As a new hiker, I’ve learned so much from traversing Mt. Ulap and witnessing its breathtaking views. Yes, I did stumble a time or two, but now I have a better idea of what gear to get for a more serious trek.

I have hiked light, easy trails before. But they were nothing compared to trekking Mt. Ulap, a vast mountain range located in Baguio City, Philippines.

The mountain’s name (ulap) literally means cloud, so expect a very tall climb to 6,000 feet. It took us about 3-4 hours to reach the summit, plus another 3-4 hours going back down.

Luckily the group I went with was very kind, patient and accommodating for a newbie hiker like me. We also had two competent hiking guides — one stayed up front to lead the way, while the other one was positioned last to make sure no one was left behind.

Our group went with a level 3 over 10 difficulty trail level. It was relatively low difficulty, but still very challenging, especially for new hikers. For inexperienced hikers with a sedentary to a moderately-active lifestyle, I suggest going on the lower difficulty hike levels first and then work your way up.

I barely made it through, huffing and puffing through the steep inclines. Thankfully I had a lot of help along the way.

To give you a taste, here are some of my snapshots of the majestic views:

What I highly recommend for hiking

Before I share my rookie hiking mistakes and a gear wish list to make up for it, I’m still glad that I prepared the following for my first serious hike:

  • Sun-protective, full coverage attire (I wore a thin, long-sleeved top and stretchy yoga pants);
  • A hat and UV-protective sunglasses;
  • Sunblock;
  • Travel bath essentials, with light and comfy spare clothes to freshen up with afterwards;
  • Sturdy athletic shoes (instead of my usual vacay flip flops, which would have been murder on my feet for hiking).

If a more chill and laidback travel adventure is more your thing, here’s a hidden gem of a resort that my friends and I went to recently called Blu Serenity. To learn more about my hiking trip and tips, read on!

Valuable hiking lessons learned the hard way

Now we come to the embarrassing part of my journey — the woopsies.

Woopsie number 1: I thought I packed light, but boy was I wrong. It turned out, it wasn’t light enough for me considering the very tall climb. I was lucky enough that I had a strong male companion who offered to carry some of my heavy load. Otherwise, it would have been all the more back-breaking.

One strategy for my next hike is to leave my bath and changing clothes in the car. I also plan to get a proper hiking backpack that’s very thin with ergonomic straps like the one below. This will make sure that I only pack the bare essentials on the ascent. It comes in a sleek black color too, if you prefer a more muted color.

Woopsie number 2: Thinking that I wouldn’t need a walking stick. I’ve never been more wrong in my entire life.

Even strong and experienced hikers bring a walking staff/pole, an indispensable hiking essential regardless of one’s age or physical fitness.

I struggled the most without a walking pole during the descent. The steep incline downwards exerted so much pressure on my knees and toes. I’m so glad that my friend made me a makeshift pole from a large branch along the way.

But it’s also good to come prepared with a portable walking pole that retracts and can be easily stored in a backpack when not in use. I’m definitely eyeing to get a walking pole like this for future hikes:

Woopsie number 3: My fancy insulated, stainless steel, 1L water bottle (though it kept my water cool) was weighing me down. Next time I’ll try using a sturdy water pouch instead to carry the same amount of water with less bulk.

With that I end my hiking wins, woes and recos from traversing huge mountains like Mt. Ulap. It surely was filled with a lot of ups and downs, but it was well worth it with the right companions. Definitely one for the books.

Have you ever gone on such a challenging trek? Comment your hiking stories and tips below, and you just might help another fellow explorer gear up for his/her next adventure.

Written by

May Gordoncillo

May is a soul-searching freelance writer/editor who earned her BS and MA degrees in communication from the University of the Philippines. She unleashes her creative prowess in her blog, Luscious Mind.