Saturday, July 14, 2007

Projecting a "Truer" Picture of the Pinoy Mountaineer

Wednesday, 07 June 2006

The successful ascent of Leo, Erwin and Romy to the roof of the worldthis May 2006 undoubtedly created a widespread interest to mountain climbing both to the current crop of climbers and to the uninitiated. Suddenly there is a surge of interest to alpine climbing which was then thought of as an exclusive domain of the westerners, Japanese,Koreans and Singaporeans. The focus of the two media networks on team and individual expeditions built up a hype which may have distorted the picture of a typical pinoy mountaineering.

It is a race. It is expensive and can cost you an arm and a leg. Guides are vital and are key to the expedition. Anyone with resource can make it to the top. Success is met with recognition, failure with death.

Chiqui Roa-Puno's talk show "In My Life" aired over ANC week of 29 May 2006 featured mountaineers from UPM, Pilipinas Sierra bounded what the pinoy mountaineer is. The guests, talking from their personal experiences revealed the formal and informal values that guide them and the distinct culture that appear to bind them even if they do not know each other. A basic mountaineering course is a necessary foundation before one joins the group to a climb.

Harness is for scaling walls and is not necessarily brought in regular climbs. Shoes with good traction and hard sole are necessary. Mojos while popularly used are for certain terrains. A backpack contains the essential kits to survive a climb: a mini kitchen to prepare food, a tent for shelter, food and water provision for the body fuel. It may not necessarily be huge. Equipment can be shared.Women do not necessarily get special attention. They are treated as equals. But inarte women (also men) are despised. You are responsible for your own self and should not pose as a burden to the rest of the group. Young and old do climb (from the teens to the 70's).

A climb requires preparation degree of which depends on the type of mountain. Deeper relationships develop as one sees the core of each other going through difficult and fun moments. Some groups abort their climbs should a member falls out during the trek. There is such a thing as a point of no return where it is safer to complete the expedition than to descend. It is more difficult to descend than to ascend. (The guests failed to mention through that there is less weight descending and one's tired body recovers from a sound sleep.) Snakes are not a threat if you don't provoke them but the mosquitoes are a bigger danger. The highest is not necessarily the most difficult.

The host was apparently awed by the positive values she spotted fromthe mountaineers. If she had some climbing experience prior to theinterview, it would have pushed her to ask, "Is the hardship duringthe trek all worth it? What happens at the campsite? Is there really a race to the top? What roles do the trekkers play in a group climb? Is there really rivalry? What drives you from climbing overand over?"

An insight to these queries would have bounded furtherwhat the pinoy mountaineer is. The interesting talk was capped with the two sets of guests declaring that the successful ascent to the top of the world and their safedescent made the pinoy mountaineer proud. It was a validation though late that the pinoy with resources can. There is a pool of pinoy mountaineers with the strength, skills and attitude who too can make it to the summit of the world. May 2006 opened the possibility that the summit of Mt. Everest is not an elusive dream for a serious Filipino mountaineer.

Thank you Leo,Erwin and Romy for showing us. You gave us permission for putting your dreams in ours too.

Tochs 6June06
Photos by Larry H.

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