Scaling Mayon, the Living Mountain
Experience the challenge of traversing different terrains with varying degrees of difficulty: part forest, part talahib grassland, part desert of rocks and boulders. MAYON VOLCANO -- one of the most exciting mountains to climb in the Philippines; beautiful to behold at a distance yet behind the graceful symmetry of its slopes lurk hidden perils. Its rocky borders may be dislodged with a careless foot and turn into a dangerous avalanche.
The safest approach to this 2,421 meter giant of Albay province is from the northwestern slope, which starts at 762 m above sea level on a ledge where the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) research station and the Mayon Resthouse are located. A narrow 8-kilometer paved road links the place to the main highway.
From the Observatory, the trail creeps upwards through a tropical secondary forest, which is replete with a wide variety of flora and fauna. It then cuts across a talahib wilderness and swerves at approximately 1,220 m towards Buang Gully, a ravine formed by ancient molten lava flow. On the gully's floor are depressions containing rainwater.
At slightly above 1,524 m where water becomes scarce, Buang Gully branches out into two canals. The left fork leads to the transition line at 1,921 m where the grassland ends and the rocky slopes begin.
This spot is ideal for a campsite since it is near enough to the summit yet far enough from poisonous fumes which sometimes snakes down the slopes with a sudden shift in wind direction.
After scrambling over rocks and boulders, a cliff system is reached at 2,195 m. A 40-degree ascent on loose volcanic cinder and lava sand follows. And finally--the summit.
Typical Four-Day Schedule
0700 Breakfast at hotel.
0830 Make travel arrangements at hotel or take public bus from Legazpi to Mayon Resthouse.
0930 Arrive at Tabaco. Proceed to Mayon Resthouse.
1000 Make arrangements for accomodations at the resthouse.
1030 Register at PHIVOLCS as a precautionary measure.
1100 Spend the rest of the day picture-taking.
0500 Breakfast. Final check of supplies and equipment.
0600 Jump-off point at PHIVOLCS Station through tropical forest.
0800 Wade through sea of undulating talahib grass with razor-sharp edges.
1200 Arrive at Buang Gully. Gaze at magnificent panorama unfolding before you.
1215 Take left fork of the gully to reach the transition line at 1,921 m.
1315 Reach transition line, pitch camp and have lunch. Afternoon for rest, picture-taking and preparing for final ascent.
0700 Start off on rock scrambling to reach cliffs girdling Mayon.
0900 Scale cliff at 2,210 m and continue to summit over loose cinders and lava.
1100 Reach summit.
1130 Descend to camp.
1300 Lunch at a convenient spot along the way.
1330 Continue towards camp site.
1500 At camp, rest after exhilirating conquest of Mayon.
0700 Begin descent through Buang Gully and talahib area.
1000 Re-enter forest portion.
1100 Set foot on PHIVOLCS Station and report arrival.
1200 Lunch at resthouse. Prepare for departure.
1400 Return to Legazpi.
Recommended time of year for ascent is from March to May. Months of heaviest rains which compound dangers are November to January.
Refrain from dislodging rocks during ascent and descent.
At the final lap of the climb and while on the summit, climbers are advised to be tied to each other with a rope. It must be noted that the surface on the peak is hollow and there is danger of falling.
On the summit, be careful of poisonous fumes emitted by the volcano. A gas mask proves extremely useful. This can be easily improvised by sewing together ordinary hospital cotton.
Refrain from running particularly during descent.
Guard against overexposure, especially during summer months (March-May).