My first instinct upon waking up was to ditch the summit assault and just sleep in. It was cold and my body felt like a heavy lump of congealed grease. “Tin! Summit tayo!” Dante hollered from his tent and my plans for sleeping in went down the drain.
We started the trek at daybreak. It was still a little dark though and the sky was overcast so we had to use our headlamps. Much like the trail going to Lake Aguingay, the first part of the summit climb was on forested terrain on a rolling slope. The fun started when we got to the cogon grasses. The trail was muddy and slippery, thanks to the rain, and we had no choice but to grab on to the sharp cogon stalks so we could pull ourselves up. We were advised to wear gloves but I have a more stable grip with my bare hands so I opted to suffer the cuts and scrapes.
The climb became even more fun *insert sarcastic tone here* once we reached the open trail. As we neared the summit, the terrain became rocky and we became fair game to the hurricane-level winds that lashed out in every which way. We practically crawled our way up as powerful gusts beat us down and drove us to the ground. Raindrops felt like sharp pellets against the skin and made the conditions even more unbearable. One of our companions started having chills and looked to be in danger of hypothermia. Fred lent his jacket to the poor guy and saved him from shivering to death.
A few meters before the summit, the guide said we should turn back. The wind was too strong and it was getting dangerous. Dante insisted that we push on since we were almost there. Damn, what a mountaineer would do just to stand on that coveted peak. While the rest of the group stayed behind, the four of us walked/crawled a few more yards until we could already make out the sharp edge that led to the crater. Ed, who has probably never developed a sense of danger, ran off and ventured even farther despite getting knocked down by the thrashing winds.
My heart was in my throat as I watched my friends struggle to keep their balance against the wind. I knew then that this was a mistake. We should’ve called off the assault right at the start of the open trail, when we realized the gusts were getting stronger. I’m not the most spiritual person around but I was praying hard by then while crouched next to a rock, begging God to help us make it back safely. Our expedition leader wanted a consensus and didn’t want to make a unilateral decision about aborting the climb. I, on the other hand, got caught up in the single-minded goal of reaching the summit that I barely thought about anything else.
Our stubbornness was no match against the fury of nature and we finally decided to go back down. I was able to breathe easier once we were out of the open trail. We were more relaxed and actually had fun (no sarcasm this time) while slipping and sliding in the mud on the cogon trail. You know you love climbing mountains when you’re still able to sing off-key, laugh, and play in the mud just a few minutes after going through some life-threatening crap. Or maybe we’ve just gone mad by then.
We made it back to the campsite at around 10:30am all scratched and muddied but still in one piece. After a late breakfast, we broke camp and trekked back to Bulusan Lake.
I know I should be thankful for a generally safe climb despite the weather conditions, and I am. I know I should take the bad stuff as part of a learning experience, and I do. I know you can’t always have a perfect climb; I’ve gone on climbs in horrible weather before and I lived through it. I guess what’s eating me here is the feeling of being so weak and useless and in total lack of control throughout the whole ordeal, not to mention making one bad decision after another. The climb got the better of me and it was my fault. The mountain kicked my ass and, well, I deserved it.
Mt. Bulusan, I’m sorry we had to meet like this. I’m sorry I didn’t get to have fond memories of you. I’m sorry that summit moment didn’t work out the way I imagined it in my head. If the weather had been better and I wasn’t so much of an idiot, maybe I would’ve fallen head over heels in love with you, the way I fell in love with the other mountains I’ve been to. I hope I could go back and do things right next time. If I get another shot, I hope I don’t mess it up so you won’t have to kick my ass again just to teach me a lesson.
1930 ETD Manila to Irosin, Sorsogon
0830 ETA Irosin, breakfast, buy food supplies
1030 Take tricycle to Lake Bulusan
1100 ETA Lake Bulusan, orientation, final prep
1140 Take motorboat across the lake
1150 Start trek
1250 ETA ranger station, rest, tree planting
1330 Resume trek
1530 ETA Lake Aguingay campsite, set up camp
0430 Wake-up call
0600 Start trek to summit
0820 (Almost) summit
1030 ETA Lake Aguingay campsite, lunch, break camp
1200 Start trek
1300 Ranger station
1400 Lake Bulusan
How to Get There: From Manila, take a bus bound for Irosin, Sorsogon. Elavil Bus and other Sorsogon-bound bus lines pick up passengers in Araneta Center Bus Terminal in Cubao near Ali Mall. Buy your tickets in advance to avoid the hassle of scrambling for seats especially if you’re going there on a weekend or holiday. From Irosin town proper, tricycles can take you directly to Lake Bulusan (Bulusan Volcano National Park).
Expenses (as of January 2013):
Bus, Manila to Irosin (Elavil, non-aircon) – P500 (air-conditioned bus fare is around P900, I think)
Tricycle, Irosin to Lake Bulusan – P50 per person
Van, Lake Bulusan to Irosin – P50 per person
Bus, Irosin to Manila – P500
Climb Registration Fee – P350 per person
Guide Fee – P500 per day (one guide per group of five people)
Porter Fee – P350 per day
Angela of WildBoars (Wild Bulusan Outdoors Adventure and Recreational Sports) – 0919.223.1536, 0916.522.1500, wildboarsphil[at]yahoo.com