Hiking up Mt. Pinatubo

After three weeks in the Philippines, I’ve come to realize that there is a degree of hyperbole about all trips in and about the Philippines … or maybe it is that I’m a little immune to hyperbole. For instance …

  • I heard that the hike to Batad was a difficult one and I really didn’t find it that tough.
  • Going up to Taal Volcano via a horse or hiking would be tough … and really it wasn’t at all
  • Finally, going and Hiking up Mt. Pinatubo would be a long day trip with a tough hike … in the end, it wasn’t that tough either.

That being said, there are two ways to get to the top of Mt. Pinatubo … the easy way using the “skyway” or the hard way, which is called the “old way”. The journey from Manila is broken into 4 parts

  1. Getting from Manila to Mt. Pinatubo
    1. Using a personal driver : Depending on who you chat with, you get differential opinions on the trip length. I got opinions between 3 -5 hours. In the end, with my driver Hermie, we got there via the SLEX in about 2:10 mins.
    2. Using the bus or public transport : From Manila, take a bus bound for Lingayen or Dagupan and alight at Capas Tarlac (Victory Liner at 91 Php) or you can take your light vehicle directly to Barangay Sta. Juliana or a 4X4 vehicle, 2 hours from the crater.  From the North Expressway, exit at Sta. Inez.  Take the Mc Arthur highway then passing by Banban you will finally reach Capas Tarlac.

Most Mt. Pinatubo trek begins at the base camp in Brgy. Sta. Juliana in Capas, Tarlac. Here, you will be requested to register and you will be assigned a local guide and a 4×4 vehicle. Currently, there are plenty of registered Pinatubo local guides and 77 units of 4×4 vehicles ready to bring you to the next level of outdoor adventure. Arriving early at the base camp is important as the guides and 4×4 vehicles get booked really fast especially on weekends and on peak season (Philippine summer and holidays). That’s why we usually have to leave Manila around 3am or Angeles at 5am or the base camp at 7am. Before you start your Mt. Pinatubo trek it’s important to have a good breakfast. It’s also important to bring some food and enough water with you since you will be back to the base camp only around 4pm.

As for the story … I think we all know of it … Pinatubo, about 90 kilometers (55 miles) north of Manila, exploded in June 1991 after a 500-year slumber, dumping billions of tons of volcanic debris on three provinces, erasing entire farm communities and altering the world’s climate. Pinatubo’s eruptions were so massive that its top was simply blown away, reducing its height by 300 meters (985 feet). Rainwater formed a crater lake.

During the rainy season, roughly from June to about October, climbing is forbidden as the volcanic debris on its slopes and in river channels become deadly avalanches.

One of the things to look out for is the dust in the  dry season. I have asthma and my inhaler was definitely needed as there was dust everywhere. The other thing to look out for, is the lack of seat belts on the 4 X 4’s, you will definitely have to hold on the vehicle bars really well as the ride is very bumpy.

All the drivers are skilled and experienced on crossing these canyons so there is no fear that your vehicle will topple over. They also use a buddy system which means that no 4×4 can leave the base camp without a support vehicle. All drivers are required to bring a 2-way radio on top of their personal phone with them.

Now once you get to the top of the Skyway, all the vehicles park into a common area for safety and then you’re off to hike up the mountain to the crater lake.

After hiking what seems like an eternity through the cauldron of death … along the half way point, you’re met with a sign that tell you how terrible you are.

Based on this terrible sign, I was determined to make it under 18 mins, even with my terrible cardiovascular fitness. I am happy to report that from the sign to the top of the view, it took us 16 mins. Although the last steps were a bitch to deal with.

After the hiking and climbing, you are definitely rewarded with an exquisite view.

The best part was marveling at the view

About Rishiray

Rishi Sankar is a Cloud HRMS Project Manager/ Solution Architect. Over the past 15+ years, he has managed to combine his overwhelming wanderlust with a desire to stay employed, resulting in continuing stints with 3 major consulting firms (IBM, Deloitte, Accenture). He documents his adventures around the world on "Ah Trini Travelogue" with pictures and stories from the road/tuk-tuk/camel/rickshaw. You can follow him on Twitter at @rishiray and on Facebook at "Ah Trini Travelogue . He doesn't like Chicken Curry but loves Curry Chicken and is always trying to find the perfect Trinidadian roti on the road. He also doesn't like cheese and kittens ... and definitely not together. E-mail from his blog is appreciated like a 35 yr old Balvenie at rishi@rishiray.com

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