2012: The year I went batshit crazy climbing mountains. Maybe I have a death wish. Maybe this was a ridiculous way of coping with the so-called quarter-life crisis, the overrated existential drama of today’s 20-somethings. Maybe I couldn’t find anything better to do on weekends so I ended up going on 23 climbs in one year.
2012 Climbs (in chronological order)
Dulang-Dulang – Kitanglad
Pico De Loro
Highlights and Lowlights
The D2K is a traverse climb of the Philippines’ second and fourth highest mountains. It’s a long trek on rainforests, grasslands and muddy trails, including a 50-meter high, rope-assisted ascent going to the summit of Mt. Kitanglad.
Guiting-Guiting, with its rocky trails and jagged peaks, has earned the reputation of being one of the most difficult climbs in the country. Reaching its summit has become a certifiable bragging right among mountaineers. (Casually mention your G2 climb in a humble-brag sort of way and you’d instantly earn praises as a “hardcore” mountaineer. Works every time, I swear.)
It’s not just about technical difficulty though or trail class or the mountain’s rating on Pinoymountaineer that made these climbs the hardest for me. Other factors also came into play such as weather conditions, and my physical and mental preparedness (or lack thereof) at the time of the climb. For instance, I was awfully unfit for D2K. I didn’t do training climbs or cardio exercises and I suffered for it. It also rained on the second day which made the trail muddy and slippery. It was the longest, most depressing trek on a trail of cogon grasses that I had to go through.
I went on a few minor climbs before taking on G2 but they were not enough to prepare me for this mountain. My pace was slow and my breathing sounded like I was having an asthma attack. Also, I was stupid enough to get drunk on the eve of the climb so I had to do the six-hour trek to Mayo’s Peak with a nasty hangover.
I survived D2K and G2 by the skin of my teeth and it still feels surreal whenever I think about how I managed to do it.
The Thumbpeak climb in Puerto Princesa was the perfect balm to soothe my disappointment over an aborted Mantalingajan climb. We slept under a rock next to a river with fireflies resting over our heads. I saw pitcher plants and fascinating insects on the trail. A pair of hawks gave us an amazing flight show on the summit. The beautiful clearing allowed us to see the eastern and western borders of Palawan, along with its pristine mountain ranges. And I had the most scrumptious seafood kare-kare for dinner.
I slipped and landed on my ass several times during the numerous river crossings and the limatik (leech) population was a minor nuisance but other than that, it was a fun, hassle-free birthday climb. I owed it all to an awesome mountaineer who arranged the climb and took care of everything (including the kare-kare). Thanks Japong!
We surprised ourselves by how fast we finished the MakTrav, known to be one of the more challenging day hikes in Luzon. My friends and I are not exactly the halimaw (trail monster) types who routinely accomplish climbs in record time. We trek on a moderate pace; we like to stop and take pictures, gawk at interesting plants and goof around just for the heck of it. We couldn’t believe then that we finished the climb in just about seven hours. The anticipation of wolfing down fried pork chops at Tuding’s must’ve had something to do with it.
On a climb of Mt. Kalatungan in Bukidnon last July, I and my oversized ego embarked on a mission to have a minor peak on the mountain range named after me. Let’s face it, Tintin’s Peak sounds freakin’ awesome. So far, I’ve convinced a grand total of four people to back me up on this: Ben and Tupe, my climbing buddies in Bukidnon, and our two Manobo guides. The reception hasn’t been as warm as I had hoped but I’m confident it will catch on eventually. (Just to be clear, this is not an issue of moral desert, just me making an ass of myself as usual so save your righteous indignation for something more worthwhile.)
The climb itself was less than ideal. The weather was awful and we spent the night cooped up in a damp tent, shivering and being battered by ferocious winds. There was no clearing so the only panoramic views we got were fog and more fog. Still, the forests of Kalatungan were unbelievably stunning and it was more than enough to keep me happy throughout the climb.
Also, my blog post on this climb made it to WordPress’ Freshly Pressed page and, for a trivial blog with a readership that consists mostly of my long-suffering friends who put up with my rambling posts, it’s a huge deal.
A wretched combination of dysmenorrhea, diarrhea and dehydration bogged me down and made life miserable on my last climb of the year. We also got stuck in the campsite on the second day due to bad weather and we ran out of butane. But luck turned in our favor on the third day. The weather improved and we were able to make it to the summit. Even though I felt like dying on the trail, I still managed to complete the trek without having to be brought down on a stretcher.
This was one of my toughest climbs but the views on Kanlaon were some of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen in my life. On that summit, I once again felt like I’m the luckiest wimp in the world.
Simple-pero-sulit (Simple but worth it) climb: Sembrano
Mt. Sembrano in Pililla, Rizal is the only mountain I climbed twice this year. I have a fondness for this mountain for several reasons. It’s very accessible, only about an hour-and-a-half ride from Metro Manila inclusive of traffic and the usual delays of public transportation. The trail is easy, the trek is relaxed and it’s not as crowded as Batulao or Maculot on a weekend.
The best part is the summit view gives you the most amazing sunset on Laguna de Bay. I’d love to do an overnight climb and camp on the peak but there were reported robbery incidents in the past so I’m still apprehensive about it.
Not-worth-the-hassle climb: Romelo
Romelo is a popular day hike destination in Siniloan, Laguna. The trail is an epic mudfest with generous droppings of horse poop, we had to pay P50 for the registration fee (the usual rate for minor climbs is only P20) and wear a stupid ID with a politician’s face on it, and the so-called highlights of the trek were a letdown.
Buruwisan Falls and Batya-Batya were beautiful but they were ruined by all the trash and the tacky inuman-sa-kanto atmosphere. Someone’s bright idea of eco-tourism was to put up huts near Buruwisan Falls and have people drinking there at lunchtime. There are at least a dozen hole-in-the-wall bars in my neighborhood I could go to if I want that kind of scene. I don’t need to take the bus to another province and hike for hours in mud and horse shit just to see it.
I was only invited to this climb though and I don’t mean to sound like an ungrateful jerk. To Ivan and Mina, thank you so much for being gracious enough to include our group in this climb. My apologies for the negative feedback. Rest assured that this is not directed at you or your event but at the local (mis)management of Romelo.
Well-that-was-a-disappointment climb: Malindang
I hiked through seven villages in Misamis Occidental, crossed several rivers and got mistaken for a communist insurgent, and I didn’t even get to reach the summit of Mt. Malindang. The barangay captain wouldn’t let me climb because I didn’t have a permit from DENR. I didn’t know I had to get a permit because my guide didn’t mention it. He thought I didn’t need one and the local officials would just let me through because I was climbing solo. I begged and groveled and pleaded to no avail.
I also had to present my taxpayer identification number card to a group of scout rangers to prove that I’m a law-abiding citizen of this country. “Dili ko NPA, Sir. Gabayad kog buwis sa gobyerno sa Pilipinas, (I’m not a member of the NPA, Sir. I pay taxes to the Philippine government.)” I explained while flashing the most guileless smile I could muster. Then they offered to escort me and my guide on our trek, which we quickly refused. I have no plans of breaking my parents’ hearts by getting killed in a crossfire or by being one of the desaparecidos.
Not being able to climb the peak was disappointing but I still had fun during the two-and-a-half-day hike. I saw a nice lake, bathed in a hot spring, swam in a river, and enjoyed the hospitality of the Subanon tribe. When you can’t get what you want, you learn to make the most of what you have.
While all my climbs were memorable in one way or another, the most incredible highlights were the friendships I gained and the overwhelming kindness I experienced from so many people. I can never be thankful enough for good friends who go along with my madcap plans, and endure my crankiness and kaartehan. I never fail to be amazed at the undeserved generosity I get from mountaineers, guides, local communities and random people I barely know. Of course, it’s not always nice and rosy out there. I’ve had to deal with some nasty crap and a few assholes along the way, but all in all, the good stuff far outweighs the bad.
When I started 2012 with a day hike of Mt. Batulao, I never imagined I’d go on to do 22 more amazing climbs. I’ve been thrilled and depressed, giddy and furious, overjoyed and scared shitless on these mountains. I can’t imagine what 2013 would bring but I’ll have my trekking shoes ready for whatever craziness awaits.