Friday, December 2, 2011

Touch the Heavens

 This blog post is dedicated to the inexperienced men and women who dared to try mountain climbing / trekking and painstakingly survived it.  Kudos also to the professionals who helped them made it to the top (and down again literally, that is). 

This year, one of the highlights of my quest for work-life balance was to survive a REAL mountain climb.  Some call it trekking, some add the word ‘assault’, but for beginners like I was, the target was very basic:  REACH A SUMMIT and go back down, in one piece.

It all started with an email message sent to me by a colleague who wished to hide by the name Claren.  What I thought of as an ordinary morning would be a start of something great.  It was September 8 and I received an email invitation with details of a mountain climbing trip to Mt. Pulag.  By the way, should I have readers who are not too familiar, here is a teaser of the summit to keep you reading (hopefully).

Who wouldn't want to reach the 'top' with this view?
 I was immediately jolted from my seat and proceeded to forward the invite to a friend.  Right then and there we decided this was one trip we should take this year.  So the email exchanges started and viola, we signed up (well at least in principle and want that time).  The only thing is both of us have not really been into the real and serious climb and we are completely NIL even on the very basics.  Thank God for internet and I scoured the web for all the tips there is about Pulag and the rudiments of climbing.  I searched and I found… A LOT OF THINGS.  So I promised myself that should I survive the climb, I will contribute to the many information sources on this topic.  Here’s my take on what to prepare before you climb (some tips may be specific to Mt. Pulag):

Yep, gotta flex more than the usual
I wrote this one on the top as I see it as the most important of the other tips.  Why?  Well, some may say that you will survive the trek/climb eventually, but who really wants to be panting like it’s the end of the world when you can be enjoying the experience and the view?  Plus, you do not want to look haggard on those pictures for sure.  So my advice, go hit the gym again (at least for a month or two).  Focus on activities that build your endurance and a bit of strength.  And speaking of strength, go build up your shoulders (for those mountain packs you’ll be carrying for hours --- that’s 4 for Pulag phase 1); your arms, just in case there will be a bit of action trying to hold on to vines and the side of cliffs; and of course majority of your lower body.  The news about the trek arrived at the start of September and I mustered my ego and wallet to hit the gym again (with a trainer).  Go rally the treadmills again and strengthen your legs, hamstrings, knees AND most especially your ankles. I’m not sure if I just did it wrong but it was my ankles who got the biggest hit after the trip.  Thanks to the drills of squatrass, mountain climbing, perpetual jumping jacks, hellish shuttle runs and planking… I would not have enjoyed my Pulag trip if not for these.


Nothing beats a prepared first timer.  Go check on the net for reviews, blogs and official websites if any.  This will give you a rather better picture on what may transpire on the trek even without your itinerary.  The good thing about this generation is that there are many who usually write about their adventures so you can have a good shot at steering away from mistakes or mishaps they encountered as well as know what not to miss on the trip.  For my case my research focused on discovering the following things: (1) what to wear, (2)what type of food to bring, (3)basic do’s & don’ts and (4) best angles and places to take pictures.  Take note, I even went farther by researching angles for SOLO, pair and GROUP shots, ehe.


As I mentioned earlier one of my dilemma as a first-timer is not knowing what to wear.  From my research and experience, the gear becomes as crucial as preparing yourself physically as it equates to your over-all safety and comfort.  Jogging pants, long sleeves, water repellant jackets, hats, and good trekking shoes would be highly recommended.  For those going to Pulag in the ‘Ber’ months, you should make sure that your gear includes toughing it up with the cold.  I’ve been to China and experienced winter season there but nothing beats what I experienced in Pulag.  I was told that we had about 5 or 6 degrees that night.  The thought of being afraid to fall asleep as I might not wake up due to the extreme cold actually crossed my mind honestly.  What was I wearing that night?  Two layers of cotton t-shirts, one heavy jacket, a bonnet, scarf, heavy cotton gloves, 2 layers of jogging pants and 2 layers of thick socks.  They were not enough.

Yes, we all looked like we were in another country

My Newly bought Sandugo Sandals --- THE AFTERMATH


For this one I give myself an 8 out of 10 score from my Pulag trip.  This is because I had more than enough that I actually thought I might have overdone it a bit.  Make sure that you do not compromise on water.  It is very important both for drinking and hygiene purposes. I brought in about 3-4 liters if my memory serves me right.
What I brought in are easy to eat (even while walking), heavy on the stomach (to make me feel easily full) and are good sources of energy.  My menu included: hard boiled egg, boiled banana (the saba variety), canned tuna paella (yes I needed rice), canned sausage, and for the trail-food I had raisins, jelly sticks, nuts and chocolate.


Familiarize yourself with things such as head lamps, batteries, tents, cooking equipment (if you intend to do some cooking al fresco) and camera.  Do not bother bringing that laptop or tablet of yours.  You will honestly look stupid with it.  Let the embrace the experience in its totality and literally unplug even for a day or two.

Choose a good temporary 'home'  (That's mine on blue on the far right)


The sound of DIY-trip might be too tempting that you might actually be zoning in to disaster  instead of enjoying your trip especially if it will be a ‘serious’ climb.  So my recommendation would be to join an existing mountaineering group.  They all have, more often than not, a year’s worth of schedule you can choose from.  It is also a chance to get to meet a lot of people.  For my  Pulag trip, I was very lucky to have been introduced to PANGKAMA.  Nice name eh?  It stands for PAngkat NG KArtunistang MAngaakyat… more smiles there.  Go visit their website here and hopefully I get to join in to more of their adventures in the future.


Yes, as a newbie you might succumb to the temptation of capturing just every opportunity you get.  Do this if you have plenty of battery reserves.  Otherwise, do research (I know I’m starting to nag about this already)on what part of the trek is picture worthy and shoot wisely.  I suggested to my colleague to restrict himself from taking too many photos on the way up since it will be wiser to have more battery life when the more exciting stuff at the summit arrives.  Plus, whatever we missed on the way up, we will again encounter on the way down.  The case is mostly the same for other climb.  But if you see a majestic bird, a brilliantly colored (or armored) insect or a unique looking fungi, then take a good shot as they might not be there again when you descend.  And speaking of being photo-wise, here are some of the shots I had during the Pulag trip.  Credits to some photos to Ren, Claren, Mico, Kuya Dey & Rica.

Goofing around at socials during the night


Sample of the trail

Ambuklaw Dam -- Side trip

Water Spring pit stop

With fellow climbers at the summit

from our descent -- Every angle was a good one

My fear of heights was put to the test

So there you go, my take on crash coursing your way to your first ever serious climb.  Go visit also my facebook account via this link for the other photos of my Pulag trip.  The new year is about to start, go and target to conquer a summit or two.  The preparation and effort is well worth it!

Tags:  Trek, mountain climb, assault, Mt. Pulag, pulag, gym, Sandugo

1 comment:

  1. This is one thing I really really want to do.... ;( I hope I can find a group near here that organizes events like this.. And hope to find even a single friend who will go with me!!! Hehe... Goodluck to me.., ;)