|Atop Mt Marami|
It started with a determination followed by a promise, and everything unfolded like clockwork. From my holidays in Cebu, I headed for Leyte on January 2. I was supposed to do another traverse climb in Alto Peak but Eugene Artiaga and Jhoc Nalda of the newly established Eastern Visayas Mountaineering Club (EVMC) talked me into joining their exploration climb in a mountain bordering my hometown Carigara and Kananga. That was my first exploration climb. There was no trail and we had to do some bushwhacking! At one point, Jhoc accidentally touched a snake (believed to be one of the most venomous in the area) while we were grappling with the weeds and the loose steep ground. On a terrain like this, you have no time for balance and stability. You gotta crouch and leap like a puma with every contact between your shoe and the ground. Otherwise, you’d be climbing three steps up and sliding six down. I was lucky I was right behind Jhoc. The three on the rear had to either take another course or negotiate with the already slippery slope the lead pack trod on! That was already the 3rd of January and I realized I only had two more nights before my flight back to Manila. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to dry my tent, clothes and shoes so I decided to leave the group at the campsite they found and spend the night at our guide’s place instead.
|socials with the guide|
It was mighty windy that night that my clothes and shoes got dry by the morning after! My lamparilla-lit socials with our guide was another evening for learning and discovery. The place is infested with communist insurgents! When you climb a mountain in that area, you’d be beset with these suspecting gazes. You’d have to be very cool to get rid of this extra caution in the air from the locals. It’s even worse when there are military personnel present! They’d most often take you as spies or ‘friendlies’ of the communists. The Cebuano-speaking community of Kananga is a bunch of nice warm people compared to the Waray-speaking Leyteños on the other side of the mountain range. Once again, it was not the climb but my immersion into the community that added flavor to my journey!
|at the Nasugbu side of Pico de Loro|
Immediately on the weekend that followed my arrival in Manila, I traversed Mt Pico de Loro (for the third time) with the Cavite contingents of my Lagataw Invitational Climb. It was the first time I met the group of Ryme Bristol whom I had met only in pinoymountaineer.com. Another online buddy Janielle (Jan) Leaño joined the ‘traverse’ day hike. The only familiar face was that of JR who had earlier joined me on a trek in the same mountain. Leading a pack of strangers (and beginners) is both exciting and fulfilling! You are all excited to know who and what is who! At first some would be intimidated (or so I assumed) knowing that you have a list of achievements to your name. And slowly they’ll realize that this person that they look up to is, after all, just as ordinary as they are, or even less. From an ‘idol’, you become an equal then you become an inspiration to ordinary people telling them that they too can make it! Nothing is more fulfilling to me than that! You instill hope, pride and confidence in others because nobody else might as nobody else did (to you)!
|River crossing at Mt Marami|
The weekend after, I accompanied two of my friends up Mt Marami. The mountain has recently started gaining more and more popularity. When I guided a group of new mountaineers from Dasmariñas last November (2010), the trail was good as new! It was covered by grass and the part near the boulders was noticeably ‘untrodden’ for quite a while. The name Mt Marami is eclipsed by the popularity of Mt Pico de Loro. Both mountains are in Cavite and one can be seen from the peak of the other. Both mountains feature boulders near the campsite, but the picturesque view of the monolith of Pico de Loro attracts more mountaineers than the boulders of Mt Marami. What many mountaineers haven’t recognized is the sense of fulfillment once you survived the intricacies of the trails of Mt Marami. On that day (Jan 15), nearly a hundred hikers climbed Mt Marami but only thirty percent was able to make it to the summit. For some reason, most of the climbers used the old (Nuestra) trail. Two of my new friends whom I guided last November guided a different group that day. They were around sixteen and the pacing wasn’t well-coordinated so the group was divided into different sub-groups. The dark hindered them from making it to the boulders. The bearer of the butane gas got separated from the bearer of the food. Two of their members searched for their missing companion and ended up joining me and Manong in our socials over kapeng barako. Chuck Miralles (another friend of mine) who was with his group (ATMC) hired a guide who led them through the Nuestra trail. This trail terminates at the foot of the boulders where their guide left them. Summiting had to involve a precarious rock-climbing up the boulders. From the foot of the boulders Chuck texted me “Tol kayo ba yang naririnig ko sa taas?”. And Chuck gauged the danger of climbing up the boulders. And after our hand-shake at the peak, he headed back down before the sun disappeared in the horizon. They decided to camp at the foot and called off the plan to summit. In our case, I took the new trail with my friends (for the fifth time). And we were lucky to witness the spectacular sunset views of the mountain that time. After taking pictures at the peak, I packed my already pitched tent because my friend wanted to join the socials at the chapel. It was such a perfect decision because the rain poured heavily and lengthily that night! You wouldn’t wanna deal with the deep mud down the long trail the following day. We shared the campsite (Nuestra) with two other groups. In my case, I slept at the caretaker’s house after our socials and found my tent filled with rainwater the next morning. My Coleman Pioneer 2 finally retired!
And so my climbful January has ended. But it ushered in an even more climbful February! This month kicked off with the First Lagataw Invitational Climb at Mt Pulag (Akiki-Ambangeg) which was followed by another Pico de Loro traverse day hike on the second weekend. Tomorrow night, I leave for Benguet for a double traverse double day hike to start my Lagataw Adventure Series. Catch y’all on Monday!