Look Ma, I’m On Top of the World!

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Mount Pulag, Benguet Province, Philippines December 13, 2015

On December 13, 2015, I went to my first ever mountain hiking trip — to the third highest peak in my country.

While most people would just roll their eyes — after all, whats 2,922 meters (or 9,587 feet) above sea level to seasoned mountaineers, right — I grew up with books and dolls… so no, I don’t have an athletic bone in my body, this is a big deal.

Give me a mountain of books to read, anytime.

Anyway, for those who do want to go to Mount Pulag, (via the easy trail) here are a few tips:

Waaay Before Your Hike:

  • Exercise. The easy trail still means you have to climb the mountain, and it’s still about four (in my case, five) hours walking, climbing, and at some point, crawling up a hill, so you have to get your body ready.
  • Get a checkup. The government now asks for medical certificates before they allow you to climb, and for good reason: apparently, a few months ago, someone died while camping on the mountain, and you really don’t want to be the next one not to make it back down.

A Few Weeks to Right Before Your Hike

  • Break In Your Shoes. As a non-athlete, it’s a miracle I have hiking shoes, (and the good kind too).My mistake was that since I don’t usually use that pair, I did not break it in properly after being in storage for so long. Right when I got to the summit,the sole almost came off, and my feet were blistered all over. There are no cars for hours, so I was basically doomed. Well, one of the tour guides saved me with the duct tape he had handy, which fixed the shoe problem, but not the tired and blistered feet problem. Also, if you have long-ish toenails, you will want to cut them. Long toenails will dig in your shoes and you will want to rip them off.
  • Eat well. For the love of all things, don’t go on a wacky diet like the all-liquid kind or whatever diet fads are these days. And don’t skip your breakfast right before the hike. From the Ranger Station, it took me almost five hours to get to the summit (but there are others who could go way faster, like maybe two to three hours) and it’s cold so you need all the energy and nutrients you can get.
  • Pack right. Bring lots of water to keep yourself hydrated. As our tour guides told us, just because it’s cold, it doesn’t mean that you’re not losing liquids. So bring lots of water and the right snacks. (I found Snickers bars and protein bars to be perfect as they have high calorie count for the trek). Oh, and don’t forget to pack the head light and everything else that your tour guides asked you to bring, like the rain gear and stuff. Trust me, they know what they’re doing.

Note: I suggested to check details with your tour guide because those who go camping have different checklists than those of us who stayed with the natives (homestays). BTW, I recommend staying with the natives because it adds to their income, which is always nice. Also, it’s loads more comfortable than freezing in a tent.

During Your Hike

  • Make sure you dress right. We went on a December so the temp got below 10 degrees Celsius. Make sure to pack enough layers (in my case, I needed three sweaters in varying thickness, haha). Then you need thick bottoms (I had on leggings under my jazz pants but I recommend you add more), thick gloves, windbreakers, scarves, thick socks…you get the picture. Oh, and make sure to smear on lip balm or petroleum jelly. Cracked lips are a pain to live with.
  • Go at your own pace. It took me nearly five hours to hike from the ranger station to the summit, so I was really slow. Others finished in about three hours, but don’t go that fast because in the end it’s your body that will have you pay. When I matched my Auntie’s and Uncle’s pacing (they’re outdoorsy), I ended up heaving and feeling faint thirty minutes in! So go at your own pace, and just keep going. The important thing is that you don’t give up until you reach the top. Oh, and a walking stick is your lifesaver. I promise.
  • Keep yourself hydrated. You won’t feel much of the thirst because of the cold, so drink up from time to time anyway. My sister recommends you bring a water bottle that does not have a detachable cap, and take a sip from it every ten to fifteen minutes because you won’t know you’re dehydrated until you start feeling faint, and you don’t want that to happen while on the narrow pathways, or on steep trails.You won’t feel much of the thirst because of the cold, so drink up from time to time anyway.

On Top of the World

  • Enjoy the view. I am a sucker for sunrises, and when I saw the one from the of the peaks, I cried. The view from so high up was so beautiful, that I had to let a teardrop (or two) fall. I found my perfect sunrise, and the photos can’t do it justice. Then, when I got to the summit, I had to remind myself that I can’t actually bounce on clouds and got pretty jealous of Peter Pan.

Oh, and remember, Mount Pulag is sacred ground for those who live there, so, as they remind trekkers:

Leave nothing but footprints.
Take nothing but pictures.
Kill nothing but time.

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Me. Watching my perfect sunrise.

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