A Slowpoke’s Journey to Mt. Maculot

While I do Yoga twice a week and the occasional dance class, my fitness level isn’t at par with your #fitspiration pegs. But I am working on it. When I climbed Mt. Maculot in Cuenca, Batangas last weekend, I thought it would be a breeze. Boy was I wrong! Even if I conquered Mt. Pulag and Mt. Tagapo last year, my credentials didn’t prevent me from being at the tail end of our group of 21 climbers.

For my fellow slowpokes and advanced beginners (not exactly a beginner, but not quite intermediate), here’s a diary of my climb. May it help you manage expectations before you set foot on Mt. Maculot for the first time.

8:15 a.m. – Our time of arrival at the Mt. Maculot jump-off point. We registered our group, divided ourselves into three sub-groups, and hired three guides. We each paid a total of P850/person, and it covered the air-conditioned private van ride, gas, and guide fees organized by Gala. We huddled at the Mountaineer’s Stop Over Store for a last-minute bathroom break and purchase of other necessities.




Official start of #KulotClimbsMaculot. Our official group hashtag is #TeamHugot. Why? Kase maraming hugot ang photo captions nila.
Walking sticks (tungkod) for sale at ₱10 each at the foot of the mountain. I already brought my own bamboo walking stick. Such a girl scout!



Thirty minutes into our ascend, I warned our guide, Eli, that it had been 10 months since my last climb. True enough, I would always lag at the tail end of the group.
The great thing about Mt. Maculot is that it has many stopovers where you can rest and purchase fresh buko juice and other refreshments from the locals. The price increases as you elevate.
View from one of the early stops overlooking Taal lake




One of the reasons why we slowed the group down was because we kept on stopping to admire the flora and fauna of the mountain. Check out this leaf insect.
The steep trails made me realize that this is more difficult than my previous climb at Mt. Tagapo. Pictured here is my friend, Paolo, using a rope to help him traverse.
10:30 a.m. – Lenon and Paolo at another picturesque stopover



It was almost 11 a.m. and I was getting tired. A few pops of Snickers candy bars helped me climb the steeper trails.
Finally, base camp! It was full of hikers taking their lunch break at the “7-11” of Maculot, a makeshift sari-sari store that sells basics such as instant noodles, canned tuna, boiled eggs, sodas, bottled water, and chips for more than thrice the retail price. Ex. ₱35 for a Coke Sakto, and ₱45 for cooked instant noodles.
To the left of base camp is the popular Rockies, which is 706 MASL (meters above sea level). From camp, it takes about 30 minutes to reach the peak of the Rockies. If you’re heading to the Rockies, you need to leave your backpack at the store and just keep your wallet and camera in your pocket, or in my case, in a small bag around my neck.

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When you need to go to the loo, look for something blue. There are a number of blue tents scattered around the mountain. Inside is a dug-up hole where you can do #1 or #2. Bring your own toilet paper and/or wipes, but please do not dump it there. Place all trash in a plastic bag and bring it down the mountain to dispose of properly.
11:30 a.m. – We reached the Rockies, but there’s still a steep climb to get to the overlooking cliff.
See that guy brandishing a colorful flag? That’s where we’re heading.
Thank goodness for my training in indoor rock climbing back in high school, and the assistance of our guide, I was able to climb up safely.

Klook.com

This was my friend Sandra’s first mountain. Like me, she found the climb challenging, especially since we pursued the full traverse, which only 5% of hikers pursue.
Kate was here. I perched at one of the many elevated boulders overlooking the mountain.
The most difficult part to reach. This is where most climbers take the iconic Mt. Maculot photo overlooking Taal Lake. I nearly chickened out, but my friends convinced me to go for it. I needed the guide walk me through the climb step-by-step. Yes, I was frightened!

My tummy was whirling, but I made it! A word of caution: There have been casualties on this boulder, especially those who did not bring a guide to watch over them. Some have dared cross to the other dangerous boulders beyond this point—with fatal consequences.
After heading back to camp, we got our bags and ascended for another hour (or in my case, 1.5 hours) to the summit, which is 930 MASL. It wasn’t as breathtaking as the Rockies, but a great feat nonetheless.
Time to descend. There are two options—a.) Head back using the same “easy” path you took en route to the summit, but that would take 3-5 hours, or b.) Traverse for only 2 hours, but it will drain all your strength and humanity (haha!) as you pass the difficult, slippery, and steep route. Unbeknownst to me, our group leader (Hello, Banjo!) already selected Option B for us. We rappelled, traversed, and in some instances, crawled down the mountain with no safety harness.
Over 2 painful hours later, the slowpokes, Paolo and I, finally reached the famous pit stop, the grotto (510 MASL), where there is a campsite for overnighters. My thighs and knees were in extreme pain by this point.
The view of Taal Lake is breathtaking from the grotto. My friend Beam of ShopArtWine and I basked under what’s left of the setting sun. We were running late. We were supposed to be back at the base by 4:30 p.m., but we were still at the grotto at 5.
We made it back to the base at 5:30 p.m. Go, #TeamHugot!
We went back to Mountaineer’s Stop Over and Store where you could take a cold bath for ₱15 per pail of water. We also decided to have dinner here before heading back to Manila. Menu choices included: tapsi, lomi, pancit, and other short orders for ₱40 each.

Video and tips coming soon!

Date of hike: July 16, 2016. Photos by KateWasHere.com. Additional photos courtesy of Sandra Villapol and Banjo Joson. Hiking apparel provided by Under Armour.