How to Survive the Heat in the Mountains – Part 2

IT’S true. 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.

Believe me for I have proven it myself. After being introduced to mostly wet climbs in the beginning—of what may be an eternal love for the outdoors and adventure—I am now being faced with some of the driest climbs this summer, of all season!

As part of Random Act of Kindness (RAK-Ph Mountaineers), TJPh went on back-to-back training climbs at Mt. Cinco Picos in Zambales and Mt. Damas in Tarlac in March. (The group were training for Mts. Dulang-Dulang-Kitanglad traverse in Bukidnons, and as of this writing, they are on it.)

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.

Two different yet similar mountains: Damas of Tarlac (top photo)
and Cinco Picos of Zambales
To help those who are keen in experiencing Cinco Picos or Damas or both this summer, TJPh has prepared a two-part series sharing practical and useful tips.

After the basic preparations in Part 1, let’s now learn trail practices that will help you cope with a hot climb.

Mt. Damas: Small but Terrible
It wasn’t RAK’s first time to climb Mt. Damas. In January, three of our strong men scouted the mountain nestled in San Clemente, Tarlac. It was an ocular for our upcoming outreach project for the benefit of Sitio Pukis, an Aeta resettlement in the town of Camiling.

The summit of this small but formidable foe offers a 360 view of Tarlac and Pampanga
From that, our senior members dubbed the mountain as “small but terrible.” Because at only 685+ meters above sea level, it posed a steep assault to the summit, and a steep descent . It was not your usual “walk in the park” type of terrain.

In March, a bigger group returned to the mountain and everyone had this thought in their minds. We also reckoned it would be tougher because summer was nearing by then. The sun would be out and the mountain would not provide much cover.

I was fortunate to be placed behind our team leader Alex in the formation. This meant that I was guided well throughout the traverse and learned a lot.

1. Take advantage of the terrain. Hot climbs are meant to be slow because the heat tires hikers easily. You don’t want your energy to drain fast.

Take advantage of gravity's pull when going down
One technique is to take advantage of the terrain. In Mt. Damas’ rolling hills, go up slowly and go down swiftly. Going against gravity is hard but going with it is easy. With its pull, you can even run if trail is gently sloping. If it’s steep, take baby but quick steps to avoind rolling over.

2. Water discipline. Water is life during a hot climb so carry as much as you can, around 1 to 2 liters on a day hike. However, be disciplined not to intake as much as you can.

Water is life in the mountains
When quenching thirst, sip little amounts with intervals instead of one big, long slurp. Drinking more than your body needs can cause, at the worst, vomitting.

Of course, running out of water is also a concern especially if water source is limited along the trail. Thankfully, there are rivers at the foothills.

3. Rest, rest and rest. Yes plenty of it. Because no matter how slow you go or how often you hydrate, exhaustion just creeps easily at Mt. Damas.

The few shaded parts along Mt. Damas' exposed trail 
But even rest is difficult at times because there are few flat surfaces and little forest cover. Often, we take a break exposed to the sun and sit down uncomfortably. Shade is a luxury so when present, rest as much as it allows.

Don’t forget to pick a good spot for lunch and an example is the river bed.

Bonus. The hike to Mt. Damas may be slow yes but do mind your time. If not prepared for the dark (which was our case), make sure you get back to jump-off point before the sun sets.

For our part, we had to sacrifice seing Ubod Falls.

Nothing is predictable in the mountains so there are times when important calls like this must be made, even if not unanimous among the group.

This is the last of a two-part series. Hope you learned a lot as much as I did!



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