Climbing the mightiest, fiercest, magical and only remaining rain forest of Bicol Region is definitely an experience one will always bring along throughout ones life!
The Summit climb is organized by Mountain Strong from Facebook. They are a group of people with intense love for hiking and mountain climbing. I can personally say that they are not profit based group/ enterprise, they are into sharing the passion and love of the mountains. There are several other Facebook groups offering organized climbs to different mountains all throughout the Philippines… For the list, please see the The Pinoy Mountaineer Website.
Mount Isarog is a dormant volcano, it stand at Camarines Sur, Region V (Bicol Region) The 2nd tallest mountain in Bicol Region next to Mayon Volcano. There are two trails to reach the summit, Patag-patag Trail and Panicuason trail. We have traversed the Panicuason trail conveniently located at the uptown Barangay of Naga City in Brgy Panicuason. In order to arrange a climb, one first must secure a permit at the Environmental Office of the City Government of Naga. You can find the Envi office at Naga City Hall, located in City Hall Compound, Brgy. Concepcion Pequeña, Naga City. Since the Organizer was the one who secured our Permit, I cannot tell how much is the Permit fee, and guide/s fee. Number of guides depend to the number of participants per climb. For complete info on Mt. Isarog, please see link from Pinoy Mountainer here.
The length of time to reach the summit depends to the agility and endurance of the hikers, the weather and pacing. Unfortunately, some of my hiking buddies has suffered diarrhea during the climb itself. So our pacing was not the usual hyped one.
We started off at 4:00 am at the GSP Drop off point. Prayed first to bless our climb, so that we can successfully reach the Summit and descend safely. Participants mostly came from Metro Manila, they are young professionals mostly from BPO’s. I am the only one from Naga City! So I was like, I should carry Naga’s pride as being an “Oragon” I belonged to TEAM A – group of five (5) with one (1) guide.
There are a total of five (5) camp sites for Panicuason Trail. The difficult trails are Camp 1 to Camp ; and Camp 4 to Camp 5. The challenging part is the weather as it was rainy and cloudy. The day prior our climb, it rained heavily at downtown Centro for several hours. The leeches or locally known as “Limatik” are expected to be attacking us along our way. Well it did, from the Registration Area going to Camp 2, we have started to notice among each other the leeches that jumps at us and they basically came from everywhere! Their sizes differs from 1-3 cm and can be as huge as an inch! I didn’t knew I’ll be that scared having to remove one from someone, or when it did sucked blood from me on the face, neck and practically trying even to get into my clothes and shoes!! Someone from the group had one from his eyes – the one worst case scenario did happened! It was removed by pouring alcohol in his eye… or else, the leech will be continuing to suck blood from the nerves and veins of your eyes.
The obstacles in climbing this mountain is what seems to be a never ending assault. I did crawled, kneeled, rolled! In climbing, my knees went as high as my the chest! I am confident during my climb since I prepared my core muscles, had ample running sessions and doing 20 lbs. lifts every day for my bi/triceps. It really helped! Camp 1 to Camp 2 has a steep cliff that one has to rock climb at, about 300 – 400 meters. We did climbed up without any rope! (Glad that during our descent, they have already installed one!) Camp 4 to 5… it took us almost a two hours to get through it, it was a mossy forest! It looked liked the one from movies! So Twilight scenery, calming, and fresh!
Finally, we have reached Camp 5 at 11:00 AM! It took us 7 hours to reach it since we started at 4:00 am. Not all climbs do in favor of you, we did not had a nice view of the crater because the cloud clearing are very minimal. But we were lucky to see a few seconds! I for myself, only two (2) fleeting seconds! That makes me feel contented compared to others who have not really seen it.
The Descent. Overall, it is easier and faster. Took us four (4) hours to descend. Nearing the end of our descent, I can feel the pain and weakness of my feet. My bad I did not re-hydrated after taking my lunch, I felt weak I remembered I still have 500ml of Gatorade in my bag, I stopped and gulped in less than a minute! I am awfuly in pain, I felt like I want to stop but I can’t so I kept thinking mind over body-mind over body indeed! I prayed that God please give me strength to go on… I felt numbed and the pain magically disappeared! I go on walking fast, descending downward trail backwards, crawling, kneeling as strategies not to put more strain. Then from Camp 2- drop off point, the rain poured heavily on us. I am numbed, tired, and it’s raining… I have thought of many things while going down, I made up this line in my mind while going towards the finish line- “Game without pain, is not a win you did not rightfully gain.”
We finished off with the rain pouring really hard we have not get the chance to take a group picture!
Intense. Fierce. Magical. Mount Isarog Summit hike is one of few things I am really proud and fulfilled I ever did in my life. I know I will be climbing mountains for the rest of my life! Thank God for this wonders of nature you have embodied in this amazing world!