The Climb

We went on an adventure two weeks ago, set off early morning to Capas, Tarlac to embark on a hike to the Mount Pinatubo crater lake.

The base camp in Tarlac was about 2.5 hours drive from Quezon City (northern part of Metro Manila), sans the traffic, because we left before daybreak. At the base camp, we registered with the tourism office, with the help of our tour organiser. The payment to the organiser and the tourism office are usually paid separately. Once everything was arranged, we set off on a 4×4 military-style jeep across the lahar-laden terrain.

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After a 1-hour ride on the 4×4, the vehicle parked about a large open area, and we began our 7km hike on foot. Indeed, 7km seems not so very far, but if you consider that the terrain is all volcanic sand and rocks along the banks (or rather, criss-crossing) of a mountain river, and all uphill, you will realise that it is not a walk in the park. It took us about 2.5 hours to hike the entire 7km uphill.

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The climb was all worth it. The crater lake was a beautiful sight to behold. We arrived at the crater lake mid-morning, and was still fortunate to find some shade made by the rim of the crater along the banks of the lake. We had about an hour just to sit there in the shade, look out at the lake, and just relax.

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Just recently, they have already disallowed swimming in the lake. I think they just imposed it this January (2013), for a good reason. According to stories, someone died a few weeks (or months) back, not because of drowning, but because of poisoning after ingesting water from the lake. Besides the usual sulfur, the lake is also high in other heavy chemicals, especially Arsenic, which is well known as an instant poison.

Near noon, the sun caught up with the crater and we had to seek shade, and then have lunch. There’s nothing to buy there, except for drinks which are P100 per bottle (about US$2.5, but honestly x3 of its regular price at the city). We brought chicken and rice meals with us for lunch, and different snack items we’ve been munching on throughout our climb.

After about three hours at the crater lake, we already decided to start our descent. We went down the same way we came up, and somehow the descent seemed a little bit more difficult in terms of traversing the terrain. But speed and effort was not the problem, just the balancing while shifting your weight downwards on the rocks and stones. It was one hell of a leg workout.

The return ride on the 4×4 was extremely dusty too, mainly because the terrain was a lot drier than during dawn, and there were a number of other vehicles ahead of us. It is good to have a shawl to cover the mouth and nose, and shades to cover the eyes. Covering for the head/hair is helpful too.


Some advise to those who intend to go on their own Mount Pinatubo adventure:

  • Try to look online for discounter vouchers. Or just research online the different groups and companies that organise trips to Pinatubo. Sometimes, the packages can include the transportation from Metro Manila, and even the meals. As for us, we chose to bring our own vehicles and bring our own food.
  • Keep your bag light. The most important things to bring/use are the following:
      • food – lunch; some snacks to eat along the way, such as sandwiches, cookies, and chips; candies and some sweets
      • drinks – water will do, but better to bring some hydrating drinks too such as gatorade. Best to bring at least two liters worth of fluids, unless you’re willing to spend money on the P100 drinks along the way
      • scarf, shawl, bandana or sarong – useful for a lot of instances, such as for keeping warm during the early morning, a covering for the face and mouth during the ride and the climb, and something to sit on at the banks of the crater lake… and perhaps a lot of other uses
      • hat or cap – to cover the head from the heat of the sun
      • trekking sandals – better to use this than rubber shoes, because there’s a lot of instances that you will need to cross the river
      • breathable clothes – I would advice to wear shorts or short pants, and sports shirt or singlet; bring additional clothes too, just in case you will need to change
      • light jacket – not sure if this is always applicable, but our January trip was very cold during the morning, and so the light jacket was really useful
  • Put all your stuff in a backpack
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