Lessons in perseverance: Tips for first-time mountain climbers

Lessons in perseverance: Tips for first-time mountain climbers

For the past few years, mountain climbing has become one of the most popular hobbies among young Filipinos. This comes as no surprise, as the country is host to countless trails, some of which are just a few hours away from Metro Manila. And as most climbers will tell you, there really is nothing compared to pushing yourself to the limit, only to be rewarded by a breathtaking view.

If you too have been dreaming of finally crossing mountain climbing off your bucket list, maybe this summer would be the perfect time to give it a shot. For first-timers, here’s something to help you prepare for the journey ahead. We sat down with Karis Corpus, a teacher who started climbing a little over a year ago, to figure out how to get prepped for your very first climb.

First steps

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With the number of mountains we have in this country, it’s a little daunting to think about which one to try first and how to go about actually getting on that mountain. Thankfully, there are tons of website and Facebook groups that provide most of the information you need to get started. “I guess, the easiest way [to start] would be to join groups who climb na talaga.” Karis says. “[Try to join] yung mga climbs na parang tours. Some of them can be expensive pero may iba naman na affordable. Usually [ito] yung mga malalapit lang. Like, less than a thousand pesos yung budget. And, I think, a lot of first-timers really go with them, so ‘di ka naman magiging out of place. And you can ask them din questions on what to bring, what to prepare, what you should watch out for.”

What to bring

If you end up feeling a little overwhelmed by all the info online, Karis notes a few essentials to have for every climb. “One thing I really learned from my first climb is to have a good pair of shoes. Kasi [with the running shoes I brought] I was just slipping all the time. It doesn’t have to be fancy, as long as it has good traction.”

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Another must-have is a good pair of gloves. For rocky mountains, like those in Montalban and Rizal, a good pair of gloves can really make a difference. When you’re climbing mountains with more varied terrain, gloves make it easier, not to mention safer, to pull yourself up.

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Of course, don’t forget to bring water. “Usually, for day hikes, I bring 2 liters of water.” Karis advises. “There are some mountains din, yung mga medyo sikat na like Pico de Loro and the ones in Rizal, they have stores [that sell water] sa may tuktok.” Although she makes it a point to note that sometimes these stores can be rather expensive.

“For trail food, what my guides used to suggest are something salty and something sweet, like nuts and chocolates. Usually [for energy] I like to bring the Fitbar. Jelly Ace also rehydrates you.

Eggs are also an amazing source of energy.”

Mind over matter

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One of the things that makes people wary about climbing is the physicality of it all. For Karis, what’s important isn’t so much being physically fit as it is knowing what you’re more capable doing. She notes that each trail is unique, providing a different challenge for each person. “Depende rin sayo kung ano yung mahirap. My favorite mountains are in Rizal kasi gusto ko yung mga gumagapang-gapang ka sa bato-bato, pero may friend ako na ayaw yun kasi sobrang nahihirapan siya. Gusto naman niya yung mga sa Batangas, [which are more on] very long walks.It’s really important that you have an idea of what kind of climb it’s going to be.”

Karis also stresses that even if you do find your chosen trail challenging, there’s no reason to be afraid or ashamed.

“If madali kang hingalin you can always slow down or ask to take five or rest muna. Hindi naman kasi siya contest with anybody else. It’s okay if you go slow.”

For her, climbing is really more of a mental challenge above all. “A lot of it is mindset lang talaga at kayang-kaya naman siya with the proper mindset. It’s really a lesson in perseverance. It’s delayed gratification. And ang saya-saya mo when you finally beat yourself. Kasi when you climb it’s really you against yourself. It’s not really against anybody else.”

In times when it gets a little challenging to persevere, Karis shares a trick to keep herself going. “[Even when you have a background of the mountain you’re climbing, try to] expect that it’s going to be super different from your expectations. For example… expect that it’s going to be a lot harder than it should be so that at least [you’ll realize later on that] kaya mo naman pala.”

“That’s what I always do. Kunyari tatanong ko yung guide kung gaano katagal pa. Pag sinabi niyang 1 hour, iniisip ko na 1 and a half hours or 2 hours pa. For me, overestimating helps.”

But don’t be overconfident. For first-timers it’s always better to have a guide. They know the area and will be able to guide you through technical climbs that require knowing exactly where to hold on or step.

Beginner-friendly trails

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First-timers ought to seek out mountains that are marked as level 3 or 4 out of 10, which are considered best for challenging beginners. Though Karis shares that these ratings don’t mean that every level 3 or 4 mountain is the same. For example, Mt. Pulag is considered level 4/10, yet she finds that its length is what makes its rating equal to other more challenging trails.

Pico de Loro is a level 3 mountain that many mountaineers also recommend for first-timers. Because of its popularity, Karis points out that it can get pretty crowded so it’s best to go in the afternoon when most climbers are already making their way down.

For those looking to really push themselves, Mt. Hapunang Banoi is a level 4 that can get pretty thrilling. “One of my favorite mountains is Mt. Hapunang Banoi in Rizal, kasi ‘yun ang medyo rock climbing, lalo na sa taas kasi it’s really rocky. As in parang gagapang-gapang ka. Parang minsan mental challenge na rin siya, yung trying to find the different places you’re going to step your foot, or where you’re going to climb next. Parang puzzle siya, so that’s one of the most interesting ones I’ve been on,” Karis recounts.

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Leave no trace

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As a final note in our conversation, Karis stressed how important it is to clean as you go. “It starts out with the small stuff, and then people think it’s okay to throw the small stuff then parang, wala na, ang pangit na[ng trail.” Mountaineers have a code that they live by, which is to “leave no trace.” Leaving trash behind, and even spitting and urinating in certain mountains, these actions can affect the ecosystem in one way or another, leading to the slow destruction of the mountains.

Armed with the essentials and a little background information on your trail choice, you’re now ready to take on your first mountain. If you’re still a bit nervous, just remember that the best kind of preparation is the right mindset. As Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to reach Everest’s peak, once said,

“It’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.”

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