Sunday, June 24, 2012

Mt. Amuyao Traverse via Batad - Barlig

Location: Batad, Banaue to Barlig, Mountain Province
Jump-off Point: Batad, Banaue
2,702+ Meters Above Sea Level
Difficulty: Major Climb, 8/9

June 16 - 18, 2012

I first heard about Mt. Amuyao last year from the stories of my climbing buddy, Dennis Hisanan (as he has always been sharing with me all his climb experiences) and so, he told me, he already tried climbing such mountain through the traditional trail in Barlig, Mountain Province. They reached the summit and he said that one would be going through a long and tiring stairways assault.. I wasn’t interested that time, i know I’ll surely climb it but not like it's my priority, until I saw this mountain being featured in a 2012 calendar at our house. I became curious.  I saw the photo of its mossy trail. I wanna go there! “What's with Mt. Amuyao that makes it one of the popular hiking destinations in the Philippines?” I asked myself.

Then 2012 came, i listed down all my priority climbs for the year. My bucket list was done--- Mt. Amuyao was one of the targets.

I got excited upon knowing that my climbing buddy, Dennis, created an event and he was inviting me for a Mt. Amuyao traverse.. Wow! Exciting! Though at first, I wasn’t sure about the certainty of getting my leave approved, I still confirmed my participation in this climb. I really wanna try the traverse---it would be from Batad, Ifugao all the way down to Barlig, Mountain Province.

And the long wait was over! We're a total of 16 climbers, 14 coming from Manila and the 2 coming from Baguio).  I belong to the 14. And so, taking the Banaue-bound bus ( Ohayami transit), we had a  10-hour trip to the province of Ifugao.  It was good that our organizer already made ticket reservations. I don't know if a 10-hr trip is normal, i believe we could have arrived earlier if we didn’t encounter slow moving traffic somewhere in Nueva Vizcaya (road construction as they said).

Upon arriving in Banaue, we ate our breakfast and bought the needed things/food at the market. Then taking a hired jeep, we had a 2 hour travel to the jump off point in Batad, Ifugao.

The climb started! It was a descending trail at first (whew, it's my weakness!). We passed by various villages. We stopped  for lunch at Batad. It was a simple joy sitting at a very high altitude, eating our lunch while having a sightseeing of Batad Rice terraces. We resumed trekking, and this time, we walked a lot of stoned, slippery paths of the rice terraces. It's my first time to walk on it. It's quite dangerous as one you missed the focus on those narrow paths, you might fall down to a watery and muddy rice plantations and it's quite high. I heard stories from our guides that there are of course instances especially foreigners who fell down in these terraces. Focus and extra care should be given enough attention.

We reached the Cambulo Village and took a longer stop and rest there. I even rewarded myself a satisfying nap  to recharge my strength. We resumed trekking and this time I tried to increase my speed. It was like i want a continuous trek with less rest. This is because until such time i haven't arrived myself yet into the state in which "I am in the mood to climb." I must say i didn’t have any training climb or warm up  in preparation for this major climb. The last time I climbed was in March this year. I believe it's still better to get some warm ups or run or at least a practice climb to get the body in a ready climbing mode. Well, I just endured the difficulty and eventually enjoyed the trail.

In the middle of hiking at the rice terraces, it rained and we stopped until heavy rains were gone. Understandably, we could not find any shed. Thanks for the tarp of Sir Chris David which gave good shed for us. Other companions during this time were Kuya Mel, the guide and Mike Salvacion. This was also the moment when I tried "nganga" for the first time. Nganga is popular in their area (including some of the neighboring provinces), this is something they chew for warmth and stronger teeth as well as a social culture thing. I've been trying to just interview Kuya Mel about it and there, I finally tried it for myself.. It's the combination of the nut-like  fruit , lime powder and a leaf which you'll simultaneously chew making an orange effect on your mouth and then you’ll have to spit it after a few minutes. I just chewed it a bit and the spit it immediately I wasn’t that comfortable to stand that kind of taste of  a fruit that has yet to ripen. I’ll try again next time.  It's just something unusual to me and they laughed at how I did it.

The rains stopped (but not totally gone )and yet the rest of our companions had not arrived yet, we even thought that we took a wrong trail. The three of us decided to stay beside a little falls and wait for the others. Such point also marks the end of the rice terraces trail.

The rest finally arrived; many of us have started to lose energy due to the long trek. They also told that one of our companions decided to backtrack to Banaue. I must say I agree with her decision, she and only she can tell and decide if she can stand this major climb. It's not cowardice it's actually a respect to oneself as well as being honest.

Moving on, after regrouping at the end of the rice terraces trail, we’re ready to resume. That was 6pm to be exact. We were about to enter the forest and ascending trails were about to faced by us. Our target was the campsite in Patyay Village. I held on to the guide's promise that it would only took around 3 hours to get there. At first we had an ascending river crossing trek, we passed by the flowing water, tolerable and not deep but as usual, i was afraid of the slippery rocks. Again, I preferred to get my shoes and pants wet rather than risk myself walking on such rocks. The going gets tough as they say. The trail is getting steep; it's now a literal climb as one would be using the force of the entire body to keep on climbing. The rain continued and it really added challenge to us.  It apparently made the climb messier and even tougher. We had to manage the muddy and slippery trail. By the way, few limatiks (mountain leeches) were encountered.

We took the first set of assault I enjoyed it.. and then we regrouped again.

We resumed.  Nonstop assault, nonstop slippery trail, sharp-bladed  tall grasses making our hands full of cuts--- 2 hours--  3 hours has passed..  We're getting tired yet hopeful for the arrival at Patyay Village.. The guide said, 2 or 3 hours more  and so we continued the trek. Few more hours and there was still no Patyay Village that we could see..We kept on assaulting and climbing and climbing.. We got hungry and more tired and yet we haven't arrived.

Thankful that I was in the mood even though I was finding it hard to bear the long steep trek. I was getting weaker and I must admit that I almost lose patience. For the first time, i felt like we were in the wilderness -- no hope!

I even prepared myself that we might get there at the campsite almost dawn. And how about our other companions? Are they still okay? That was around 11pm (remember we started to enter the forest at 6pm).  We reached the long awaited peak of that steep mountain that we were agonizing for about  5 hours.. I got excited and regained my hope.

An hour has passed descending the trail. I have observed that we're still standing at a very high elevation. I believe more time has still to be spent on descending. I composed myself and just like my companions, I recharged my body by filling my stomach, I almost ran out of trail food which should be my supply for the  3-day climb.

We continued and finally, we arrived at the Patyay village. That was around 1 am already. Whew, what an achievement!
Some of us pitched their tents and majority of us just set their tarp and slept there (overlooking the stars above). I was one of those who rented in an inn-like house there. This was because I know I would not be able to stand the cold temperature later on.

 A new day  came. It was our Day 2. My muscles were badly in pain and it’s like I was moving my body in a slow motion. The guides said that though the trek is still long, the trail is much better that those of the trails we took in the previous day. They were right--- of course there are still assaults and yet our legs can still adapt because there are gradual and relaxing trails. We passed by a very beautiful falls along the trail. Some of the guys enjoyed swimming and there, we ate our lunch. After this, we started to enter the forest.  The target was the waiting shed up there, approximately 3 or 4 hours depending on the pace. The trail was an alternate of gradual and assault types. There are lots of landslides and logs that we encountered on the trail.  I was a bit impatient about the lengthy trek and yet we could see the same things—landslides and steep, messy trail,  and cliff.. or perhaps I was just  too exhausted. Although from time to time, there are areas that are already mossy. I was amazed and relaxed when we reached the ridge. Too bad, it rained! We had to continue the trek. However, due to the cold rains pouring over us, we still stopped for a while under those sheds of big trees. And so the mossy forest started. I was able to take a picture of the sun rays forcing itself to light up the dark moss covered- forest. How dramatic!

We reached the waiting shed. They said it’s just an hour away from that point up to the summit. But this time I didn’t believe them (laughing!) considering how tired we were already.. Three of the team which were few hours ahead of us ( Caprice, Chris and Jay) were surely there already. We waited for the others and took some food to recharge our body and it was badly getting cold. I even wore an anti-chilling attire, a garbage bag!

A two-hour hungriness (perhaps because I only ate soup before this assault), chilling body and tantrums, I had to manage myself and kept myself convinced that I would soon reach the peak. I could barely open my mouth and didn’t talk much with my companions especially with Buddy, I was getting weaker and I was already trekking very, very slowly, until we observed the grass bamboos (higher than those I saw in Mt. Pulag), .. I knew then that we were approaching the summit. We reached the open,  steep trail.. a grassland with initially a cliff on right side, it was of course risky, I had to focus unless I die falling on the cliff. The thin air and cold fog also greatly added to the challenge. I pushed myself until we reached  the grassland but this time the grasses are taller than us. Few more assaults, few more steps and there, we saw the red light of the tower marking the summit. 

It was so cold! I was chillin’. My usual term for this is that I am “comatose” I could barely move my body. We stayed at the bunk house there and prepared our food. And the rest of us started to arrive. What we were worried the most was about sir Paul who was already chilling badly and having difficulty ascending .. we heard, he had decided to have E-camp (emergency camp), making our guides to be alert to supply him the needed food and materials. Until late night, he arrived! He persevered! He made it to the summit that night! Salute! Of course he was already not feeling well but he still managed and conquered himself to reach the peak.

Practically, if you really want to follow the 3-day itinerary of this traverse, you would have no other option but to keep on going until you reached the desired point where you could stay. For me, E-camp is not advisable in the middle of the forest trek because of messy and steep trails (no good area where you can stop to set camp). Cold temperature might also be unbearable at night and the space is limited. The areas here where I could say, if given no choice and only if there are no other options but to set E-camp are: the ridge after the descent from the peak on Day 1; the ridge we passed on day 2 before reaching the mossy forest on the way to the waiting shed and; the waiting shed itself. For more relaxed/extended/longer days of traverse making it a 4-day itinerary, possible stop/stay before Patyay village could be the Cambulo Village on Day 1.

On our third day, we enjoyed taking pictures with mountainous views at the summit.  There were instances of clearing yet fogs were still covering the views from time to time. We spotted some seas of cloud but it’s a bit far away from the summit.

Our descent was a total knee challenge. It’s a continuous, established trail, with woods making it like stairways and thus holding and keeping  the steps from sliding. However, due to dews making it a wet trail, one could still be prone to slide down, as such woods are really slippery if not given proper attention. As I went down, I tried to imagine if I were to take the traditional trail which means this should have been the assault and such assault, I believe, is  an ascent  twice the challenge of the descent. Although trail is established, it’s still steep. After such, gradual trails followed.  After 3 or 4 hours (on the average), we finally took the cemented paths  of the rice terraces to reach the final stop marking the successful traverse.

I was amused at the residential area as we were approaching the highway of the Barlig town. Houses are built next to each other, some are in the upper part and others in the lower area, thus truly forming a mountainous village with the highway on the top.

We tidied ourselves up and then hired jeep were ready to go back to Banaue where we could ride back to Manila. There is only one trip during that day (Monday) and the call time is 7pm. Hassles, we did encountered --- unreserved seats at Ohayami transit (8 of us  transferred  into another bus in Lagawe town; and of course, the  traffic. We had an unforgettable  16-hour trip from Banaue to Manila due to traffic.

Ooops, I guess i must also indicate in this write up that signal during the trek is not stable. It made me a little uncomfortable since I have important things to get communicated thru cellphone. Our source regarding the network signal seemed to be wrong.  However, at Patyay village as well as the waiting shed ( 1 or 2 hours away from summit), the signal is good.

Great to meet too some of the Castle Mountaineers namely Rea, Talia, Jorge and Warrior.

I was excited about this climb, I knew its difficulty is 8/9 and the actual climb really brought a great challenge and a real test to my patience and perseverance. All the hardships would have just to be charged to experience. Thankful to God for keeping us safe.  I will never forget all my complaints and tantrums over a long, steep trail in the middle of the trek, yet after completing the entire traverse, it’s really a satisfying joy that I felt-- that I conquered myself in one of the great Cordillera mountains (through a reverse traverse trail) and hey, it’s one of the highest mountains in the Philippines.

mountainous view at the summit of Mt. Amuyao

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Sunday, June 3, 2012

6 Reasons Why I Love Mountain Climbing

Almost two months of busy days with my personal life, at work and other important events, I only had one hiking activity (and not an official climb) for the entire duration of busyness, and my hand seemed to have been dragging out to my laptop, yes! I got no stories to share with you since I didn’t get to participate or organize any climb event and yet my heart just overflowed to share something.

I’m writing this essay to express my thoughts on the discovery of a passion, the lessons I get and at the same time, having the opportunity to help other people and the chances to  travel and reach different destinations. So, here are the six reasons. Let me expand each of these.

      1. I Discovered a Passion

I have never imagined this before. If I’ll be tracing my life back through my journals, I never thought I would become a mountaineer for real. Or perhaps, the only indication then is that I love adventures and I really enjoy simple hiking activities in the province back when I was a student. (As mentioned in my previous post “I love Nature. I Love Mountains.”) It was only when I was already working when I planned engaging into outdoor activities.

What am I trying to say-- that discovering this passion to climb really added colors and directions to my life. Yes, it makes my journey extra exciting and it makes me discover more about myself.

I must admit, climbing isn’t easy and indeed a risky activity. I admit that sometimes I do experience tantrums in the middle of an inconvenient climb, yet after I went through and endured such, I feel an indescribable feeling of joy, compliment to myself, satisfaction and fulfillment—that I have gone through such difficulties yet I survived. I did it because I love what I am doing. I heart this outdoor activity.

 ‘Found myself recalling the earlier years of my life.. Was it really my dream to be on top of the summit? And so I say, “Not really.” Yes.. it wasn’t. Maybe because I’m already a country girl, a person who’s seeing nature is like just normal to me since I’m from a far away province. But wait!!!! It might not be an unacceptable reasoning; it must have been part of the reasons but not a major one. Or perhaps, it is that I enjoy walking, I can stand a long walk without becoming too much tired or if I get tired, I just can endure it.

Why do I climb? This is a indeed cliché..  a question that  one will have never to miss and hear especially when you join a climb or when you start a conversation with any climber. It’s just like.. “you have to answer it!!!!” Just kidding.. but of course I would have to answer such question…

So, here’s my fair share--
I truly enjoy walking..
I enjoy wandering..
 I enjoy being enclosed by the nature..
 I enjoy pushing myself to limit knowing that up there in the summit is an intangible price of being a witness of God’s creative hands..
I want serenity.. I want to converse with God..  and so I climb!!

Whenever I climb, it also reminds me that I should be thankful that I am strong—I can walk with my two feet in the trail, I can see the beauty of the nature and I can hear the sounds of birds and other animals as I trek.
And there, I believe I have awakened and discovered a passion that is buried within me. My heart jumps for joy whenever I am anticipating a fast approaching climb event.

I could still remember the days when everything was just uttered words “I wanna try mountain climbing” and everything was just a plan,  that was after I tried hiking up Mt. Pinatubo  and now here I go when trails, trees, rivers, falls, wild life of the mountains are openly waiting for me. To make it more convincing, for the love of target mountains in my bucket list, I was able to organize some climb events with the help of my climbing buddy and close mountaineering friends.

To date, I am on my way to a two-year belongingness in mountaineering world.—around 30 summits and counting, including a lot of major climbs and a solo trek. More mountains await, I know I am not yet in a position where I can say something big like a veteran mountaineer ( I must also confess that I haven’t even attended any Basic Mountaineering Course (simply known by typical mountaineers  as BMC), but of course I’m planning to join one. What I have learned to date are from practical lessons of the actual climb)Yes, I could  not and would not brag (and even if I would be a veteran in climbing, I don’t think of any reason that I should brag) Yes, I am excited! I have lots of mountains to summit and climb stories to share.

So that’s it! And What’s the relevance? What I am trying to point out is that it is passion that would set you to the area where you could enjoy at. It is where you are planted that you’ll make your heart sing and dance for joy.

   2. Mountain Climbing made me choose to become a dreamer

Mountaineering also taught me to become a dreamer, not just to climb to make it a mere outlet from a week’s tiredness at work,(of course it’s a common reason). Just like in life, one needs a direction to carry on. Once a purpose or direction is gone, he or she can never continue. I would like to relate my life being an accountant with this—when I was a child, all I wanted  was to finish my study, and then I realized I should specify one, I dreamed of becoming a teacher or in a bank or be in a corporate world so I decided to take up accountancy;  when I was  in college and few more years I’ll be graduating, I realized it was not enough, I should pass my board exams after graduation in order to become a CPA, when I got my license, I dreamed of a good job, When I landed a good job, it was the first time I seemed to get stuck in my journey, I thought I’m already ok with what and where I was. It was one of my darkest moments of my life, I though it’s the end of my pursuit since I already got what I really wanted before. I stopped dreaming and I really didn’t  know what I really want. And I was wrong. I should continue to carry on and aspire for more such as to get promoted and become a more improved and knowledgeable finance officer and an expertise in my chosen field. God has indeed more in store for me, I strongly believe. He wants me to enjoy life and live a life in full. I engaged myself to different activities including serving in a church/community which really gives me an opportunity to serve and satisfies my desire and pursuit to do something noble for God’s glory.

 Moving on, I believe that once one is no longer challenged, everything gradually gets boring and may eventually makes him/her lazy and have an unwanted life. To become a mountaineer for some, including me, is to thirst for new mountains to explore, or to test himself with more difficult ones. When I little by little got familiar with mountaineering, I set a short-term goal and dreamed of a difficult climb. It was Mt. Sicapoo (2,354 meters above sea level)  with a 9/9 scale of difficulty that I want to try myself out, the hardest climb in the Ilocos region. And I made a successful traverse of it along with my companions last February 23-35, 2012. It made my climbing activities extra fun and exciting since I have something I was really looking forward for.  I engaged myself to various training climbs and run. I was so determined. This is because I wanted to attain the vigor and strength that I need. My next target is with the same level of difficulty in the local mountaineering  --the Knife Edge Trilogy which are Mt. Guiting-Guiting in Romblon, Mt. Mantalingahan in Palawan, and Mt. Halcon in Mindoro (the third one is uncertain yet) . Of course I want to try the 3 highest  mountains in Mindanao which includes Mt. Apo, the highest mountain in the Philippines. Wow, I seem to be too brave to utter these dreams. As a responsible mountaineer, I will prepare and train myself well for these so that I will be well-equipped, physically strong enough and emotionally determined to do all of these

   3. Mountain climbing taught me some values.

It  taught me to become spontaneous,  disciplined and more patient.  Just like other outdoor activities, mountain climbing, though fun, is also a very dangerous activity. One would need a good  disposition, faith,  positive thinking, determined mind and focus. I could vividly remember during our descent in our Mt. Sicapoo climb where we had to traverse it through Mt. Timarid. I lost my concentration and I got distracted perhaps because of tantrums, tiredness and excessive thinking. I fell and slipped on the trail not just once but I think more than thrice, and once, I almost bagged my face into the trail. I was like catching a frog but failed to catch it. Literally, fell downward with my whole body completely  thrown away. and It happened in a thorny, messy  forest. And because I was distracted I also almost fall into a cliff, it was not necessarily a cliff but It was a very narrow side trail (seems like terraces/plantation) and once you missed a single step not giving a focus on it, you could surely roll down). One more thing is when we hiked up Mt. Banahaw and my chin got scratches and got injured because of slippery rocks while we were crossing a river. I seriously and normally am afraid of rocks and mosses.(oh yes, you should laugh at me and reprimand me for having such fears, I am trying to do something to be confident in such trails, it’s for me to make me conquer myself in the difficult mountains  that I am dreaming of).

And would you believe that I cried not being able to summit  Mt. Mayon. Yes, I did! It is one of the mountains  where there is a right target time to reach the summit and one should go summiting it only when he/she’s given a fair weather for safety purposes. To continue, I was so excited for such climb and we had a not-so-bad weather upon reaching Camp 1 on Day 1. We were so hopeful for the following day, the summit day,  and we even slept very early for that. And around 2 am of Day 2, it rained. It rained so hard and almost didn’t stop until the sun went up in the morning. We had a foggy weather. If I were to decide for myself, I would push through, since at around 8am, the sun started to show up. But of course, as reminded by my companions, “Safety First”. A mountaineer knows the true definition of courage, he knows when to go and when to back track.

Moreover, I am always very well prepared with unanticipated rains or any other inconvenience like extreme heat of the sun during the climb. I believe its normal and I should endure and accept it and not kill the excitement of the climb. Hey, it’s part of the climb! It’s never a smooth journey at all times. 

Patience is a virtue. Sometimes, aside from, I should stand firm from a very lengthy trek, I associate patience also in the instance that no matter how  I desire for a certain climb, I could not do so because of some unavoidable circumstances or more important events that made the planned climb conflict with my schedule. What I usually say to myself is, “The mountains are always there. It will wait for you for a lifetime.”

                  4. Mountain climbing offers opportunities to render help to other people and to do something for a noble purpose.

      What I also love about mountain climbing is that it’s not only for fun or for amusement. There is always a good opportunity to do something good or do a climb for a cause.  You may hear about various outreach climbs and tree climbing activities.

     Others may not prefer it but for me, a mission climb is a activity. You enjoy the passion to climb and at the same time you are able to help out our  less fortunate and indigent brothers and sisters in those remote mountainous areas. As the title goes about my first outreach climb—generosity and vigor should be  combined— for such activity. Honestly, I have only engaged  once (to date) for each of the mentioned activities—an outreach climb for the Dumagat natives in Mt. Irid and a tree planting in Mt. Sembrano. Although, I am still looking for other possible mission climbs to join at. Hopefully, if time permits me, I would again be able to participate or might as well initiate and organize and encourage my mountaineering friends for an outreach climb. 
         5. Mountain climbing opens doors for friendships.

     It’s also a big “plus” that I make friends in every event. How amazing that different people from different walks of life find and meet each other and share the same passion of scaling the mountains. It’s like I’m having a good appetite whenever I have conversations with mountaineers because we share good and not-so-good ideas, funny and serious climbing moments, similar and dissimilar experiences. I believe I meet many people, interact and make friends with some of them for a purpose. Something beautiful is always going to happen--- friendships, deeper relationships.

      6. Lastly, Mountain climbing gives me a bonus—to become a traveller at the same time and now I am able to blog and share my stories.

      As the ad says to promote tourism in our country, "It’s more fun in the Philippines!". And it really is. Before I became a mountaineer, I once asked myself, “when can I ever  travel around the Philippines and how?”  I once became an auditor with a hope that such job somehow gives me chances to get into different destinations but I just didn’t get lucky to get assigned to far away places. Anyway, what's important is that my work now, though not more of travel, allows me to still have balance with recreational activities and meaningful weekend activities.

      I still consider myself  new to mountaineering and travel, don’t you see and I am so hyper and excited. I’m looking forward for our set Mindanao 123 (Mt. Apo, Mt. Kitanglad and Mt. Dulang-dulang) expedition in August this year. And of course, who won’t be targetting  international climbs after all of these? I’m eyeing for Mt. Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia to start with. Although this was already set and already in my bucket list for 2012, but due to some circumstances and more important reasons, I’m forgetting it temporarily for this year. Unless, somebody would like to sponsor me for such climb? <wink>

      A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step as Lao Tzu said. I’m holding on to my passion. I’m holding on to my dreams. I made my first few steps. I know I can seize the given life that God has given me. I can do not only something, and because of the reasons above, I can do many things as a mountaineer. I am a mountaineer by heart.

My third time in Rockies, October 2011 (Mt. Maculot, Cuenca, Batangas)
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