Exactly a year ago today, I reached the summit of Mt. Pulag, the second highest peak in Luzon at 2,992 MASL and, strangely, the second peak I was able to climb after Mt. Batulao in Batangas.
My Couchsurfing friend, Dorish, invited me to join their Mountaineering Group’s climb to Pulag, saying no would be the dumbest thing to do so even if I had minimum to no preparations at all, nor do I have the right equipment or garments to go on a major climb, I said yes in a heartbeat. Good thing, she shared a checklist for major climb first-timers like me.
In every hike, there are two designated roles to selected people in the group: the pacers and the sweepers.
The pacers, as the name suggest, set the pace of the hike and they are positioned in front of the trail. While the sweepers stay at the tail of the trail ensuring no one (or nothing) is left behind or as the name suggests, they sweep literally anything and everything as the hike proceeds. Those in the middle? Well, they can either be followers or litterbugs 🙂
Above is a photo of the group I was with during the climb, they call themselves the Sweepers Mountaineering Group. Rings true to their name as experiencing Pulag the first time with this bunch swept me off my expectations. They were very hands-on, accommodating, and capital FUN. I thought I am maparaan (resourceful) already but not until I saw how these people prepared our food (Carbonara, Sinigang, Egg and Hotdogs, Corned beef and rice), cleaned cookwares and utensils, and use makeshift first aid. Apparently, it was not just a major climb for me but also a camping lesson.
It was my first time to build a tent and use a car windshield insulator as “earthpad” to keep me warm, it was too late for me to properly know how to use it though. What I did was I used it like a sleeping mat when I should have inserted it in my sleeping bag to match my human warmth. And that’s lesson #1 among a handful in my mountain boo-boo list.
If you are a first-timer who plans to climb Mt. Pulag (or probably any mountain of the same elevation), here are some tips I would like to share:
- Bring a lot of wet wipes. And I mean, a LOT. There is no water supply thousands of meters above sea level so when you go no. 1 or no.2, wet wipes are your best friend. It is also an alternative on cleaning your utensils and/or cookwares.
Use pet bottles as cups. I was not able to bring a mug, so we cut the 500ml pet water bottle into two and voalah, mug/cup. I was worried it might shrink when I poured hot water, but no, it’s as good as gold.
Trailmix is your energy supply to survive. Nuts. Raisins. Chocolate. Yessir, Protein and Sugar.
Balm. Trust me, this will save your lips, cheeks, and nose. Only if you are as allergic to the cold as I am.
Learn to breathe through the mouth. Once you reach the grasslands, this means you are near the campsite or the peak. Air gets thinner thus breathing through the nose is a challenge. I learned different breathing when I was practicing yoga and so during the hike, it was of great help.
Be open. Do not stay inside your tent and read a book or try to catch signal to post your above-the-clouds photos. Communicate and have a good laugh with other campers/hikers. Be in that moment. Play cards, even.
Best to climb around January to February. Clouds are fluffier but of course, weather is gonna be colder. Same day last year, temp went down to 2 degrees. What more in the first two months of the year.
There are several Travel Companies and Outdoor Apparel Groups who organize variety of tours including climbs to different mountains like Pulag. You may opt to avail any of those if you do not have connections with any Mountaineering groups, this will open doors to new friends and networks too.
Nowadays, going up the mountain or going up North of Luzon in general is associated to being a “hugot” move, no matter what your reasons are for climbing Pulag, be it mending a broken heart, shouting your frustrations above the clouds, chasing a breath-taking sunrise, or plainly adhering to peer-pressure, do not forget the hiking principle:
Take nothing but pictures. Leave nothing but footprints. Kill nothing but time.