My friends and I conquered the beauty of Mayon. So here's my promise of telling my story how I managed to climb the perfect cone.
Sophie is our team leader and she managed to arrange a schedule of climb with kuya Bayron Cepria. He is our trail guide and he provided other guides who will help us climb Mayon. From the Faculty Outing at Caramoan, we left our colleagues bound for home when we reached Albay. From there, we traveled to Brgy. Maliliput, and stayed at kuya Bayron's place. It's where we'll sleep for that night. The following morning, we all took our precious bath (a good one to last for two days), prepped up, and listen to kuya Bayron talk about the do's and don'ts during the hike and once we reach camp. This brief orientation mentioned how difficult the hike would be. Since Mayon Volcano has this perfect cone from afar, its trail is really steep, and it gets steeper as you go up.
The hike has three parts: Hike to camp 1, hike to camp 2, then hike to reach the summit. We get to rest in every camp. According to kuya Bayron, the helmet, shoes, face mask, shades, and gloves are required especially when you're planning to reach the summit. The helmet is for the occasionally falling stones that might hit you, the shades and face mask for the sulfuric gas that the crater emits, shoes for a protected hike because you might lose a toe if you're wearing slippers, and thick gloves to avoid burns when you need to hold onto hot rocks while climbing.
Then we had our picture-taking before the climb. The team is composed of Sir Dante, Sir Jhed, Ms. Gicel, Ms. Orbit, Sir Airon, Sir Jowie, me, Ms. Sophie, Sir Francis, Ms. Joanrae and Sir Jaymar---a group of Math, Science and English teachers with trail guides. :)
We started our climb from kuya Bayron's place. Since it's really hot outside and there is not much shade, we decided to entertain ourselves while hiking. That's picture-taking. Hehehe. The hike going to camp 1 is all about the striking heat of the sun on a dry and dusty road. There were tracks of trailer trucks that most likely, the only means of transport on that area. Trees too tall for shade, dusty dry land and a dehydrating heat sums up that part of our hike. But after that part, we haven't reached camp 1. It's just half of camp 1's hike. We had to brace ourselves for a trail filled with trees, shrubs, gigantic roots and ferns that scratch you along the way. We had to stop for picture-taking, or for breath-catching I suppose. I can barely smile for pictures at this point. Actually, that part revived me from exhaustion. The fresh air and the shade from the trees helped me recover from the strenuous climb on that dry and dusty trekking.
Power nap!After the much-needed power nap, we're off to camp 2! We started walking and met a trail so narrow that you have to walk carefully with a literal one step at a time. This is when I fell in love with my walking stick so much. I badly need it to keep my balance. Hiking my way up with narrow steps leaves me nothing but my walking stick, ferns, trees and shrubs along the trail as sources of support and balance. Careful steps or else, you might loose your footing and roll down back to camp 1. Luckily, there would be few spots where you can stand with both feet supporting you. We took these precious places as glimpse of success, where we rest for a couple of minutes, drink a little and take pictures.
We set up our tents, prepared food for dinner and took a blissful rest, because at 2 AM, we're heading for the summit. Before we went to bed, we had chats during dinner and we were reminded of the difficulties of climbing the summit. According to our trail guides, there were climbers who really choose not to climb the summit because of these hazards. The trail going up is rock climbing, almost crawling. There would be parts of the trail that are loose rocks, so precaution should be observed. There may be instances that rocks (big or small) roll down and everyone has to be alert and quick just in case. The team has to stick together so that everyone would take care of one another during the climb. Face masks, helmets and shades are required upon reaching the summit because of the hazards that I've already mentioned. In short, I stayed at camp 2. LOL. I just can't risk it. I have a five-year-old waiting at home. Sir Dante, Ms. Gicel and I decided to stay at camp 2, then everyone rested for the next day's climb---an estimate of six hours of climb. We went to our tents because the temperature started to drop.
Despite the extremely hot climb up Mayon Volcano, the temperature drops at night. So you better bring something to warm you up. At 2 AM my friends prepped up for their summit climb. Head lamps on!
They stopped at camp 3 for water break then finally reached the summit. They reached the summit of Mayon Volcano at lunch time. Yey! Not. They didn't bring lunch with them, because the estimate time of climbing and going back to camp 2 is 6-8 hours only. They only had trail food with them. While two of my friends and I feared that we'll get wet because it suddenly rained at camp 2, they had been starving. :( We were so worried that we made sure that any time they arrive, food would be ready. One of my friends went ahead by sliding, and reached camp 2 with torn jogging pants and holes on the palms of his gloves. He literally slid down to camp 2. The guide who went down with him, grabbed the food and water we packed in case somebody comes earlier. He rushed up to meet the ones still making their way down to camp 2. That was 4 PM. The others who climbed the summit reached camp 2 around 8 PM. Thank goodness one of the trail guides brought them food or else, they'll be hiking from 2AM-8PM with only trail food on hand. We were able to use the medicine and first aid kits that I brought for scratches, wounds, and for one of us who caught fever, maybe because of fatigue and the wound he got when a rock hit his knee. If you are wondering, this is not our first climb. But if I'll be comparing Mayon with Pulag (my first climb), Pulag is like a park. Well, that's another story to blog. We slept for another night. That is actually out of the plan. The summit climb had been really cruel, I should say. We were expected to be back at kuya Bayron's place by that night. Anyway, at least everyone's safe. Despite everything, the morning wakes us with a beautiful sight. Beautiful enough to draw smiles on our faces again.
It is then I kissed the sunrise.
In the morning, stories of hunger, desperation to drink any water they find, a spark on everyone's eyes upon finding two candies inside the camera bag, and lots of bloopers. I can't help wondering if they had enough of Mayon. They tell these stories with much fondness and amusement that I might think they want another summit climb. I guess, there is really something with trying times that makes a story worth telling, and with enthusiasm at that. :)
Next problem: With the steep we climbed from camp 1 to camp 2, imagine how we made our way down. We had to sit sometimes, or hold on branches, hang on them before landing on a step. My most loved walking stick still helped me along the way. I loved my stick more I wanted to marry it. When we reached camp 1, I already lost the sole of my right shoe. When we reached kuya Bayron's residence, I lost my two toe nails. My two big toenails. They died. :'( I decided to sleep away my solitude. :P I was in mourning, so I didn't go with them when they went to the river for a bath. I prefer mine in a bathroom. Maybe I had enough of outdoors that time.
We had the best dinner when they got back, and we slept for another night. The next day, we boarded the bus for a 12-hour trip back to Rizal. It was a great experience. We had this climb last April 29, 2013. After several days, May 7, 2013, news came in with a headline: At least 5 climbers dead, 7 hurt as Mayon Volcano spews ash.
I knew we all received a gift of a new beginning. We could have been there when the volcano spewed ash if we planned a little later or stayed a little longer in Bicol before the climb. We could have died. We were spared, we know. All we can do is thank God for the gift of life and pray for the souls of those who didn't make it back to camp 1 alive. In pace requiescat.