Climbing Mt. Pulag

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It’s three days before Christmas, and I’m in a tent, shivering despite having four layers of clothes on. I’m wearing a bonnet, gloves, and two pairs of socks, yet I can still feel the cold (and yes, it does bother me). I’m starting to wonder if this is what hypothermia feels like. I roll over to John, who’s nursing a headache, and ask him if my forehead feels hot. His hand goes to the top of my head and he says in an exasperated tone, “Trish, your bonnet is soaked!” Oh. I had gone to sleep with wet hair, which explains why I’m freezing.

Pulag Lesson No.1:  Keep dry or SUFFER. (Hahahaha…not joking)

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We climbed Mt. Pulag last December. No, we didn’t see a sea of clouds. And no, we didn’t reach the summit. On the jeepney ride to the ranger station, the weather was pleasant and promising. We were on top, sitting on cold, hard steel as the jeep zig-zagged along the mountain’s bumpy roads. It was new and exciting, and also a bit dangerous. The roads were slippery and the jeeps were having a hard time on the incline. There was a heart-stopping moment when our jeep was struggling to go up, the left rear wheel slowly inching towards the edge of the precipice as the engine roared. I was over by that side, so I peeked over the steel rails and felt my eyes widen because the road wasn’t visible at all, only a sheer drop. Luckily, the wheels gain traction and the jeep lurches forward. My companions, members of the UP Los Banos Mountaineers, break the tension by laughing. They exclaim, “Ready to jump na ako nun eh! (I was already ready to jump!)”

By the time we arrived at the station, the air was already filled with mist and it had started to drizzle. During the whole hike, we experienced non-stop rain. It was my first time to climb a mountain, by the way, and I had the gall to do so without any training whatsoever.

Pulag Lesson No. 2: Do some training prior to the climb or SUFFER.

Okay fine, I’m kidding. I’m sure the trek would’ve been easier in warmer weather. I have many non-athletic friends who have done the climb lots of times (which is actually why I felt so confident that I could do it hahaha). But a bit of training before engaging in such a strenuous activity wouldn’t hurt. I read somewhere that 30 minutes of cardio a day done three times a week should do the trick.

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The rain and winds really made it extra challenging. It wasn’t just the climb; we also had a difficult time moving around the camp area. Going from one tent to another to get food or supplies was a feat on its own as we kept slipping or getting our feet stuck in the mud. Bathroom breaks were something we dreaded, especially at night, because of the slippery trek down the slope. The fact that we were always soaking wet made it difficult to settle comfortably in our tents.

Nevertheless (and believe me when I say this), it was a pretty awesome trip. Not saying I would like to freeze my ass off again on my next Pulag trip (I really want to see the sea of clouds, please), it was just so thrilling and challenging. I never imagined I would experience something so intense and still come out smiling and laughing. We survived, is what I want to say. Plus the people I was with really made the trip fun and worthwhile. We all squeezed into one tent and ate hot corned beef, while the rain continued on outside. Before the trip, I didn’t know any of them. But after sharing stories, food, and body warmth, we’ve become a lot closer – literally and figuratively – to each other. And hey, look we saw a giant rainbow!

Pulag Lesson No. 3: There’s a rainbow always after the rain (by South Border).
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On the trek back, the sky cleared up and the sun peeked out, which had us chuckling and shaking our heads – Mother Nature sure has a good sense of humor. Had we gone a day later then we probably would’ve seen what we wanted to see. We peeled outer layers of clothing as we descended, removing the heavy jackets and stifling raincoats that had protected us the day before. I can’t explain how happy I was to see the ranger station, and even the jeepney that had almost thrown us off a cliff. We’ve gone up and down, through rain and shine. And now we were back.

You can just imagine how good the food tasted after that.

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