It was year 1991 when Mount Pinatubo erupted and categorized as an active volcano. The tragedy happened at my young age where I witness ed in the news how this volcano created sufferings to my fellow countrymen specially to those who lived in the surrounding areas of the mountain. I remembered that a lot of people died and lost their homes because of heavy ashes and lahar flowing in rivers coming from the volcano. It’s been decades that people lived nearby suffers every year specifically during rainy season.
After decades or more, the crater lake of this active volcano started to be noticed by hikers and adventurers. I had seen photos and blogs in the past years from whom climbed the mountain and whom reached the stunning crater lake. Every time I see the crater lake of Mount Pinatubo in photos, it reminds me the lakes that I saw in Banff, Alberta Canada. I started to dream to climb the mountain and wanted to reach the crater lake but the opportunity was elusive for me in a time being.
This year 2017, last January 4, my dream has been fulfilled. After more than two decades of tragic eruption of the volcano. My friend from USA invited me to join climbing Mount Pinatubo. The schedule was weekdays and I never hesitated to accept the invite and I immediately filed my vacation leave.
After my work on January 3, Tuesday night, I reached the Five Star Bus Terminal in Cubao few minutes before 12AM. I was lucky because there was a bus leaving the terminal within 10 minutes. I took bus that goes to Bolinao (any bus goes to Vigan, Baguio, Alaminos or Bolinao will pass Capas Junction). I traveled alone, I was tempted to sleep but I never slept because I don’t want to miss the junction that I need to get-off. Its midnight and first week of January, my travel to Capas Junction was smooth and I arrived almost 2AM. From Capas Junction, I took tricycle to Sta. Juliana. I thought the travel will just few minutes, I was wrong and with the price of P300, it’s not just far, but really far. As I traveled early in the morning, I felt the cold wind that passed through my skin and I had been in that situation for 30 minutes. At last I reached Bognot Lodge accommodation where my friends are staying. My friend Nits woke-up and able to meet me outside.
I had 2 hours of sleep. We were three together, myself, Nits and new friend Marisa. All of us are first timer in climbing Mount Pinatubo. We started preparing ourselves past 5AM and had our breakfast. Because it’s not yet peak season, we were allowed our stuff to remain in the room where we stayed over night. Then, took 4X4 jeep and we went to Municipal Tourist Satellite Office where Nits and Marisa required to check their blood pressure before the climb, the result are good and were all set.
The adventure begun past 7AM and we rode again 4X4 vehicle. We were advised that we will drive the ground for an hour. On the way, the first thing that I saw was plain white and dusty ground. The ground that we were driving on was lahar that flowed in the river before that has been cemented through times. We never expected to see beautiful and unique spots along the way that adds enjoyment in our jumpy ride.
Before we reached the jump-off area around 9AM, where the long walk starts, I realized and understand why there is a need for 4X4 vehicle. I was thankful because it helped a lot of people who wanted to climb the mountain. Our jumped-off area was farther than the original jumped-off few years back. As per our guide and driver, the jump-off are before was near the climbing trail to crater lake but now it was not because of the effect brought by heavy rains and typhoons. According to the signs of I saw, we have to walk of 7km to reached the climbing trail.
We reached the jump-off area and it means that we reached the start of our long walk adventure. I figured out that the track that our 4X4 jeep and the trail that we took for a walk is actually a river pathways, it means that during rainy season, it is not safe to climb the mountain, the tourism office will not allow you to do so.
During the whole trek, we had guide and we’re thankful to him as I survived without soaking my feet under the water as too many strayed waterways along the way and he kept assisting us (I recommend to wear sandals and shoes that can go wet).
The walk was not an easy feat. Because the track is not as simple as plain road. The track was where lahar flows and become a solid ground. There are big and small rocks all over the place which need careful attention. We reached the half of the trail and station where there’s toilet and water, where people can rest.
Our treacherous walk continues, as we come nearer the climb trail, bigger rocks and boulders are to be found and walk become more difficult. We reached another station where there is haven for resting and toilets too. It is the station where the climb begins. At the station we saw a notification where it categorize people’s age how long the climb will be before reaching the crater lake. All the three of us jokes ourselves where we belong in the category list, whether we belong in young, middle age or senior.
We rested a bit in the station and then started the climb. I don’t have options to avoid my shoes to get wet because the trail is smaller and narrower where water stream flows too. We took stairs to reach the viewpoint of the crater lake. When we reached sightseeing view of the lake, all my fatigued that I felt along the way immediately gone as I saw up close the fascinating crater lake of Mount Pinatubo. We had our lunch inside the crater and went near the lake to enjoy the amazing views in front of us and to have our photos. After an hour of enjoying in the crater lake view, we decided to go back to finish our adventure.