Stepping into one of the densest and most diverse forests in the world is an experience that can fill us with nostalgia.
Mt. Guiting-Guiting, dubbed as G2, is on the wishlist of many outdoor enthusiasts for being one of the most difficult mountains to climb in the Philippines.
As one of the toughest hikes in the country, this requires a healthy sense of adventure. Anyone who plans to complete a traverse should gather enough courage and stamina because this will be a test of both physical and mental endurance.
The mountain features a series of jagged peaks and that’s how it earned the name Guiting-Guiting which means “saw-toothed”.
Don’t like long narratives? Jump over to blog post sections:
- Sibuyan | Getting There
- Best time to hike the mountain
- Range of experiences (emotions)
- Hiking Route
- Climb Highlights
- What you can see on trail
- Climb Tips & Tricks
Sibuyan Island: the Galapagos of Asia
Mt. Guiting-Guiting is towering in the center of Sibuyan—an island strategically located at the heart of the Philippine archipelago. It stands as the tallest mountain in Romblon province with an elevation of 2,058 masl.
How to get to Sibuyan Island
Sailing to Sibuyan Island is time-consuming yet a necessary one. To best catch a ferry going to Sibuyan, go to Batangas Port which has daily overnight trips (Php1,000++ fare). This is the easiest way to reach Sibuyan. Or take chances in Roxas City (Culasi Port).
Roxas City (Culasi Port) has ferry trips (Php592 fare) to Romblon every Mon/Wed/Fri at 12 noon, but you need to take another boat trip to reach Magdiwang, Sibuyan (Port of Ambulong).
There is a direct trip via pumpboat (Php350 fare) which leaves from Roxas City (Culasi Port) around 8am to San Fernando, Sibuyan BUT the schedule is unstable and the safest bet is Tuesday.
Dense forests dominate Sibuyan, covering 81% of the total land area. Its rich biodiversity and unspoiled ecosystem entitled Sibuyan as the Galapagos of Asia. No wonder, Mt. Guiting-Guiting is teeming with endemic wildlife, including rare and critically endangered species, a result of the island’s isolation from the rest of the archipelago ever since the Ice Age.
When you visit Sibuyan to climb up Mt. Guiting-Guiting, you will experience moving through scenic and diverse landscapes: from mangroves, to grasslands, to lowland rainforest, to montane forest with resin-bearing trees, to exposed heathlands at the mountain ridges. Engaging with nature at the only mountain in the Philippines with a complete habitat type on its slope, is a unique and exciting adventure.
Hiking Season: Best Time to Climb Mt. Guiting-Guiting
The best period to climb Mt. Guiting-Guiting is during the dry season or summer which runs from January to May.
Avoid the wet season, especially during the wettest months, July and August. Slippery steep paths and wet boulders make it too risky. When there is a tropical depression brewing or heavy rainfall forecast, a good decision is to reschedule or cancel the climb.
Holy Week season will have numerous hikers. Because of the limited camping grounds, itinerary adjustment can happen.
Climb Itinerary Days
- 3D2N – Good opportunity to completely enjoy the trail. [Click here for the Itinerary]
- 2D1N – Can be grueling and hiking has to start very early.
- 1D / Day Traverse – ~18h depending on your fitness level, suitable only for serious hikers or trail runners. Fastest is ~8h according to a local guide.
- Plus Travel Time: 2 Days
A True Wilderness Experience
What I love most is that climbing up Mt. Guiting-Guiting covers a broad range of experiences. From calm and peaceful during the first hours of being on foot in the grasslands with a clean river nearby; to animated and heart-pounding upon entering the dark rainforest where the ascent starts. It becomes enjoyable and surprising as I find odd plants and see birds soaring.
During steep scrambling segments with boulders abound, it moved to exciting yet exhausting; to frightening and intense as we went down a 90-degree wall without help of ropes.
Next to thrilling and unexpected upon facing the “Kiss the Wall” segment by embracing a rockface with a steep drop-off, turning around without the other end visible like a blind curve, and discovering that it only takes a few seconds. Likewise upon learning that the knife-edge ridge crossing is not as scary as I imagined.
When we started heading down to the river that we can see in the distance, it turned into comfortable and positive, knowing that life will be easier soon, even if it is miles and hours away.
Climbing this mountain is no easy feat, but it offers an extreme sense of accomplishment when you finish, not to mention the sumptuous feast for the eyes.
Into the Wilderness: Ascending Steep Jagged Terrain & Crossing Knife-edge Ridges
The traverse involves seemingly endless scrambling on bouldery paths, hiking in the dark, thrilling knife-edge ridge crossing and includes getting through a 90-degree wall without ropes.
The hiking route sprawls across two towns, with San Fernando in the south, and Magdiwang in the north.
We took the south to north 3D2N Reverse Traverse which starts in Olango and exits to Protected Area Office of Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Tampayan.
The elevation begins with 5 masl at the trailhead and rises to 2,058 masl at G2 Summit.
An older established and equally taxing route, the Traditional Trail, has opposite entry and exit points. But long before the traverse route got popular, the old-fashioned way is: After reaching G2 Summit, hikers return to Tampayan instead of traversing all the way to Olango exit point.
For comparison, Mt. Guiting-Guiting (G2) is not as lofty as Mt. Apo which soars 2,954 masl high. But technically G2 is more difficult to scale up due to its exposed and steep rocky trail which requires scrambling. In terms of difficulty level (9/9), Mt. Guiting-Guiting is in the same league with Mt. Halcon of Mindoro and Mt. Mantalingahan of Palawan.
While reading about G2 hiking stories, the trail’s descriptive names sparked interest. Names such as Peak of Deception, Crash Site, Kiss the Wall, Camel Back, 90° Wall, Knife Edge, and Walk of Fame fired my imagination of the trail. I won’t talk about everything here for you to discover it on your own.
And sure enough, traversing involves seemingly endless scrambling on steep jagged paths, hiking in the dark starting at 2AM, and crossing rocky ridges with thin pathways in between two deep valleys.
One thing that concerns hikers during Mt. Guiting-Guiting traverse is the limited water source. But this is manageable by just sipping every now and then, instead of gulping—to cope with the very warm and exposed trail. Mabel’s Spring, our lunch area during Day 2, was dry. It took us some time to find a slow-dripping seep to fill our almost empty water bottles.
There were times some hikers got forced to drink from pitcher plants to quench the unbearable thirst. As much as possible, don’t drink from pitcher plants, you don’t know how safe that is. If ever you have to, check for dead insects and leave the plant unhurt.
The key is to budget trail water so it lasts until you get to the next water source. Also, conserve camp water: use it for cooking, but restrict or limit use from washing utensils and cleaning your body. There are available water sources along the trail, but are spread out and hours apart.
Mt. Guiting-Guiting Water Sources
- Olango River. One of the streams of Catingas River which is considered one of the cleanest river in the world where you can drink water directly without using filters.
- Camp 3 water source. Off-trail, but a bit near from Camp 3.
- RemVal’s Spring. Near SanRem Valley before reaching Peak of Deception
- Mabel’s Spring. Before Kiss-the-Wall segment to Mayo’s Peak. Dry most of the time. A seep can be hard to find.
- Bulod’s Spring. Lower to Mayo’s Peak campsite. After Mayo’s Peak, the trail will be less intense with some covered areas so you probably won’t feel the need to drink as much water.
- Tampayan River. Another safe water source.
The climb itself will normally take 2 – 3 days to complete. If you’re the brave athletic type, a Day Traverse is achievable by starting as early as 12AM (before daylight) from Olango to Tampayan.
A day traverse is a good adventure challenge if you’re serious about going fast in a difficult route. But this demands a degree of skill and fortitude to enjoy and safely finish. According to a local guide, the fastest was an 8-hour finish record done by an expat.
Possibly, one of the local guides or porters might beat this record even by just wearing an ordinary pair of slippers and if given the chance of not having the usual backpack load. Yes, one of our guides was just wearing slippers throughout the climb and felt comfortable.
Without sturdy hiking boots, they can leap from boulder to boulder and can scramble swiftly over vertical segments. Our guides know the trail like the back of their hands.
G2 Summit consists of prominent twin peaks and provides a sweeping view of surrounding mountains with Sibuyan Sea. During our climb, we’re lucky to have clear skies! Even spotted Mayon Volcano’s silhouette. The summit can be foggy at some period. If you’re not camping near and is behind the itinerary, you might have to leave without seeing its verdant backdrop.
Before daylight on the way to G2 Summit, we passed the Crash Site where debris of an airplane that crashed back in 1995 lies. Only a few parts remain since some locals took away and traded the metal scraps for a meager sum of money. The search and rescue team thought the plane disappeared around Mt. Halcon in Mindoro, but instead, it collapsed down to the treacherous slopes covered with thick fog here in Mt. Guiting-Guiting. Locals discovered the remains of the pilot and other passengers so much later after the actual crash. From the stories I heard, one skeleton was found embracing a nearby tree.
A viewpoint to get a stunning scenery of the jagged ridges is the Peak of Deception. It is called Peak of Deception because if you’re doing the Traditional Trail, you thought you’ve reached the summit, but the truth is, it will take about an hour or more, and climbing up a 90-degree rock wall is necessary before reaching the real G2 summit. No matter how scenic the background from here, we cannot stand the heat and we had to leave when strong winds started blowing.
The most difficult segment is the 90-degree Wall. I can imagine what will happen if I lose footing and grip. Our guides had to show us how to reach the next foothold. It’s tricky. Going down a rock wall about 60 to 70 feet high without safety ropes is nerve-wracking. One wrong step and you might depart this earth for eternity.
Next onto Kiss the Wall segment, which is bearable and short. One of the longest 20 seconds of my life. Once you get to this point, you are left with no choice but to hug and kiss the rockface. On a steep edge, to turn around clinging to the wall without the other end completely visible, is not that easy.
The last challenging segment is the Knife Edge Ridge to Mayo’s Peak—our last campsite. Despite how daunting the ridge looks in the distance, its very narrow pathway is flanked by shrubs, grasses and few stunted trees, and dotted by stable boulders. With that, the depths of the mountain slope cannot be felt or totally estimated while crossing, making it less of an ordeal than expected.
Mayo’s Peak. Crossing felt never-ending. The ridge contour gives a misleading impression that Mayo’s Peak is just a short distance from Mabel’s Spring. Rather it took us a couple of hours following its curves with some boulders to scramble to reach our final peak for a breathtaking sunset.
We pitched camp on dampened grounds behind Mayo’s Peak. With the limited area full of Traditional Trail hikers, our guides decided to only set up a tarp. It was Holy Week, a climbing season for G2.
Around 9pm, a group of hikers from Olango arrived, all looking worn out and without dinner yet. Imagine crossing the knife-edge ridge at night! No smiles and no exchange of hellos happened, except for two who arrived a little earlier and had managed to eat our leftovers. There’s no more space for them so they had to continue further down.
Down to Tampayan River. Heading to Tampayan is not as intense as the previous paths. There are covered areas and no more scrambling segments. Our pace was faster downhill. We stopped by the river and had a quick refreshing dip in its cool waters.
Exit Point – DENR-PENRO. After arriving at the exit point, we log out from the record book and got a certificate of completion from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Office. This is also where we showed up on Day 0 to register for a climbing permit before we headed to Olango trailhead.
Getting back safely in one piece is enough accomplishment. Evidently, it was grueling but one of the best hikes I’ve done.
If you’re planning to climb Mt. Guiting-Guiting, make it extra special by tagging along awesome hiking buddies—they will make it a little easier and fun.
Scenic Hike + Wildlife Spotting
Truly a captivating place. There are several opportunities for a 360° view of the forest landscape. Plus breathtaking panorama of Sibuyan Sea, a silhouette of Mayon Volcano, sea of clouds, splendid sunrises and sunsets, unique plants, birds flying, striking jagged mountain ridges…a feast to the eyes!
You can never have enough pictures or videos. This is one of the most scenic hikes in the Philippines. There are many insta-worthy spots that we couldn’t help but take snaps. However, updating Facebook or Instagram real-time is difficult because 3G/4G WiFi is not available in most areas. 😅 Moreover, regular cell signal is spotty in the mountains.
The Philippines is a global biodiversity hotspot and Sibuyan (along with Palawan) remains as one of the most unspoiled ecosystems in the country.
With rich mountain flora and fauna, you can encounter a variety of carnivorous pitcher plants, wild orchids, interesting trees, endemic birds, giant moss mouse, and wild civet cat species—including their blue-tinged droppings which can be spotted along the trail.
Sometimes a civet cat with glowing eyes comes out at night to hunt for food around the campsite, but run away fast before you can take a closer look or take a photo of them. Also, when it comes to keeping food or leftovers, avoid placing it close to tents and bags because a wild mouse can smell the food and might scratch and leave tidbits on your stuff.
Pitcher plants fascinate me. Due to lack of nutrients from the soil, pitcher plants feed on small insects like flies and bees, and might even swallow frogs and trap a mouse. I was particularly amazed by miniature pitcher plants on boulders, thriving between cracks. Also, I was delighted to spot plenty of larger-sized species. Some are higher pitchers found wrapping on trees, usually slender and elongated. While some ground pitchers are round and can be as big as the size of your foot. Those on moist boulders are thumb-sized or smaller.
At higher elevations such as G2 Summit and Mayo’s Peak, trees are stunted, gnarled and crooked. Some orchids and ferns attach itself to tree branches. Another interesting fact is, Mt. Guiting-Guiting hosts tiga or ironwood, trees that are hard like steel. You can find some confiscated ironwoods from illegal logging at the DENR Protected Area Office.
Sunsets are romantic in Mt. Guiting-Guiting. One of the best sunsets I’ve experienced. Before it got totally dark, the horizon glowed with fiery sunset. The sky and sea intertwined. It was spectacular to watch the horizon over Sibuyan Sea slowly diffusing in amber and golden hues.
The sky and sea are one during sunset. A sea of clouds covered most of the waters. Olango Trail Camp 3.
At Mayo’s Peak, expect lovely sunrises and sunsets, looking magical behind jagged peaks. This can also be a great spot for stargazing at night. On top of that, you can get a distant view of Mt. Mayon, a perfect cone volcano, standing above the sea of clouds.
Photo Credits: Some of the beautiful photos used are from Cielo Alcuino and Osbert Silerio.
Itinerary: Mt. Guiting-Guiting Reverse Traverse
Sample Itinerary for 3D2N Reverse Traverse Climb (Olango – Tampayan Trail)
1700 Assemble at Buendia Bus Terminal
1745 Take bus from Manila to Batangas Port
2000 Arrival at Batangas Port
2200 ETD from Batangas Port to Romblon Port, Romblon
0600 Arrival at Romblon Port, Romblon
0700 ETD at Romblon Port to Ambulong Port, Sibuyan Island (Transfer to MV Querubin)
1000 ETA at Ambulong Port, Sibuyan
1100 Lunch at Bagumbayan Beach Resort
1200 ETD DENR for registration and briefing
1300 ETA DENR Sibuyan Sub-station. (PENRO or Protected Area Office)
1330 Head to San Fernando, Romblon. Drop by the market to buy supplies.
1600 ETA San Fernando, Romblon.
1700 ETA Jump-off site (Sitio Olango)
1900 Dinner. Overnight stay at Remy’s Cottages (lead guide’s place).
0500 Wake up call / Breakfast
0630 Start Trek
1200 Lunch at Camp 2
1300 Resume Trek
1600 ETA Campsite 3. Set up camp
1800 Dinner / Socials
0200 Wake up call
0215 Break camp / Breakfast
0315 Start Trek
0430 ETA Crash Site
0530 ETA RemValdely’s Peak
1230 Resume Trek
0630 ETA G2 Summit
0830 Start Trek
1030 ETA Peak of Deception
1200 ETA Mabel’s Spring. Lunch and Rest.
1330 Resume Trek
1430 Start of Knife-edge Ridge
1600 ETA at Mayo’s Peak
0500 Wake up call
0515 Watch Sunrise
0600 Break Camp
0630 Start Trek
0700 Bulod’s Spring
0900 Resume Trekking
1130 ETA at Camp 1
1330 ETA River/River Crossing
1500 Arrival at DENR. Proceed to Bagumbayan Beach House
1730 ETA Bagumbayan in Magdiwang. Check-in Bagumbayan Beach Resort. Settle guide fees and have Dinner.
0500 Wake up call
0800 ETD Beach to hop on a boat for Cresta de Gallo. Picturesque Mt. Guiting-Guiting can be seen in the distance.
1000 ETA Cresta de Gallo and camp (optional). Bring gallons of water and food. There is no electricity or water in the island and you might not catch the ferry trip to Romblon if you don’t leave early the next day.
0430 Wake up call
0530 Ride pumpboat back to San Fernando
0830 Proceed to Ambulong port by tricycle
1000 Take M/V Maria Querubin From Ambulong Port to Romblon
1300 ETA at Romblon Port, Romblon
2100 ETD at Romblon Port, Romblon
0500 ETA Batangas Port. Take bus back to Manila
Special thanks to Aisha and Thano Osano for organizing the hike. And to fellow trekkers Cielo, Osbert & Mark Marceno.
Travel Notes: Mt. Guiting-Guiting Climb Tips & Tricks
Some things to consider to fully enjoy the hike and your trip to Sibuyan Island:
- Be physically and mentally prepared. Make sure you are fit enough to endure the long hours of hiking in steep and exposed rocky terrain with limited water.
- Contact guide weeks ahead and get a permit. Mt. Guiting-Guiting National Park is a highly protected area, so hikers should only follow established trails with a DENR climbing permit, and must be accompanied by local guides. Also, pitch camp only in designated campsites. Ratio is 3 climbers : 1 guide + 1 porter-guide. Olango Trail (Reverse Traverse) lead guide and our contact person: Remy Robiso +63 921 732 2462
- Transportation. Our transportation via tricycle from Ambulong Port going to DENR station for the climbing permit, to getting to Catingas River for a quick visit, to reaching Olango jump-off area and post-climb transfers—was all taken cared of by lead guide, Remy.
- Gear up. Aside from camping gears (e.g. tent, cookset, headlamp, sleeping bag) and trail wear (e.g. dri-fit shirt, headwear, trekking pants/leggings), don’t forget to pack warm clothing or rainproof jacket. Mt. Guiting-Guiting is far from being as cold as Mt. Pulag or Mt. Dulang-Dulang, but it can get uncomfortably cold at night and it might suddenly rain while hiking. A pair of light-weight trekking poles is also helpful, especially during the descent after Mayo’s Peak, relieving knee pressure and provides stability.
- Wear anti-slip breathable gloves. Make scrambling easier with anti-slip gloves. Useful to protect your hands from rough boulder surface and prickly plants. Climbing gloves are available at outdoor shops like R.O.X.
- Budget trail water to stay hydrated. With sparse water sources, one should keep in mind to take only sips instead of gulping and secure trail water that you can manage to last until the next water spring.
- Carry trail food. Keep your energy levels up with trail food mix like nuts, chocolate chips & dried fruits, and/or have an energy bar or gel.
- Have a first aid kit. Secure at least 1 kit for the group. Do carry some medicines (e.g. loperamide, paracetamol, ibuprofen, antihistamine), hydration salt, betadine, sterile gauze pads, small foldable scissors, bandaids, alcohol swabs, elastic bandage, triangular bandage, and other useful things in case of emergency. Portable first-aid emergency kits are available in some large drug stores like Mercury and Rose pharmacies, and online stores like Lazada.
- Allow at least 5 days for the entire trip. For 3D2N traverse climb, you might want to allot 6–7 days, especially if you’re not based in Metro Manila. Flights and boat trips can get delayed or cancelled due to bad weather so it makes sense to have extra days to cover. And to fully enjoy Sibuyan, spending more days will allow you to explore its waterfalls, unspoilt beaches and other points of interest.
- Bring enough cash. ATM access is limited in Sibuyan Island. Only a couple of machines are available in Magdiwang and Cajidiocan towns. Our estimated total budget was Php8,000++ but ended up spending ~Php12,000.
- We got short on cash because we went there during Holy Week season with a tropical depression brewing. Two of us were left with no choice but to take a chartered pumpboat for a premium since no public ferries were sailing to Roxas City—our airportbase before flying back to our hometown. We had to borrow money from our friend’s mom because an ATM was offline. Money was sent in via M Lhuiller Kwarta Padala. There’s also Palawan Pawnshop’s Express Pera Padala as an alternative.
- Accommodation. On the first night, it is best to stay near the jump-off area if you don’t camp on your day of arrival in Sibuyan. We stayed at guide Remy’s place, in one of their huts. After the climb, we stayed at Bagumbayan Beach House in Magdiwang. The accommodation on the last day is already included in our Mt. Guiting-Guiting climb package.
- Recommended side trip options:
- Interesting spots in Sibuyan Island (waterfalls, beaches)
- Cresta de Gallo (with shifting sandbar)
- BonBon Beach Sandbar in Romblon
Undoubtedly, braving Mt. Guiting-Guiting is the highlight of our Sibuyan trip. But you’re not limited to mountain hiking. There are other fun things to do in the island, ideal for those who seek offbeat getaways.