Embrace the challenge! The basic guide to your first ever climb

Tanya Lim

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You don't have to be a pro mountaineer to experience the exhilaration of the climb. You should, however, be prepared. Here are tips from a climbing ethusiast's first-hand experience

MANILA, Philippines – I fell in love with climbing mountains by accident.

I had to climb Mt. Pulag as part of a exploration group for an event; I knew jack squat about climbing and joined a very experienced group totally blind.

I was lucky to be with a group of great coaches who guided me from the very start. One of the climbers even insisted on giving me his walking stick, which at that time I thought was a nuisance. In the end, that stick saved my life. I was not ready then.

The trail we chose was the hardest one, too. The Mt. Pulag Akiki Trail was a difficult 3-day climb that left me cramping from my waist down and violently shivering from the cold. If only I knew better. If only I came prepared.

BE PREPARED. Gear up for all kinds of weather. Photo courtesy of Tanya Lim

(READ: Climbing Mt Pulag’s Akiki Trail)

This 2014, I upgraded my Bucket List to add a few mountains I wanted to conquer, but now I want to make sure I equip myself well for the next trip. I’ve studied, researched and interviewed actual guides and mountaineers on the basics of climbing. Here are a few things I’ve picked up:

“Prepare yourself Physically, Technically, Mentally and Emotionally.” Those were the first words of Chito Tayag from Recreational Outdoor eXchange (R.O.X.), one of the outdoor experts I had an opportunity of listening to during a forum at Bonifacio High Street on the basics of mountain climbing.

Prepare physically 

A few months before your climb, start working out. Simple exercises like brisk walking on an inclined treadmill or just climbing up and down a staircase for 30-45 minutes/day is a good start.

As the climb gets closer, try training a little harder. Two weeks before the climb, go to a sports complex and climb the bleachers, or something similar. That will help give you the feeling of climbing steep terrain, and strengthen your core and legs muscles. 

Sleep 8 hours a day and try not to put strain or stress on your body as the climb gets closer. Also start taking vitamins & supplements and eat to boost your immune system. The weather is unpredictable, especially in higher mountain trails.

Logistics and technicals

As with any other sport, you have to prepare yourself with the right tools for the job. The basic climbing equipment  include the following:

  • Tent
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Climbing Boots
  • Pants (better if convertible to shorts)
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Personal Care Kit
  • First aid kit
  • Water and trail food
  • Head lamp and of course your camp/sleeping clothes

To help you with the planning and the actual climb, I recommend you get a knowledgeable guide like Ohmar Picache, owner and lead guide of the Picache Mountaineering Guide Services. 

There is also a special technique to packing your backpacks:

Line the inside with an earth pad to keep your backpack upright and sturdy. 

Add the plastic bag, for a layer that’s for waterproofing. 

At the bottom, put in your lightest items like your sleeping bag and camp clothes, then the heavier items in the middle. Keep the other light items you might use on the trail at the top, like a jacket or extra shirt. Trail food could be tucked into the backpack’s side pockets for easy access.

There is also a better way of dressing up and layering. Base layers (the clothing that touches your skin) should be made of synthetic fabric – no cotton please. Best are fabrics with wicking technology that keep you warm, yet dry and comfortable.

For the middle layer, try a goose down or fleece jacket.  Finally the outer layer should be water repellent, or better yet, waterproof. These clothes usually come with GORE-TEX, HyVent or Omni-Tech features.

Advice from one woman to another – bring BABY WIPES and ALCOHOL, lots of them.  There will be no bathrooms with hot water on the trail so you’ll rely on your baby wipes to remove all the grime you accumulated during the day.

Prepare mentally

Knowing that you are ready physically and technically will help you prepare mentally. Study all the possibilities that can happen during the climb and prepare for it. If you are confused about something, ask a mountaineer or expert.

I learned from my past climb that it is possible to cramp all over if you don’t hydrate properly, so I’m training myself to drink methodically and bring rehydration salts and gels for the climb.

If you have asthma or similar sicknesses, remember the air is thinner as you climb higher. Consult your physician for peace of mind and bring your inhaler and other medication.

Prepare for the cold. Knowing the worst and preparing for it is the best way to ease your mind. 

Prepare emotionally

You’ll be tired. You’ll be cold. You’ll be emotionally drained. I got through it by taking it one step at a time.

I can still hear my Mt. Pulag buddy whispering encouraging words to me as we climbed: “Take one step at a time, we will get there, don’t look up, focus on your every step.” (READ: Mt Pulag: Beyond climbing

There were times I wanted to cry and head back, but what stopped me was the stronger need to conquer, to achieve, to reach my goal.

When I got tired, I sat and stared at the breathtaking view and used that to push me to get up. If you love that feeling of accomplishment, climbing is for you.

THE VIEW. When you're tired, stop and enjoy. Photo courtesy of Tanya Lim

(READ: The sun and the moon at Mount Pulag)

New mountains to conquer

Since I fell in love with climbing, I’ve dreamt of mountains to conquer soon.

At the top of my 2014 list is Mt. Apo in Davao, considered the highest peak in the Philippines at 9,692 feet. The Mt. Apo 3-day climb will cost approximately P10,000/person. 

For those who want to try climbing for the first time, try Mt. Pinatubo (around P7,500 for the 2-day climb) or Mt. Pulag’s Ambaneg Trail (around P7,500 for the 2-day climb).

For all these, costs of the packages vary depending on the size of the group and the organization you’re booking with, so do your research.

Disclaimer: I’m not a professional mountaineer, or an expert. I simply dream of climbing the highest peaks. Please make sure you consult with the necessary experts to make sure that you’re fit for the climb you’re going to attempt. – Rappler.com



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