How to Survive the Heat in the Mountains – Part 1

EVERY mountain has its unique personality. Is it mossy or is it grassy? Is it canopied or is it exposed? Is it a steep climb or is it a gentle slope? Is it one of the other, or is it all of the above?

Seven months into hiking, I realize that one will only, really get to know and understand a mountain once one is there—subjected to its magnificent beauty and at the same time, tested by its treacherous traits.

This realization hails from Mt. Cinco Picos in Zambales and Mt. Damas in Tarlac, which this author climbed in two consecutive weekends of March together with Random Act of Kindness (RAK-Ph Mountaineers).

Two very different mountains with one major similarity: Unforested and cogon-laden trails that provide little canopies thus exposure to the sweltering heat of the sun throughout the climb.

And having been introduced to mostly wet climbs in the beginning of my hiking journey, Mts. Cinco Picos and Damas have posed new sets of challenges to this author. Add to that the fact that both served as training climbs for RAK Ph Mountaineers’ upcoming major traverse of Mts. Dulang-Dulang and Kitanglad, two of the highest and toughest mountains in the Philippines nestled in Bukidnon.

But whether it’s for training or just for leisure, climbing these two mountains in Luzon is no easy feat.

If you’re keen on meeting Mt. Cinco Picos or Mt. Damas, especially this summer, TJPh has prepared for you a two-part series sharing practical and useful tips.

Let’s begin with the basics.

The "crowned peak" of Mt. Cinco Picos looms in the distance

Cinco Picos: From Summit to Sea

Cinco Picos in Zambales is RAK’s first traverse for 2017. As part of the Zambales Mountain Range, the mountain with five peaks—thus its name—stands only at 881 meters above sea level. Although it is not so high, it is classified as a major climb because of its exposed terrain.

During pre-climb, our team leader Rick Laping told participants to prepare for “excruciating heat.” I asked, if there was no better term for excruciating. He answered none.

So how does one prepare for a hot climb? Here are three simple steps:

1. Protect yourself from UV rays. Apply ample amount of sunblock, preferably SPF30 and above. Then, wear proper clothing. Cover up as much as possible by wearing long-sleeved tops (arm warmers may do too) and leggings for women and cargo pants for men. This is not only to prevent sunburn but also to protect oneself from cogon grass, which can cut through your skin. Also bring caps or hats, scarves, and UV-protected sunglasses.

On top of applying ample sunblock from harmful UV rays, cover up nice and well too
The downside, however, of covering up is accumulation of body heat so if you can, pick loose and breathable clothing.

Don’t forget proper, hiking footwear.

2. Hydrate! This is very important because climbers may suffer from hyperthermia, which is the extreme elevation of body temperature, on hot environments. Causing headache, nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps, fatigue and sometimes, even heat stroke, hyperthermia occurs when the body absorbs more heat than it dissipates.

Realize available water sources along the trail to replenish your liquids, but do make sure it is safe for drinking first
Prevent the condition with proper hydration. Besides bringing enough water, 1.5 liters is the safe amount for a whole-day hike, drink oral rehydration therapy before climbing. Best to bring ORTs too, and practice water discipline.

Identify available water sources along the trail, like rivers or falls. And make sure it’s fit for drinking.

3. Pack light. This right here is contradictory, especially if your team would be camping, thus the need for certain equipments like cook sets, stoves, and tents. Add to that food for everyone.

But the team can address this by equally distributing equipment to each member so that weight will be distributed as well. Some must bring tents, while others, cook sets and stoves. Of course, it pays to have strong members on the team because they can always carry more. ;)

Equally assign equipment to each member so that weight will be distributed as well
As for your personal belongings, bring only those that you need. For the Cinco Picos traverse, our destination was Silanguin Cove in the town of San Antonio. So swimwear and beach attires are a must. Other essentials include toiletries for washing up, portable head lamps for light, mess kits for food, and blankets for the night.

Bonus. It pays to have a good group that will impart all these to you before a climb. That’s us in Random Act of Kindness.

If this is not the case for you, particularly if joining a commercial climb, be the responsible one and ask your climb organizer and/or tour operator all the questions you have before climbing.


Second part of this series will discuss actual trail practices to help one survive a mountain as difficult as Mt. Damas.



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