IMG_4171

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

Lets face it, the outdoor scene in the Philippines has been growing in the past decade. Just by looking at the log book in mount Batulao, Pico De Loro and Maculot we can safely assume this activity will keep growing for years to come. There are however so many people still stuck in the decision process of starting or not.  I should know It took awhile for me to get off my ass and actually try it.   5 years later I am being asked by many how to start. So in timely fashion I thought Id write about it and give my two cents worth on how to start hiking/mountaineering

First of all if you wanna start you gotta ask yourself the question of why do you wanna do it? Do you wanna visit mother nature? Do you wanna train in survival? Do you wanna get new cover photos for your facebook? Do you wanna meet the love of your life?  Honestly I dont really give a rats ass. WHAT I DO CARE ABOUT  are two simple things: You respect mother nature and you respect your fellow man encountered in the trail. Basically don’t treat the mountains and trails like it is your own personal home and don’t treat other people rudely. I just wanna make sure your reasons are as bright as day .Alright!! now that’s outta the way shall we begin?

FMPU5783
Enjoying my time in the in the trail of Mount Kupapey in Maligcong Bontoc Mountain Province

Do I need to be JACKED?

Lets not beat around the bush, This is a very common question asked of me and my answer has always been the same. No you dont have to be in shape for mountaineering. It will be a big help definitely. Being athletic will allow you to enjoy more. If you dont get it well  try to imagine walking up an incline for a few hours with a heavy back pack strapped on your back. It may not bother you at first since its just walking but trust me it will eventually wear you down.  So if you have the time exercise please do it. Not only is it good for you but it will also give you enough mettle to enjoy the outdoors. Mother nature is as unforgiving as she is magnificent.

In my time hiking I have seen so many people get so physically challenged by the trail that it inevitably leads to them just trying to finish it rather than appreciate it. Trust me there are some trails that will eat away at you to the point that even texting becomes a challenge.

Another thing exhaustion does is, it forces us to lose concentration. So this means you don’t pay attention to the surroundings which can lead to injury which is rather bad up in the middle of nowhere. Also,I don’t think you just wanna enjoy the trip by just looking at 2d pictures right? Well this is assuming you had the strength to pull out a camera to actually take some.

So  How do you train for it? Well you can hit the gym, do running, biking, crossfit,  martial arts etc however the best way to train is to just to do it. There is no better trainor for mountaineering /hiking than the actual activity itself. I remember my Jiujitsu coach saying a similar thing to me in training “The best training for Jiujitsu is Jiujitsu” and I completely agree with this, this goes the same for mountaineering.  Please remember however that even though I am saying you don’t necessarily need to be in shape, it does not mean you should go out if you have a pending ailment meaning don’t go out if you have a heart condition or other condition that needs medical supervision, example: a heart ailment. I’m not discounting people who do have it however there are certain precautionary steps that needs to be taken to ensure the safety and the well being of the hiker. This however is a whole different subject on its own.

IMG_4207
Clarence taking a nap in one of the most difficult trails. Photo taken in mount Sicapoo

A friend in need is a friend indeed..

There are alot of groups out there offering hiking trips and travel opportunities for anyone to experience this fun activity. I however recommend that you find a close friend that has been into hiking and start by going up with them.

I am sure that these groups are experienced hikers but I still strongly suggest you start with someone you know or at the very least start with someone he recommends and knows personally. A friend usually takes more accountability in the safety of his comrade than strangers. And of course once you get more experienced you will eventually meet more and more people belonging to a number of groups that I am sure will be very happy to have you join them in their journeys. I myself started with a team mate and eventually it lead to me getting to know so many from the community that I have no problem in finding a hike that I wanna go too. I still, however, prefer to climb with people I trust and of course I try to share the love as much as possible by encouraging and bringing others up the mountain.

IMG_1411
Team Leader Harold  Borja briefing the team before the trek up mount Pulag

What the? Where is the nearest hotel?

An individual should also have the right expectations before hiking a trail. Lets get one thing straight. This is n0t a luxury trip. Most hikes involves looooong commutes and the likelihood of a good sleep in the bus or van takes some getting used too. Imagine this. You meet up in a bus station around 11pm at night then you take a 3-4 hour trip to the jump off, You have breakfast and off you go to road less taken. Bathrooms are replaced by holes dug in the ground, meals eaten in the table is replaced by meals eaten in the campsite, A bed and roof is replaced by a tent and sleeping bag. These are things not ussually palatable to the normal person. One must be able to think about these things before going up.  Why? Because once your in the middle of the hiking trail and you will need to do a number 2 well guess what Dig fucker dig!! You wont have any choice less you holding that bitch in for 2 days. Good news though!! Nowadays there are an abundance of gear out there that can make these trips a little bit more comfortable than it was 2 decades ago. Remember however if you want to bring up luxury your gonna have to carry it!!

IMG_0934
Photo by Ralph Mariano: Small Rest Stop in the middle of mount Purgatory

SHUT UP and take my MONEY!!!

How much is it?  Well no definite answer to this really. It really depends on what area and what mode of transpo and what gear you are willing to procure. I gotta be straightforward. Its not really a cheap hobby. Although the commute, guide fee and entrance fee may be cheap remember, the gear will cost money if you decide to get your own. For me I wanna get good quality gear. Ive been through survival training and one thing I learned is I DONT WANT TO BE IN A SURVIVAL SITUATION so if I can bring up the best I will bring up the best.

To give you and idea …a good tent can run from 5,000 to as high as 50,000php. Hiking Boots are 3,000 to 12,000.  And a good quality backpack from 5,000 to as high as 25,000.  Thats right folks! They are not cheap. I usually spend hours researching on a particular item before procuring…this mostly because I dont want to spend alot on something im not sure on.  Yes you can scrimp on gear and go for the very basic. You just better make sure you can handle the physical price that comes with it. A backpack failing in the middle of a hike is one of the worst things that can happen. Again research, read reviews ask questions!!

IMG_4394
My Hiking Boots for my adventures. Merrell,  Salomon and Patagonia

Argh!!!! this isn’t what I signed up for!!

Planning your trip to set expectations  must be done. This is mostly planning for yourself.  Go to the internet, its there to help you. Most mountains have some write up somewhere. This will give you some slight familiarity with the trail.  Also dont be ashamed to ask other that has done it before, they usually give the best advice about it. Best person to ask will be the team organizer or his second in command. Its their responsibilty to make sure everyone is safe. Dont forget to also take into consideration the season of the hike. The challenges of the mountain changes between the wet and dry season here in the Philippines. Some easy mountains becomes challenging because of rain and some hard ones becomes very enjoyable when rain pours.

By planning and familiarizing yourself with the terrain and trip it will automatically guide you on what gear needs to be prepared which will be the next thing I talk about.  Oh before that,   for Gods sake make sure when you go up someone knows your itenerary.  This is a basic and non negotiable thing. Someone from home should know your plan and they should also be properly briefed so they dont freak out if for some reason you cant contact them. Remember most mountains has little or no signal. This also serves the purpose of having someone on standby to call the cavalry just in case something bad happens.

IMG_1182
Briefing the group before visiting mount Ulap

Oh My God look at all the cool ass toys I can Get?…

Now for the fun part (Fun for me at least). Another question asked of me is what kind of gears are needed for a typical OVERNIGHT CAMPING TRIP.  So in this part I would like to enumerate the various things I bring when I go up for an overnight trip. Each item has a purpose to it and I dont think I can write about each one in this one entry. So if you should have any questions you can message me about it. Take note I try to keep the loadout under 12 kilos

My overnight Loadout

  • Sleeping Bag
  • Sleeping Pad Full Body
  • 3 season 2 person tent (Free Standing)
  • First Aid Kit
  • Survival Bug out kit
  • Toiletry Kit
  • Pocket Knife
  • Flashlight 150 lumen or above
  • Headlamp 150 lumen or above
  • Spare batteries
  • Powerbank
  • Waterproof Jacket
  • Thermal Undergarments
  • Extra Socks
  • Gloves
  • GPS/Compass
  • Kitchen Set (Plate, Spoon and Fork with cup)
  • Cook Set (Stove and Gas)
  • Garbage Bags
  • Ziploc Bags
  • Lighter or Firestarter
  • Whistle
  • Spare clothes
  • Paracord
  • Duct Tape
  • Spare cash
  • Sandals
  • Hiking Boots

So thats my gear. Ill be honest I still have a few more but those are just the “nice to haves” so no need to mention them. Oh!! ..If you notice I didnt mention any brand name. I have my preference Im sure you will have yours. Again these things depends on proper research so ask as many questions with experienced Hikers as you can. Thats how I was guided. I had teachers from the UPM, the GAC, WISAR and other groups that made me finally figure out the perfect load out for me.

`Ons-Kamp-Vintage-Collection

 

camping

Again if you have any clarifications or questions feel free to send me a message in facebook, I am searchable. In the future I will be posting more about gear and reviews but for now happy hiking everyone be safe always.

UP UP AND AWAY

Special thanks again to Nonoy Generoso and Clarence Clarito for contributing to this blog entry

 

Return to the Ridge : Tarak Ridge

My Favorite Part of the Tarak Trail, the Papaya River. I should really do some research to find out why its named that..

Holiday Blues

I decided around the beginning of November  to organize a hike and visit Tarak Ridge again. I call this my home mountain since it is my most frequently visited trail. Been here about 5 times already but I never got tired of it. So as usual, I made the facebook invite and sent it out to many of my friends. I was expecting a few beginners in this event. I recommend this since its level is not too hard and not to easy. Its terrain is very manageable, and the Papaya River offers a perfect safety point. Assaulting the summit after the Papaya river will take about 3 hours up a steep incline so if some just wants to stay and enjoy the river well they are most free to do so.

When the week of the climb arrived I noticed only 5 people accepted. I failed to realize that December, especially the time before christmas, is a very busy time for Filipinos. So come the hike day only 4 people made it. That did not matter actually that wont dampen my spirits. I always look forward to a weekend in the outdoors.

Bataan and Papaya River at Warp 9

Ok!!! that was fast!!! Before when we visited the Tarak Trail we usually allotted 4-5 hours of travel time. This is no different. I did’nt know however that the van driver would take the road at warp speed. So the usual 5 hour drive only took us 3 hours. Don’t get me wrong though, the drive was so smooth we all fell asleep without any problems. The thing is ..we got to Barangay Alas asin 2 hours early. So we decided to grab a looong breakfast in a little stall near the Barangay Hall to kill the time. We even toyed with the idea to just day hike the trail or even take another more difficult trail but eventually we stuck to the original plan of hiking to the Papaya River and set up camp then just day hike the summit, leaving the camp gear pitched in the Papaya River.

We got to Nanay Cordings house around 6. I am very impressed that the Van was able to get to her place without any major road set backs. Kudos to the skills of Weekend Galas drivers as always.  Before we used to walk the whole distance from the Barangay Hall to Nanay Cordings, this in itself took about an hour. For those who may wonder who Nanay Cording is well basically she is this little old lady living by the Jump off of Tarak Ridge. She offers moutaineers a rest stop going and coming from the trail. Her Sari Sari Store offers some simple foods and snack for moutaineers once their hike is completed. Honestly thats all I can tell you about her.  I should really remind myself to interview her one time so I can write a piece on her.

IMG_3144
The Sweet Old guardian of the Tarak Gates. Nanay Cording always smiling and offering mountaineers/hikers a warm welcome

Well after repacking, small talk and coffee we hit the trail Harold and I took point. I was right behind him. He was in training mode so intentionally he humped a 20-25kilo pack on his back. Mine was a measley 12 kilos, I am proud of this however! I finally got my gear down to this weight and I was able to stuff everything I need in a 34 liter Osprey Bag. I have never done this before. My loadout everytime I come here fits into a 50 liter. I guess I am becoming more and more confident and experienced when it comes to packing my loadout.

Througout the trail I was trying my best to keep up. Imagine this dude with a FULL load hitting that trail at a constant pace. I gotta say it was impressive and it offered a good pace for me. Then again what can you expect from a 20 year mountaineer who just got off the Mindanao Madness expedition a few weeks back.

1, 2, 3, 4!! Steady through the rolling incline all the way to the Papaya River.  About an hour and a half later I started to hear the familiar sound of the river. I could smell it. I had to look at my watch and check the time. I could not believe it. From Jump off to the river in 1.5 hours? Usually this trail takes me more than 2.5 hours to hike. I was pretty impressed, the pacing was really good and it didn’t waste much time or energy. I was still ok and not exhausted.

IMG_3118
My Favorite Part of the Tarak Trail, the Papaya River. I should really do some research to find out why its named that..

Setting up Camp: Papaya River

Once we hit the river it was time to set up camp. I decided to stay behind to watch the stuff so the others can have a worry free summit assault. True we could have camped up in the summit but the absence of any water source and the high winds makes camping in the ridge itself a difficult one. Here in the Papaya River we had all the water we need and wind sheer here is very low which makes setting up camp a hella lot easier. So as soon as the group was ready they hit the trail and I was left to my thoughts near the gentle ripple of the river. You all probably think I was in deep thought and retreat during this time. Unfortunately, not really. Aside from snacking on some dehydrated pasta I slept most of the time I was left alone in the River. What can I say?, the gentle sound of water is like a lullaby..Couple that with comfortable gear and almost anyone would KTFO.

This just ticks me off….

One bad thing about the trip is what I noticed once we hit the river. Damnit the thrash on the campsite. There were tissue paper, empty alcohol bottles and some other horrific stuff  date not mention. I really don’t get it? Why would anyone do this? I apologize if I sound too  high and mighty but common if your gonna bring stuff up the mountain please clean up afterwards. I don’t understand what comes over people to just leave their garbage out in the wild. If you cant bring it down then don’t bring it up. It ruins the majesty of the place and it disrespects other mountaineers that uses the campsite. I mean how would these guys react if I go to their garden and just leave my thrash sprawled everywhere. So to everyone reading this I humbly ask to please take down your Garbage when you go down.

IMG_3092
Thrash in the campsite. Just really frustrates me and my team mates. Please clean up Im asking nicely

Oh Booooy here we go!!!!

So night time fell and we finished dinner. After tidying up the socials started. We all gathered around Harolds tent prepared some food and the passing of the shot glass started. One little problem was we brought 3 liters of alcohol and only 3 of us were drinking. All I can tell you is it was really a fun socials night but I overdid THE DRINKING, and when I was doing my best to crawl back to my tent I fell hard on some rocks. Did I trip? Hell no I just buckled and fell. Good thing Alex was around to help me up. It was a clean hit however. Almost no hangover the next day.

Damn! I dont remember passing here!

Morning hit, I was up around 7am and  we broke camp around 10am in the morning. I was first to break camp with Alex and Row Row. Decided to test how fast I could make it back to the jump off spot. So basically I trail blazed my way through the path. Funny though there came a point when I hit a spot where the trail split into 2. The other road was brand new and I dont remember passing it on the way up. So I took a moment and experience just told me to take the most established trail, the cleaner looking, more bald one. So I did. I wont lie though, a few minutes in, I was already entertaining scenarios of what to do if I made the wrong decision and got lost. This is the first time I will be going down alone I didn’t want to fuck it up. Well about an hour later I finally made it down to the jump off. It was around lunchtime.

I really enjoy these weekend getaways. Its not really a luxury vacation but to me if offers more fun than any 5 star hotel can bring. It offers me peace of mind and it also trains my body to be one with the outdoors. As I arrive again in the hustle and bustle of the city I already am thinking about my next adventure and where it will be? who will be the new people I will meet and what other magnificent things I will see….

Till next time UP UP AND AWAY..

The Revenge of the GEAR NERDs : Mount Palali Nueva Viscaya

12227798_1672451889665315_2608898687770764363_n

So Im part of this small group called the Gear Nerds. This was a group formed after the storm climb of mount Ugo back in August 2015. Basically its a chat room between 4 fools who love great camping gear. I think we do more bantering about who has the best gear more than taking time reviewing it,  but this is what makes it fun.  A couple of months back we decided to plan a climb between the four of us to mount Palali.  The objective is to see the mountain in all its glory….Ok maybe not. We really just wanted an excuse to go out and break in the new cool toys we got and partake in  night socials that would involve pitting the MSR brand vs the Firemaple brand.

Our little sub group that loves new toys for the outdoors. From Right: Francis Magbitang, NoyNoy Generoso, Clarence Clarito and Cristopher Hassan Agcaoilli
Our little sub group that loves new toys for the outdoors. From Right: Francis Magbitang, NoyNoy Generoso, Clarence Clarito and Cristopher Hassan Agcaoilli

As time went by however we decided to open this climb up to anyone interested so the facebook invite was made and sent. I really didnt know what to expect from the hike. Up to that time I never even heard about that mountain. Its location and terrain was unfamiliar to me.  So my excitement was basically limited to bringing up my new toys and break them in.

I also had the chance to make a new friend at this trip. Her name is Katrijn from Belgium. She is new to the Philippines, a nature lover, and adventurer.  It was my college friend Jing Aro that recomended my group to her since Katrijn wanted to kindle the explorer in her, here in the Philippines. I was actually more worried about how she would blend with the group.  As the climb approach we jokingly make fun of each other saying that we may run out of English words to speak when conversing with her. When I met her for coffee my confidence of Katrijn blending in increased. Not only is she a nice outgoing girl but a true adventurer at heart like all of us. I had to make sure her gear is complete and during our coffee meet up I made sure to brief her on terrain and weather expectation since this mountain maybe a little more different than what she is use to.

Katrijn and I near the entrance of the Magpaliao falls. Enjoying the feeling of completing the hike
Katrijn and I near the entrance of the Magpaliao falls. Enjoying the feeling of completing the hike

Ok so finally day 0 arrived. Ralph, Katrijn and I met at the first pick up point. As always I rode shotgun with EJ, as the trusted driver,  leaving the two to get to know each other and exchange their cultural viewpoints at the passenger seats in the back. They did’nt know it at the time but I intentionally did not want to be part of their conversation so Katrijn and Ralph can get to know each other a bit more. I wanted her to get to know the Philippines and how good and friendly the people are. After an hour of traffic we finally reached the second rally point. Introduced our new friend to everyone while we wait for the group to be completed.

Everyone was present  and we set of around midnight, nothing much that happened during the trip. Looks like everyone was knocked out getting the much needed sleep before the trek. For me I was thinking about what this trail has in store for us. I was spending half the night surfing and just reading articles on it on any website I can find. Then again I know for a fact that this will never give me the full picture of the trail. It will only give me indications of the next 2 days. As morning approached and we got closer to the meeting point in Solano Nueva Viscaya I noticed that the weather was actually turning out to be a pleasant one. I was really happy about this, The last time I brought a group up the weather was not at all a pleasant one

We drove for another 30 minutes to the jump off however there was some miscommunication with the guides so we were about 30 minutes delayed hitting the trail. When we started I already knew the trek would be mostly humid and the vegetation will be thick. About a kilometer in all of us in the last group (the big boys) was sweating our assess off. I was a bit confident that Kat being in the second group was feeling right at home with my other friends, so I just had to worry about my big ass and pray I dont overheat like I did in usually do in humid hot trails,  The trail itself started with a slow steady incline, One big problem was the mud. It probably rained a couple of days before so the first part of the hike was covered in a thick layer of mud which forced us to be creative in walking. As expected I suffered my first slip which covered my hands and arms with grime and dirt (Damn i thought to myself, I was hoping to remain clean for awhile).  I kinda wanted to hit my head in a tree since I did not heed my feeling earlier of putting on gloves now my hands are all muddied up. What the hell right? Who cares? its part of the adventure.

A couple of hours in, I noticed the incline just kept on going and going. That combined with the mud started to take its toll on my group. The watersource is still far in,  and we were already halfway through our water reserves. Good thing the porter brought another 3 liters for us. We proceeded in a slow steady pace but there came a point where we all were already asking the guide how much farther it is. We asked him so may times I think he just started to give rough estimates just to shut us up. I dont even know why we ask. I have been doing this for awhile and its not as if we had a choice not to keep going.

My Salomon Forces hiking/tactical boot being put to a test in this trail
My Salomon Forces hiking/tactical boot being put to a test in this trail

The trail was filled with obstacles. Crawling beneath fallen trees, Avoiding sharp blades of grass, Ducking under thorn filled twigs and maneuvering between giant rock formations. It was tiring but freaking awesome. Felt like a kid given a free pass to play in the jungle.

Navigating through one of the many obstacles in the mountain. It was an awesome experience
Navigating through one of the many obstacles in the mountain. It was an awesome experience

After7 hours we finally hit the view deck they named Haring Bato (Rock King). It was a huge rock formation which gives access to the sights around the mountain. We were blessed with a 360 view of the surroundings and it was beautiful. I think we hit it just at the right time because it was clear and the clouds in the horizon let in sun rays to the land below revealing an awesome opportunity for our photographer Ralph Mariano

. It was a magnificent sight. It was also cold. 2 of my friends Marvin and Jerome had to wait for us to catch up and they almost froze as they napped in that area.  After a few pictures was taken we had to push to the campsite which is 3 more hours away. This means 2 hours of that will be a slow night trek.  By the time 5pm hit I had to give the order to break out the lights so we dont get caught by dark.

Photo by Ralph Mariano. Magnificent view provided by mother nature from the vantage point of Haring Bato
Photo by Ralph Mariano. Magnificent view provided by mother nature from the vantage point of Haring Bato

when 6pm hit and I was already in automatic zombie mode. I was hungry, frustrated and thirsty.  The only thing that kept me going is the thought of getting to the campsite and munching on that Adobong Pato prepared for us the day before. One thing about being the last to the campsite, is you can surely count on the food being ready for the picking.

Taking advantage to take a picture on top of Haring Bato with fellow Jiujitsu fighter Jerome (Papi)
Taking advantage to take a picture on top of Haring Bato with fellow Jiujitsu fighter Jerome (Papi)

Once I started to hear flowing water I felt a sigh of relief since the guide informed us the site is only 10 yards from the camping grounds. Good thing too, there was already an indication that it was gonna rain soon. Anyone who has been caught by a downpour in the mountains can testify to how much of a BITCH it is to set up camp in the middle of falling rain. When i got to the campsite my group had to contend with the last spaces available, Thats the disadvantage about being last. I was completely exhausted that I forgot the pitching instructions of my tent. Good thing the other Nerds are present to help me put it up.

After all was set up and done it was time for the socials. I was soooo looking forward to this since its been months since I drank with friends. Yeah they were still a little hesitant to give me a taste of  alcohol given that I kinda went insane last time, but I assured them that I was not gonna turn into a HULK that night, Thou that did not stop Jau from giving me less the amount of shots compared to everyone else. I dont blame him he was there when I lost it in the bar.

Isnt it amazing how the alcohol is never enough when your having fun?  I reckon we tore through 4 bottles in less than an hour.  We did get a bit noisy but only because we knew we were the only ones in the campsite. The socials also gave our Belgian visitor a chance to experience more of Filipino culture. What did we talk about? Basically same thing anyone would talk about in a bar or a club with one major difference…We have an awesome venue.

The campsite in mount Palali. Almost all are branded tents worthy of any gear nerd
The campsite in mount Palali. Almost all are branded tents worthy of any gear nerd

As the last bottle was nearing its end I decided to slip out and catch my needed sleep. I was’nt really the best in going down a slipery incline so I wanted to be alert. Last time I was in a similar situation I think I fell down more than 16 times. and I promise you slipping and recovering is a tiring process. Energy much better used to just walking down.

The thickness of the Jungle kinda made me feel as if I was in the movie predator.
The thickness of the Jungle kinda made me feel as if I was in the movie predator.

Dudes I have to say that walk down was a challenging one. We were slipping and sliding at some parts so you can only imagine what kind of laundry cleaning we will be doing when we get back. We decided to skip the summit since it did not have the clearing and we got our fair share of the surroundings in the Haring Bato viewdeck the day before. Our target today is to hit the Mapaliao Falls by 2pm. This would mark the end of the trek.  Our descent was slow given the mud and how slippery the trail was, but fortunately no one was injured. Yes ..Bruised ego, scraped arms and cut fingers but nothing to worry about.  A couple of hours into the trail We took a major rest stop in a small make shift shed down the first major descent. There was a man who allowed us to sit and chat there. Cool Dude. He offered us some of his boiled bananas and some local tobacco.

Like all good things that had to come to an end so we bid him farewell and proceeded down once again.

Clarence offering a hit of the homemade tobacco offered to us in the rest stop to the falls.
Clarence offering a hit of the homemade tobacco offered to us in the rest stop to the falls.

In all honesty I thought we were only an hour from the falls. I could already see houses and once we hit the concrete road my elation increased thinking “Oh shit finally we are here. I never knew it would take 2 hours more. I kept on thinking at every turn “this is it” but it just revealed another 30 meters of road to walk.  I was already mumbling curses at this point.

Finally I got to the end point.  Seeing my friends sitting and relaxing waiting for their turn to use the shower room. It was sooooooo good to also see a store where I could have a large serving of Coca Cola. I was so thirsty and hungry I literally engorged myself with the serving of Pancit Canton and Coke. After a couple of hours of enjoying the falls it was time to go back to Manila. I say goodbye to the beautiful mountain designated as mount Palali.

Photo by: Ralph Mariano, the Mapaliao Falls which marks the end of the trek at the mount Palali Traverse
Photo by: Ralph Mariano, the Mapaliao Falls which marks the end of the trek at the mount Palali Traverse

We got to Manila around 1am in the morning on the 9th of November. About 4 hours of my planned time. Damned trucks in the road literally slowed the entire journey. I also had the daunting task of cleaning everything I used for the climb. It was however a very enjoyable weekend away from the city. I love these journeys as I do it not to escape life but rather fully experience it. Its also nice to think that this successful gathering of people was conceptualized 2 months ago by 4 nerds in a facebook chatroom. When I reached the city and my home I am once again reminded how beautiful this world is and I must try to do what I can to have others experience it. Staying in the city surrounded by Malls, Bars and other city luxuries are ok and I am greatful, but it is a small little box compared to the hugeness of mother earth.  To close I would like to thank everyone who went up with me. Noynoy, Hassan, Bart Clarence, Marvin, Papi, Harold, Ralph, Jau, Shishi, and Kat you guys made this trip both memorable and enjoyable and I am forever grateful

Group 2 Enjoying the view at Haring Bato
Group 2 Enjoying the view at Haring Bato
The group at brak camp prepping for a day of hiking down
The group at brak camp prepping for a day of hiking down
The Three Jiujitsu Boys, 3 different teams but all agreed in enjoying the outdoors
The Three Jiujitsu Boys, 3 different teams but all agreed in enjoying the outdoors

with Clouds between my Knees (Dayhike Mount Ulap)

I would like to start this blog by telling you about my first time leading a group of both experienced moutaineers and newbies up a place called Mount Ulap or also known as Philex Ridge. I have been to this trail for the first time a couple of months before this hike along with the group of Weekend Gala. I loved it so much and its terrain presented itself as a very manageable trail for begginers but the sights it held was good enough to take the breath away from even the most experienced mountaineers.

It all started with just a simple gesture in my status box in facebook. I just asked who would be interested in taking a dayhike up Mount Ulap. Honestly I was expecting only a few to comment. I couldnt believe the response rate. In a matter of hours more than 20 comments and so many private messages flooded my facebook signifying their intent to hike. Most of them first timers to the world of hiking. This got me excited. I have organized hikes before but never to a group this size and given the fact that most of them were begginers I had to make sure that the event itself was enjoyable and safe.

I again approached the group of Weekend Gala to provide transporation for everyone. I really appreciate my friend Harold for coming up with this group. He provided a safe and convenient way to get to the far flung jump offs of the provinces. The more common method is to take a bus and transfer to another form of trasportation when you hit the midway point.

I have to admit I was nervous. I looked at this as a test or myself. I have to make sure all of them get down safely and also enjoy the hike at the same time. The preparation was not easy. I had cancellations but last minute additions and thanks to my other team leaders (Glen and Albert) We were able to finally come up with the 35 participants for the hike. I was so happy to see each one of them enter the meeting place in quezon avenue. Some of them I havent seen for years and contact was limited to messages and likes in facebook. So after a couple of hours we were off to the jump off via 3 vans. Most slept during the travel time to baguio and after picking up one in the Baguio area we hit the jump off around 7am in the morning.

I wasnt all that happy on what I saw. The weather was cold and fog enveloped the entire area. The main contact informed us that we may not see anything except clouds in front of our faces. The news made me a bit queasy. I felt as if the group was all looking at me thinking “you promised us great sights” . I was worried they would all be dissapointed with the hike. But I made the call. We already are in the jump off so I proceeded with the briefing and prayer. About 30 minutes later we were off !! We split ourselves into three groups proceeding in a steady pace. I didnt want to quicken it given that visibility was low. If we had to stop we stopped. A couple of hours in the fog got thicker and the winds started to get stronger. I myself was not really worried about it..Ive been through much worse however I was worried the newbies might freak out. My friend Joel asked me “Is this normal” ,best answer I could give him is not to worry because this happens to me all the time.

3 hours later we finally reached the ROCK, The viewing deck of Mount Ulap. A large rock formation overlooking the cliffside. The first time I was here the view was incredible. You can literally see the granduer of mother nature for miles around. This time around however all I could see is a thick blanket of white. I felt bad and GUILTY. I felt as if I offered everyone the short end of the stick on this one.

We tried to make the best out of it by taking pictures in the ROCK, I was thinking all throughout how to make this up to them maybe in future hikes. A few minutes later mother nature suprised me. That thick blanket of white fog suddenly dissapeared revealing a magnificent landscape. I really felt relieved and greatful. This made the trek down so much fun. The group was taking selfies, pictures , jump shots etc. But most of all everyone was getting to know each other. Imagine strangers the day before was frolicking like old friends on the way down.

Later on that day when we all got to the restaurant in Baguio to have our dinner I suddenly realized that the weather on the way up was not a bad thing at all. It made the newbies experience something new….Something they never experienced before. Sure it was a bit scary at one point but now they talk about the fog covered high wind morning more than the clear skies on the trek down. It became the thing they remembered.  Mother nature offered the entire group the best of both worlds. Clear skies and Rocky, but not dangerous, weather.

As I look back at the pictures of that day I feel greatful that I was able to show them the joys of mountaineering /hiking. To my suprise some of them are constantly asking me when will the next one be? I usually just tell them soon with a smirk. I sincerely hope though that I have shown them that day to respect the trails and the outdoors and I hope they have learned that the mountain should never be conquered..rather she should be visited like an old friend. She will show you magnificent landscapes and sights, She will teach you valuable lessons you will remember for life and she will always be there if you would want to visit her.

Photo Op with my good friend Papi (Jerome). One of the nicest guys in the planet and a fellow adrenaline junkie
Photo Op with my good friend Papi (Jerome). One of the nicest guys in the planet and a fellow adrenaline junkie

Group selfie before we hit the jump off of mount Ulap. Whats a climb if you cant document it right?
Group selfie before we hit the jump off of mount Ulap. Whats a climb if you cant document it right?

One of my favorite pictures of the hike. It kinda makes me feel like an Archangel
One of my favorite pictures of the hike. It kinda makes me feel like an Archangel

The whole group before the trek. Greatful to everyone trusting me to lead them
The whole group before the trek. Greatful to everyone trusting me to lead them