Sagada is one of those amazing places in the Philippines where different adventures are packed in close proximity to each other. For instance, you can explore a mysterious cave in the morning and climb a verdant mountain in the afternoon. After a short hike or ride from the town proper, you find yourself jumping off gorgeous waterfalls. Or you can simply go around town and indulge in a gastronomic adventure, with different specialty restaurants literally just a stone’s throw away.
Nevertheless, we were still delightfully surprised when we discovered that Sagada has a bolted crag! Yes, we knew about the crag during our research, but we didn’t expect that it would just be a short walk from where we’re staying. In fact, the crag is just behind the public cemetery and a minute’s hike across the hanging coffins in Echo Valley.
We saw that gorgeous cliff from the ridge of Echo Valley. At first, we thought it was just an “ordinary” karst formation. Only when we reached at the bottom of the ridge did we realize that it was a bolted crag.
The attendant was taking a snooze, so we woke him up from his slumber. How inconsiderate of us! Hehehe! But it was okay; he’s a friendly guy.
Anyway, we saw that the crag only has two bolted routes. The setup is similar to an indoor wall climbing gym, with the belay devices and rope systems anchored to the ground. The belay area is sufficient and has plenty of room for equipment and spectators.
Don’t worry if you didn’t bring your climbing harness and shoes because they are included in the fee. Unfortunately, the guide ran out of chalk.
After doing the preliminary checks, it was time to start climbing! I wanted to lead climb this route as it seemed quite easy. However, since we were pressed for time, we opted to climb top rope.
With large handholds and footholds, this particular route was quite easy. If we were to grade it using the Yosemite Decimal System, it would be a 5.7. But that’s the nice thing about easy climbs. You see, we climb for fun and fitness, not for competition.
On the way up, we were treated to magnificent views of Echo Valley.
In less than 5 minutes, I was already past the crux and into the route’s grotto, which is just below the anchor. Now, don’t let the ease of climbing this route fool you though. Although the climb was easy, it was also one of the highest routes we’ve ever scaled.
Long, easy routes like these are what the climbing community in the Philippines needs to establish to promote the sport and encourage people to try out rock climbing. As what we mentioned in an earlier post, many first-timers simply give up rock climbing right away due to the frustration of not being able to reach the anchor during their first few climbs.
By introducing long and easy routes in which 80 percent of beginners can successfully reach the anchor, first-timers will be encouraged to pursue the sport, thinking, Wow! I did it! This is great! I got to try some more routes.
Sweetie tried out the route. After a three-month rock climbing hiatus, she felt great relief and joy when she first gripped the first few handholds.
After a minute or two of adjusting and letting the magic of limestone flow through her again, she breezed up the route easily, thoroughly enjoying the climb.
Just check out that wonderful crag. Yes, it is quite small, but we believe it can still accommodate an additional route or two on the left side.
After a minute of resting, I ascended (top rope, again) the other route, which was a bit more challenging than the first. The start was easy, with large handholds and footholds.
The middle of the route, however, is a completely different story. As you can see, it is quite smooth, and there are only a few footholds and handholds. However, this section is a slab (i.e., the rock face is slightly angled so it is less steep than vertical); by pulling my body close to the slanting wall, exertion on the arms and legs can be significantly lessened.
With few handholds and footholds, traversing this area is relatively sequential. Just make sure your body is close to the wall so you can conserve energy.
Once past the slab, it’s an easy climb up the anchor although I had to negotiate a slight overhang. There was a wet handhold which made the grip slippery and tricky; this is where chalk comes handy.
Personally, I rate this route 5.8.
The crag has a nice flat area where one can camp and pitch tents. This is great for visitors who wish to save money on accommodations and climb the whole day.
For the superstitious, however, camping here may give them jittery feelings. You see, the crag is directly behind a cemetery, and less than a hundred yards away are the famed hanging coffins. Yes, campers are surrounded by graveyards!
Also, check out the cliff beyond the tent; it seems to be a great candidate for bolting.
Opposite the tents is this nice nook where campers can cook meals, have a drink, and socialize. And being surrounded by graveyards, it’s a perfect place to tell ghost stories. Hehehe!
On our way up after visiting Sagada’s hanging coffins, we took a last glance (for now) at the rock wall. From this vantage, you can see how high this crag is. You can also see that it is slightly angled forward, which makes the climb easier.
We are scheduling to revisit Sagada soon to experience its more extreme adventures. Camping here and rock climbing for an entire day is definitely in our bucket list on our planned visit. Combine that with bouldering, spelunking, mountain climbing, and river trekking and more and we’ll have a memorable adventure in this stunning town.
- P 250 – single climb
- P 400 – unlimited climb
- unknown – camping fee
1. In most cases, rock climbing in Sagada is not included in packaged tours. Thus, this is normally a separate expense.
2. We are not sure if the crag is manned by a guide/belayer at all times; we may be lucky that the guy was there. Thus, we strongly advice to drop by and inquire (and register) at the Sagada Municipal Tourist Information Center before proceeding to the crag. If the crag is not regularly manned, then dropping by the tourism office to inform them of your intention to climb will prompt them to help provide you a guide/belayer.
The same holds true if you wish to camp in the crag.
The tourism office can also provide tourist information, guide procurement, rate sheets, and other things that you need for your Sagada visit
3. You can bring your own equipment to the crag. Take note that rock climbing may not be as popular here as with Cantabaco, Atimonan, or other crags. Thus, expect insufficient equipment.
If rock climbing in Sagada is in your itinerary, then we strongly recommend that you bring your own climbing shoes, harness, and chalk bag.
4. Pack light but bring the following
- light snacks
- trekking sandals with an aggressive tread
- comfortable clothes, shorts
- hat, sarong, or scarf
- extra clothes
- rain gear
- personal medicines
- plastic bags/garbage bags
- extra money for food, souvenirs, and emergencies
5. For convenience, waterproof your things; you will never know when it rains. Place them inside dry bags or dry sacks. If they’re unavailable, put your stuff inside plastic bags or Zip-lock bags before putting them in your backpack.
6. Keep your voice down and avoid unruly behavior. Do not leave trash at the crag, even biodegradable ones.