Climbing Mount Pinatubo: What to Expect and How to Prepare
Famous for its devastating eruption last 1991, Mount Pinatubo is an active volcano located in the Luzon island of the Philippines. Now, years after the event, the mountain has become a popular hiker's destination for beginners and experienced hikers alike.
For this trip, we booked a package tour that included a roundtrip bus from Manila, 4x4 jeeps, and local guides for PHP2290 (approx. 49USD) each person (19 total).
I've personally climbed mountains from places like Batangas, Zambales, and Benguet, and I can say that the experience of riding the 4x4 jeeps and hiking through the unique landscape of Mount Pinatubo was an adventure quite unlike any other.
Some observations about the Mountain Trail:
- The trail is suitable for beginners. There are no extreme ascents save for the stairs at the crater lake itself, and the trail involves just 2-3 hours of hiking.
- The landscape is full of rocks the size of your head and the soil has the consistency of wet cement so it won't be too slippery when it rains.
- Most of the trail will have no cover so prepare the proper clothes for hiking in direct sunlight. Also, since the Philippines is in a tropical country make sure you're also prepared for sudden rains.
- The trail follows a stream that runs through a canyon and you'd need to cross it multiple times so some proper footwear should help.
The Jump Off Point in Brgy. Sta. Juliana
The Jump-off point to Mt. Pinatubo.
Some Precautions: Remember to Check the Weather!
Although the streams were mostly quiet when we climbed, a little rainfall during our descent showed us exactly how sensitive the landscape was. The mountain’s water systems became a bit more active and the streams in the volcanic ash canyons of the O’Donnell river cut further into the soil making some sections slightly more difficult for our vehicles to pass through. Since most of the journey involve areas that have once been covered in lahar (a type of volcanic mud) and become unstable when wet, you may need to reschedule your trip if the weather becomes uncooperative.
(In fact, we originally planned to go on February 7, but since a heavy storm approached, we had to reschedule it to February 25.)
What to Wear:
Most of the trail is under direct sunlight so wearing comfortable and breathable clothes is a must. You can also bring a hat and some sunglasses as well.
The trail itself has little to no talahib (tall grass that can cut skin) so shorts and t-shirts are fine.
For your footwear, some regular hiking shoes would do (even running shoes or sandals would work - the trail is very easy). Unlike the soil you’ll find in areas like Batangas and Zambales which get very muddy and slippery when wet, Pinatubo’s trail is mostly filled with large stones and volcanic ash and it stays pretty stable even after some mild rainfall.
Things to Bring for your Trip:
Around 2-3 Liters will do. The locals in the mountain's rest stops also sell food and drink so you can buy from them if you run out.
Since the hike lasts a few hours, it's best to bring some food to have enough energy for the whole trip.
Most of the trail has no tree cover so you'll need sunblock if you want to avoid getting sunburned.
Water Resistant Bags
"Waterproof your stuff," my experienced mountaineer friends always say. In the Philippines, rains pop up when you least expect them so it's best to come prepared. Drybags and Rain Covers are your best friend.
You may want to bring some extra clothes as there are places in town where you can pay to take a shower. Personally, I put my change of clothes and towels inside a drybag just in case.
We recommend that you also bring first aid kits, just in case.
Time Table of our Trip:
Meet up at McDonald's in Mindanao Avenue (Near Trinoma)
Leave for Brgy. Sta. Juliana.
Arrive at Brgy. Sta. Juliana and register with the local authorities. Sign waiver forms.
Ride the 4x4 Jeep and leave for the trail.
Picture-taking at O'Donnell river.
Arrival at Mt. Pinatubo trail (North side). Start ascent.
Arrival at the first (and only) rest stop. Snacks and Bathroom break.
Start final ascent for the Crater Lake.
Arrival at the Crater Lake. Lunch and picture-taking.
Return to the waiting 4x4 Jeeps.
Return to Brgy. Sta. Juliana. Take showers and change clothes.
Leave for Manila.
Snacks at NLEX.
Return to Manila.
Register with the Authorities and Sign Waivers
Riding the 4x4 Jeeps
Through the Valleys
Climbing Mt. Pinatubo
The Final Stretch
The Crater Lake of Mount Pinatubo
Are you thinking of going to Mount Pinatubo soon?
© 2016 Ray Lucero