Mount Pinatubo: Trekking up an Active Volcano

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I found myself well beyond my shire and on an adventure I wasn’t quite fit for. For a lethargic couch potato with a bad knee, the quest to the crater lake of Mount Pinatubo was daunting.

The confidence boost came from the knowledge that elder folk and kids would be joining the trek. I could keep up with them naman siguro… right? Haha!

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Bottom line is, I made it! So you can, too. In fact, you don’t feel the incline until the final stretch to the crater. And since you’ll be so focused on finding a trustworthy spot to place your next step, time dashes by.

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The trip begins early from the jump-off point with a bumpy hour on a 4×4 to the foot of the volcano. The trek to the crater takes around 2 hours. The most challenging section of the trip for me would be the staircase of, maybe, 200 steps to get to the lake.

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But oh, what a magnificent sight – still waters floating within the crater of a sleeping volcano! it’s the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow; the treasure under the spot marked “X”; the pièce de résistance!

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The sights along the trail are also awe-inspiring, should you take the time to look up and around. Mountains of ash with remnants of mini landslides. Boulders and rocks and stones and pebbles. Cold streams – wide and tiny. Sulfur stains. Local tribespeople with smiling faces and genuine greetings… To think, this is the same volcano that gave us the second largest eruption in the 20th century.

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After 600 years of dormancy, Mount Pinatubo erupted in June 1991. Clouds of gas and hot ash burst into the air and flowing lava gushed out of the volcano. Hundreds of lives were taken and the world was stunned as the the global temperature dropped and the color gray rained throughout the Philippines and as far as Singapore. A river of volcanic mud ran through Central Luzon taking lives, livelihood, and homes while changing the landscape forever. Mount Pinatubo would erupt again throughout 1991 and 1992.

1991 Mount Pinatubo Eruption
The stillness of the crater lake, the calm sound of gentle streams, the permanent placement of boulders and smoothed stones, the delicate hills of dust… The beauty you find along the Pinatubo trail is a testament to the catastrophic Mount Pinatubo eruption in 1991.

1991 Mount Pinatubo Eruption
While trekking, naturally, you’ll be looking down and ahead most of the way. But do not forget to peel your eyes from the path and appreciate the glory of nature – sheer and brutal beauty. Step into the shot and take lots of photos and videos. Enjoy the scenery. Horror gifted us with this serenity.

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If you’re looking to go on your own Mount Pinatubo adventure, there are lots of tour providers from Manila. We used Allan Bognot, who also owns a pension house at the jump-off point.

Just some tips:

  • Doing the trek early in the morning was great! It got quite chilly (this was end-December).
  • Use sunscreen. Your trek back which will be around noon to 2pm and you’ll feel the sun much more then. I heard it’s extra hot on any other time of year!
  • Eat a big breakfast and bring snacks (my tummy was grumbling on the trek back).
  • Use comfortable shoes that you don’t mind getting water and sand in. Hiking shoes would be best.
  • Check this link out for tips and an alternative tour package.
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