Mt. Pinatubo

We went trekking in Mt. Pinatubo last Monday (May 11th). And we finished it with a bang; we’ve got bragging rights which so far, no one has matched (until they try it themselves).

Click for more pictures

Details and Experience

For those who are familiar with the paths, there are two ways once you reach the jump off point: the “Old Way” and the “Skyway”. Actually now that I mention it, everything apparently changes over time; the details of the trek/ride in this [my] post greatly differ from another traveler’s experience.

From what I know (and what the guide had told us) the government has a contract with the military to literally carve a new Skyway route whenever the rain messes with the terrain. So the “Skyway,” as it were, is ever-changing. As of our visit, the Skyway’s length according to Vic’s GPS, was about 25km – which makes it much longer than the previous blogger’s claim at the time he and his companions used it. What was once a 20-40 minute walk/trek, was now a 20 minute 4×4 ride from the jump-off point – which was not designed to be traversed on foot.

The Old Way on the other hand, would take a totally different [shorter] path to some point where the “trek” up the mountain would begin – a good couple of hours before you reach roughly the same place where the Skyway 4×4 ride would end.

Both ways would have an initial 4×4 ride to get to from the Spa to their respective jump off points.

So what happened was we got to the top via the Old Way as planned. But when we were done and ready to go back, it started raining… we then contemplated of once again, taking the Old Way going back – as the 4x4s couldn’t get to us via the Skyway as it was too slippery for the vehicles.

Then it started raining even harder (complete with thunder) which made the Old Way really dangerous. Fortunately, the time we had to re-evaluate our options was right at the part where we could go up to the Skyway 1 A path which by the way, made Maarat inclines look like childs play

So we went up and tried walking as far as we could via the Skyway until we could meet up with the 4x4s… which turned out to be halfway when the weather let up and made it possible for the vehicles to meet up with us.

Given what I mentioned about the current Skyway, and what the driver and tour guide said; we were the first people (the guide’s first time as well) who walked a path that wasn’t meant to be walked 2 And that seemed to never end when done on foot from what we experienced – well, at least half of it.

If Vic’s GPS was worth anything, we probably easily hiked/trekked about 20km all in all. Which sounds easy until you realize you’re constantly negotiating these kinds of paths the whole time. 3 Less the streams/water, but much more increased grades of inclines when you’re at the Skyway

All the right things

I thoroughly enjoyed this particular trip because everything prior to it (and during) seemed to fall into place.

There’s the whole Adidas promo which allowed me to get perfect shoes for the trek. Then Chrise had also registered Cris and I for this 10km run on the 24th – which gave us 20% discount coupons for North Face – which I used to get a waterproof jacket – sufficed to say I was the only one from the group who didn’t get soaked when it rained hahahaha.

Then there’s Katz arriving from the states with the hydration pack accessories I had ordered – so Cris and I were able to use them for the trip. And of course, our investing in “expandable” hydration packs were put to good use as we were able to cram everything we needed into the packs.

Since the shoes Cris and I bought were good for getting submerged as they had good drainage systems, we contemplated to just wear them sock-less to avoid the icky feeling of soaked socks, but we still opted to have a pair each in our packs just in case; boy, am I glad we did because you’ll really need socks.

I even bought visors along (which I never ever used before) just for kicks and ended up using them as well.

Simply put, the gear Cris and I used for our first trip would probably be the same thing we’d bring for future similar hikes. The only thing we need to change is to bring thicker socks… and she’s got to get a waterproof jacket. Otherwise, we were boy scouts then.

Tips for travellers

If you plan to do something like this, here are things to note. Others have been suggested by Vic (which I’m glad we heeded) and others are personal observations.

Shoes

Best shoes are a combinatin of aquasport (for the drainage) and mountain (for the support/protection)

The trouble with the all-mountain shoes is that while they’re waterproof, it’s all good until the water seeps in from the top – then your shoes are fucked. Well, not realy fucked, but it will be uncomfortable and squishy and heavy. In a trek such as Pinatubo’s there’s no getting around the fact that your feet will get submerged – whether you like it or not.

The other concern to is how “padded” your shoes are. Aquasport shoes are very good drainage wise, but are too thin. You still can do it, 4 Our guide and one groupmate were using slippers but it’s not advisable as you can easily stub your feet. Given what we’ve been through, having bruised feet in addition to aching feet (another thing you can’t avoid) probably isn’t fun.

Socks

Same reason as above, you need as much protection as you can get. But in the case of the socks, you’re now protecting your skin from rubbing against the inside of the shoe – because small pebbles/sand will enter your shoes (yet another thing you can’t avoid) and they will hurt. 5 And yes, you can get wounded from it

I can totally relate to the “porma” mentality – which is why I didn’t wear socks initially as well – and the socks I had bought were below the ankles. After the stones/sand entered – 5 minutes of walking sock-less was unbearable that I had to stop, wash my feet, then put on the socks. And even after that, you’d still have to periodically rinse off the accumulated sediments

Forget about looking good, because when you walk as long as we did, you’ll really wish you geared up for “maximum comfort” instead of “looking cool” – so the thicker the better, and above the ankle to avoid it being pulled into the shoe (and getting stones into the socks as well).

Outerwear

Any outerwear that dries quickly is ideal. I personally chose board-shorts, while Cris chose mountaineering ones… both were ok. I opted to wear board-shorts so all I had to do was take of my shirt when I had to swim… then just let the shorts dry on the hike back (and given that it rained, I didn’t mind them getting wet)

You do need waterproof jackets/windbreakers though; it can get quite chilly when it rains (as in smoke-when-you-talk kind of cold). I remember sipping from my bladder and having the water initially cold – then warming up… suggesting that the air was actually colder than the water in my pack (of course by this time all the ice in my pack had melted from the trek under the sun).

A shame that the Buffs I ordered arrived Friday, and I received the notification that they were held in the post office when it was already closed (and they’re also closed during weekends) So I had to make due with my fake Buff hahahaha.

Food

Bring. Food. Period.

There’s no “store” in the destination to buy food from, so if you’re the type who gets hungry (or if you plan to take really long) bring heavy sandwiches or something.

On a somewhat related note, is it just me or do Subway sandwiches suck nowadays? It’s like all veggies and bread and no meat. I’m even thinking that bringing lots of jumbo hotdogs would’ve probably satisfy my hunger better than those stupid sandwiches. That, or rice that’s already mixed with ulam (which Vic brought, but we only got to eat when we got back to the spa)

Hydrate!

Again, one of the most underestimated aspects of any physical activity. Water does add weight to what you’re carrying – so I can understand people wanting to bring bottles while we fill up with 2 liters of water on our bladders, but consider this: It’s a fact that carrying heavier stuff while properly hydrated is less strenuous than being weak from dehydration and carrying nothing.

At the end of the trek, I actually wasn’t that tired – my feet hurt like hell for obvious reasons, but being tired wasn’t really an issue.

Having said that, I think our hydration packs are one of the best investments we’ve ever made, it really made everything so much easier and enjoyable – being able to drink without stopping or fumbling through bags, and the fact that the only thing I had to hold was either my camera, or Cris’ hand.

Notes   [ + ]

1. A path which by the way, made Maarat inclines look like childs play
2. And that seemed to never end when done on foot from what we experienced
3. Less the streams/water, but much more increased grades of inclines when you’re at the Skyway
4. Our guide and one groupmate were using slippers
5. And yes, you can get wounded from it

4 Replies to “Mt. Pinatubo”

  1. been there last year, it took us 3 hours to get to the crater since the Skyway route is not safe safe as per Dept. of Tourism’s advice (doesnt have any ECC when skyway was constructed), good thing taht all of you are safe…nice place indeed.

  2. Talaga? The guide had said when it started to rain that we could take the skyway which was longer (on foot kse) but safer, or the old way which was shorter but much more dangerous. After he had said that an American drowned in the old way when it rained a month before, everyone was fine taking the longer route hahahaha.

    Yep old way takes about 3 hours now from the jump off point to the crater. Didn’t actually time our skyway path; probably took the same amount of time to get to the halfway point where the 4x4s picked us up.

  3. I will usually prefer the long (er) winding road. Nice pics especially the watery parts! Anyway, can be done on 2 wheels, motorized or not?

  4. @Paul: Depends which part.

    From what we experienced, there are 4 parts to the trip, you take three at a time.

    First is from the Spa to one of two jump off points (either the Old Way or the Sky Way). Second and third are the the Old way/Skyway paths proper (one or the other). Then they both roughly merge at that station (fourth) at/near the foot of the volcano; going up the crater.

    The First part, pede, since meron kami motor na nakita na tumatahak, pero mabababad ka talaga sa tubig (the picture of the 4×4 splashing on the water is that part) So nasasa-iyo nalang kung gusto mo madumihan motor/bike mo (at ikaw mismo!) sa ganon 🙂

    The Second (old way), personally I think hindi pede since it’s too rocky and uneven… you’d probably end up carrying the bike most of the time. Motorcycle di ko sure, baka pede yung pang motocross 🙂

    As far as 4 wheelers go, aside from the hardcore 4×4 trucks (or similarly modified jeeps/trucks) you saw, sabi ng kasama ko that there are only TWO stock consumer 4x4s that can negotiate the terrain properly; Landcruisers and Patrols – apparently even the Troopers or Pajeros hirap. So that’s worth mentioning if you intend to do it on 2 wheels pa 😉

    The third (Skyway) pede mga downhill, because kahit uneven din sobra, dahil downhill, pede ka matulungan ng momentum. SOME parts uphill are “smooth” enough siguro to bike din assuming makayanan yung grade ng incline + the uneven ground. But most of the uphills siguro you’d have to “tulak” na. But then again, I’m a weakling sa bike pa so di ko sure kung applicable analysis ko sa mga mas sanay na tulad ninyo. Having said that, motor baka pede din dito

    The last part definitely hindi na hahaha, kse it’s a bit similar to the old way na MAS malalaki yung bato and streams… makitid pa yung daan so wala ka options to navigate around. Plus madulas dahil me lumot yung rocks… tas obviously it’s all uphill.

    So yan yung “feasibility” ng dadaanan pag motor/bike. PERO either way, you’d have to eventually siguro leave your bike/motorcycle at the foot of the mountain (kse sobrang hassle na talaga dalhin sa tuktok; pag motor impossible na sa bigat) Tas all “stations” are just really just roofed resting places na walang bantay (as you saw in the picture).

    So overall, I don’t think it’s practical to do the thing on 2 wheels even if you had the skills to do so. And if ever you do, you’ll need gravity/downhill type protection – di na talaga uubra ang helmet lang (skyway pede pa siguro but why take the risk) sa ganito unless gusto mo mahiwa ng bato or mabaliaan ng buto pag sumemplang

    The only other people you’ll see aside from your group are possibly other groups assuming nagkasabay kayo (or kung naovertake ninyo/kayo). Other than that, you and your group & guide will be alone the whole time. I wouldn’t say it’s a dangerous trip naman since I don’t think it is, but given the right conditions, it can be – and getting into a major accident at any point during said conditions can be fatal in some cases

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