Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Facing the Wind-chill Factor

Nelson, a fellow climber in the early 90’s sent me a test message to attend a baptism of Chris and Angel’s son who are in Manila from U.K. this 28 January. For me, the invitation wasn’t for a grand feast. It was to organize a climb this 3rd February for a motley group of an unconfirmed number who have not climbed in years. Other than finding out their preferences and those who were definitely not climbing, nothing was arranged.

Another follow up meet was set up 30 January with Jonnell T. and Marc C. who have shown interest to join as part of the once a quarter climb program in 2007. After a “pre-pre”-climb meeting at Bellini’s over pizza and wine, we proceeded to Ventura in Manila to concretize the plan.

Mountain with a spectacular view within easy reach from Metro Manila and moderately easy for the unconditioned” were the specs given. Choices were narrowed down to Talim in Laguna de Bay 438 meters ASL, Tarak in Mariveles 1,288 M ASL, Talipanan in Galera 1,296 M ASL and as a contingency, Manalmon in San Miguel 196 M ASL.

While planning for the Logistics requirements for at least 7 participants a day before the climb, Chris sent a text message from his conditioning day climb in Maculot saying “Wouldn’t it be great to cap the climb at the beach?” That sealed the climb to Talipanan.

Talipanan is reached via the Batangas Port gateway which a 75 kilometer landtrip from Manila (about 2 hours), a 1 1/2 boat ride to the Mindoro Island (via Muelle, Balatero or directly to White Beach) and a 3 hour trek from the Mangyan Village in Barangay Aninuan to the mountain’s shoulder.

Actual climb can be phased in 3: the 1st hour of a steep ascent up the ridge, 2nd hour at the ridge at 353 M ASL slowing elevating to the cliff like slopes, and the final 3rd hour with 3 challenging long inclined trails up to our campsite at 775 M ASL. Level of difficulty was made tougher by the hot afternoon sun and the strong continuous wind blowing westward towards sunset.

Fortunately the group held on until the end. Victor “Sensei” an inactive Aikido instructor, a private, unlicensed chef has not climbed since the 2001 Pulag. He carried the group’s equipment and half of the kitchen. Marc, the novice with a complete set of hardly used hardware and an unlimited supply of chocolate kept pace through his youth and zeal. Luis put one over us with his determination and light weight pack consisting mostly of personal effects. Those trekking with full gears of course could not keep up with him. Chris who does multi day climbs in Scotland whose most recent conditioning climb was the day climb to Maculot was expected to adjust to the group’s speed, even with his heavy self contained pack and his loaded digital SLR camera and accessories.

Equipment too held on. Temperature dropped to 16° C excluding the wind chill factor of the strong winds which enveloped the group starting at the 2nd phase up to the campsite. The full moon exactly on that night could only intermittently illuminate us because clouds filtered its way. Only a halo at the center was free from obstruction that allowed us to identify groups of stars in the constellation.

Our chef assisted by Marc and Luis still managed to cook the perfect rice and to prepare several main meals varying from mushroom, fish, pork added with spices, herbs, olive oil and other secret condiments. The Optimus, MSR and Gigapower by Snowpeak kept on firing without windscreens. Defying the wind, they did not fail. While the stoves were overworked, they heated up the cooksets just fine for Sensei to prepare meals which touched on the tongue’s palate not usually tapped. Chocolates provided by Marc capped the meal. The more daring ones sipped Jacob’s Creek white wine and VSOP brand to warm the cooling bodies before calling it a day.

The wind even got more ferocious as the night got deeper threatening to rip off the tents. Gladly, the tents too withstood the pressures. The wind was blowing off everything that came its way. Getting up the morning after was as difficult as the climb itself. But that too did not stop our invited chef to prepare a staple breakfast-genuine Vienna Sausage, Corned Beef with onions, olive oil and condiments and omelet and hot Swiss Choco. Meal was more than enough to fuel our energy needed for the descent.

Our climb was rewarded with short socials among fellow climbers we met at the lone tree along the trail. The quality of stories exchanged supplemented the brief unstructured socials we held at the campsite abruptly cut short by the deafening winds. 

Our encounter with the AMCI group of outdoor lover blogger Dave of http://ialman.livejournal.com/ can be technically qualified as a climber’s eyeball. We found out too that some boat trips were delayed which prevented the group to trek that Saturday afternoon. Then we realized that we were lucky that with all the set backs in this climb, we completed it. Reaching the ground zero at the white beach, Chris treated us to a crunchy, filling Italian Pizza at Pasta Margarita, food which is uncommon after a climb.

The Wind-chill factor for me was not the rough movement of air. It stood for the challenges of the climb. In the company of co-heroic and responsible leaders Victor, Luis, Marc and Chris including Nelson and Jonnell interfering via MMS and text messages, it was an opportunity to test if everyone has leadership potential. Key of which is simply the unlocking of the potential which broke loose in Talipanan. Several critical decision points were set up for us to get our common vision: to climb, camp and get back. Important questions were asked which when acted upon differently would change the course of our expedition. They were simple: How many are climbing? Who has the equipment? What about our food? What will we ride? Where do we meet? Where do we park? What boat ride will we take? Do we land in Sabang, Muelle or White Beach? Where do we eat lunch? Do we take a tricycle or the jeep to the jump-off point? Where is the jump-off point? Where do we camp? 

Descending at the shoreline we asked the most important question, where do we reward our accomplishment: at Lucas at the extreme West? or Pasta Margarita at the Center. Truly leaders showed up in small and major acts in the 5 of us: responding to text message, meeting schedule, volunteering to pay, fastening canvas cover, selecting the boat ride, selecting the meal menu, paying for the bill, buying bananas, sharing the load, following instruction, keeping pace, sharing stories, looking for the best campsite, sharing water, sharing trail foods, taking pictures, cooking, picking the trash, setting up the tent, pegging the guy lines, cleaning the cook sets and in other acts.

Chris mentioned, after a climb especially the ones which are hard on us, we feel invigorated afterwards. I could not adequately explain. But Edwin Berbaum, author of the Sacred Mountains of the World writes in his book abut finding our center “This sense of vastness allows us to find the center of everywhere, not just on the summit of a mountain. If we remain open to the world around us, aware of its boundless, mysterious nature, then no matter how far we travel, we never come to the edge. The horizon moves away from us so that we always walk in the middle of the circle. The power of the center stays with us, and the fear we have of losing it vanishes. No longer bound to a particular place or occupation, we feel free to go anywhere and do anything, knowing that wherever we go, whatever we do, we will always be in touch with the reality of the world and ourselves.”
Returning back home in Manila at 7:30 PM with the experience, it made us ask, “Have we done all that in 37 hours for a mere P 700?” I recalled the campsite sometime past midnight when the full moon was right below us putting us at the center. Berbaun explained it, we 5 lived it, at least for that weekend.

5 February 2007

Fotos by Chris Patten
Tree, Sky, Rainbow and Moon Gazing Photos by Luis B.

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