I have always thought that I was not a mountain climber. A previous experience with mountain climbing left me bloodied, wounded and terrified of inclined slopes so I unconsciously vowed not to climb again.
To add to that, I was the kind of person who trips, falls and slips even on flat surfaces. Definitely not made for vertical challenges. So how did I end up at the highest peak of Cavite?
The Reluctant Climber
Well for one, there was something about the beautifully photogenic Mt. Pico de Loro. My friends have gone before me (I chose to be left behind) and their photos made me feel that it’s my loss to have passed up the opportunity to give mountain climbing a second try. Especially this mountain. Many have fallen in love with Mt. Pico de Loro magnificent bird’s eye view.
And so, three months after, I finally signed up to an open climb to Mt. Pico de Loro with Lyka (my best friend) who has climbed three other mountains within several months and was hungry for more. As for me, my only motivation for signing up was to capture photos of the famous monolith or toreng bato without necessarily climbing it.
Scaling up the Mountain
Mt. Pico de Loro (or Mt. Palay-Palay) is considered the highest mountain in my hometown Cavite at 2246 feet. It lies between Ternate, Cavite and Nagsugbu, Batangas. If it symbolizes anything, it’s that I will be going up to the edge of my comfort zone! Lyka and I were joined several other climbers to Mt. Pico de Loro, including two Germans who were backpacking the country and have been to countless places around here. They have fallen in love with the country with such passion.
After some introductions and warm ups at the jumpoff point, we finally hiked our way up Mt. Pico de Loro. It was definitely a great time to climb; the weather was chill and breezy, and the sun didn’t shine so much to tire or dehydrate us.
The trail was an easy hike, although you will have to endure to the top where it gets more inclined and rocky. There’s a stopover early on where you can buy water and go to the loo.
Meeting the Masters of the Trail
During the climb, we also got to befriend our guides from Trail Adventours. Each guide have traversed at least 20 mountains both locally and abroad — that is, not counting the mountains they have climbed repeatedly. These toughies climb almost weekly, while others consider climbing as a once a year thing!
These people — both Filipino guides and foreign climbers — have clearly seen something unmistakably beautiful about the Philippines and its various geographic features. They go out regularly and eagerly to taste and see what the country can offer.
The Sight that Launched More Climbs
Upon hours of insightful chitchats, exchange of appreciation about the Philippine tourist, catching breaths and rehydrating, we soon reached the campsite of Mt. Pico de Loro. It was armed with a beautiful view of Cavite and other provinces! Chorused gasps and gushes escaped our lips.
Immediately I thought, “I want to climb more mountains.” There were big camping tents of groups having a picnic at the site. Seems like looking for a community of people who love the Philippine outdoors isn’t hard to find.
From behind us, you can see the “Parrot’s Beak”, hence the name Pico de Loro. As if my challenge was heard immediately, weren’t at the peak of the mountain just yet. The path is inclined at nearly an 80 degree angle, like climbing up a slide.
So, shortly after catching our breath and enjoying the view, we finally decided to hike up the peak — “girls on top” fashion!
Road to the Summit and the Monolith
The climb up to the peak of Mt. Pico de Loro was tremendously steep. I had to ask a local to hold my DSLR for me as I claw my way up lest it hits the rocks. He was one of the locals who regularly climbed the mountain to sell cold drinks to campers and climbers.
How steep? Above was my shot of people climbing up, with the foot of the peak unseen. No ropes or railings, of course. I was literally crawling in an uphill battle, almost gave up in fear of slipping and wounding myself from the rocks again. But thanks to the local and the cheer of my fellow climbers, we all made it!
The Chess Pieced that Dropped from Heaven
And you know what? It was totally worth it! Here is Lyka’s picture perfect view of the imposing monolith atop Mt. Pico de Loro’s peak. You can only see it from the summit. It was such a natural work of wonder, I wonder if God dropped one of His chess pieces from heaven. Frankly, I don’t know how anyone would conceive to climb it.
As they say, your Pico de Loro climb is incomplete if you don’t get to the monolith. Challenge accepted. I left my camera with my fellow climbers who declined to go and up I came to the monolith.
The climb took physical strength and a tight grip to climb vertically with a very short rope, and then crawl up again to the steep slope until you come to the top. It doesn’t help to think you are surrounded with a 600 meter ravine atop the 60 meter vertical cliff. Even though I was almost sure I’ll make the 600 meter drop, I made it!
The vantage point makes it seem like exclusive lighthouse for the brave to oversee the vast forest-covered terrains of Maragondon and Nagsugbu. The even more exhilarating feel was that I can climb mountains after all. All it took was a literally different perspective to confirm that.
Just seeing the photos of Mt. Pico de Loro taken by our newfound friends inspired me that I can climb another mountain. Finally, I got to see the picturesque sight I climbed for, and I was even part of it. Thanks to the German backpackers, our highly experienced guides, our encouraging fellow climbers and locals who helped us, I finally started the road to mountain climbing.
And wouldn’t you know, in two years, I will have climbed Mt. Pico de Loro five times, mostly as a guide! Here’s klutzy people climbing mountains!