U.P. Mountaineers: the Filipino students promoting responsible mountaineering

WE FIND out more about U.P. Mountaineers, a student organisation of the University of the Philippines-Diliman, which promotes responsible mountaineering.

U.P. Mountaineers

A group of student from U.P. Mountaineers from the University of the Philippines-Diliman.

U.P. MOUNTAINEERS was founded in 1977 at the University of the Philippines-Diliman. Its aims include teaching students responsible mountaineering and encouraging them to plan expeditions around the globe.


Here we find out more about the group and its recent exploits and projects. Read on to find out a history of its founders and the positive message it aims to portray to anyone with an interest in the outdoors and adventure.


When was U.P. Mountaineers formed and what were the original aims and ambitions of the organisation?

It was founded in 1977 by brothers Boboy, Benjie, and Jojie Francisco, Art Ellson, Bobbit Palaganas, and Ross Lagade. At the time, mountaineering was relatively an unknown activity in the Philippines. The founders who share the same interest in mountain climbing initially aimed at promoting the sport or the activity.
Eventually, following those early years, U.P. Mountaineers (UPM) saw the need of the organisation to also be a venue for environmental advocacy. It came naturally for us that in the early years of this development, we established UPM as a vanguard mountaineering organisation in the PH.
U.P. Mountaineers

The organisation is also very concerned about responsible care of nature and the environment.

How far has the organisation progressed today, who can join and how many members do you have?

According to Boboy Francisco, the founders never imagined that those beginnings would lead to something as big as what UPM is now. At the same time that the UPM was organising, there were other groups who were also beginning to discover about mountaineering in their own respective areas. The Manila-based group which started with UPM never imagined that this undertaking would have such a phenomenal growth. Guided by the original vision of the founders, UPM is now established as the premier mountaineering group in the country.
UPM also formed an all-volunteer auxiliary group called the UPM Search and Rescue Team.The unit has been actively serving in mountain search and rescue deployments for more than 20 years with its on-call rescue team. Aside from creating awareness and conducting promotional activities, the group also offers training modules on basic safety and disaster preparedness.
Membership is just under 1,200. U.P. Mountaineers is a student organisation in the University of the Philippines, Diliman, and recognised as tri-sectoral (composed of the studentry, community and private/government professionals). While we prioritise recruiting UP students, we also accept applications from alumni and those from outside the campus. In plain words, anyone (of proper age, 16 years old and above) can join! 
U.P. Mountaineers

A group of students put into practice their problem solving skills on an expedition.

Tell us about some of the climbs and expeditions you go on and what’s planned for the year ahead?

Naturally, the founders and its early members had set their eyes on the mountains seen in the eastern side of Iuzon like the Sierra Madre range. We have concentrated on so many explorations in Sierra Madre and at the same time on mountains few hours from Manila – Makiling, Maculot, Pico de Loro. Just recently, a team from the U.P. Mountaineers successfully completed an exploration climb at the Mt. Guiting Guting Sawtooth Traverse in Romblon.
Each year, some of our members form a team to travel to Nepal for alpine climbing. This year, a group of  eight. 
U.P. Mountaineers

Students enjoy a fun form of travel on a mountainous region.

What are some of the ways you help to make the world we live in a better place?

As mountaineers, excursions into the wilderness is an experience learning about the value of environment of forest and forest conversation and protection. It came naturally to realise that to be able for the future generations to enjoy the beauty of nature that we were experiencing before, we, as mountaineers should strive for the protection and conservation of these areas. Conservation is a very complex issue, but the U.P. mountaineers thrust is centred on responsible use of our outdoor recreational areas and forest resources. As tangible proof for this thrust, in 2016, U.P. Mountaineers started to hold an annual national mountaineering conference on responsible mountaineering and the environment called “AkyatCon” (“akyat” means “climb”).
U.P. Mountaineers

The students are involved in other sports as well as mountaineering.

What do you think students gain the most from being members of U.P. Mountaineers?

Skills that are learned from mountaineering is not a subject taught in the college curriculum. The basic mountaineering course that we offer teaches our members to be responsible outdoorsmen, equipped with the outdoor skills that makes them responsible users of our outdoor recreational areas. In the field of recreation, outdoor recreation is a new concept in the PH setting. The re-creative values of going outdoors is harnessed by individuals who undergo basic outdoor skills training.  

Does the organisation have any long-term plans or projects to grow and move into new areas for the years ahead?

From Boboy Francisco: ‘As a founder, one of my dreams is that I would like to have a trail that would traverse the length of Sierra Madre. Our local version of the Appalachian trail of the US. Being able to do this not only assures a long distance hiking trail, but will also serve as a monitoring trail of what remains in the great Sierra Madre trails. We see its potential as major eco-tourism destination in the PH. Aside from that, I envision UPM to be at the forefront of environmental concerns for the protection and conservation of remaining mountain and forest resources.’

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