Monday, February 16, 2015

First Lagataw Canyoning Invitational

It begins!
And we made it!

This time, I brought along two trail runner friends (Angelo and Drahcir) and one non-outdoors guy (Yoshi) with me. Angelo doesn't know how to swim. And Yoshi lacked the dexterity and stamina for the outdoors. He even freaked out when some burs stuck onto his shirt. But I brought them along anyway. This is normally frowned upon by purists of responsible adventurism.

For me, one important attribute of a leader is your ability to instill trust among your team members. All I need from a team member is for him to trust me. When Angelo volunteered to join in spite of the knowledge that the journey would involve swimming and jumping off a waterfall, and the warning that a skilled canyoneering guide in Cebu lost his life last year with a life jacket on, I was confident that he trusted that I wouldn't let any harm happen to him.

Give me your trust and let me deal with the obstacles. I'm a very superstitious guy. I believe that a journey is likely not to be completed when there is doubt and other negative energies in the team. That's why I often travel alone.

I don't religiously observe safety standards. I push my limits. But I do know how to limit my push! I back off when the outdoors says so. In fact, I was very close to calling off the expedition because it rained all night the day before the trip. I never promise a destination or a goal to be achieved. But I always promise my team an opportunity to put in the best of ourselves. I tell them not to look for beauty. I let them see the beauty in everything that presents itself along the way. That way, no expedition becomes a failure!

I have to agree to what Yuji Hirayama said in his TEDx speech in 2009. It is good to rely on your physical attributes and capabilities rather than on good gear! And it is even better when you have a good partner. This, for me, is the essence of minimalism.

So, following the same principle, I didn't force myself to buy a new rope and a life jacket. I just made do with what the team already had. We IMPROVISED and we optimized our skills. And I got myself a team fit for the journey.

Before I let anyone jump off the waterfall, I had to 'rappel' down a slackline with an improvised life jacket to check the waterfall basin for undercurrent, rocks and safe depth
My Tingguian Tribe hammock strap was long enough to be looped into an improvised harness

My Tingguian Tribe hammock sack and my hydration pack make good buoys with the help of some inflated plastic bags
Drahcir unrigging the anchored slackline and Angelo preparing for his first waterfall jump
Last week my quest for the origin of the river was cut short by the impassable waterfall. This time, I reversed the journey travelling downstream from the spring where the river begins and we jumped off the previously impassable waterfall. We used the same exit that I used before and we ran uphill. After about 7 hours we were back where Drahcir and Angelo left their bicycles.

saying goodbye to the waterfall that cut my upstream jjourney last weekend

Drahcir and Angelo mesmerized by the spring waterfall where our downstream journey began

Angelo, whose battle cry after his first waterfall jump  was 'I love water!', now prefers the cascades to the trail
Next time, we're doing a full course canyoning expedition exiting at a waterfall resort about 10km downstream.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Exploring Canyons and Chasing Waterfalls

This could be my first canyoneering expedtition
Last Sunday, I saw where a river is born. That gave me the idea to follow where it leads. But the thing with travelling downstream is that it is not safe to jump off a waterfall along the way without knowing what's down there. So yesterday, I decided to travel upstream and set the birthplace as my destination.

The canyon
Taking only my hydration pack and a plastic bag to secure my stuff, I headed for the river. I ran downhill (on a dirt road) and after about 12 km, I went down a trail that leads to the river. The river is not rocky and turbulent so this first canyoneering expedition of mine was less dangerous for a solo traveler.  I was just disturbed by the silt and sand that would go into my shoes.

I had to constantly rid my shoes of silt and sand
I would normally feel scared because that was my first time to do such an activity but I was too busy enjoying the view and the too excited to do another kind of exploration. The only thing that would intermittently make me lose focus was the frequent appearance of the blue birds with red beaks...and once, a snake on the trail while I bypassed the first cascade. 

The first pool...slit a trail on the right side and encountered a snake
The views were great. Some parts reminded me of 127 Hours. And the river is not cluttered with packs of snacks and other debris.

The second pool. Rock scrambling on the left

The third pool that i could no longer bypass. I had to do some swimming
I had to bypass the deep pools a along the way I was avoiding swimming and risking getting my stuff  wet. But I could no longer find a way around the third pool so I had to swim. With a little rock scrambling I managed to get myself up the small waterfall. To my surprise, my hydration pack is actually waterproof! The plastic bag where I secured my stuff didn't even get wet. When I emerged, I saw the most majestic rock sculptures I have ever seen.

If you Photoshop the sight in your head, you'll see Ralston
Shortly after the third pool, I came across a taller waterfall which I could no longer bypass. I felt frustrated that I couldn't reach the birthplace. But the sight of the waterfall was more than enough consolation. That was the end of my journey for me. So after about two hours on the river, I had to call it a Sunday! Next time, I'm travelling downstream! I need one buddy who can swim and a rope! 
My journey ends at this fourth pool

Next time, we start at the birthplace!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Lagataw's Not Dead

Ten years of climbing doesn't mean there's no room for discovering new trails
When I climbed Mt Batulao last weekend, I had already come to terms with the reality that mountain climbing in the Philippines has become as clicheic as going to the beach.

But what happened today proved that the outdoors has not become fully saturated with weekend warriors altogether. Ten years of climbing doesn't mean I can no longer find a destination near Manila that is not crowded. I just had to activate that heart of a lagataw, who will just look at a faraway vista or a hill or a gorge and believe that I will find something that can make me stop running to relish the view. That's all a lagataw needs to take the first step in a journey to discovery.

This may not be as vast as Asik Asik Falls but equally charming nonetheless
Today, I found a trail that could give me at least 15 km of hill training. As an added bonus, I found the birthplace of a river. It may not be as grand as the Asik-Asik Falls but the fact that I could have the place all to myself for as long as I wanted makes the destination equally enchanting and much more worth visiting.

And a river is born!

YOU deserve a holiday!
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