Hikers ascending on trail to reach the summit from the high camp base. (Photo from PIO / Noriel Nueca)

Conquering mountains, especially the highest ones, is usually at the top of the priority list for adventurers seeking the ultimate summit experience.

It is particularly appealing to people who appreciate outdoor activities, whether motivated by leisure interests, a spirit of exploration, or a desire to push personal boundaries.

There are mountains in Palawan that are popular among those wishing to experience the captivating charm of high peaks and the abundant flora and fauna, making it a terrific territory to explore.

The clear view of Mt. Victoria’s peak seen at the summit. (Photo from PIO/Noriel Nueca)

Mt. Victoria, situated in Narra town, stands as one of the premier mountain climbing destinations in the province. With its prominent status among the peaks, reaching an elevation of 1,726 meters above sea level (MaSL), it offers an exhilarating challenge for adventurers. As the second highest mountain, it shares the spotlight with Mt. Mantalingahan, towering at a height of 2,085 meters above sea level, claiming the title of the highest mountain in Palawan.

The number of hikers and climbers is now beginning to return to pre-pandemic levels after the town reopened the trail to the public. Jeh Cervancia, a mountain guide and photographer from the Narra Tourism Office, has accompanied numerous groups of hikers and consistently emphasizes the importance of preparation for a fulfilling hiking experience.

“Ang akyat ay hindi basta-basta na kapag gusto mo akyatin. Hindi pwede na ituro mo lang ay pwede mo na akyatin agad. May mga bagay na dapat alamin, i-consider for preparation,” he said.

Guide assistants and hikers prepare their things at the jump off area before the briefing proper.

In addition to adequate preparation, it is essential to be aware of the local customs and beliefs that should be respected by visitors. Among the locals, it is believed that if the clear view of the Mt. Victoria peak, also known as the clearing, is obstructed, the fault lies with the state of your nails.

Despite the skepticism surrounding the connection between nail polish and the intriguing phenomenon of clouds parting, avid hikers are fervently discouraged from ascending to the peak with their nails painted.

Remarkably, tales from seasoned guides reveal that those daring individuals who disregarded this cautionary advice were plagued by a night of peculiar and unsettling dreams just before embarking on their summit conquest.

One of the beliefs of local guides is not to hike with painted nails to assure the clearing of clouds and enjoy the of Mt. Victoria’s ‘the teeth’

The vivid recollections of these unusual nocturnal visions serve as a haunting reminder to all adventurers that respecting local customs and beliefs is paramount when venturing into the awe-inspiring realm of the mountains.

“Meron talaga na pag-akyat dito [sa high camp] ay pinapatanggal [ang nail polish], hindi talaga maniwala. Pagdating sa summit ay blackout. Although pamahiin, kahit papaano ay naniniwala tayo. Yong matatanda ang nagsasabi sa amin,” he said.

Unbeknownst to some hikers, there exists a deeply ingrained belief that compels them to take drastic measures to witness the coveted clearing. In their quest to behold this natural spectacle, these intrepid adventurers spare no effort in removing their nail polish, regardless of the inconvenience it may entail.

Hikers rest in the middle of the forest at ‘playground’ along the way from first campsite to second base called high camp.

Blood leeches
Typically, the maximum duration for reaching the summit is around four nights and three days. The first day is dedicated to crossing approximately 14 rivers in order to reach the initial campsite. The water in these rivers is clear enough for diving and safe for consumption during the long trek.

The common thing about the rivers is the the calming beauty that helps hikers to rest for the meantime. However, it will not be appreciated when it rains as waters will rise higher than the usual.

It is possible to encounter blood leeches, also known as “alimatik,” along the way. These leeches are known to attach themselves to the skin and feed on blood. However, the guides assure that the bites only result in redness and do not cause any further impact on human skin.

One of the blood leeches removed from the hiker’s skin

The first campsite is situated beside the river and has designated areas for kitchen, toilet, and setting up tents and hammock.

On the second day, the journey will proceed towards the colder site known as the high camp. The high camp serves as the base camp prior to reaching the summit and the peak referred to as “the teeth,” which is planned for the third day.

It is important to have a comfortable sleeping area at the high camp as freezing cold is possible at early morning. It also helps to preserve food ingredients such as meat.

Hikers have the opportunity to refresh themselves by bathing in the never-ending water supply from the spring.

Hikers at the high camp get their water source from the freezing water of the spring.

The weather conditions at the mountain’s summit are highly unpredictable, and they greatly influence the pace of the hike.

Fortunately, hikers will not embark on the trail alone as they will be accompanied by guide assistants. It is widely recognized that climbing for multiple days can be exhausting and fatiguing. Therefore, Cervancia emphasized that it is completely acceptable to ask for breaks and avoid rushing the pace of the group.

“Huwag pilitin kasi once nag-start na sumakit o mag-cramps, mahirap na. Maliban lang sa mga sanay, nag-a-adjust ang katawan. Sabi agad kayo, hihinto naman ang guide,” he said.

No yelling
The feeling of reaching the peak after hours of walking is truly exhilarating, and the sight of the scenery is immensely satisfying. However, guides also warn hikers against shouting until everyone has reached the peak, as loud noises have the potential to attract the formation of clouds due to the vibrations they create.

“Kapag sumigaw ka sa tuktok ay nakaka-attract talaga siya ng cloud, yong sound vibration. Sa ibang grupo, kapag walang nakita sa likod, ay away na talaga yan,” Cervancia said.

The entire adventure of scaling peaks and traversing ranges offers a closer look at the rich biodiversity of the area, encompassing a variety of interesting plants and wildlife, some of which are exclusive to this place.

As one ascends higher, a fascinating transformation occurs in the vegetation. The plants gradually diminish in size, resembling intricate bonsai art as the journey progresses towards the peak.

The Teeth
The distinctive “teeth” of Mt. Victoria are prominently visible from the summit, but hikers must trek for approximately an hour to reach its peak. During rainy conditions at the summit, the droplets cascade down with such force that they resemble stones relentlessly striking against your skin.

The trail for assault hike from high camp base to the summit of Mt. Victoria.

The mountain ranges resemble a roller coaster, and to navigate the descending trails successfully, Cervancia suggests trying a sideways walking technique. This approach reduces the likelihood of feet directly hitting the roots, which can cause discomfort while walking.

Reaching the peak during a hike provides individuals with a renewed perspective and a deep sense of fulfillment. The obstacles encountered throughout the journey become worthwhile once the awe-inspiring beauty of the destination unveils itself.

Furthermore, Cervancia emphasized that hiking becomes a more enjoyable experience when hikers come prepared.

For starters, he provided some important guidelines. The foremost among them is the recommendation for hikers to condition themselves before embarking on the hike. This includes acquiring appropriate gear for sleeping, hiking, and suitable clothing to ensure their comfort and safety.

Irrespective of the mountain being climbed, it is crucial for everyone to show respect, particularly by refraining from leaving any trash on the trails. The local tourism office in Narra consistently emphasizes to visitors the importance of coming prepared, not only for their own well-being but also for the preservation and respect of the mountain itself.

Almost an hour hike from the summit to reach the peak called ‘the teeth’ of Mt. Victoria (Photo from PIO / Noriel Nueca)

“Ang climb kasi, it doesn’t matter kung minor or major. Dapat laging prepared,” he added.

To get a guide and know more about the mountain, hikers are encouraged to visit the Municipal Tourism Office of Narra or connect through the official Facebook page Mt. Victoria Peaks and Range.