Monday, November 30, 2009

Danger Lurks

Extreme sports excite because they take away the monotony and humdrum of routine living. New experiences and situations show up unexpectedly catching one by surprise. One can not really prepare for them but one can maintain composure and presence of mind to cope with them.

Looking back, I recall several encounters which only now after watching National Geographic and Discovery Channels I have accepted as life threatening.

While Trekking in the forested trail in Batanes, green thin long snake landed at the backpack of the lead a few meters in front of me. Fortunately it drifted away swiftly and I kept on walking quietly.

On my return back from the Halcon peak to Lantuyan, tired and exhausted, I had to cross a wall that got eroded that drops to a rocky surface about 50 meters down. The rocks I was holding on to were slipping and I was getting ready to fall preferably at the back using my backpack as support. Suddenly, as if a miracle happened, I recalled someone lifting me up to the landed platform a few meters away. I took it nonchalantly and proceeded to meet up with my friends TJ and Mitch on the other side.

In the 80’s when Pico de Loro was still not that popular as Mt. Maculot, I joined a PALMC group for an overnight climb. We camped at the slopes accessible to the staging point of the peak. That night, I was awakened by a hissing sound which turned out to be snakes outside the tent. I kept still, thinking it would go away in a while to which they did. I never discussed it the following day but got a validation that snakes do abound in the slopes.

One of my most memorable and difficult climbs was the Tawangan-Pulag traverse of PALMC with the Loyola Mountaineers. It was a long and cold climb as somewhere midway, it was raining non stop. Cold wind was blowing hard where the temperature dropped slightly above 5 degrees C while trekking. Due to exhaustion, the energy needed to fuel a strenuous trek was slowly getting depleted. Somehow, the technical outfits and a handful of candy bars kept us going until we reached the campsite to recharge and to raise our body temperatures.

Man vs. Man. There was a potential threat to life not by nature but with guns and ideology. Our climb to Mt. Natib was timed with the ASEAN meet at Subic Bay where Heads of States including US President Bill Clinbton would attend. Apparently, there was a military clean up at the Bataan mountain noted as a lair of friendly forces. In a ridge, we were unexpectedly entrapped by rebels. We were given a quick lecture on their cause and eventually released safe and sound. We continued with our socials that night as if nothing happened.  A similar incident happened while we were about to climb Mt. Tapulao the 2nd time around.  Our ascent was deferred for several hours pending clearance from the Barangay as allegedly there was an ongoing operations in the area.  There is wisdom this time around for prevention.

When we were just starting, we were hot on unexplored expeditions relying only on topical maps for destinations. An attractive target for us was Mt. Silangan in Bataan known for waterfalls and sharp drops. Novice as we were, our group, composed of young climbers got lost in place which could be a potential habitat of unknown forces. Relying on our instincts, we were eventually led to a ledge which was one of the most awesome sites we have ever discovered.

A similar situation is a solo climb in Caliraya to meet up friends at the waterfalls which is only less than 20 minutes away from the Japanese garden. By stroke of luck, I ended up circling around the area from early afternoon to sunrise going nowhere with no one to ask directions from. I eventually found the asphalted road the next morning but missed the company of friends. What could explain this? Folklore they say just like what lost trekkers experience in Banahaw and San Cristobal.

There are minor incidences. Such as tripping in the rice terraces in a Cordillera traverse breaking my favorite lightweight high tech umbrella at the rice field. In the same region, sometime in December, our trek was welcomed by large and hard hailstones while trekking. Without protective helmets, to get hit in the head can be fatal.  Poison ivy and leeches when not handled well can be hazardous to one's health.  Getting trapped in Mt. Talinis' quicksand has no escape.

The worst is surviving socials in a company of heavy drinkers and senior climbers especially with people one is not comfortable with. But with the passing of the night, fellow climbers tone down too.

Danger lurks in unfamiliar territories and situations. As I look back and recall about the danger trekking lurks, I am reminded of what St. Augustine wrote about adventure “People travel to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars; and they pass by themselves without wondering.”

Indeed now, I wonder how I managed. I believe that while there are forces that threaten, there too are strong and good forces that protect. I am thankful that I overcame them because I have been guarded. Be careful. Happy Thanksgiving.

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