Climbing a mountain is like going through the stages of a relationship. You get kilig at first, excited for a new adventure. You fight the first few struggles not even noticing how long you’ve been on it because you’re having so much fun, and then as you go along you gather it’s not as easy as you thought. You reach the rigid, steep part (sweaty under the sun!)—the turning point of every relationship—where you ask if you should go on or if you should just end it and turn back. If you decide to push forward, you eventually reach the summit and realize it was all worth it. But then of course you know it doesn’t end there because you still have to hike back down to the real world… until the next climb.
One weekend ago, I went through all these stages on a climb to Mt. Talamitam in Batangas. It was my first, it rained like hell, and I’ve never seen so much mud in my life. Still, I fell in love. Below a few things one must keep in mind before you get to say you’re on top of the world.
1. Do your research.
Aside from having lots of pristine beaches, the Philippines is also blessed with so many mountains. Before you decide to head to the ever-popular Mt. Pulag, consider the fact that peaks are categorized by difficulty level and that maybe you should start small first. With 10 being the hardest, maybe you should opt for those with 2/10 difficulty ratings first such as Taal, Pico de Loro, or Gulugod Baboy.
2. Pack heavy but leave your bag in the car.
Make sure to pack at least two sets of clothing (bring flip flops!) to go with your water, packed lunch, snacks (bring chocolate for an instant source of energy), garbage bag (it’s a must!), flashlight and other essentials. But leave that big bag in the car and instead just bring with you a lightweight sling filled with just the food, water, tissue or wipes, cap, and an extra shirt. That said, don’t forget to ziplock all of your belongings including your camera or phone!
3. Don’t wear a cotton hoodie.
I had to learn the hard way that even though my black Uniqlo hoodie looks great with my black leggings, it’s incredibly heavy when soaked in rain water. I literally had to squeeze all the water out when I reached the peak so that it wouldn’t weigh me down on the trek back. Shorts and sleeveless tops are also not advisable as you can get random cuts from the sharp ends of tall grass and itch from the weed. A dri-fit shirt and jacket are your best bets.
4. Trust your shoes.
All Out Charge in Algiers Blue Adventurine, P5095; Capra in Gray Wild Dove, P4995, both from Merrell
I’m actually glad that it was raining hard on my first climb ever because it allowed me to understand that climbing has more to do with wearing the right shoe than being experienced. A couple of athletic-looking fellows in my group kept on slipping, as in: falling butt first, hands covered with gooey mud because the running shoe they sported allowed layers and layers of mud to pile up. Merrell shoes are stylishly made with the technology to withstand the obstacles that you’re bound to meet—mud, rocks, and rivers included—comfort guaranteed. I noticed even the experienced guides were all wearing them and that has to count for something.
5. Have fun!
Know that it’s okay to fall, that no one has it easy the first time, and that the sea of clouds, the view, not to mention the IG-worthy photo you’ll get when you reach the top, will make the climb 101% worth it.