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July 23rd 1939

We are back at the hotel in Legaspi and I’m nursing muscles that daily golf and riding never discovered. I’m afraid that I was not born to be a peak scaler, for somehow or other, in attempting to prove otherwise, it is the end of my spine that keeps the closest contact with the ground.

We started our climb promptly at six this morning. The world above and below was enveloped in cloud and the wind was still howling like a maniac. Ham carried a pack containing water, chocolate and a tin of wafers; I carried a stout stick which the proprietor had kindly sharpened for me. It came in very handy when my feet insisted upon being independent of the body they were intended to support.

The trail wastes no time in idle wanderings; it goes up abruptly behind the Rest House and keeps ascending for about 2500 feet until it reaches the 1938 lava flow. It is in excellent condition for it is used daily by laborers engaged in a half hearted attempt to build a road up the mountain. Another of President Quezon’s money wasting schemes, it seems to me. We climbed one thousand feet in the first hour by proceeding doggedly until we felt slightly winded; then we would stop for a breather. The going was wet and we were hemmed in by trees and heavy foliage, occasionally broken by a clearing from which we could have gotten a magnificent view if we had not been hugged so tightly by clouds. As we climbed, the trees were replaced by tough cogan [cogon] grass higher than our heads, and a few tall, flowering bushes. The trail became steeper and steeper and the stops necessarily more frequent, until we were brought up short by the lava flow and the end of the trail. The black and grey water course was glistening with moisture and the clouds were racing down the mountain side, blown by a wind that covered me with goose-flesh. This is where we turn back, I thought gratefully, as I watched my legs taking on a grey-blue tinge. But Ham had other ideas. He didn’t think we could reach the crater in such fog, but he was sure that in a couple of hours climbing we could get as far as the old Rest House site.

“Tenacity is a virtue,” I muttered, as with a nod and an attempt at a sporting smile I began the slow crawl upward over cold and slimy rocks.

The wind was too strong for me to stand upright at any time, so in a few minutes I had the conformation of a croquet wicket. Some of the rocks were very sharp and my hands were numb with the unaccustomed cold, my neck was cracking from carrying my head at a turtlish angle. I felt that if my teeth didn’t stop chattering there wouldn’t be enough left to take to the dentist if I ever got down.

This slow and painful progress continued for an hour or more before we came upon a sheet of tin, pinned down by a bowlder and partially covered by volcanic ash. We were convinced that this must have been the roof of the former Rest House which had been buried the year before during the eruption. Although that structure had only been a fifteen foot square affair its visible remains were not a reassuring sight when I recalled that this cone had been smoking just four months ago. It was here that Ham decided to start back; the clouds were too thick to see more than fifteen yards on any side and we had been warned of the treacherous ash around the top of the volcano. In a great many places it wouldn’t hold a man’s weight, and in this white world we might be on it before we could see enough to recognize our danger.

On the return trip I was much more agile than I had dared to hope for, but the method of descent was not one usually shown in alpine pictures. I inched my way down the lava flow with my weight divided between my feet and my wrists, while the seat of my shorts escaped the ground by a fraction of an inch, and sometimes not that. When we reached the path I stepped out boldly, leaning trustfully on my stick, but it was a very few steps before I resumed my sitting position for another twenty feet. I had stepped on a loose rock.

When we saw the Rest House some three hours later, I agreed with the little Filipina who had written in the guest book: “I am very pleasant that knowing such nice place at middle hight of Mayon Volcano.”

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