Friday, 22 July 2011

Conquering Mt. Pinatubo

a sight to behold

Definitely not for the faint of heart...! 

Conquering Mt. Pinatubo has been at the back of my mind for years. But never got around to doing it because I dread the trek on lahar valleys under the heat of the summer sun. Gone where the days when I'd say yes to a trek in a heartbeat.

Then, some friends suggested Pinatubo for May 1. Mustered enough courage to do it thinking that there is a shorter trail, so organized a group for the said day.

Just a few days before the trip, we were advised that "skyway" (the short trail) is still closed for repairs. So we have to do the 5.7kms trail and back! With no other choice, decided to go and just enjoy the adventure....

4x4 ride across Crow Valley
Oh what an adventure it really was! A total of 2 hours 4X4 ride and more than 5 hours of trekking on hardened lahar, boulders and streams under the extreme summer heat. I could not fathom why am I subjecting myself to such agony! The result? tired and aching feet, sore leg muscles, thousands of calories burned but really beautiful photos and realizing that I can still do it despite my not so younger years anymore. As for Gia? well, she got tired, but no aches and pains at all the following day...ahh youth! :)

Lahar valley
...the trail..
suk tahp
Walking through the lahar valley was like walking in a desert. Hot, humid and arid. No shade except under big boulders or the shadow of lahar mounds that look so fragile it feels like it will crumble anytime. The  trail is beautiful in a strange way.  You pass by lahar mounds several feet high that  dwarfs the trekkers, some bare, a lot with some form of vegetation, a lot of "suk tahp" along the way maybe to mark the trail, sulfur deposits oozing from under the ground, several streams to cross that leaves you with wet cold feet and about a gram of sand/lahar on your feet all the time. 

As the guide said, the scenic sight changes every year, especially after the rainy season, as the mounds shift and move or disintegrate due to heavy rains. So what I might have seen may not be the same by now or by same time next year.

...the last 20+ minutes trek up was cooler but made more challenging because of the narrow trail bordered with streams and big boulders. Plus, the kicker last few meter because of the steps that almost took my breath away--literally! It felt like I just participated in a Death March! whewwww....

But the sight when you are up the crater was just beautiful! The color of the lake was not as bright green (more of moss green) but it was so calm....
...the 1st sight you'll see...
Will I do it again?...naaahhh...maybe when access to Pinatubo will be easier---a zipline maybe or a chopper (hahaha). But no, I never regretted doing it though. I'd say that conquering Mt. Pinatubo caps my mountaineering days. A very apt place to close that chapter of my life.


Location: Borders of Zambales, Tarlac and Pampanga

Brief Background: 

Mt. Pinatubo is an active volcano that is inhabited by the native Aetas in Northern Luzon. The most explosive eruption that happened in 1991 deposited pyroclastic materials up to 100 meters thick on all sides of the mountain and devastated a large area of Luzon with lahar flows and thick clouds of ashes that rendered most of Luzon pitch dark and nearby towns gone and buried by several cubic meters of lahar.

The ashfall was recorded as far as Malaysia, Vietnam and Cambodia.

Nowadays, what was once a site of devastation has become an attraction to extreme adventurers. What was once a huge gaping hole in its crater is now a lake, Pinatubo Lake, with beautiful calm cyan waters on most days.
How to get there:

There are several groups oraganizing tours to Pinatubo. Fees usually include 4X4 ride, guide and transportation to and from Manila. Jump-off place is usually at  the Spa complex in Santa Juliana, Capas, Tarlac.

If you are doing it on your own, there are buses that leaves for Lingayen or Dagupan from bus terminals in Manila, Cubao and Pasay. Get off at Capas, Tarlac, then take a public jeepney to Patlin, where you can take a tricycle to bring you to Santa Juliana.

If you have a car, you can take the North Expressway, exit at Sta Inez to MacArthur Highway (the old road to Baguio) to go to Santa Juliana, Capas, Tarlac. 


If you are joining an organized group, it can range from P2,000 to P3,500 depending on the number of persons. Fees usually include transportation to and from Manila, permits, 4x4 ride, guide fees. Food and certificate of conquest are optional and additional cost.

For those doing it on their own,  the fees are:

* 4x4 ride  - Php500 (I heard they have increased rental fees lately)
* conservation fee - P10
* tour guide - P500 (for 5 persons)
* certificate of conquest - P50

It is advisable to get a local tour guide. Aside from being their means of livelihood, they are familiar with the terrain and is much safer.

What to bring:

* at least 3 liters of water per person (there are water and sodas being sold at the crater but at a limited supply and a costly P70/bottle/can)
* a very sturdy trek shoes or slippers 
* at least an SPF50+ sunblock
* hat
* sunglasses
* extra shirt or shawl to cover your face during 4x4 ride
* trail food
* waterproof backpack or bag or at least a ziploc for camera/wallet/cellphone camera
  (oh by the way, there are no cellular phone signals in this place)
* extra clothes
* swimming attire if you plan to swim at the crater lake
* camera to capture those memories
* and the spirit of FUN and ADVENTURE....!

for those staying overnight:
* mosquito repellant
* more water or drinks
* tents and other camping provisions
* flashlight
* windbreaker in case of very cool nights


  1. how come i did not get any certificate? hehehe

  2. John, I did not too. Our group did not request for it. It is just an option. :) I think our photos will very much certify that we indeed conquered Pinatubo. :)

  3. The crater lake's color seem to be turning into blue again. I'd love to see the color in cyan, but I think 1 trip to Pinatubo is enough. Hay.

  4. PTJ, yes, it is blue green pero more on the darker green. Yup I wanted to see the cyan color but I agree with you, 1 trip for me is enough too. :)

  5. Nice work Suzette, I've only tried the Skyway Trail when I went to Mt. Pinatubo 3 years ago. I would love to go back and experience the long way. It would be a lot of fun and hopefully the water is back to cyan :)

  6. Hi Claire! Best to check with the organizers or guides if the water is back to cyan na nga. I would love to see it in cyan too but hopefully by then there will be a much easier way to reach it. hehehe

  7. Tagal ko na rin gustong mapuntahan 'tong Mt. Pinatubo pero 'gang ngayon di ko pa nagagawa. The 5.7kms trail including the 4x4 ride seems to be very exhausting pero mukhang unique na adventure. :)Thanks for the tip. Balikan ko'to kapag may time na ko pumunta dito.

  8. @Framelessworld: Para sa akin na matagal ng hindi nag-trek, talagang parusa ang dating ng 5.7kms (x2) na yan. But yes, unique adventure nga.

    Feel free na balikan ito pagpupunta ka na. Salamat din for dropping by.

  9. whoa, 5 hours of trekking in plain lahar, without trees, ang init nun :o

    i heard of this pinatubo 4x4 adventure many times, we'll visit this pag open na yung skyway, save time :D

  10. @Renevic: naku kakapagod at ang init talaga! Wala lang choice dahil closed and skyway. :(

  11. My uncle who was a scout ranger is now residing in Porac, Pampanga. A long, long time ago, he showed us where Mt. Pinatubo is, congrats for being able to see the real beauty of Mt. Pinatubo, up-close and personal! =)

  12. Thanks Isp101. Good thing I was able to do it while I still can. =D