Why I climb

January 20, 2016 Mountain Climbing

I climb to get away from it all and to take everything in; to discover my limits and to see how vulnerable I am; to experience greatness and to also learn how little I am. 

Why am I writing this?  Well, there is nothing like a climbing accident to force me into introspection. I must admit that after my accident, going back to the trails did not seem like a good idea.  Everytime I look at my left leg, I see reminders why I should shift my attention to another hobby.  I see the disappointment in my mom’s face when she looks at the scars on the legs she cared for when I was growing up.

But, the trails always call.

Before I raise some eyebrows, I have a qualifier. I am leisure climber.  Though I have experienced exploration climbs, I am more into those established routes and trails. It is in now to put a distinction between the “mountaineer” and the “climber,” like how we distinguish between a “traveler” and a “tourist.”

Back in the day Mt. Pulag was a great escape and not a place for rendezvous

Another favorite Mt. Pulag shot from the same photographer, Atty. Jong Navarro.

Used to come here often and I am still looking forward to another Mt. Pulag climb.
When I got into the sport, all I wanted was to see and accomplish something new.  My friend, Dino, invited me to climb Mt. Amuyao.  I did everything wrong – packed the wrong stuff; wore the wrong shoes, even the wrong clothes. It was a failed attempt but on hindsight, situations like these count. 

I experienced something there, this huge feeling of mixed fear and loneliness. I willingly placed my life at the  mercy of the mountains. I was so far away from home. I was also afraid the energy I had left was not enough to last me the whole trip.  

Since then, there were so many times I wished I was just in a cozy bar drinking beer.  When I was being feasted on by the limatics of Mt. Halcon; or feeling like a dried fish from the heat when we explored the mountains of Zambales; or freezing like meat that should not be spoiled in the campsite of Mt. Kanlaon, I also wished I didn't subject myself to that much pain and strain.

That is what the mountains do to us. It let us feel emotions in high definition.  It brings out the worst and the best feelings.

There is this great satisfaction everytime I reach the summit.  It is almost the feeling of landing a new account for my company; or seeing my favorite team or person win; or scoring a great sale, but not quite.  It is more intense. It is soaring, tumbling and freewheeling.

Then, it is followed by this this immense feeling of peace.  Have you ever seen the sky accented both by the rising moon and the setting sun at the same time like that on the summit of Gulugod Baboy?  Or the sun slowly dissipating the darkness and giving colors to the sea or clouds like in Mt. Pulag? Or simply a sky filled with stars like on the mountains of Bacun?

I remember these times, when my mind is quiet and in the moment.  For a person like me, who thinks of a hundred things all at the same time and takes worrying as a past time, these moments are precious and few and are worth all the pain.

Then, we open a bottle of cheap alcohol, pass the shot around and listen to the most amazing stories from everyone – the people we climbed with; the campers from another group; and the guides or locals who helped us in our ascent.  Freed from labels.  None are seen as business owners, or MBA graduates, or globetrotters.  All are equals with great stories.

I must say, the best stories I know are those I heard during these set-ups.  We talk about the most awe-inspiring places we visited.  We talk about the ethereal sulphur forest of Mt. Talinis, the coffee that’s always waiting for us at the house of Tatay Peryeng in Mt, Manabu, or the creepy tales of Mt. Cristobal.  And, because we share the same experiences, the understanding is on a deeper level.

Breathtaking. One of the lakes of Mt. Talinis.
To the summit of Mt. Kanlaon with my friends.  You can see our campsite from this pic.

We talk about the things we do for the mountains.  We do not just only take, we also give.  I have always been an admirer of mountaineers and climbers.  Not only have they established the trails for us, they have also led the way to a more meaningful path.

This hobby that we have can move up the people to their higher selves. That is why we the mountaineers or the climbers are usually the most concerned about the environment, about the plight of indigenous people and the people affected by calamities, and are always the first to go into action.

Inspired by this, more than 8 years ago, my friends and I established a group called TREK or Trails to Empower Kids.  We wanted to do something to give back to the communities in the mountains to who we owe the fulfillment of our hobbies. They are the people who take care of both the mountains and the mountaineers or climbers. 

The idea started when we climbed Mt. Apo then it came into fruition when we climbed Mt. Ugo a month after, when we were identified the first community we wanted to help and as they say, the rest is history.  

We conducted a 10-day outreach program in Kibungan, Benguet during TREK's 5th Anniversary and we were able to squeeze in a climb.  Mt. Kilkili gives a magnificent sweeping view of both Kibungan and Bacun.

So, after I met the accident in Mt. Tabayoc, one of the questions asked of me aside from when I will climb again is what will happen to TREK.  I always think of TREK as an organization that already has a life of its own and is made up of the most awesome volunteers.  That question didn’t really bother me.  It was really the company of my fellow volunteers that I knew I would greatly miss so when I knew my legs could already handle a bit of pressure, I signed up again for a TREK.  So, a month ago, I have gone back to the trails It was not a major climb but it didn’t fall short on the experience and camaraderie.

I am actually looking forward to the next TREK though I am not sure if my legs are still up for those challenging routes, but then again, it is often the most daring that are the most surprising.  Who knows? I might also surprise myself.  Or maybe I should stick to the familiar and let the sights evoke old memories and form new ones.

But, it is really the feeling of being unstoppable, that no matter what, I will achieve.  The mountain gave me that and I want to claim that again.  It is the resilience, the belief that I could do it and the faith that I could also overcome any obstacle. 

It is also the acceptance that sometimes we have to stop or call it a day, then feel good that it was the right decision made. It is not a matter of not having enough skills nor confidence.  It is knowing when to risk it without compromising safety too much. 

Filipinos' favorite. Mt. Kinabalu is also beautiful.

Here is another favorite, Mt. Kabunian

There are really so many reasons why I climb and it is not just to have those nice photos I post on instagram and facebook that others will just have to enjoy in pictures. (And yes, I accompany thiis,post with the best shots, most taken by my climbing buddies). The feelings are really incredible, the friendships are solid and the rewards are unending. 

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