Being a hardcore beach person, it took me a while before I was convinced to climb Mt. Bira-Bira or any mountain. I couldn’t understand people who did it. I couldn’t understand the long hours they hiked, let alone the heavy packs they carried. Not until I met a kickass mountaineer, Jo, who had a story behind every summit I could think of. Her passion got me curious and so I gave it a shot. With two of my other friends, we decided this is the best opportunity to try something new.
Knowing that I’m a sucker for good views, Jo said Mt. Bira-Bira is the best for our first climb. It isn’t too steep, the trail is not that long, the view is killer, plus the hike ended at Nagsasa Cove so if mountaineering doesn’t happen to be for me, I’d still enjoy the trip.
Being used to going on out of town getaways, I thought packing would be easy for me. This is where mountaineers gained my respect. You have no idea what they can fit in their backpacks. I had to think of every small thing I had to bring because I would carry it for half a day. Believe me, what was light for you, in the beginning, would end up a couple times heavier when you’ve been carrying it for hours under the scorching sun. Jo had to walk us through the whole thing and soon we were ready.
The trip from Manila to the jump-off in Zambales seemed shorter than expected. We then had to register, form small groups of 4-5 persons, pray, and then started the ascent. The beginning was a mixture of excitement and a bit of worry. A lot of questions popped into my head, “Why am I doing this again?” “Could I really carry this bag for 5 more hours?” “What would the summit look like?” “What would it feel like?”. I then remembered all the quotes they write about mountaineering and thought to myself, “This is why they get to write so many things after a hike. It leaves you with nothing but your thoughts.” With all these things running in my head, I didn’t realize a couple of hours have passed and some of my self-doubts already disappeared. From questioning yourself to firmly believing you’d move forward no matter the circumstances, I didn’t have a choice anyway. No way would I go back. No way would I have done all that for nothing.
Three hours quickly passed, but then it started to rain. My thoughts started to take control again, “Can nothing else go wrong?” “So much for good luck.” That’s when a seasoned mountaineer explained how lucky we are because Zambales’ mountains are known to have no trees for shade and that one of the main challenges of climbing its mountains wasn’t really the steepness nor the technicality, but the draining heat of staying directly under the sun. We were lucky after all– and so we hiked some more.
“The summit is just a few meters away.”, a mountaineer exclaimed. I was so excited. After hours of climbing without knowing why, I was finally going to get what I came for. We reached the summit within a couple of minutes but there was no clearing. I couldn’t believe it. All that for nothing? I admit at this point I was a bit sad. We put down our bags for a moment, sat in silence, and basked in the feeling of having conquered a mountain. I was at the summit. I was able to fight the urge to give up. I was able to overcome all those thoughts that could have easily discouraged me. I was able to overcome myself.
This is where I understood all those people who did this to themselves repeatedly. This is where it came to me. It may be the experience, it may be the view, hell, it may even be the company. But really, you don’t get to summit the mountain, you get to summit yourself. And this is why you’d do it all over again.
- Start early. The trail doesn’t have much shade. We started around 8am and we were just lucky that it was cloudy that day.
- If you aren’t able to start before dawn, prepare your caps, sunblocks or whatever you use to keep cool.
- Get ready to be wet. The trail does end at the beach but there are also a couple of river crossings along the way.
- Prepare for a boat ride that is more than an hour away. Best time to enjoy the view and the chance of having a glimpse of Anawangin and Talisayen Cove. As for me, I dozed off.
- Best to join a group to split the cost of the boat rental since you will need one to get back to Zambales.