Pinoy Mountaineer’s position on closed mountains: NO to illegal or ‘backdoor’ hikes

Pinoy Mountaineer strongly discourages hikers from violating pertinent laws and climbing closed or restricted mountains without the necessary permits or consent from the relevant authorities. Organisers are especially called upon to refrain from holding hikes on the above-mentioned venues and in doing so set a very bad example for beginners. Participants are likewise responsible for their decisions, and are also called upon to refrain from joining ‘backdoor’ hikes. Contrary to what some might think, going on ‘backdoor hikes’ is not cool and does not make you a better mountaineer.

Aside from being unlawful which is a reason in itself not to do it, illegal or ‘backdoor’ hikes are detrimental for a number of reasons. First, while we find some closure orders unreasonable, many “closures” are made for safety or security reasons, and to violate them is to go into harm’s way. We saw this in Mayon Volcano several years ago when some hikers died due to a sudden eruption.

Secondly, a mountain’s being closed means that there are no systems in place to attempt rescues, in the event of emergencies. This will further compromise the safety of the participants of such hikes.

Thirdly and crucially, violators carry the name not just of themselves or their group, but of the whole mountaineering community. Backdoor hikers compromise the good name of all mountaineers and are called upon to consider their fellow outdoorsmen in their decision-making.

Some common justifications of backdoor hikes are cynical (i.e. “They’re closing the mountains because they want to hide illegal activities”) or legalistic (i.e. “But we got a permit from the barangay!”). None of these are acceptable. For protected areas, the DENR has jurisdiction, while for certain volcanoes PHIVOLCS’ Alert Level warnings are also considered by the DENR. Consent at the barangay or even municipal level does not remove the legal liabilities of hikers who violate rules.

On a positive note, hikers should bear in mind that there are hundreds of hiking destinations in the Philippines that can be hiked without running afoul of the law. Moreover, there are ways to do hikes legally, including seeking a permit from the park authorities. If your dream mountain is closed at the moment, waiting for it to be opened will require patience – but will also make for a rewarding hike in the end. Always remember that a sense of respect – for the mountains, for the authorities, for community members, and for your fellow hikers: such is the truest mark of a mountaineer.

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