It’s been taunting me ever since we came to El Nido. Those towering cliffs and jagged peaks keep calling me, daring me to tread its trail, conquer its peak and discover what’s up there. We already inquired at one of the tour operators there first time we came here about climbing those cliff. There’s a 300 pesos guide fee per person with a minimum of two persons quota that I thought was expensive. And on our last day I got a good deal and the guide would accompany me to the peaks even on my own.
I only got 6 hours till we head to the airport and fly back to Manila. Brochures say the climb is only 45minutes, but that’s only half the truth as I found out. My guide, Charlie, who was also our boatman during out Tour C of Bacuit Bay. By almost 10am, he led me through the inner street of El Nido town to a worn down park serves as a jump-off point for the climb.
I thought this was gonna be easy. Like walking on regular mountain trails and winding roads. As we go through one-fourth of the trail, it was more of a rock climbing expedition to the top. My mountain climbing experience didn’t prepare me for this. We were traversing the sharp and jagged limestone trails and pulling ourselves up along almost vertical walls. This is dangerous. I agreed to give my camera bag to my guide so I could move freely. Halfway, we stopped on a resting place which also serves as a guard post. Watchers stay here overnight to guard the area from Nido bird nest thieves.
A few more climbs to the peak, the trail became more challenging and dangerous that one step could send me plummeting down to the sharp rocks. Steadily, I made my way, side stepping on a bridge of limestone peaks. Sometimes my sandals would be caught in between the rocks. Wear good footwear here with good traction, no fancy footwear here people. I stretched my legs and my hands groped for a stable crevice or rock protrusion to secure my hold. I’m sweating buckets but I did find some ego boost when Charlie told me that out pacing was pretty good. I had to push myself to finish this if I would make back into town for our flight.
Finally, passing by a couple of climbers on their way down, we were near the peaks. It was simply stunning as soon as I got a glimpse of the view. The whole El Nido town and nearby islands can be seen. It made me appreciate El Nido’s natural beauty. It’s like a culmination of everything we I have been doing here. I activated my GPS to learn our current estimated altitude and after a few minutes of satellite searches, I was able to lock on. My GPS reads that we’re about 230meters above sea level. I was glad to learn from Charlie that no one has measured the height before and I was the first one. I felt accomplished.
We didn’t stay long at the peak and quickly made our way down. The 45minutes time mentioned on some tour operators was fairly accurate but that’s only the time to reach the top assuming you have a good level of fitness. But those who are physically challenged could take longer. 3 hours for the whole climb would be a better estimate. I’m glad we made it down fast in time for lunch despite my legs getting all wriggly. I bid Charlie good bye when I gave him a little tip for carrying my bag. I made my way to find my other travel companions for lunch. And as I walk the streets under the noon time sun, I recall the panoramic image snapshot in my mind at the peak. I felt accomplished. I’m ready to go home. I conquered El Nido peak.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.