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!

the Amandiwing mountain range on a sunny day
When I woke up that morning, the sun was out. No sooner had I finished breakfast than I slipped into my hydration pack. At 8:00 AM I got off the habal-habal at Brgy Campagal in Jaro and once again I was face to face with the peak that had long taunted me. If there was a peak that I consider my nemesis and best friend at the same time, it would be Alto Peak. This peak seldom shows itself to climbers on a clear day and I have always been fortunate to capture its most imposing image on camera in my three attempts there…yes attempts because I have not been fortunate enough to set foot on its summit!

And that day, I had this ambitious plan to run from Jaro all the way to Ormoc with the thrill of climbing Alto for the first time alone…well if you really wanna know the whole truth, yeah, in running shorts! I had no clear idea where the trailhead was so I had to explore the area for a feasible assault. I followed the trail that seemed to circumscribe the Alto peak and its neighboring peaks but I had to stray more than 3kms to the north to find a gully that could be a good access point to the summit. I climbed up the gully that obviously was not the trail that climbers use. The igneous rocks were so loose I could barely establish any footholds or handholds. I slipped a couple of times the last of which almost gave me my Humpty-Dumptyish great fall! I managed to use my right knee as a brake. And it was slightly wounded. But it wasn’t until I was in my 30km marker that I realized the worse damage to that knee. It hurt every time my right foot hit the ground. So I had to alternate between power walks and short runs on the road to Ormoc City. Anyway, I pushed on for about a hundred more meters up the gully until a colony of insects sprung into my face. I was lucky they didn’t sting. But it had to be my ultimatum! Amandiwing didn’t want me to set foot on its summit that day! I was not ready. I had no ropes, no knives no meal, no buddy and I was just in my running shorts! All I had was either zeal or vanity! So I climbed down…and it was harder!

this is where I stopped on the gully
Then I ran 3 kilometers back to the brook where I had suspected the trailhead would be. And I found what could be the trailhead to the summit. It was marked by a pink ribbon. I didn’t intend to climb it anymore but I had to reassure myself that it was the traditional trail so I climbed it for about fifty meters and I noticed cuts on the branches and trunks of the trees and then the thorns of the rattan started to annoy me so I climbed back down to the PNOC access road. Then I ran down to Brgy Cabingtan in Ormoc.
the area around the brook
In Cabingtan, the biggest surprise was when I heard my name out of a local’s mouth before I even gave it. I spent only one night at their house and that was already seven years ago. It felt good to be remembered…even better to relive the memory.

After a little catching-up I had to run down to Lake Danao. I took a snapshot of the lake and then I looked for the house of my guide there back in 2006. We were both delighted to see each other. I had seen him only once. But we remember each other’s name clearly through some visitors of Alto Peak and Mt Janagdan. I give them Jonathan Baco’s name when they inquire and they drop my name when they meet him.

Jonathan Baco, my guide in 2006
After we talked, he assured me that it was gonna be less than fifteen kilometers to the highway. It turned out to be twenty.

Finally after seven hours and forty-five minutes, I reached the highway where I took the bus back to my hometown Carigara. 
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  1. nice one sir... havent climb this one... but someday..

  2. can you name a guide for Alto Peak expedition?

    1. you can go to cabintan and look for Sir Ramil Moriles. he's the head of the guide's association there. he will assign someone you a guide if you want to climb alto peak. :)


YOU deserve a holiday!
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