pinatubo eruption

Pinatubo eruption – second largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century

Mt. Pinatubo is located in Botolan Zambales province and is about 100kms (2.5hrs drive) north of Manila. The Pinatubo eruption in 1991 was the second largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century. The eruption was so big, the subsequent ash cloud actually caused the global temperature to drop by 0.5 degrees. The effects of the eruption were felt worldwide.

The eruption ejected roughly 10,000,000,000 tonnes or 10 km3 of magma, and 20,000,000 tonnes of SO2. This brought vast quantities of minerals and metals to the surface environment. It injected more particulate into the stratosphere than any eruption since Krakatoa in 1883 (source: Wikipedia). Now, that’s BIG!

A dream come true – the aftermath of the Pinatubo eruption

It was finally a dream come true. I had read about it, seen videos and photos of the eruption and now, I was about to experience it for myself. Taking the 4 x 4 drive along Crow Valley to make it to base camp was a very eerie experience. There are no signs of wildlife, no birds, no mobile phone coverage, and no people aside from tourists and the odd native. It was literally like being on the moon.

Crow Valley is a totally barren wasteland with boulders from the summit of the mountain strewn everywhere from the massive explosion. Some of these boulders are as big as a small car! Everything is grey and covered in ash, and this is 25 years after the eruption!

The 4 x 4 drive is very bumpy and dusty and takes about one hour. The 4 x 4’s stop about 5.5kms from the crater lake and you then hike the rest of the way, which takes about two hours. However, there is an option to drive right up to the base camp which leaves you with about a 30-minute hike to the crater lake.

The final ascent

There is a gradual ascent up to the rim of the crater lake of about 300 meters for the last 20 minutes of the hike. The terrain becomes a little more rugged as you cross through small streams and begin to enter some foliage. Its good to finally see some form of life in this wasteland.

When you hit the crater rim, there is a great view of the stunning turquoise colored water, with the huge walls of the crater reaching up to the sky. It certainly makes you feel insignificant when standing in awe of it. There is only a fairly small portion of the rim where access is permitted, but this is more than enough to get some great photos and take everything in.

Time to relax and enjoy

From there you have approximately 1.5 hours to do whatever you like. There isn’t too much to explore due to the terrain, but you can go down to the shoreline of the crater lake, sit back and relax with a picnic and take in the enormity of the crater, and the catastrophe that was caused by the explosion.

There are a couple of small canteens there selling snacks, drinks and ice creams. Unfortunately, swimming in the lake is now prohibited due to a drowning some years back.

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The drive up to Mt. Pinatubo in the 4 x 4 is a pretty freaky experience You end up with a pretty sore bum, but it’s worth it!

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Crow Valley – a completely desolate wasteland that was subjected to infinite terror as Mt. Pinatubo unleashed it’s fury.

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The only sign of vegetation for literally 5-6 kms after hiking through the desolate and baron Crow Valley. This was the last part of the hike up to the crater rim. This takes about a 30 minutes to hike and isn’t over-challenging.

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The hike almost complete, heading toward the crater rim with the crater lake ahead. From a hiking perspective, it’s not that difficult as most of the hike is relatively flat terrain.

Looking at this crater, it’s hard to believe that this mountain summit was filled in with about 10 cubic kilometres of rock. This was all completely blown away by the volcanic explosion.

Mt. Pinatubo

The crater lake also has an eerie feeling about it, when you think about the secrets it holds beneath it. To think you’re literally standing inside a mountain is a bizarre feeling.

How to get there

Depending on which country you are coming from, you can also fly into Clark which leaves you with less than a one hour drive to the meeting point in Tarlac.

The best way to do a tour of Mt. Pinatubo is with a proper organised tour company. There are a number of these around, but the most important thing is to make sure that they are government accredited. The package will usually include the drive to and from the meeting point in Tarlac from Manila, 4×4 hire for the ride to and from the base camp, entry and registration fees, a guide and sometimes lunch and snacks. You wouldn’t expect to pay more than P2,000 per head for this and it’s worth every centavo, despite the 4am start!

Dezza´s Tip

The drive through Crow Valley in the 4 x 4’s is quite bumpy and very dusty, so make sure that you have a light scarf or even a surgical mask to cover your mouth and nose. It is also extremely hot so make sure you take plenty of water and stay well hydrated, as there is virtually no shade for the entire trip to the crater rim.