Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Mt Lanaya Traverse: Minimalist Camping

my bivvy at Windows campsite

I have recently decided to take minimalist camping to a more intense level. My first taste of minimalist camping was my overnight trek at the Akiki-Ambangeg route in Mt Pulag in 2011. I slept in the cavity of a boulder by the banks of Eddet River. That time I didn’t make use of my stove and cookset. I survived the trek without the usual necessities of a camper.

But last weekend, I took minimalist camping to a higher level. This time, I was more self-reliant. I climbed alone (without a guide) and I took a different entry point and exit point from the ones I took last January. And this time, instead of taking refuge in a boulder, I had to make my very first bivvy. And, I’d love to think that the bivvy I made may have been the best four-point bivvy I’ve known. The destination: Mt Lanaya (Alegria, Cebu).

Although Mt Lanaya is arguably the toughest mountain to climb in Cebu (entailing a sea to summit climb thereby having the highest elevation gain in the province), it is not a very popular climbing destination  here as of yet. Thanks to this, its trails are still the best in the island. The trails are clean, shady and established except for the Lanaya-saag part where the crisscrossing paths give hints of stranded wanderers in the past.  

I had initially planned to camp alone at the summit but when I reached the Windows campsite, I was once again fascinated by the view of the green meadow overlooking the sun-sprayed Tañon Strait. So I decided to find the best tree where I could set up my bivvy. It took me an hour to set up my bivvy.

The concept of the bivvy I made was to make it as rain-proof and wind-proof as possible. The challenge was, it was only composed of a sheet of tarp and eight guy lines (no poles and no stakes). My bivvy was one of a kind in the sense that most bivvies are made to assume an A-frame structure where the ridge cuts the whole tarp into two rectangles exposed to the wind and rain. Mine was with an inverse ridge (the whole tarp slightly opening upwards instead of the traditional downward orientation) cutting the tarp from one corner to another subdividing it into two triangles. When rain pours, the inverted ridge becomes somewhat like a gully leading rainwater to drain at the lower corner instead of the two sides of the tarp (in a traditional A-frame style). This way, you don’t get wet by the dripping sides and more importantly, you can tap rain water and use it for washing and other purposes. The shade of the tree also helps in keeping the rain from drifting in laterally. Keeping the hammock as close as possible to the ceiling also minimizes the chance of getting wet. Moreover, the upward orientation of my bivvy also allows me to enjoy the views from all directions. In an A-frame bivvy over a hammock, the only views you can enjoy are at the rear and front of the shelter.
To fight the wind, the best technique is to minimize the surface area exposed to it and to distribute tension to as many tension points as possible. In an A-frame bivvy, the two rectangular faces maximize the surface area exposed to the wind thereby creating greater tension on only four out of six tension points on the tarp. In my bivvy, whichever direction the wind blows from, the tension is distributed to four out of four tension points. Tying the guy lines to the semi-flexible branches of the tree further minimizes the tension on the tarp. If the wind blows from the ‘prow’, the two triangles will just form half tunnels which let the wind quickly escape at the tail. If the wind blows from either wing corner, the tapered prow and tail will just contain the wind for a short time. Only in the diagonal will the wind take some time to pound. The only face vulnerable to the vector of the wind is the inclined tail face. But the tarp’s parallelism with the ground minimizes the chance of the wind to perpendicularly pound on the tarp. Wind normally blows parallel to the ground. This slight parallelism also minimizes the amount of wind received by the tarp compared to an A-frame bivvy whose sides form a steep 45ᵒ-60ᵒ angle to the ground.
two half-tunnels form when wind blows on the prow
I chose to sleep on a hammock instead of a groundsheet. The advantage of using a hammock is that the camper is suspended in the air. So when rain pours, he doesn't run the risk of getting soaked in a puddle. The hammock also eliminates the discomfort of lying on sharp bumps on the ground.

That was my bivvy and the clincher is, it was my first time and my knot-tying skills are self-made. So there is no excuse for you not to be able to make one of your own before I move on to my next project. And my next project is to set up a bivvy on the ground without the help of trees and boulders.

My bivvy afforded me good views at sunset and a splendid rest under a canopy of stars at night.
The food I brought was supposed to supply me with the necessary nutrients for my body. And while I also did not want to compromise the taste, the meal plan did not involve cooking. Here’s what I came up with.

Good food is another area of minimalist camping that I have to work on aside from the ability to make a shelter without the aid of trees and boulders. I still can’t find the best ‘no-cook’ substitute for real meat. The uncooked luncheon meat tasted like liver spread. Liver spread makes me sick.
When eating I intentionally scatter morsels on the ground so that I’ll know what bugs I’m dealing with in the vicinity. And since it was ‘dry camping’ I let the bugs lick the garbage clean before I put them in my garbage bag.
the bugs feasting on morsels 
 The Trail

I climbed Mt Lanaya for the first time in January and we took the barangay hall of Legaspi as our entry point. All three of us in the climbing party had not walked that path before. Technically that was a semi-exploration climb. Lingering for a while at the Windows XP campsite, I knew that the barangay hall was not the nearest access point. Last weekend, my intuition told me to get off at the nearest community on the highway after the barangay hall. I’m talking about sitio Tumandok. The marker is a neat reading center along the highway and facing the beach whose crystal clear water was a formidable challenger to the lure of the idea of a solo traverse trek in Mt Lanaya. In the end, I told myself, there will always be a next time reserved for this beach.
Tumandok reading center
Knowing that the trail we took last January was a bit too long, I resolved to cut it short. To my surprise only the waypoints remained in my handheld GPS device. Our original Lanaya tracks disappeared. But I’ve never really relied on my GPS when it comes to following or hunting trails. I only use my GPS to reassure me that I can always trace my way back in case I get lost. My instincts did not fail me when I thought that the next community after the barangay hall was the closest access point to Windows campsite. The people there gave me curious gazes and accusing inquiries. ‘Mag-unsa man ka didto’ ‘Mubisita lang sa tigulang gali didto sa layo nga payag’ ‘Aw si Mario?’ ‘Aw oo diay si Nong Mario’. And when I get to the house of a Mario I’d drop the same line and then I’d get another name (Danilo). With a twist of ‘Aw mangumusta lang ko sa iyaha (Danilo) bahin sa baka nga gusto paliton sa akong iyaan’ they grant me passage. That’s how I gain the confience and air of familiarity among untrusting locals. But most often the best way to deal with them is just to give them cordial smiles without stopping by for unnecessary chitchats.

When I got to Windows campsite, the view and the weather was just irresistible. As already mentioned earlier, I had a wonderful night alone at the campsite. I resumed the trek at 8:00 the following morning. On the uphill trek, I had episodes of palpitation and near collapse. It was the same thing I experienced in Mt Panamao two months ago. Now I’m starting to worry about my heart. But the trek was made more enjoyable by the sound of Jack Johnson’s and Keane’s music. Their music made me appreciate the beauty of the trails more. Around 10am, I bumped into a fellow blogger who gave me this shot.
photo courtesy of Jona
Jona, who was with me and my friend in our ‘misadventures’ in the Guintubdan trail of Kanlaon, camped at the summit the night before. Apparently, my initial plan to camp alone at the summit would have been in vain if I had not let Windows campsite hold me back. At Lanaya-saag, she was waiting for her other companions who strayed a bit around the area.

I reached the summit around 11am. On my way down, I took one clear path but after a few minutes, the trail didn't seem familiar anymore. I was pretty sure that it was not the same trail I took last January. And the Lumpan waypoint on my GPS confirmed that I was veering away from it. But the trail was clear so I followed it. It felt good to know that I was walking a new and unknown path. This trail that cut through a little community near the summit is way better than the trail to Lumpan. It’s not muddy and it is shorter. The terminus is midway between Lumpan and the town center of Alegria. I washed up at the artesian well beside the road before hiring a motorcycle for P20 back to the bus stop.
Looking back, I was thrilled by the thought of having repeated two of my best climbs. A solo overnight camp in Mt Marami and a solo traverse trek in Mt Makiling with a discovered trail. Minimalist camping has breathed new life into my hobby. I'm a newbie once again and I feel like embarking on more camping trips and adventures.
August 2012 vs January 2012


  1. iba tlga ang LAGATAW...more power ser Adonis..

  2. Have you tried the flat beef jerky (i believe it's called "ma-pa") sold in chinese stores? Sometimes you can find it in the grocery, kasama nung mga chinese chorizo. Pwede na yun for your meat fix :)

    1. WTF! why didn't I think of that?! Yeah I've tried beef jerkies before. They're great! Thanks for the tip. I think you've just solved my problem. Thanks

  3. Being a Lagataw is all about being a minimalist.
    Parang background ba ng Windows XP yung grassland kaya Windows campsite? Hahaha
    Kudos Sir Adonis! We'll meet again soon :)

    - Buyco

  4. Sir Adonis galing nung biwy na tinatawag, okay po siya kasi mas mgaan kaso po ang problema pag ung campsite na walang puno. nway bago lang po sa blogosphere so i have a lot of article to read from you site. i think i should visit this site before climbing. hehe.
    btw hope to have an xlinks sir adonis. thanks thanks.

  5. ngayon ko lang na-gets ang idea ng Minimalist camping. :) masubukan nga :)

  6. Sir Adonis I'm a big fan of yours pero this time medyo iba ata ang approached mo sa pagiging minimalist. Could you show us your list of all your gears and supplies that you brought on this trip?Coz I think you are now compromising your comfort and safety at hindi yun ang Adonis na alam ko. Anyway, Ito and suggestions ko.

    Instead of bringIng a loaf of bread you can bring tortilla bread or pita bread pwede rin lavash or flat bread. Pwede mo sila ifold to save space
    Instead of square cheese, bring string cheese coz wala syang foil, hindi na dedeform pag nag melt at pwede mo isuksok kahit saan.
    Yung mga tetraPack mo na juice ilagay mo na sa re-usable na bottle.Para pag naubos pwede mo parin gamitin yung bottle. Wala pang kalat.
    Instead of bringing canned goods pwede mo na sila ipre-cooked at lagay mo sa ziplock (pwede pa air tight sealed if you just know the trick using a straw).
    Instead of bringing 3 water bottles just bring 1x 1liter re-usable water bottle. Usually minimalist bring 1 or the 2 liter platypus soft bottle or the new vapur bottle. Wala na nag dadala ng nalgene bottles ngayon coz of the weight.
    Sana naka tulong kahit papaano. Goodluck and more power!
    Hope to hear from you.

    -Mark of Southern California Backpacker

    1. Thanks sir Mark.
      No worries, comfort and safety were never compromised. They were actually improved. I love sleeping on a hammock rather than on the floor of a tent. And I don't know how I compromised my safety more than I have compromised it before this climb. I used to climb without GPS on mountains I haven't been to. I climbed Mt Lanaya alone but that was my second time. I was pretty familiar with the are. And I got my GPS which I didn't even need.

      Thanks for the food suggestions but I'm okay with my carbs. My only problem was my substitute for real meat...which, thanks to IndieEscape, I remembered jerkies.

      Yeah, thought of tortillas but they're brittle. Pita bread is a bit more costly than a local loaf of bread. Although you're right. It's a hassle finding a safe niche in my pack for a loaf of soft bread.

      No idea what string cheese is but i m'na check it out in the supermarket. The foil did stress me a bit. It was difficult to peel it off.

      reusable bottle. hmm...i've developed a dislike on bottles in the Philippines. Even Nalgene doesn't have that airtight feature that they promised. The tuba that my buddy stored in his Nalgene leaked and stained all his clothes. don't wanna risk having stuff in my pack wet, sweet and sticky.

      Waste management is not a problem with me. I manage my garbage well. Those tetra packed drinks will always be bought by someone else even if I don't buy them. The important thing is, I don't leave that trash on the mountain. I leave them on the ground for the insects to lick squeaky clean but I pick 'em up when I leave.

      ziplocks...uhhh...I am an anti-leak freak. Really don't wanna risk it. I don't mind carrying an extra 30grams on the can as long as it promises sealing. But you're right, pre-cooking those canned meaties would be better. Thing is, I always think that the travel time will spoil the exposed meat. And my OCD me stresses me on the bus. I keep thinking whether the food is still good or spoiled. Jerky might be my best option.

      A big one liter bottle is a space-bully in a minimalist pack.It has to have it's own rightful place in the pack. I intentionally chose have three separate 500ml bottles for two reasons: you can squeeze small bottles in small random spaces in your pack. Big bottles are not friendly to random spaces. The other reason is safety, if your big bottle rolls down the slope, all your water is gone. If your one big bottle leaks, spills or gets into any trouble, your whole water supply is compromised.

      I used those Vapur bottles before or their likes, but i never really fell in love with the concept. I have mild OCD. I always think that they're flimsy. If you want something reliable, you pay the price. And its reliability has an expiration. It's a waste of money buying that technology. You can't blame me, technology has not been able to defeat the power of fluids. The most airtight containers will always leak at some point.

      Just like the Nalgene, it's a product of marketing. They want people to buy their products by flaunting features such as design, space-friendliness and resistance to leaks. But at the end of the day, these features can be done by ordinary PET bottles that come free with the water you buy at supermarkets. Tama, nobody can ever really convince me to bring a Nalgene.

      Thanks for the tips anyway.

  7. My friends and I are climbing Mt. Lanaya this weekend. We're planning to take the Lumpan trail since we don't a guide and the Legazpi trail would be too technical considering we will be taking first-time climbers with us and the place isn't familiart to us yet. So... I just wanted to ask if you have any idea about the Lumpan trail? And someone told me that there's a lake nearby? Hope you can help. Thanks!
    P.S. I love your Yvon Chouinard spirit! :)

    1. I used Lumpan as an exit before. yep there was an almost dried-up lake right before you reach the road where you can wait for a tricycle.
      I don't think there is a reliable guide among the locals in Lumpan.
      O suggest you take the Legazpi trail. It's not very technical. Many newbies have climbed that route. And when you've exited Lumpan, you can have an idea of how to climb Lanaya via Lumpan.

      Right now, the reliable guides in Lanaya are the trekkers who have climbed it and the family the lives near the Windows XP campsite.

  8. Sir, inquiry lang. Where did you acquire the tarp and for hom much? is it 8x10? silnylon? I'm looking into a possible lightweight solo backpacking this summer and I'm very much done with heavy packs. I already made a soda can alcohol stove for this venture. Now, shelter system na lang ang problem ko.

    Salamat in advance!

    1. I got it from a friend in Cebu. He got it from Silangan Outdoors Equipment. I'm not sure if they have sales in Manila. And I'm not certain with the dimensions but yes this is a rectangular one. However, I recommend their newer version the Avian tarp. Get in touch with Silangan Outdoors on FB.

  9. Hi sir,

    What is your GPS unit? Thanks!


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