You don’t have to be a seasoned adventurer with an oversized backpack to trek a mountain. Mountain trekking or hiking is completely different from mountain climbing. The latter is a sport that needs rock climbing experience and special equipment to help you boulder up and down the rocks. Mountain trekking, on the other hand, is simply walking on a path or trail that leads up to the peak.
Yes, CGs, even the most vain and inexperienced person can hike, but it doesn’t mean that it’s a walk in the park. With the growing interest in local destinations such as Pico de Loro in Batangas, Mt. Pulag in Benguet, and Mt. Pinatubo in Pampanga, you have so many spots to explore this summer. Before you book your first mountain hike, heed these tips:
Read about the different mountain hiking destinations in the Philippines. Blogs from female travelers are especially helpful in giving you an idea of what to expect. Once you’ve chosen which mountain you’d like to explore, Google about the place’s geography, culture, and tourism. “Don’t hesitate to ask around,” says mountaineer Eugene Teraña of Trail Adventures.
2. Talk to friends.
The best hiking advice often comes from friends who have been there, done that. Chances are, you have similar interests and athletic abilities, so their tips are more personal than Wikipedia entries.
3. Start easy.
Each mountain destination has a difficulty ranking, and some have more than one trail to choose from. Mt. Pinatubo, for example, has a difficulty rating of 2 out of 10 as compared to Mt. Makiling, which rates 5/10.
4. Decide how long you’re willing to hike.
Nerd Fitness recommends that first-timers pick trails that can be done in less than a day and doesn’t require you to pack a tent or bring an extra change of clothes. If you’re willing and able, then go for the overnight or weekend packages.
5. Book a guide.
A guide can help you secure a permit to climb, and while there are only a number of mountains in the Philippines that actually require a permit to hike, you will benefit from the tips and guidelines of an experienced mountaineer.
6. Rely on a supportive group.
Invite your friends, loved ones, or significant other to join you. They will serve as your support group and motivation during times you feel like giving up in the middle of a difficult trail. If you really can’t find a buddy, join an organized group hike. Just make sure that the group members’ itinerary suits your own taste and limitations.
7. Follow the checklist.
Another benefit of getting a guide is that he/she will provide you with a complete checklist of items to bring for your hike, be it a day trip or an overnight with camping. If not, create your own checklist based on your research and tips from bloggers and friends.
8. Gear up.
You don’t need to purchase the most expensive hiking gear. There are items that you can easily borrow from a friend, such as a backpack and sleeping bag, while there are other necessities that you can find cheap, such as a flashlight and water bottle. According to Hiking For Her, if there’s one thing you need to invest in, it’s hiking shoes. As for socks, choose a good quality pair, because “it can make or break your boots!” Make sure you break in or test your shoes before the hike. Many mountain injuries or accidents come from wearing a bad pair of shoes.
9. Pack properly.
Make sure you have everything on the checklist, especially if you’re doing overnight treks with high altitudes such as Mt. Pulag, where the peak reaches freezing temperatures. Avoid bringing unnecessary items that will only make your backpack heavy and bulky. According to Teraña, beginners will benefit from hiring a porter, who is usually a native of the mountain or nearby town. For a fee, he/she will carry your backpack and other belongings throughout your trip, and may even give you tips and stories about the mountain.
10. Prepare yourself physically.
Go for daily walks a few weeks before your hike. “Even 20 minutes [a day] is long enough,” suggests Hiking For Her. “This will get your thighs used to the idea of walking for many minutes at a time.” And if you’re thinking of borrowing a hiking pole (or even just a bamboo stick), “it would definitely help,” says Nik Blancaflor, a professional mountain climber and yoga teacher. It will help reduce the load off your legs. Get enough sleep, food, and water before the hike.
11. Prepare yourself mentally.
People have different levels of physical abilities and tolerance, so you will never know what to expect until you are actually hiking. When the hike takes its physical toll on your body, it’s the mind that can keep you moving. Also read up on mountain etiquette, suggests Teraña, so that you can be an eco-friendly trekker. “Respect the mountain,” he says, “and be prepared for anything.”
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