In 2015 I wasn’t able to do any big expeditions, and I was still busy working on my PhD, and I spent a term as an exchange student in the US, and then went to my home university in Amsterdam later in the year. Still, I managed to do some hikes including an unforgettable journey to the Ecuadorian Andes. Here, as per tradition, are my Top 10 Hikes of 2015:
1. Mt. St. Paul – It was more of a climb than a hike as we ascended the limestone cliffs above the Puerto Princesa Underground River to reach the summit of Mt. St. Paul – a unique challenge that’s matched only by Mt. Guiting-Guiting in terms of intensity. Read more in Hiking matters #445.
2. Mt. Ugo Traverse – This is really one of my favorite Cordillera treks of all time, and it was great to do it again. This time, we did it as a dayhike, munched on strawberries as trail food, and were back in Baguio in time for a dinner at my favorite, Hill Station! Read more in Hiking matters #443.
3. Hiking in the Ecuadorian Andes – My five-volcano adventure in Ecuador was my first trip in South America and the volcanoes were simply incredible. The highlight was Illinizas Norte, at 5124 MASL the 4th highest mountain I’ve climbed. A very memorable and special adventure. Read more in Hiking matters #457.
4. Appalachian Trail (Massachusetts section) – Together with my American hiking buddy Chris, we did a good section of the Appalachian, reaching Mt. Greylock – the highest mountain in my sister’s home state of Massachusetts. Highlights include encountering a black bear while camping on a tarp tent!
5. Mt. Busa, Saranggani – It’s another mini-tradition for me to do at least one major climb in Mindanao every year – and fortunately in 2015 I managed to do Mt. Busa in Kiamba, Saranggani. The
6. Big Bend National Park, Texas – Though it was really a family outing than anything else, I managed to do three hikes in this park, which sits at the border with Mexico. Read more in Hiking matters #477.
7. West Highland Way, Scottish Highlands – Basing myself in Glasgow, I took the train to Balmaha and did a couple of hikes in the West Highland Way in the Scottish Highlands. Truly magnificent – parang Batanes! Can’t wait for more hikes in Scotland! Read more in Hiking matters #481.
8. Le Luisin and Col d’Emaney, Swiss Alps – Once again I visited Leo Oracion and we did an intense hike which I described at the time as: “a worthy 23-kilometer, 2000-meter altitude gain challenge.” The views, however, were breathtaking: Imagine having lunch with some ibex a few meters away from you and Mont Blanc at the background. Read more in Hiking matters #484.
9. Via Ferrata in Tavolara Island, Italy – Set in the Mediterranean sea off Sardinia, the small isle of Tavolara had spectacular scenery and rock formations, but what made it really exciting is the via Ferrata experience – right in Italy, the birthplace of this climbing technique. Read more in Hiking matters #486
10. Mt. Nangtud and Napulak – After coming back from Europe, I went for a mountain that I’ve always wanted to climb: Mt. Nangtud in Antique – the second highest mountain in Panay island, next to the mighty Mt. Madjaas. Mt. Napulak was a great bonus!
Thank you Coby Sarreal for joining me in three of these hikes (St. Paul, Ugo, Nangtud)! Koi Grey joined me in two (St. Paul, Ugo) and 18-time Halcon climber Cynthia Sy (Ugo, Busa). Thank you to Leo Oracion and Chris Tejirian for guiding me in your backyards! And thank you to all the mountaineers in Palawan, Panay, and Gen. San. for welcoming us. Cheers to more adventures in 2016!
PINOYMOUNTAINEER TOP 10 HIKES OF THE YEAR