Mt. Mayon has an elevation of 2,463 meters and is notable for its symmetrical cone shape. If you take a closer look on a different angle, there’s a cleft —this is what they call the knife edge of the old trail. That said, Mayon is not a perfect cone volcano from this vantage point.
Our Mt. Mayon climb was one beautiful adventure, and for me–it was one of the most challenging, breathtaking and unforgettable climb experience.
The original plan was to climb Mt. Pulag in the last week of August 2011 via Akiki-Akiki trail (seriously haha), but typhoon Mina struck Northern Luzon forcing us to cancel the climb. It was the strongest typhoon in 2011. When we went to Mt. Pulag in 2012 via Akiki-Ambangeg trail, we also had a stormy weather, but that’s another story.
We contemplated of not leaving Cebu where we are based, but then we already filed for a 4 days vacation leave followed by a weekend. Thinking of just staying in our hometown while using up our precious leaves was hard that we decided to push with our flight and go somewhere else in Southern Luzon where we can avoid Mina.
Our second option was Mt. Pundaquit – Anawangin traverse. However, when we checked the weather forecast, it suggested a bad weather for a trek. The third option was Mt. Isarog in Camarines Sur. My friend, Tiki contacted the tourism officer two nights before our scheduled flight and she responded late with a question as to why we just requested for a permit just 2 days before the climb. She said it might not be possible.
The last option was Mt. Mayon. It is the most active volcano in the Philippines and also the most beautiful. It looks perfect with its symmetrical cone. It is named after Daragang Magayon, the beautiful maiden in Bicolano folklore. How can we treat her as an option?
Sometimes her beauty is obscured by thick clouds, but still looking majestic and dreamlike. It was beautiful watching the clouds kissing the volcano’s mouth.
Panginoron (Clouds) and Magayon were lovers in the Bicolano folklore and both were killed before getting hitched.
Magayon, the daughter of Makusog (Strong), was sought after by male leaders from other tribes, including Pagtuga (Eruption) who was defeated and killed by Panginoron during a war to win Magayon’s hand.
After Pagtuga was killed, Magayon joyously embraced her lover Panginoron but she was hit by a strayed arrow. At about the same time, Linog (Earthquake), the righthand man of Pagtuga, killed Panginoron with his arrow.
Makusog dug one grave site for both. The ground of their grave rose higher and higher the following days and this is where Mt. Mayon stands.
Our Mayon Volcano Climb Experience
We took the new trail following the gulley where the lava flowed from previous eruptions.
Because our original plan was Mt. Pulag, we booked plane tickets to Manila and because of the typhoon, we detoured to Bicol Region. Our flight was delayed and we were fetched by my cousin who took us to Ali Mall in Cubao almost midnight.
We thought we would be sleeping in the bus terminal but luckily got seats from a cramped non-aircon bus past midnight. It was a long and tiring 11-hour bus trip and we slept uncomfortably onboard. My legs were almost numb from sitting that long at the back part of the bus. Bicol Express transit was not available yet on those days and worse, there was a transport strike that time so most buses parked were not traveling.
After arriving in the afternoon in Legaspi City, we had spicy and creamy bicol express for lunch near the bus terminal and also brought food there for our packed dinner. To reach our guide’s house in San Roque, Malilipot, we hired a tricycle.
Our trail master was Bayron Cepria. I got his contact number from reading a blog by a Filipina who now resides abroad. Tiki contacted him and closed a deal after being offered a lower rate compared to the regular Php5,000 per head. Some even demanded as high as Php7,500 per head–a rate only foreigners would like to afford. Later, I understood why. It’s risky going to the summit and needs other guides to accompany us. Marcial, Gino and John were with us. One stayed at the campsite to look over our things.
The trail to our first campsite (Camp 2) was an easy hike but since I was tired from the long bus trip, I was easily out of breath. About 4pm, we reached the campsite and Mayon was beautifully covered with clouds.
Along the way to the campsite, we met some carabaos bathing.
The first night, I had my first encounter with Emperador Light, a stiff drink that still makes me quiver. Our guides were used to drinking it but we were used to Tanduay, which taste like a bad medicine too. We like it during the socials to help warm our bodies and fight the cold air. I mostly listened to their stories that evening. The next day, we woke up early around 4am and later witnessed the most lovely sunrise in my life.
We can view Mt. Bulusan and Mt. Isarog from the top. Oh volcanoes, why are you wickedly beautiful!
I love the blue skies and the green scenery with Albay Gulf from above.
You can actually drink water from here if you can’t take the thirst and the itch in your throat. The guides said it is drinkable, but we didn’t try it ourselves.
Higher, there’s no more vegetation. We were surrounded by boulders and loose rocks.
It’s better if you use a hydration pack so scrambling will be a little easier and safer. Also, I think bike helmets would have been better than the construction hats that we used. But of course, you should bring lightweight cave/safety helmets if you have any.
Above, it felt surreal.
Later, the sulfuric atmosphere was overwhelming and it made our throats dry and itchy. It got me teary-eyed.
Covering our noses and mouths to avoid inhaling too much sulfuric air. It smells like you were surrounded by a hundred rotten eggs.
We were almost near George’s step, a few meters before reaching the summit. This trail portion is named after George Cordovilla, who first trail-blazed a route to the crater summit. We were fortunate to meet him after the climb.
Chong finally said that he thinks we should just go back. The sulfur gas was already suffocating and loose rocks at George steps was quite scary for us, especially with a super cloudy visibility.
Going down was more difficult. It was scary for me looking down at how far I can fall and roll over if ever I took a wrong step on those loose rocks. I can’t seem to stand well, my knees were shaky, so I just glided my butt down at some parts at the lava gulley. Embarassingly this had ripped my trek pants, but good thing I wore leggings under so I wasn’t that exposed–I could only laugh at myself when thinking about it.
I was clumsy that my Nalgene bottle dropped and bounced far below. There was no crack and I still use it today. The scratches on it reminds me how durable it is.
Going down almost near the campsite, I tasted sour wild strawberries. Yum! 🙂
We were rewarded with a beautiful sunset.
Tiki cooking for breakfast the next morning.
We then hiked back to Brgy. San Roque and washed ourselves at the clean silted and rocky river. It was refreshing and the river currents massage our backs.
Afterwards, we paid a quick visit and took a short rest at Bayron’s place. While at his house, we browsed through old photo albums of previous climbs guided by him. I never noticed these mountain flora and fungi during our hike. It made me realized that I was not observant enough–I was oblivious to my surroundings, my mind was off somewhere.
It took us a total 5 hours for the ascent and another 5 hours for the descent. The best time to climb Mt. Mayon is during summer, especially in April when it is less cloudy. But for now, the local government disallow climbers to summit after the eruption in 2013 where 5 climbers died, including one local guide and 6 others were rescued. It was a very sad news.
Looking back now, if there is one thing I’ve learned the most during our Mt. Mayon climb, it’s having the sense of danger —to practice caution. If you were given clues on how dangerous it may take to reach the peak, better return rather than risk your life. #YOLO right? To put it in another way: there are times we need to step back, reflect, and ask ourselves if certain things we want are worth the struggle or pain.
Yet, I’m still hoping that someday I get to climb Mt. Mayon again when we won’t likely catch the clouds kissing the volcano’s mouth — one day in clear skies.
Mayon Climb Itinerary
Here’s our actual itinerary c/o Tiki Allado.
2030: ETD mactan airport (delayed)
2110: TD mactan airport
2230: TA NAIA
2350: TA ali mall (no more bus) stranded mode
0130: TD to legazpi city
1330: TA legazpi
1445: TD to camp 2
1815: TA at camp 1
1230: laag sa moa
2000: TD to airport