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.