Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Mt Apo Day Hike Traverse


Finally, a view of Mt Apo from Lake Venado
Finally, the third leg of my Big Three has been completed. A few years back, I dreamed of traversing the three highest mountains of each island group in the country—Apo (Mindanao), Pulag (Luzon) and Kanlaon (Visayas)—within a day!  In 2011 I dayhiked’ Mt Pulag using the Akiki-Ambangeg route. I repeated the same journey in the same year with my trail running buddies Kevin and Buyco. Early this year, I traversed Mt Kanlaon with a triathlete friend Xerxis Tan via the Mapot-Guintubdan route. We finished the journey in around seven hours. Finally last month, Kevin again and I were able to secure a special permit to traverse Mt Apo via the the Mandaragan-Culan route.


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Why Trail Running is Better Than Road Running

Mt Lanaya (Cebu)

Exercise is a way of life for many of us, and a good chunk of our cohort enjoy the benefits of running. And why not? Euphoric highs can come from the body releasing stress when endorphins kick in during a run. Plus the overall health of a runner is usually very good, as running works so many of the body’s muscles. Many city dwellers have no choice but to run on sidewalks or along streets, but for those fortunate enough to have a choice between being on streets versus running on trails, it would behoove you to pick trails for the added benefits that the experience will bring you!

Monday, August 26, 2013

How to Choose the Right Running Shoes

My Salomon Speedcross and Columbia Ravenous (2011)

Choosing the right running shoes ensures that you'll get all the benefits of running without risking injury to your body. Because there isn't just one best running shoe, runners should determine the type of feet they have, so that they can choose the best type of shoe to fit their specific running needs. This is more important for a beginning runner, but no runner should ever forget it. Below are some of the ways you can choose the right shoe for YOU.

Monday, August 12, 2013

El Alto (The High)

at Campagal, Jaro

Last Saturday August 10, 2013 I ran 49.01km from Jaro, Leyte down to Ormoc City via Alto Peak! I can’t think of any better introduction to this post than that. And I think that ought to do it. No frills no suspense…at least nothing more nor less than it deserves…just plain data. Cuz I think that’s how the journey went.

Eight years ago in August I had my first climb in Laguna. And a hundred more climbs and journeys followed. Back then, every journey was a moment worthy of at least two pages in a diary. And each had to be planned beforehand as carefully as it had to be blogged afterwards. But last weekend, the journey just happened…no research, no pre-comms, no definite plans. It was like this unexpected hitch-hiker on the plan to fetch my nephew who had been making my mother’s blood pressure shoot up. And if y’wanna hear something funny, it never crossed my mind that it was actually an anniversary climb. All I cared about was that I was hoping to run fifty kilometers that day!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Things to Keep in Mind Before Having a Solo Climb


You've been climbing for awhile now, and you love to go on new expeditions. After gaining a lot of experience, you have decided that you're going to go on a solo climb. What do you need to keep in mind before doing so?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Back at Jump-off…Back to Basics


This is the first time I'm posting something that I did not write.


This is an entry in the recently concluded open writing contest in a Facebook mountaineering group where I am one of the administrators. The author, Christian Kalaw, is a friend of mine. He joined me in The Second Lagataw Invitational Climb (Bakun Trio) in 2011. He is now making a living in Australia and in this write-up, he is sharing to us how mountaineering has changed his life and how it has helped him survive each day here in the Philippines and overseas! 


It’s been six months since my last climb. I’d be a fool if I said I’m not missing it.

It all began a few years ago when I had this feeling of excitement as I packed my stuff for my very first climb. A small day pack, bulky jug of water, paper plates and plastic spoons plus my casual clothes. When I set my first foot on my first summit I said to myself “kakari-reen ko to”.. And I did…somehow up to now. It changed my life and it taught me how to survive no matter where I am and under whatever circumstances. It improved everything like the simple organization of my clothes in my drawer and in my bag. It taught me how to be responsible enough to put even the smallest piece of trash into where it should belong. And when there’s no gas, my mother has even learned how to operate my camping stove. Those are just a few basic things that we do on the mountains that have a large impact on how we live our normal lives down below. For me, there’s no difference between living in a tent and in a house with a comfy sofa or a bedroom or a nice kitchen. We still can have the same dreams, the same meals and the same happiness or even more. It’s just a matter of appreciation—learning how to deal with what you have and make do with it. Communing with different people on the mountains is also a training for us to be more sensitive with whomever we meet every day. ‘Sir’ or ‘mam’ is a nice start and maybe you’ll find that ‘kiliti sa bawat isa’. Respecting others even in the city earns you respect in return.

Right now I’m living far away from the mountains, and it still feels like every day is going to be a climb for me. I have to be strong and attentive to be safe at work even if I have to stand up all day to do my job,’sa bundok nga maghapon pa naglalakad’. At night I have to cook for myself because no one will do that for me, ‘sa bundok nga kahit naulan nakakapag luto ako sa maliit na tarp sa labas’. And just before I sleep I have this sleeping bag to give me warmth on cold nights. I realized that I’m fortunate enough to have been tested under these conditions. At the end of each day I’m grateful because I survived another day. In the summit we just have this small space to step on for a great view. For me this small space is enough to see what trails I have passed by or let’s just say the problems I have solved. So that when I come back and encounter the same problem again I will now know what to do. Life is a matter of going to the top of everything. You just have to be strong and focused to achieve your goals. It’s not how fast we climb to the top, rather it’s about living it and learning from it at a slowly-but- surely pace. Right execution and a calm spirit will surely get you to the summit and back down and call it a successful one.



Mountaineering isn’t just about climbing the summit. It’s also about getting to the peak of our lives, that in the end you can proudly say ‘I’ve been tested by nature, challenged by time, scarred by circumstances, yet I still managed to get to the top’.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Moalboal Highland Endurance Run

the top 10 finishers for the 18km event

It was the least publicized and least marketed mountain race I have known, and yet it was better than the premier trailrunning event in the country! I’m talking about the recently-concluded CTU Moalboal 18K and the CTU Argao 23K back-to-back Highland Endurance Run. I knew of it just two weeks before the race and I thought my running buddy Jake had already known about it but when I told him of it last Tuesday he said he had not heard of it. The registration was P500 for both the 23K and the 18K distances. I had initially registered for the 23K event but when I read the flyer that came with my claim stub, it was indicated that the cut-off time for all distances was 3hours. I then downgraded my distance to just 18K. Jake and I availed of the free coaster ride from Cebu City Sports Complex to CTU Moalboal campus on Friday night. Jake’s friend, another ultrarunner happens to hail from Moalboal so we got free accommodation and food the night before the race. The other runners from the city were provided with cots in the campus.
the last uphill part of the race
And since it was not well-publicized, there were only a few runners at the 5:30am gunstart but these were the elites of Cebu. The prize money was bigger than those of all the other trailruns I’ve joined in Cebu. This is what the elites always watch out for! At the sound of the gun, all the male and female elite runners sped ahead of me. About three quarters of the pack were left behind. I stuck to my pace and in less than 10 minutes the elites including Jake were all out of sight. There were only two of us in the middle pack—me and the sexy Zumba instructor. She was always 20 meters ahead of me until the slope got steeper at the 6km aid station and she started to slow down. It was an uphill run until AS 12 when the road turned into a wild downhill track. This was the only race where I overtook only one runner even in the uphill segments. I was always alone on the road until I reached the finish line.
my running buddy Jake
At the finish line in Coal Mountain Resort (Argao), the warm congratulations of the very nice organizers greeted me. I came in tenth after two hours and twenty minutes. If more runners had joined, I might have been the 20th finisher. There were still food and drinks just like at the stations in every kilometer. But I couldn’t resist the swimming pool which I found so inviting. And there, I was in the company of the elites. They obviously pushed their limits in the race as I saw some of them still limping a bit. But nothing was gonna stop these elite runners as all of them still joined the 23km Argao leg the following day. 
Cebu's elite runners after the 23km Argao leg on Sunday

Jake and I discussed the Sunday event for a while but in the end, we decided to just enjoy the facilities and the free overnight accommodation at the mountain resort. We loved the thought that we had been able to run and the registration fee was given back to us (through the prize money for the 5th-10th finishers who all received P500). We were thrilled by the idea of celebrating and relaxing in the peaceful resort at night when all the other runners have gone. There was plenty of food during every meal! We had a canopy walk, we explored the tunnels and we drank in the swimming pool before the sun vanished. We also had a quick look at the animals in the resort’s mini zoo. Jake and I both felt sorry for the animals. They really need much bigger cages. At night there were only three runners (Jake, I and one Kenyan) left there among the crew.
Jake and I had the swimming pool to ourselves in the afternoon
The awarding ceremonies took place on Sunday after the breakfast and after all the runners of the Argao leg had been swept. The participants of the Moalboal leg did not come back and so there were fewer people during the meal and the awarding. It was my first time to go up the stage in a race. I know I was just lucky there were only a few runners. Still I felt happy for the achievement.

The Highland Endurance Run was the most organized race I have ever joined. The secretariat would reply to your calls and text messages before, during and after the race. There was a free coaster ride from the city to the race venue. There was plenty of food. There was free accommodation for the winners who had to wait for the awarding ceremonies on the second day. And the race organizers and the crew at the mountain resort were very accommodating and warm. The results and photos were up right after the race. And so I promised to bring at least twenty friends next year. Who would want to miss this event?!
plenty of food after the race


Thursday, April 25, 2013

The North Face 100 Baguio 2013


proud to wear the visor
I’ve been running trails for two years now. It started with the 2nd Hungduan Climbathon in April 2011 and from then on I’ve always been on the look-out for trail runs in the country. I’ve never joined any road race. I love running trails because of the nice views, the fresh air and the warm and friendly trailrunners. I particularly like the trail runs organized by Thumbie Remigio and by the Philippine Skyrunning Association. I have also joined two trail runs here in Cebu since I moved here in 2012. All this time, I have been trying to solve the mystery of my cramps. These cramps had always held me back from joining an ultra trail marathon (a distance longer than 42.196km). Finally, during the 24-km Salomon Xtrail last March and after a lot of research and consultations with friends in the running and medical fields, I knew what to do! And I was ready for my first ultrarace—The North Face 100 (50K event)!

The Road to TNF100 50K

My first ultramarathon has just finished and I finished strong. But it sure was not an easy road! If you wanna finish an ultra trail marathon and you’re just an average guy like me, you gotta train! And that’s just what I did. I trained almost every weekend for four months running 22-km trails in the south of Cebu. I also joined the 24-km Salomon Xtrail a month before TNF100. In addition I worked out at the gym three times a week, spending an hour at the stairmaster each time. In between gym days, I attended yoga sessions three times a week too. Yoga toned and stretched my major leg muscles and improved my breathing.
Proper nutrition also plays an important role in your performance. I was more careful in choosing my food over the last four months. Out of popular belief, I avoided rice in order to lose some weight. I lost 5kg. I ate plenty of fruits, vegetables and fish but I still ate pork and chicken minimally.
Yep, I did all these for four months!

The Race

There were probably more than 300 excited and apprehensive runners at the gunstart at 4 am in Camp John Hay. I was in the middle of the pack. The plan was to take it slow during the first hour and be on my pace for the rest of the journey. The pack of 300+ runners was stretched to many more packs as the road narrowed into a single-man trail. I moved from pack to pack as I felt that the pace of one pack is below my normal pace. I overtook around a hundred runners in the first ten kilometres of the race. And in this time, I felt that my blood was not flowing normally around my pelvic area and my soleus. So at the 10-km marshal’s post, I took off my swimming trunks and my ankle supports. Then the downhill run got more pleasant. The early morning light made the views more enjoyable. Everything was mental from this point on. I kept communicating with nature, appreciating everything I saw. It felt good to be back in the Cordilleras! When I reached AS 09 at Camp 6 (the lowest point in the race), I grabbed two ‘nilagang saba’ and performed some yoga poses in preparation for the arduous continuous 8-km (1126m elevation gain) uphill trek to AS 08 in Mt Cabuyao. Yeah, I did look like a mystic weirdo to some passers-by. During this uphill trek I saw a lot of runners catching their breaths while sitting on the trails. And this is just the fun part of trail running. Everyone seems so genial and warm. One of my mountaineer friends even told me at the finish line ‘Sobrang mas okay tong trailrunning kesa sa roadrunning. Lahat ng nakakasabay mo sa trail instant friend mo kaagad. At lahat ramdam ang hirap kaya lahat nagpupush sa isa’t isa na maka-finish. Di gaya ng road races, walang kibuan.’ I overtook many runners and I started counting the elite runners coming back down. My objective was to be among the top 50 finishers. Only the top 50 finishers could get a visor and an instant medal at the finish line. At AS 08, it was like ‘fiesta’. The food cheered up the runners.  From AS 08 – AS 07 the trail went relatively flat and some parts were paved. This was an ordeal for my ankles. When I run on flat hard surface my ankles hurt. So I just did a power trek until I reached AS 07 at the saddle of Mt Sto Tomas. Then at the uphill climb up Mt Sto Tomas, I saw some runners prancing their way down and everyone cheered each of us with the hopeful line ‘Malapit na!’ So I hurried up and finally reached the U-Turn. I couldn’t help taking a picture here.

55th runner to reach the U-Turn
And from this point on, I added the competitive spirit in my pace. The marshal up there told me I was the 55th runner to reach the summit. This meant I had to overtake at least 5 runners on my way down to achieve my goal. From the summit back to AS 08, I went past two runners. And I know I could overtake more runners on my way down because downhill run is my favourite. I did overtake two more which meant I was on the 51st spot now. The girl on the 50th spot was the toughest challenge for me in my quest for the visor. She was running downhill with amazing dexterity and speed. She told me she had run a full marathon before but never on the trail. And she wasn’t a mountain climber either. That’s why I was really amazed by the way she negotiated with the tricky trail. I was always behind her until she went the wrong way at one hut on the trail I called her back when I saw a TNF flaglet. But she chose to take a rest at the hut with some of the runners still on their way up. Finally I’m in! But I still had a lot of momentum so I continued running downhill fast until I reached the runner from Mindanao. He was already a bit exhausted and he was telling me that he was reserving his energy for the uphill trek from AS 09 to AS 10. We were walking together for like 10 minutes until my legs told me to run. He was polite enough to give way. My point was, if I kept walking in the heat of the sun, I might get exhausted soon and there’s greater chance for cramps. Might as well run and hurry to the shady AS 10 – LP section. Then I saw some of the runners who were bouncing down from the summit earlier who were a bit exhausted and drained now.  One of them was my friend from the Primer team. He was suffering from the blister on his right foot and the heat of the sun. But I could see he still had a lot of strength in him. Everyone was slowed down by the sun. I saw a Caucasian runner just sitting on the trail. But it was not new to me. It just reminded me of Mt Batulao plus the cool wind. And that was when it hit me: I had not worn the cap that my friend gave me. I took that orange cap out which neatly matched my golden yellow jersey. I only had about 12km to go before the finish line and it was around 12nn. The sun was directly above us. I started to slow down. I was already a bit tired. But I was already confident I could get a visor! I kept going and at the 11km marshal’s post, I had a little chat with the marshal who happened to be my wall climbing coach back in 2011 at PowerUP. After that little chat, I felt revitalized.  By this time I was already alone on the trail. There was no one in sight ahead or behind me.  Then one guy came from behind. He was still strong but was a bit irked. ‘Ang tagal ko dun sa ligaw, walang marshal bwisit!’ was all he left me with before he disappeared ahead of me! I already ran out of my Pocari Sweat so I had a sip of my emergency drink—Cobra (green). Then another runner came from behind. I was surprised because I saw her coming down from Mt Sto Tomas but I never overtook her. ‘Naligaw ka no?‘Mejo, 20 minutes ata’ ‘Wala bang marshals?’ ‘Actually may arrow dun…pagod lang yata talaga ako kaya hindi na maayos yung decision-making ko’. Then after a little talk about my stomach cramps, she just sped ahead of me. At the last aid station (in Loakan airfield) I caught up with one more runner who became my last pace buddy. When we entered camp John Hay, he gathered all his strength and he ran ahead of me. 
Finally, at a little past 2pm, after ten hours and ten minutes I reached the finish line! I was number 36 on the unofficial list! Mission Accomplished!
official results for 50K

My Crew
Muscle cramps had always been my problem in running. And I think this is also true for most runners. My cardio is good and my strength and endurance have been tried and tested during my mountain-climbing years. I can last more than 15 hours of continuous trek with a heavy backpack. I usually get cramps before my body gets tired. The only time I got really exhausted in a race was during that notorious last uphill segment in this year’s Salomon Xtrail. After my 50km run last Saturday, I still had the energy to wash my clothes at our transient house before having my late lunch. But when cramps hit a runner, there’s nothing much he can do. As I said I’m just an average guy. There could have been a hundred more runners in the race who could have finished with better times if we were running with the same provisions. I was able to finish without cramps and with a good time thanks to my crew.

1.       Vinyasa Yoga
Uttanasana
Throughout the race my calves threatened me with cramps from time to time. Whenever this happened, I did some simple stretches I learned in yoga. I bent over with my palms touching the ground while feeling the full stretch of my gastrocnemius and hamstrings, maintained this position for a minute or five deep breaths and repeated it three times.
Chaturanga-Upward Dog-Downward Dog Set
I took my time performing three sets of this at AS 09 to prep my body for the 8-km uphill trek to AS 08. This stretches my major leg muscles, stabilizes my oxygen supply and relaxes my spine. At the end of the three sets I felt reenergized and it felt like I had not started running yet.

2.     Pocari Sweat (powder) A friend gave me a box of Pocari Sweat (powder) packs. There were five in it. I used up two packs during my trainings and I shared one to my friend who ran 100K in the TNF100. I brought along two packs in the race. The ideal mix is 1 pack is to 1 liter of water. I wanted to optimize my electrolyte intake so I used only 500ml for each pack. I consumed one pack on my way up and another on the way back. When you sweat you lose electrolytes (mainly sodium and potassium). Electrolyte imbalance can cause muscle cramps and side stitches. I regularly sipped from my hydration bladder for electrolytes even when I wasn’t thirsty.

3.     Katinko For a 50-km distance, it is almost impossible to avoid pain even with those stretches and electrolytes. And you need something to ease this pain if you want to continue running. In my ROX Adventure Trail Run last year in Cebu, a girl offered me some liniment while I was sitting on the trail dealing with cramps.  I felt better after applying liniment on the affected area. During the 2013 Salomon Xtrail, at the final assault, my left leg was in pain and it gave a hint of cramps. Luckily my newfound friend, a Primer runner, shared his liniment with me. It was because of that liniment that I was able to drag myself up to the tower and run really fast back down to the finish line.
So I promised myself to carry some liniment during the TNF100 50k race. I chose from the three I had at home—Omega, Katinko and Red Flower. Katinko proved to be the most soothing so I took it with me. I used it during the second half of the race. It was during this time when I started feeling some slight pain in my left ankle and my right knee. In the last six kilometers of the race I also had stomach cramps which I worried could be a symptom of appendicitis.  Katinko relieved all these pains and helped me keep going. 

4.     My Gear
Columbia Mobex Sprint This is the hydration pack that Josiah used in his races. I gave it to him last year after my Columbia Eco trail run in Cebu. It’s very light and snugly hugs my back that I don’t even feel that I’m carrying something on my back. The waist belt, however, impeded the smooth flow of my blood around my torso which probably caused my stomach cramps. I undid it and with the help of Katinko the cramps went away.
This was the cause of my anxiety the night before the race. Josiah was gonna hand it to me on Friday during the race briefing but he came from a kingdom far far away and his carriage broke down on his way to Baguio. He had not arrived by 10pm and I couldn’t wait for him so I just went to bed. Fortunately, he was there at Camp John Hay patiently waiting for me an hour before the gunstart.
me in my full battle gear with JP the Primer runner and his blistered right foot. He crossed the finish line a few minutes behind me  
Salomon Speedcross
Forget the tights, prioritize the shoes! Shoes connect your body to the ground. A bad pair of shoes can compromise your speed and comfort. The Salomon Speedcross has always been my favourite trail running shoes. The lugs are designed to establish maximum traction with different surfaces. They are also light and comfortable. The night before the race my friend said ‘Welcome to ultramarathon! Bibilangin ko bukas mga blisters mo!’ I jokingly said ‘Sorry tol! Mabibigo ka lang. Mahal ang shoes ko.’ I finished the race without blisters or any injuries.

5.   Nutrition I did not eat a lot during the race. An hour before the race, I ate a piece of hopia (mongo) while Josiah was giving me a briefing. He had taken the same course the year before and he warned me of a precarious terrain. During the race, I snatched one or two ‘nilagang saba’ at every aid station. I never touched the mandatory trail food in my hydration pack. The aid stations had more than enough supply of food for the struggling runners. At the Mt Cabuyao aid station, there was sopas and cup noodles in addition to the nilagang kamote and nilagang saba.

The Damage

I bought the Jan-Feb issue of Total Fitness magazine so I got 30% off the registration. I paid only P2450 instead of P3500. In return I got an authentic TNF race shirt which cost around P1000. But I was the third registrant in Cebu for the ultra distances so I got an Enduro belt (P2490) and a free roundtrip Manila-Baguio bus ride (P900). Basically I earned P1940 and I got to run in the TNF100 (50K).
what I got after the race
But the trade-off is, I lost my Garmin GPSMap 60CSx and I broke the screen of my Xperia Go. When I put my trunks and my ankle supports at the 10-km marshal’s post, my GPS must have fallen out of my hydration pack. On my way down around 1:30pm, the two marshals were no longer there.
Interestingly, I was never upset by this loss. I was and am still overwhelmed by my good finish time that it never sank in that I had lost my GPS! Everything happens for a reason, so they say. I’ve always believed in ‘alay’. My alays used to be just tent pegs and spoons or forks. My GPS was the biggest alay I’ve made. It was meant to happen. Part of me was telling me to leave the GPS at home because I had already familiarized myself with the race route map. But for some reason, I still carried it. That GPS will make its next bearer happy. After all, it contains all my tracks including the secret track in Mt Makiling. And this thought makes me happy! It’s time to buy a GPSMAP 62st!
my last memory of my Garmin GPSMAP 60CSx






Tuesday, April 16, 2013

I TRAVEL ALONE BECAUSE...(Part 2)

this pebbly shore of Alegria broke my itinerary

I travel alone because I wanna own my time.

I am a terrible companion. I am whimsical and impatient at times.
I don’t want to be pressured by fixed itineraries. I have a good job that allows me to spend as much time as having fun requires. I don’t wanna be woken up by my alarm. I don’t want the assembly time to drag me out of bed and I don’t wanna waste time waiting for latecomers at the terminal. I wanna go to the bus station at whatever time I want. I wanna board whatever bus I want. I don’t care where it’s going as long as I can leave the city. I can find fun in any place. I wanna wait for two hours for an air-conditioned bus without anyone telling me ‘Ang arte mo naman!’ And I wanna go home when I can say ‘Let’s call it a weekend!’ Yes fun travelling is selfish. And it should be because each of us has a different taste and a different mood at different times.

the sunset that made the trees in the Alegria shores turn as red as maple
I wanna decide for myself.
If I wanna stop, no one will pressure me to keep going. If I wanna go, I won’t have to wait for any slowpokes. If my instincts tell me to pursue a certain trail at a fork, no skeptic is gonna tell me ‘Sigurado ka ba jan?’ and put the responsibility of the team’s safety on me. If I wanna sleep outdoors, I don’t have to worry about a companion who can’t live without a grand toilet! If I wanna commune with the locals no one will grumble over the unfulfilled photo ops of the sunset at the campsite.

It is in owning my time and my decision where I get to fully enjoy the place!

Two weeks ago, during my solo trip to Alegria, the plan was to leave some stuff at a local’s house and camp at Windows campsite, then run early in the morning on Sunday. When I got to Alegria at around 12nn, it was really hot. I found the beach inviting so I took a dip. When I got to the locals’ house I suddenly felt interested in their stories and I thought that sleeping in one of the ‘kamaligs’ was a bright idea. So I dropped the planned itinerary. I ran 4km on the nearby hills and late in the afternoon, I went to the town center and just observed how people lived their lives. I spent the night at the ‘kamalig’ of one family in spite of the woman’s insistence that I sleep indoors. I love sleeping in open shelters. The following morning, I traversed Mt Lanaya completing a whole loop from Tumandok at 7am to the summit then to Minag-a then through the highway and back to Tumandok at 10.

It is in travelling alone where I can peacefully enjoy simple foods and waste time watching people at a park

Thursday, April 11, 2013

I CLIMB ALONE BECAUSE...

taken by Jona last year at the labyrinthine Lanaya-saag

In my last post I started off with a haughty line from the Dhammapada—Travel only with thy equals or thy betters; if there are none, travel alone. In this three-part post I will give the reasons why I adhere to this maxim in most of my climbs.

The first reason is that SAFETY IS MY PRIMARY CONCERN when climbing. 

While it is a common belief that a buddy system is the ideal way to trek, I prefer to climb alone. I only get a buddy if he is my better or my equal.
the almost always misty Mt Lanaya
Last Saturday I climbed solo again at Mt Lanaya in Alegria, Cebu. That was my fourth time there. And I am aware of the risks that the mountain poses. And they’re the following:
     1.       Labyrinthine trails near the summit and on the northern side
     2.       Loose rocks and cliffs on the southern trails
     3.       No water source
     4.       Bees
     5.       Snakes

Consider all these risk factors and imagine climbing with an inept climb buddy.
When you reach the labyrinthine part, you, as the expedition leader, have to find the right trail. You wouldn’t want to exhaust your buddy so you tell him to stay put while you explore the area. Your first problem is to find your way back to your buddy as soon as you have found the right trail. It is difficult to establish a home base on a flat ground with barely a distinct landmark to set as base. But this problem is eliminated when you have a GPS device. The second challenge though is your buddy himself if you happened to climb with a BODY climber. A body climber listens to his body. If the body is thirsty he drinks as much water as his body says, oblivious of whether there is water source in the vicinity or in the next hour. A body climber will go to a shady area if his body feels hot even if you have told him not to go anywhere. When this happens you’ll find an empty home base! And you’ll be wasting time looking for that buddy! This hide-and-seek scenario poses danger to both you and your buddy!

my GPS and three ascents couldn't guarantee smooth passage in the labyrinthine Lanaya-saag last March
A clumsy buddy might not be able to negotiate well with loose rocks and precarious cliffy trails. Assisting him makes him rely on you. You’d have to be extra-skilled to take care of yourself and your buddy. If he falls off, that’s danger fulfilled… and another danger for you if you try to retrieve him. Accidents happen to anybody, whether solo or in a group. If you’re climbing alone and you slipped and fell to a hundred meters, you die. If you’re in a group and you fell a hundred meters down, you die too. A buddy cannot undo a mishap. I don’t bring buddies with me in a dangerous journey because I am not extra-skilled. I am only skilled enough to secure myself.
The tricky rocky trail of the south face of Mt Lanaya
With snakes and other poisonous and stinging animals, the more climbers the more chances of one of you getting bitten or stung. If you’re trekking alone, once you’re past the area where there is a snake basking in the sun, nobody behind you would get bitten. I don’t want to risk my friends’ lives. That’s why I don’t want to bring them to Mt Lanaya. Companions could be a liability in a dangerous expedition. Last Saturday, two separate snakes crossed my path. Last year, I came across a one-meter-long snake with a flower in its mouth in Mt Lanaya.


It was in this spot where I encountered the snake with a flower
And when there is scant or no water in the area, make sure your buddy knows water discipline. If not then your safety and comfort would be compromised.  ‘If I run out of water’ is just a conditional clause for me because I never run out of water. 

The hydration I carry with me is only enough for myself. I am not that tough to carry more for a buddy.
The buddy system is only advantageous to individuals who have to rely on others for survival. But for a self-sufficient and self-reliant trekker, there is really no need for a buddy. But for trekkers who lack skill, proper training or experience, CLIMBING SOLO IS NOT ADVISABLE. 

As a closing note, I would like to advise everybody not to overreact in case something bad happens to me or to most other solo climbers while doing a solo climb. Most solo climbers are prepared to die. You don’t need to mourn or put the blame on anyone because the adventurer died a happy death.

As I said in my old blog ‘There are only two things you can do with your body: you can either destroy it yourself or have it destroyed by something or someone else’.
I prefer to destroy it myself than have it destroyed by cancer.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Run-Laon XL (Mapot - Guintubdan Run)


@ the crater
“Travel only with thy equals or thy betters; if there are none, travel alone.” This passage from the Dhammapada has always been my travel dictum. And that is why you will often catch me on trails all by myself. But last Tuesday (March 26th), I did not travel alone. I traveled with my better in the person of a seasoned ultrarunner and triathlete, Xerxis Tan (a.k.a. X). Thus, we dubbed our journey Run-Laon XL.
Run-Laon XL (Xerxis + Lagataw)

The PLAN

A few weeks ago, Xerxis messaged me of his intention to run the trails of Mt Kanlaon. He said he was gonna be alone but wouldn’t mind one more companion in the run. With the help of another good friend Jigz Santiago, the head of the association of Mt Kanlaon guides in Canlaon City, we got our permits. We were scheduled to traverse Mt Kanlaon from Mapot to Guintubdan on the 26th of March. We kept everything secret because for some reason, most of my plans fall apart when I tell people of it beforehand.

After our 24K Salomon Xtrail run in Pico de Loro on the 23rd, we were too tired to have our planned pre-climb. I was with my running buddies and he was with his. All we could exchange was ‘Sige text kita mamaya’. We had not trekked or run together before but I knew things would go without a hitch because I was travelling with an experienced outdoorsman. We made all the preparations through text and Facebook the day before Run-Laon XL.
 
The Crater Summit and Margaja Valley as seen from Makawiwili Peak

CHANGE: The Best Type of Plan

Early morning of the 25th I flew to Bacolod from Manila and X flew to Dumaguete. I constantly exchanged text messages with my very accommodating friend Jigz Santiago and around noontime I arrived at the Canlaon City tourism office. After lunch I tried to sleep behind Jigz’s table as he busied himself with some unreasonable Korean tourists. At 7pm, X arrived. I was supposed to leave some stuff (which included a pair of jeans, slacks and suede shoes) and just pick ‘em up the following day at the tourism office. I had changed the plan to just go for a Mapot-Mananawin traverse because coming from Guintubdan back to Canlaon City would waste a lot of time that I might miss the last trip from Bacolod to Cebu. I had to be back in Cebu by 10am Wednesday because I had already bought a 10:30am Cebu-Ormoc ticket.  but X came up with a better plan. We kept the old plan to traverse to Guintubdan and just let the guide carry my Mobex. That way, we wouldn’t have to go all the way back to Canlaon City to pick up my stuff.
My Mobex has survived an Akiki-Ambangeg day hike. This time, it's Kanlaon. You know what's next!

The RUN

Around 7:30pm, we headed for the house of our guide in Mapot. Jigz cooked pochero the Negrense way. In the middle of a baby’s wail I managed to steal two hours of yogic sleep which felt like eight. X said he couldn’t sleep a wink. But our guide might have only slept less than an hour because his baby wouldn’t let him.

At 4:30am the alarm went off and we had coffee and banana for our pre-breakfast. Jigz soon left because he had some guests to tour around that day. Around 5am, we had to face the most difficult part of the journey—the transition from inactivity to activity. I was still entertaining the thought of waiting for the sun to come out before starting the journey. It was as cold as Benguet! But we wanted to get back down before sunset so we had to leave.

At first, it was a bit difficult to breathe because the guide’s house was already at about 1300masl but soon our lungs adapted to the thin air. Our light packs allowed us to move fast. Around 7:30am we reached Makawiwili Peak. Because of X’s ingenious plan, I was able to make use of my city clothes for some instant photo ops. 
I never really liked doing this but the opportunity presented itself! 
We had breakfast at the shoulder campsite around 8:30 and at 9:30 we reached the crater rim. It was during that time when I knew why my friends who had climbed Mts Apo and Pulag consider Kanlaon the best of the Philippines’ big three. The terrain features were just out of this world! But as much as I wanted to savor every moment up there, I shook more and more with fear. Eight years of climbing but my acrophobia gets more intense each year. I couldn't get myself to peep into the crater. I failed to see the crack at the bottom that they were talking about. Soon my legs started to get stiff and I got fidgety every time I saw the guide and X near the edge. Then the winds blew stronger so I had to request for a descent. The slope and the rolling stones scared me more. I was walking down the bare crater peak with knees bent. But in the midst of this fear, I enjoyed the views nonetheless. 
X coming up from the east shoulder

Guintubdan Trail
Finally the ground got relatively flat at the west shoulder and we soon entered the bonsai forest of the Guintubdan trail! Guintubdan trail is ideal for downhill runs in that the slope is not so steep, the trail is clear and the canopy of rainforest trees energizes the runner. It was a long 9km downhill run and it was fun. It was such a shame that X’s GoPro ran out of battery inside his pack. I wanted to record our run on video.

And just what runners would love at the end of the run, the cold spring at the end of Guintubdan trail was a warm congratulation to our tired muscles.  Around 12:30 we stretched and cooled down in the natural pool as our lunch was being prepared at a small eatery. 
It was a good 16k recovery run from our 24k Salomon Xtrail!
Guintubdan natural pool
We got back to Bacolod around 4pm and another good friend Anton gave us a ride around the city. It was a nice way to celebrate the successful Run-Laon XL!
with Anton and the cool mixes @ Gypsy
Bacolod City Hall
In retrospect, that skyrun was a very nice experience. I miss the mountains but I don’t miss waking up with a hangover and cleaning soiled pegs and folding moist tents. I don’t miss carrying heavy backpacks and wading in muddy trails. I loved those things but I’m okay with keeping them as sweet memories of my climbing days. Running trails is my new way of enjoying the mountains.
the ~1.5-km trek from the jumpoff to the guide's place was not recorded.
elevation profile

our track

Monday, March 11, 2013

Mt Lanaya: Reverse Traverse

minimalist camping 2

My running buddy was running a 50K trail run in Hong Kong so last weekend was an opportunity for me to do the activity I originally loved doing—camping!

I wanted the activity to be a fusion of my running training and minimalist camping so I once again took the challenge of Mt Lanaya Traverse (in spite of my doctor’s advice). I had already traversed the mountain twice but this time I did the reverse route starting from Minag-a and exiting at Tumandok.
Blue: Day 1
Green: Day 2
This trail is, for me, one of the best trails in the country in that it is consistently shady, clean and single-track from start to finish. And the locals you meet are very warm and nice. Misty wooded areas once spooked me. But last Saturday the misty woods of Mt Lanaya made me feel like I was one with it! I felt connected to the Earth! 
Eywa
the misty woods at 2 PM
But the bees at the bouldery summit did scare me. So I aborted the plan to camp alone at the summit.
the makeshift bench at the summit had been taken apart
Instead, I headed for the Windows campsite down below. This campsite is still one of the best I’ve seen! I couldn’t resist practicing some of the poses I recently learned in yoga while facing the sun-kissed TaƱon Strait. At the campsite I saw Tonton—one of my two companions in my first Mt Lanaya trek—with some of his friends. They would do a traverse to Lumpan the following day.
Tonton's group at Windows campsite (a.k.a. Tonton's peak)
A trek in Mt Lanaya is a dreaded one in Cebu because of its steepness. But my recent trek was mysteriously easy! However the Lanaya-saag is still the same—labyrinthine! The mist added to the challenge in finding the right trail amongst the crisscrossing vanishing trails in the area. I had mistakenly erased my GPS tracks of my first two ascents there so it was again a puzzle for me. But 
I was always ready for a camp at the Lanaya-saag area so I didn’t panic.
got stranded for a while at Lanaya-saag
The whole trek (including the final descent to Tumandok reading center the following morning) just consumed 2hours and 41 minutes of moving time and around 30 minutes of stopped time (excluding the time I used taking pictures and setting up my bivy system). And I was not running. It was a relaxed pace. This is the advantage of minimalist camping! And I don’t intend to brag nor take away the credit due Mt Lanaya. I’m just encouraging everyone to do minimalist camping or engage in trail running! Your feet will become more familiar with the trails and your stamina and cardio will greatly improve. That is while enjoying the views!
7.47 km shouldn't really be tough

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