Three weekends ago, I went on my first major mountain hike. Conquering it without a glitch is one of my biggest accomplishments. Looking back, there were so many things I wish I knew or could have done better. Most travel agencies and guides provide their climbers with a checklist of items to bring, but for me it’s not enough. If you’re planning your first trip to Mt. Pulag soon, here are practical and personal tips:
Athletic background: Started hiking in 1995. Currently a professional hiker and mountain guide. Affiliated with various travel and mountaineering groups in the Philippines.
1. Be prepared for intense sun, rain, and cold. For me, Mt. Pulag is not for beginners because of the intense climate changes and unpredictable weather. It can reach 0°C at the peak.
2. Bring enough trail food and water for the trip.
3. Read, research, and ask around about Mt. Pulag.
4. You should be prepared and fit for a very cold and long hike.
5. Get a porter.
6. Have enough rest before the climb.
7. Don’t forget your personal medicine kit.
8. Secure and waterproof your belongings.
9. Know your limits and don’t push yourself. You can come back to Mt. Pulag anytime.
10. Respect, preserve, and protect the mountain. As older climbers say: “Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time.”
From the amateur: Kate of KateWasHere.com, lifestyle journalist and travel blogger
Athletic background: Yoga practitioner since 2005. To prepare for Mt. Pulag, I took cardio exercises such as jogging and dance classes twice a week for two months before my climb. I’ve also experienced camping in San Francisco and Connecticut, and light hiking in Nevada.
1. You need lots of pockets—in your backpack, jacket, and/or pants. Use the pockets for things you constantly need to pull out during the hike. For me, I kept needing toilet paper, snacks, hand sanitizer, and lip balm, but because I was at the back of the line, I kept waiting until we stopped to rest before scrambling for the items tucked deep in my backpack. I should have placed them in the pockets.
2. Be eco-friendly. Read up about mountain etiquette and listen intently to the DENR seminar before hiking. Keep every piece of trash—down to the last candy wrapper and baby wipe—in a plastic bag in your backpack, then dispose of everything properly after the hike.
3. Learn to multitask while walking. You’ll find yourself doing many things while hiking up and down—drinking water while adjusting your headlamp to see the path, or scrambling for a snack while balancing your backpack and hiking pole. Good luck trying to snap photos while doing all of that in the dead of night.
4. Even if you’re not athletic, exercise regularly a month or two before the trek. You body, especially your legs, need to get used to the labor. Don’t forget to stretch before climbing.
5. Hiring a porter is a good investment. For only P600, a porter will carry your stuff (up to 15 kg) during your entire trek. You’ll also learn a lot from them when they tell you stories about their mountain and its people. Mine showed me different plants in Pulag, such as wild peppers and berries. At first I was too proud to hire a porter. I carried my own backpack for four hours until my back and shoulders couldn’t handle it anymore. I eventually gave in and paid my friend’s porter to help me.
6. You don’t need to buy so many expensive items just for this one trip. Borrow what you can from friends and see what you already have at home. The only thing I bought was a pair of hiking shoes because I plan to keep hiking.
7. Mind over matter! Friends and relatives who know me well didn’t think I could last. I’m notoriously clumsy; I once sprained my foot while shopping in Singapore. But because I was determined to survive and conquer, I never thought about giving up. If I, the clumsy girly girl can do it, then so can you!
If you have questions about Mt. Pulag, please post them below.