When living in the Philippines, every day when we opened our front door, the first thing to catch our eye was a 1026 meter high basaltic volcano, named Mt Arayat. Being surrounded with flat land, it seemed so glorious and even a bit dangerous. I guess that the feeling of danger came from the knowledge of it being potentially an active stratovolcano. Located only ~16 km from our doorstep it was definitely something to feel concerned about.
Anyway, once we heard that (although potentially active) Mt Arayat is considered as one of the most popular hiking destinations in Central Luzon, it was instantly added to Estralians to do list 😊
Facts to know before climbing Mt Arayat
So as mentioned before, Mt Arayat is abut 1030 m high basaltic volcano and it is located in Central Luzon in the Philippines. It has two different peaks and the track is moderate to difficult. It takes about 4 hours to reach the North Peak and 8 hours if you are climbing the South Peak.
Another important fact to know before you go, is that in order to climb Mt Arayat you have to pay for a guide. A guide costs 700 pesos per group of up to 5 people. On top of the guide’s fees you also have to pay a small environment fee of 30 pesos per head. You can pay for the guide and other fees at the registration station.
Better late than never?
The day of the climb did not start as planned. Instead of waking up early and arriving to Mt Arayat by dawn, we slept in and didn’t get on the road before 1 AM. Also it didn’t help that we had done very little research about the hike. We knew that we wanted to climb to the top of Mt Arayat, but back then we had no idea that you can climb two peaks and neither did we know where exactly is the registration station. With the little information that we had, we just opened Google Maps, entered Mt Arayat, pressed „Directions“ and „GO“.
Locating Mt Arayat trail
It took us around 40 min to ride from our condominium to Mt Arayat National Park. And then another 20 minutes to locate the beginning of the trail. We kept stopping and asking for directions and it seemed that everyone had a different idea about where we should go. For us, it seemed logical that the higher in altitude we ride the closer we’d get. Therefore, we only acknowledged the opinions from the people who told us to keep driving straight ahead. It wasn’t before we reached a small store/eatery when we got told that we have arrived. The friendly shop owner told us that we can park our motorbike in front of her store and then walk another 100 m up the hill where the registration station is located.
While we were getting ready for the hike, a group of local girls arrived to the store. They told us that they are on their way to some lookout point (14th station) on the beginning of Mt Arayat White Rock trail and if we want, then they are happy to accompany us to the registration station.
By the time we arrived to the registration station, it was already 2 PM. At the registration point, couple of ladies greeted us and asked for an environmental fee and 700 pesos for a guide. Once we had paid off, the journey to the top began.
Climbing Mt Arayat
The first half an hour of the trail was a pretty easy. We were walking along a narrow path that was gradually rising. Along the path, there where few statues and on the distance we could also see a peak.
After the first two kilometres the path became pretty difficult. We were now climbing up a steep „path“ with lots of loose stones and tree roots. Few km into the climb, we started running out of stamina very quickly. We kept ask our guide Fiona for a break after every 10-15 minutes to catch our breath and get the pulse down.
On top of loosing our breath we started getting low on water. „Super experienced“ climbers like we were, we had brought only 1 liter of water with us. Also, the fact that on the previous night we had few drinks was not working in our favour.
As the path became steeper with every step I felt like giving up. Not because of exhaustion but because my legs felt blocked. As Simon saw my struggle he tried to support me by grabbing my arm and started to pull me behind him. At one point we began to see other hikers through the thick vegetation. This gave us some well needed energy and we were able to make the last stretch with ease.
White Rock lookout
Minutes later, we reached the area with all the other hikers and got informed that this wasn’t the peak. Apparently it was just a resting spot. Our guide Fiona told us that because of our late arrival, our non-existent water supplies and us not having flashlights, we won’t be able to continue our climb. Our faces instantly dropped with disappointment. Simon tried to convince Fiona to keep going but she told us that the track is way too dangerous in dark and she don’t want to take the risk. As a salvation, Fiona then said that just few meters from where we were is an awesome lookout called the White Rock. Feeling defeated we then followed Fiona through the forest to the White Rock lookout.
After reaching the lookout and seeing the stunning views over Central Luzon we felt super happy. The highest peak of Mt Arayat remained unconquered for us but White Rock viewpoint was high enough to feel achieved.
It took us ~1 h and 45 min to reach White Rock lookout from the registration station. The journey back down took us only ~50 minutes.
PS! Little did we know on that day, that Mt Arayat was just a preparation for a much more difficult hike 😉