Born a year after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo, I felt I have missed an event of a century frequently described in terms of falling ashes and dropping of temperatures. As if the tropical country has finally experienced winter.
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Into the Ashen Deserts of Mt. Pinatubo
Mt. Pinatubo can easily qualify as one of my most favorite climbs. Although, it can hardly be called a climb. It’s more of a hike in a desert of sand, ashes and seemingly painted rocks. Just to get to the crater of the now-sleeping volcano is an adventure that entailed all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) or 4×4 jeep ride on a grassy, muddy and sandy landscape.
As if tumbling in a 4×4 during sunrise isn’t a thrill in itself, the road to Mt. Pinatubo is a sweeping landscape filled with halved rocks that turned into crusty (and Toblerone-looking) cliffs. The lack of vegetation contrasted with a distant ghost of densely forested ridges. Clear streams trickled straight from the mountain. Needless to say, it’s a scene taken right out of Mad Max in Fury Road.
Scorched by the Trail
Where the adventure road ends, 45 minutes after, the 3-hour trail begins. There is hardly an incline, but the difficulty of our trail lay in the scorching heat of the sun beating against our backs in the nearly shade-free, barren land.
Much of the damage of Mt. Pinatubo’s eruption is left to the imagination, especially the molten lava that coursed through, and the rain-induced torrents of volcanic debris that shaped its trail. This landscape is known to change with every rainfall due to erosion.
Watercolor in Grey Rocks
Even the hues of the streams differed per mineral — at times ferrous red, algal green, and on our visit, sulfuric yellow. We passed by groups of children who lived nearby creating castles made of colored stones. The area used to be a dwelling of the Aetas prior to the evacuation.
The eruption collapsed the summit of Mt. Pinatubo, creating a crater 2.5 kilometers in diameter at 1485 meters above sea level. Even the lake in the middle of the crater turns blue green to brown depending on temperature. Unfortunately, we are no longer allowed to swim across the lake due to the dangerous downward current at the center.
Beauty from Tragedy
Atop the cemented viewing deck, we witnessed the mountain famous not only for its eruption, but also considered to be one of the most beautiful crater lakes in the world. In fact, the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo also beautified Anawangin Cove, giving its white sand beauty from spewed volcanic ashes.
Mt. Pinatubo is highly recommended for those who want to see another side of the mountainous Philippines. Instead of the usual lush greenery, uphill slopes and bird’s eye view of town, we get widespread lahar, pointy calderas and the ever-changing shades of the crater lake.
BOOK NOW: Mt. Pinatubo Hiking Day Tour
- Duration: 2:30 AM – 8 PM
- Places to see: largest lahar canyon in the world, 2.5 hour trek to crater lake, 4×4 off-road adventure
- Notes: Meet-up McDonald’s El Pueblo, Ortigas, Pasig City; Children aged 0-12 are not allowed to join; Medical certificate is required for adults aged 60+
- Price: PHP 6,050
How to go to Mt. Pinatubo: Getting a package tour to Mt. Pinatubo is highly recommended, as the expenses for the roundtrip Manila-Pinatubo basecamp van ride, 4×4 ride, trek guide, registration fee, environmental fee and aeta fee are already included.
Estimated expenses: Around PHP2,100 per person for a group of 10 pax