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A Filipino mountaineer's introduction to snowy peaks

Is there a mountain with snow in the Philippines? The snowline at our latitude is around 4000masl. Since the highest mountain in the Philippines is slightly under 3000masl, we have none with snow caps.

How does one train for a terrain that is not found in the Philippines (mountain over 3000masl, ice, snow)? It is pretty hard to simulate terrains that are unavailable to us. It is still best is still to go to an area where these mountain features or similar weather patterns can be found. You need not go as far as the USA or Europe. Asia's got awesome beginner's snowy peaks.

Is it expensive? Not necessarily but making the trip economical will require a lot of planning and some reasonable belt-tightening. Be willing to make sacrifices on some creature comforts (e.g. skipping the coffee shop indulgence, taking the train over Uber/Grab to save some pennies). Opt for countries that are not too far and do not have complicated visa requirements (e.g. Taiwan, Nepal, India). Be on the look-out for flight fare promos or choose budget airlines (e.g. Air Asia). Getting product sponsors also helps, but not required. If this is your first venture on snowy mountains, choose the best season to go not only for safety reasons but also for enjoyment. You are more likely to repeat the adventure if you have fun the first time. Personally, fulfilling a life-long dream almost always outweighs the expenses and the cost and hassle.

Where do I get my gears? We have some outdoor shops here in the Philippines that sell basic alpine stuff (e.g. down jacket). Check Decathlon, R.O.X. Some local brands also have durable duffel bags (e.g. Lagalag). You can borrow gears from friends when you can and rent on-site items that are not available in the Philippines (crampons, plastic boots, etc.). Of course, you can always buy online (e.g. Amazon, REI).

How much physical preparation is required? This depends on how far, high and long you want to go but 3-6 months of preparation is pretty reasonable assuming that you are not starting from a sedentary lifestyle. You can't just wake up one day and decide to go to, say, Island Peak next week. It's not safe and completely irresponsible. There are a lot of mountaineering-specific training programs that are available online (some are even for free). Have a realistic assessment of your current physical condition. Ask your doctor for your medical stats (this usually involves a treadmill stress test and a check of your 02 stats, among others). Ask gym your instructor for your baseline numbers. This usually requires a time trial on how fast you can finish a 10k, or the number of burpees you can do in a minute, some agility test and a check on your core strength.

Should I sign up with an operator or can I do it myself? This is a personal choice but if you are doing things the first time and you are traveling solo, then signing up for an organized tour may be your better bet. Always check the company's paperwork and read the contract's fine print before signing anything. Ask questions about their cancellation and refund policy. Read reviews of the company, too. Joining a group allows you to meet like-minded souls who could possibly be your future hiking partner. Nothing better than suffering with a friend. You also get to pick some practical tips on everything mountaineering. Plus, it's usually cheaper as you'll be sharing the cost with other people.

Travel insurance: yay or nay? If you can afford it, go get one. This is one form of security blanket that you never wanted to use but you always should have on your back pocket.

Previous article: Joining a shared/group tour, what to know.