi lang po isa o dalawang mountaineer ang iniisip namin, minsan po umaabot ng 30, 40 o 50 na tao ang kargo namin… Intindihin nyo na lang po na minsan makakagawa po kami ng desisyon/ aksyon na hindi makakabuti sayo, pero makakabuti sa kanila.. gets po ba? i mean we make decision/action for the good of the whole group hindi po para sa ikabubuti ng isang tao lang… at pwedeng ung desisyon na yun ay magugustuhan mo, pwede din hindi… Paki intindi na lang po kami…

Salamat po…


Aisha from Cebu
7 years 3 months ago

I've been climbing since February 2010, and the genesis for my climbing experience was a sort of "friendship climb" here in Cebu. I am grateful for such outdoor experience since it opened the door to future climbing activities for me, with precious friends gained, camaraderies formed, and indispensable survival ideas shared by my fellow mountaineers. Looking back at the pictures, I felt that mountaineering is perhaps the best thing that has ever happened to me, not withstanding the fact that I've conquered my self rather than conquering the mountain itself.

But something's bugging me.

In the heat of the island of Cebu, mountaineers are often met with an avalanche of rude criticisms, most of which are hurled towards groups that organize open climbs. Now, these opinions range from the good, the bad, and the extremely retarded people who possess a myopic view of what mountaineering should be: they reduce the sport into their own definition. Even a local mountaineering website has turned ugly, thanks to individuals who have lost all sense of online etiquette. As a climber from Cebu, these things pain me.

So what defines an OPEN CLIMB ACTIVITY? What is the standard definition of MASS CLIMBING? If one participates in an open climb, does that mean one is partaking into mass climbing as well? There has to be a fine line between the two, if one has to put an end to all the bickering amongst the mountaineers of Cebu.

I seek enlightenment. Perhaps a wise and humble climber can do the honor?

7 years 11 months ago

bakit walang umaamin na kaya may ibang nag oorganize ng open climb ay para kumita ng pera..?
wag tayo mag bulag-bulagan.. alam nating lahat na nangyayari ang ganyan..

8 years 5 months ago

Hi Sir Gid,

I agree with most of your comments above. I couldn't just imagine how people think that the supposedly climb for PDL was for money making venture. Just try to understand though that either people are just too pessimistic in this country or they may have experienced a valid and similar experience in the past.

Having participated 4 open climbs from different groups sparked my interest in mountain climbing. It was in those climbs that I assessed how poorly prepared I was (and I was just courting disaster). True, proper physical and mental preparation is needed for any mountain (as no mountain must never be underestimated). Now, am more safety conscious than before.

I agree though that organizers must explain EVERYTHING to their participants the risks that they are entering when joining their climb. And that participants fully understood it. Mabuti pang sa simula pa lang kaysa magsisihan sa bandang huli.

Looking forward to joining your open climb and those of other groups.

8 years 5 months ago

hello po Sir Gideon plan mo din po ba umakyat ng kilimanjaro? ako po by 2011 akyat po ako dun.