For about a week now, I agonized over whether or not to include Mt. Kiltepan in my Girl vs. Mountain series. The thing is, you can actually get to the top of the mountain by hiring a jeep thanks to a gently-sloping dirt path that’s wide enough to admit vehicles. Then again, my friends and I got up at 3:00 in the morning so we could walk 10 kilometers from our inn to the Kiltepan Viewpoint, so suck it haters.
The Viewpoint on Mt. Kiltepan is famous for its sunrise, as well as the “sea of clouds” one can see scudding across the horizon. For as long as Sagada has been a tourist spot, people have been flocking to Kiltepan for the magnificent view.
Protip: no matter what you do or how early you get up, there will be a ton of people on the mountain. It’s one of Sagada’s most popular spots, after all. You’ve just gotta put up with it and remember that the people around you are most likely similar souls also searching for the beauty of a sunrise. Take a chill pill, my dudes.
The one thing I must absolutely insist on, and that I hope you take away from this entry of mine, is that you hike to the top. Yes, you can hire a vehicle. But really, where’s the fun in that? Okay, so you saw the sunrise, but you didn’t really work for it, did you? I mean obviously this doesn’t apply to people who for one reason or another, like some health concern or disability, can’t make it up the mountain but still want to see the view.
But if you’re able-bodied, honestly, why wouldn’t you? The climb is all part of the experience! Every single breath you take, the pain in your calves, the strain on your lungs and heart – it all becomes worth it when you reach the top and see how far you’ve come, and how beautiful it is up there.
There’s something to be said for the effort it takes to get to the top of a mountain. Especially this mountain. Hear me out.
It’s cold, but you suddenly don’t feel the chill at all because of how warm your body’s gotten.
Sweat pours in rivulets down the curve of your spine. Your hair sticks to your forehead with a combination of perspiration and the mist all around you.
You’re hungry – you’ve only had a light breakfast of cold bread, water, and crackers because you know you’ll have a hard time hiking if your stomach is full.
Your legs are tired, your lungs ache with the effort it takes to breathe deep, and you scowl with envy at the hordes of people racing past you on the dirt road in the vehicles they decided to rent.
But then you round the last corner and come upon the campsite at the top of the mountain. You skirt the parking lot full of tourist vans and sidle over to one of the makeshift stalls selling arroz caldo, hot coffee, and champorado and get yourself a more filling breakfast. You choose a spot on the edge of the mountain and spread out your blanket. You sit down, get comfortable, have breakfast.
The heat is leaching out of your limbs and you feel the cold coming back. The cup of coffee is warm between your fingers, the arroz caldo hot on your lips, grounding you in reality and reminding you of what you struggled through to get here. All around you your friends are murmuring delightedly, lost in their own breakfasts, and you have to laugh at how quiet it’s gotten because you’re all too busy eating.
Then suddenly, the sky lightens, and you see just how high up you really are.
There are clouds below you. Below you. Things you had to look up to see, white and fluffy against the bright sky, are floating past your astonished gaze. You’ve always had to crane your neck, tip your head back, to see clouds. And there they are now, drifting beneath your very feet.
Are you in the sky? How far up have you gone, that something you’ve always had to look up at is now under you?
It was worth it, you realize, no longer feeling the burn in your legs, no longer struggling for breath.
You walked up into the clouds. Your body carried you into the sky.