Less than a month after that exhausting Pico De Loro-Batulao twin day hike, I was back again on the iconic Parrot’s Beak with my regular climbing buddies as well as a couple of new recruits. You’d think after climbing a mountain for the fourth time using the same trail, everything would be familiar and, well, boring. Not at all. Here are a few surprises I got on this laid-back day hike.
1. The campsite near the summit has a sari-sari store now. It’s not just Batulao and Maculot that have those “7-Elevens” anymore. A 7-Eleven, named after the ubiquitous convenience store, is what climbers jokingly call those makeshift stores on a mountain that sell soda, buko (coconut) juice, halo-halo and other snacks.
The common problem with having a store along the trail or on a campsite is the increased amount of garbage it’ll bring. We could wish all those who climb would be conscientious enough to take their trash down and keep the mountain clean but we know that doesn’t always happen.
On the upside, this micro-enterprise provides livelihood and income to the locals. And I must admit, having a cold Mountain Dew after nearly three hours of trekking is a welcome treat.
2. There’s an easier trail from the summit to the Parrot’s Beak. This is probably not news to anyone who has been to the monolith but it was a revelation for me. Did you know there’s a trail on the left side when you descend from the summit going to the Parrot’s Beak? I was probably the only moron who was not aware of this and who did not notice the very obvious trail.
On our climb last month, I headed straight to the rocky area and teetered precariously on the boulders. On reaching the edge, I faced a nine or ten-foot drop to the ground. There were no easy footholds or handholds and there were cliffs on either side. I tried to clamber down but I couldn’t find a foothold and nearly swayed towards the cliff. I promise you I don’t have a death wish. I’m just an idiot who often winds up in situations that involve a serious threat to life and limb.
I was panicking and didn’t know what to do so I sat on the rock and ate an entire chocolate bar to calm my nerves and figure out how to get out of there without breaking my neck. Ed, Fred and Bal were already on top of the monolith while Jet was on the summit taking their pictures. I was stuck alone on that boulder and couldn’t get help. After finishing the chocolate bar, I had a more stable heart rate and was willing to try again. I still couldn’t find a foothold halfway through the descent so I let go of the handholds and clumsily dropped to the ground. I nearly lost my balance but managed to land on my feet safely.
On this climb, Allan, who was with me when I climbed Pico last year, led the way to the right trail. Too bad, I wasn’t able to use my mind-blowing, Choco Mucho-powered acrobatic moves this time to get off a giant rock while avoiding a cliff.
3. Elastic bandages come in handy after all. I’ve learned to always have a first aid kit on a climb, even on a day hike. I’ve never had any occasion to use an elastic bandage though so I don’t always bring one. Good thing I included a couple of rolls in my kit on this climb.
Audrey, a new addition to our group, was experiencing pain on her left knee due to a previous injury and my elastic bandage was put to good use for the first time. Lesson learned: always bring a complete first aid kit. You never know when you’re going to need it. (And while we’re at it, always bring a headlamp as well. You never know when a day hike, no matter how easy, might extend into a night trek.)
4. The sheer joy of reaching the Parrot’s Beak never gets old. It was my third time to climb the Parrot’s Beak but the stunning 360-degree view on top of that monolith still never fails to take my breath away. It was also a joy to see first-timers rejoicing with pure delight after surviving the rope-assisted portion on the ascent.
“Okay lang kahit bumagsak na ako sa Arki! Nakaakyat na rin ako dito! (It’s okay even if I fail in Architecture! I finally managed to climb up here!),” shouted a jubilant climber while jumping up and down and high-fiving his friends.
In our group, it was the first time for Chito, Des, Audrey, Karen and Allan to climb the Parrot’s Beak. There were nervous moments on the rope-assisted part but they were tough troopers and I couldn’t be prouder of all of them. Fred was the patient guide who made sure all of us were able to climb up and go down safely. A special shout-out to our Big Boy Allan who, after climbing Pico De Loro for the eighth time, finally conquered his fear and reached the top. Congrats, guys!
Anna, who’s scared of heights, chose to stay on the summit and became our designated photographer but I’m sure she’ll have her glorious moment on top of that monolith on her next climb.
Every mountain, no matter how familiar, can surprise you in a lot of ways. Every climb, no matter how common, can be interesting if you’re in it to enjoy the experience and have fun. Until the next Pico De Loro climb!