5 Things to Remember in Climbing Mt. Pulag (for beginners)

After weeks of constant prodding by F, Mt. Pulag has finally been conquered.

With zero training and 100% confidence that I was going to die of hypothermia, I mustered enough courage to go through the climb. There were lots of obstacles on the way, but I must say, it was an exhilarating and exhausting experience.

I didn’t have any mountain climbing gear, so I resorted to my friends and my mom for help. I borrowed all necessary stuff for the climb and spent only on a raincoat that was good to have but was never used. The raincoat was worth P79.00 in Ace Hardware.

My mom was very helpful. I asked her for sweaters. She gave me a bag full of designer winter clothing. I thought, “Does she realize I’m climbing a MOUNTAIN? Or is she thinking I’m going to the Swiss Alps for some cable car experience?” Anyway I managed to find a warm and thick hooded sweater in a shade of pink so bright I swear any bear or wild boar could find me even if I dug myself into a hole.

If you’re planning to climb Mt. Pulag, or any mountain for that matter, and have little or absolutely no experience at all, or you just found yourself trying to win a bet that you will not die in the process of climbing said mountain, then this list is for you. These are things to remember, mostly what to pack, and what to expect.

1) Freezing temperatures.

Mt. Pulag is the second highest peak in the country and the highest in Luzon. Travelers and bloggers are not kidding when they say it’s freezing up there. And take note, I did not say cold; I said freezing. And that makes a lot of difference. In the dead of the night I was shivering profusely under 5 layers of clothing. That includes a t-shirt, 2 sweaters, a sweater and a windbreaker. Plus, I had 2 scarves wrapped around my neck and 2 beanies on my head. I wore 2 pairs of pants and 2 pairs of socks. I covered myself in everything I had in my bag, and I still felt like I was going to die.

2) Long walks.

The Ambengeg trail, which is most likely the trail you’re going to follow to the camping site, is the easiest trail, the one used by beginner climbers. Do NOT be fooled when they say beginner. The ones who say beginners are those who climb mountains for a hobby, as a passion, or as a weekend routine. They are not, and cannot, be entitled to the right to be called beginners.

But I am. And I can tell you, even if this is the easiest trail, it is not easy. It’s 3-4 hours of walking and climbing, and there will be times when you will seriously consider just rolling over the grass to get back to the bottom of the darn mountain. There will be times when you will think you’ve broken your ankle, only to find out you’re just a wuss who wants to make an easy escape.

Several times we’ve had to stop, with our guide impatiently waiting, as we try to catch our breaths and whatever life we have left. While walking is mostly what you’ll do, be prepared for short but high climbs which will leave you out of your breath and out of your mind.

3) Absence of comfort rooms.

For any human being, this is slightly uncomfortable, to say the least. But for any girl, this is a travesty. I did not see a mirror for 2 days and had to be content with my sense of touch in determining if my hair was still in place for pictures. But mostly, it had to do with the absence of a toilet.

Yes, out of all the comforts that will be taken away from you, the toilet will  be the one you will miss the most. Instead of that lovely, comfortable throne in your bathroom, Mt. Pulag offers latrines, a sosyal way of describing a hole in the ground where you shoot in whatever human waste you have. This description is not as disgusting as it really is, but to give you a clearer picture.

Around 1am, I got up because I couldn’t hold my pee anymore. So I had to make the laborious walk to the latrines, around 5 mins. away from our tent (the latrines are located at the far end of the camp), in freezing cold and pitch black darkness. But even without the harsh lights of a headlamp, I still knew I was near because of the stench of the literal sh*thole. Then, when I walked in, lo and behold what was there in front of me: someone did his business and failed to shoot it in the hole. He left some souvenirs of it on the sides where I had to step on to pee, and to top it all off, he left tissue and wet wipes with brown stains all over the place.

I was so disgusted I couldn’t even walk to the hole. But my bladder got the best of me, and I had to do my business at the side of the latrine. This is also one of the reasons why campers often tell you to just do your business beside your tent instead of going to the latrine. I should’ve listened to this advice.

4) Change of batteries.

You’ll want to record memories of your trip (maybe not to the latrines) so you’ll bring a camera, a video camera, or whatever gadget you need. Remember that batteries discharge faster in the cold. I brought two batteries for my Canon Legria video cam, but it still was not enough to cover as much as I would want. The last battery had a lifespan of 3 hours, even when I constantly turned it off after each shot. So I suggest bringing several batteries for your gadgets.

5) Dress in layers.

It’s actually better to dress in layers than to wear winter clothing, because while it’s cold at the top, it becomes a weird kind of cold when the sun is up and you’re climbing up or going down the mountain. It feels cold but you’ll still be sweating like a pig. I remember feeling prickly on my back while going back down because I was sweating in cold temperatures. F paused for a while to rest and I saw him smoking, literally. He was emitting body heat. So if you’re getting hot, stop and take off that heavy sweater. Climb in a shirt, and when it gets cold again for you, wear that sweater again.

I might add up to this list soon, so check it again once in a while. I’m also thinking of writing a post about what to bring. Until then.

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5 thoughts on “5 Things to Remember in Climbing Mt. Pulag (for beginners)

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