Mt. Kinabalu: Scrambling Through the Darkness

Something woke me, yet I snuggled deeper into Baba’s embrace feeling the chill of dawn. I felt sore and achy all over and I tried to claim back my slumber until realization hit me — oh no, I haven’t rested enough and today will be another excruciatingly long day once again.

Baba stirred awake and we both scrambled to get dressed the warmest possible way we can. Ilya and Irina commented that they feel like they are back in Siberia with this cold, yet they looked like they are wearing only light clothing compared to us having two to three layers on.

Laban Rata is all awake at 230AM. We tried to stuff ourselves with food in preparation for the difficult assault that awaits us, but being unused to eating heavy brekkie, I only managed a toast and some coffee to Baba’s displeasure.

It was pitch dark outside but the lighted trails have started to twinkle with hikers wearing their headlamps. We followed the line going up, it was all stairs and rocks and very cold wind that welcomes you. It was so darn cold, my fingers are starting to tingle. I felt my nose start to drip several meters after leaving the warmth of Laban Rata. My legs, still sore from yesterday’s 7-hour walk seem to complain with shots of pain at every step. I didn’t dare voice it out, Baba would surely drag me back to the lodge with just a single word.

I that worried my calves would burst anytime soon. Baba was always asking me if I can, and giving up would rely on me – the realization of this would be my call. I am stubborn and I would die before I give up. Not even the dark cavern of nothingness at the edge of  what we walked on scared me. I held on to the rope and we continued to walk up, stopping more and more to rest.

Slowly, dawn began to break, and lighted the way to the peak. We sat on the rolling plateau of rocks to admire the magnificent panorama that is laid before our eyes. I held my breath and hold on to Baba’s hands. My hands felt numb and Baba placed them in his armpits to warm them. I noticed Baba’s purplish hue and started to worry.

All the time, he was thinking of me and the struggle I have to overcome this. He scolded me for being mule-headed and for not bringing that wool scarf to warm my neck and offered his even if it leaves him freezing his ears out! Of course I am mule-headed and I did not take it. All the while, he kept his eye on our guide to ask for water when I request for a time out.  And all the while, it was him who’s not feeling well and is on the verge of loosing it!

We almost decided not to continue to Low’s Peak and just sate ourselves with the view. But after reassuring ourselves that we can do it, we started our way up once more. Despite the pain, I smiled inwardly, we are both stubborn I guess. When it comes to our goals we’d never back down. We climbed slowly until we can see the tip, with each step closer to the peak, we seem to gain more strength.

Finally, we are at 4,095 meters above sea level – the highest point we’ve been in our lives with our feet still firmly at the ground. It felt freezingly cold and the bunch of Japanese are taking too long with their photo shoot. Ilya and Irina made it to the top minutes ahead of us descended quickly back to the plateau. Them Japanese offered to take our picture and we were grateful! After a couple of shots, we hurriedly climbed down and sat on a more manageable spot.

Once again we stared in awe at the expanse of land as far as our eyes can see. We have made it. We may be both mule-headed, but this time it is for a good cause. Baba and I will give our all when it comes to us, our dreams and our relationship. On the hike the day before, Baba asked me to remind him that he have something to tell me when we reached the top. When I asked him then, he simply said, “I love you so much…”

High places do calm me, I offered a silent prayer of thanks to our Creator. I felt his presence strongly while on top of the mountain, I felt him listening intently to us, to what our hearts are truly saying. I’ve had many challenges in my life, I always survived alone and came out of it stronger.

Yet this mountain manifest a lot more challenges in my life that I need to overcome. Scrambling through the darkness, I hear his voice above the shrill of the wind, I felt his hands securing me on dangerous ledges thus, I am even more grateful now that I have Baba with me to face all of it. And starting today, I am sure would never go through these challenges alone.

*** a lot of thank yous to Ilya and Irina for some of the best photos at the peak! 🙂

Mt. Kinabalu: The Climb

Right after our visit to Kinabalu Heritage Park in November 2012, Baba and I vowed to climb the majestic Mt. Kinabalu “by hook or by crook.” The doors of opportunity opened up when a CebuPac seat sale happened in January 2013 and I was able to book a round trip Manila-Kota Kinabalu flight for March 8 until 13. Then we prepared ourselves to become broke when searching for the cheapest Kinabalu package yielded rates from RM750 to RM1050.

Luckily, I found an email address of Sutera Sanctuary’s booking staff and started pestering her from mid-January until February for 2-2day/1night slot on March 10 -11 or 11-12. She finally gave up and awarded my efforts with a congratulatory email and details of our climb package for May 10-11.  Paid it within a week and on the eve our climb, we met up with couchsurfer Ilya and newly-wedded wife Irina for our plans the next day.

At 5:00AM, we walked three blocks to meet Ilya and Irina and search for our ride to Kinabalu Park. Based on our visit there last time, Baba and I suggested we take a taxi instead which costs RM80/RM20 per person, the same amount if we’ll take the vans going there less the hassle of it waiting to get filled. Arriving early in Kundasang, I decided to get something to eat first before showing up at the registration center. We experienced some misunderstanding with our reservation and were really shocked when Ms Lovely Lady Sniffles informed us that what we had reserved is for May 11-12. But she then allowed us to push through and said that they have a slot for us, but we will now stay in Waras Hut instead of Laban Rata because it is already full.
Excitedly, we paid for miscellaneous, got our packed brekkie/lunch and hopped on the taxi with the other couple to reach Timpohon Gate. We were informed that our guide will just catch up with us so we just joined Ilya and Irina’s.

Baba and I considered this climb as a post anniversary celebration. A milestone in our relationship and yes, we’ll make it through “by hook or by crook.” We almost cancelled it for several reasons – the Sabah siege, family issues and financial constraints, but luckily, several windows of opportunities also kept drawing us closer to realizing it.

Having run a several times as preparation and having experienced climbing some mountains in the PH, I was confident about the climb. On the other hand, Baba was worried because this is his first ever climb. Yet we are ambitious and adventurous, we won’t back down on this peksman! But I underestimated the trail…

The first two kilometers were filled with excitement, energetic strides and a lot of pose-pose for pictures. We are loving the temperature, it was sunny but the altitude and the forest around us made it cool. Even meeting an injured guy carried by four porters on stretcher along the trail did not dampen our mood (okay, it worried us a bit).

We met several people on their descent, we thought these people were really fast, they were perky and seemed to have enjoyed the climb so much. We chatted we some of them while we were having lunch (packed apple and a sandwich plus a bottle of water) and they reassured us that it’s going to be worth all our efforts. But several kilometers and THOUSANDS of stairs more, I was started to feel the pain in my calves and a phobia of Po’s old enemy – the STAIRS.

I must be getting old, Baba was still very energetic and I blame it on the energy gel he just consumed, though he claims a stick of cigarette on every stop is all he needs. And as always, he, like a knight in shining armor, gallantly offered to carry my pack. And me, of course, feeling like a flop damsel in distress, argued a bit and eventual gave in. Baba carried my pack for several kilometers more. He kept on nagging me that I should stop hiking, mountain climbing and other crazy adventures on my own and that he should always be there accompany me when I plan to do something or go somewhere. (Nagpaka hyperactive na man ang pag ka overprotective nya!)

As we go higher, we started to feel the chill and the terrain became even more challenging. Several more people are descending, but these people now are not as cheerful as the earlier batch. We met people walking with a limp, with pained expression and others who looked really foreboding. Baba and I are taking more rests now because I can hardly pull my legs up those eff’in stairs anymore. Ilya and Irina are now well ahead of us. Though they claim to be both first timers, they look very adept at walking and climbing this mountain! Me and Baba kept on monitoring the distance to reach Laban Rata, and when our guide said that we’re less than a kilometer away, it gave us surge of energy and strength!

Just one more turn and we saw Waras Hut, but it was locked and our guide said we have to register at Laban Rata and have our supper there. I notice that Baba was already exhausted. He said he was feeling dizzy and ready to fall flat anytime. We hurried up a few meters more to Laban Rata dreading the hike back to Waras after supper. Luckily again, we were given beds there and there’s no need for us to walk back to Waras. Yay happy supper!

After supper, Baba gave way to slumber. I walked around the lodge and watched the sunset. Would have stayed out longer to admire this cold landscape but it was already freezing me numb!

Time check – 6:30PM, should rest and go to bed too, it’s going to be another extra long day tomorrow. I hugged Baba tight while he sleeps and I can’t help but smile. Despite the pains and the challenges, we’re made it this far… and weary as we are, we’re moving forward, we are ready for more.

***some pictures without watermark are from Ilya and Irina. 🙂

A Bit Disappointed Merrell Shoe Fan

If I could live with one pair of shoes for a some time, I’d happily choose Merrell shoes. Yes that’s how I love their shoes specifically their “Aqua Sports and Waterpro Maipo” models. My first pair of Merrell’s were bought in 2007. It was very comfortable and I loved wearing it during our free day in the office. After adjusting my schedules in 2008, I started some travels and outdoor adventures with my friends.

I forget the first time I went out of the city exploring wearing my Merrell’s but the first documented picture was taken in June 2008 – during my early backpacking days with my friends in Sta Cruz and Liliw, Laguna. My best friend also brought her first pair of Merrells to use for the trip too. We both love it really.

In late 2008, I encountered a sale in one major department stores and abruptly bought a Merrell Sienna Ruby Sandals. I was really impressed with my shoes and was confident that this sandals will also be comfortable and durable. In 2009, I had a lot of comings and goings to explore more places in the Philippines. I used my Merrells sandals in exploring Bohol in February 2009. And later in June, I also used it for a trip to Coron, Palawan.

In 2010, I became more into outdoor sports and adventures. Being an active member of a dragon boat rowing team, I got invitations to mountain climb and hike. My first major climb was Mt. Pulag, Benguet in February. My almost 3 year old Merrells took me to the summit and brought me back to Manila safely – no blisters no dead toes.

This was followed by a fun trek in Mt Batulao in Nasugbu, Batangas in March 2010. I am really very happy with my trusty old Merrells. It was in July, during our Mt Tarak climb in Bataan that my favorite shoes was tested to redemption. I felt my shoes loosening up a bit, something is just not right. I was worried the soles would give in before we come down, still my trusty ole shoes made it and accompanied me back to Manila. But the soles were really giving out. I didn’t worry though. My shoes had served me only too well during the past 3 and half years.

My friend suggested I take my abused shoes to a shoe repair and have the soles stitched. It worked and I was able to use it for a couple of months (Aug-Dec 2010) until I bought my next pair in Dec 2010. It was a new version of my Merrells aquasports, this time it’s called the Waterpro Maipo.

It looks really good and once again I was happy with it. I haven’t had a lot of mountain climbing since then though, but it was what I used for jogging and light running and a bit of trekking in Biak na Bato National Park in Nov 2011.

biak na bato national park

My Waterpro Maipro was more for city slicking because it was really comfortable and I can move freely with it. Just recently in June 2012, I was able to use it for trekking once again in Sagada. I brought my two Merrells wth me there, the Sandals for exploring the caves and the shoes for trekking to Pongas Falls.

trek to-fro Pongas Falls, Suyo, Sagada 2012

After that, my Merrells are back to their city slicking use. After being thoroughly impressed and confident with the comfort and durability over my shoe brand, imagine me rushing one morning, pulling on my shoe laces to tighten it as I would normally do and experiencing a sudden snap! (mental calculations: uh-oh, what happened? what will I wear now? the chucks, its a long walk to my school. This shoes is not even 2 years yet and it wasn’t as abused as my first!)

I watched the strap slowly beginning to loosen its strands. I hurriedly took a lighter to tamper it. I started sewing them together too while disappointment started to settle in. I don’t want to wear the chucks or the adi running shoes. I hope this hold until November when I can buy a new pair.

I think I will still buy another Merrells but not this kind anymore. The straps are vulnerable and looking at the others, they might soon snap too, I’m also looking at buying those five finger shoes instead. 😀

Three Layer Hiking Clothing For Cold Weather

For those who are new to hiking and mountaineering, it is very easy to overlook the two simple fact of hiking clothing to keep them warm. Primarily, clothing that you use for hiking is designed to keep the cold out but retain the heat from the main source of heat which is yourself. Secondly, you have to realize that wearing hiking clothing for warmth means that you are not trying to be warm as possible. These clothing are only for you to reach a thermal balance, which is a state wherein your body’s production of heat comes close to the heat that you lose. This way you stay within your comfort zone whether you are active, active and sweating or just resting or immobile but still sweating.

Functionality and Versatility of Hiking Clothing

Your hiking clothing should be versatile so that you can easily achieve the heat balance that your body needs in accordance with the ever changing weather conditions. You should be able to make adjustments by taking off some layers when it gets too hot or be able to wear more when it’s cold. In many cases, doing this can be inconvenient and impractical so it is essential that your clothing can handle the different weather situations that you go through. Not to mention the fact that being on the move or keeping still can also affect the temperature.

When you are immobile, they should be able to keep the air dry and insulate you thus warming you. When you are on the go, your clothing should be able to pass through to keep you cool by allowing the vapor of the sweat to pass through. Hiking clothing should not be absorbent of the moisture so that it will not be damp when you sweat heavily. This will not be able to keep you warm because it will no longer hold dry air to insulate your body, at the same time, the body will continuously draw heat from your body to turn sweat into vapor. This causes an after-exercise chill which can last up to 2 hours when one is wearing absorptive material while non-absorptive materials only causes negligible chill.

Three Layers of Hiking Clothing

To avoid chill and ensure comfort outdoors, the three-layer hiking clothing system became famous as each layer has a unique function to help you cope with the changing conditions.

1. The first layer of hiking clothing is all about moisture management, or the next-to-skin layer. This layer keeps cool in the summer and warms you in the winter by keeping you dry. These are usually made from polypropylene or other synthetic fabrics. These are fabrics which wicks away the moisture quickly to the outer surface for it to evaporate.

2. The Second Layer is known as the insulating layer and traps air to insulate and keep you warm. This is usually made from natural fibers or fleece which are reliable in keeping you warm. Natural fibers however are more efficient in warmth-weight ratio but they have to be kept dry so that it will retain its warmth. Fleece dries faster and has a higher warmth-to-weight ratio than wool. This fabric is a favorite among backpackers because they’re breathable, lightweight and can insulate even when wet.

3. The Third Layer should act as a windbreaker and a rain jacket at the same time. These are usually made from Gore-Tex material for breathability. This 3rd layer of hiking clothing should be properly ventilated for avoid condensing perspiration inside your shell.

Mt. Batulao, Batangas

It was planned a month before that Wino will celebrate with a birthday climb on Mt. Batulao. Many has given their consent but when the date came, there were only a few who pushed through. I am not mountaineer but this climb was an enjoyable experience. It was better than my Pulag climb because the temperature is better here.

Mt. Batulao (811+) is considered as one of the most spectacular mountains in Batangas. It as a unique mix of steep drops and easy treks which makes it a favorite training climb for mountaineers and first timers.
One can reach the jump off point at Evercrest Golf Course in Nasugbu by taking a bus going to Nasugbu/Tagaytay in Pasay City. Bus Fare is around P160. Registration at the camp site is only P20. Mt. Batulao can be hiked for one day or you can opt to stay at the camp sites. The old trail on the east is also ride-able for bikers.

Mt. Pulag, Benguet – Luzon’s Highest Peak: My First Major Climb

i never considered myself as a mountaineer, but being surrounded with the lot of them, i was influenced to try it out. my last climb was last 2004 in Albay. Back then it was only a day climb to camp1 of mt. mayon. That was all the climbing experience i had so i was really hesitant to join the mt. pulag climb.

Mt. Pulag (or Pulog) is considered as the 2nd highest peak in the Philippines, next to Mt. Apo. It is said to be one of the most beautiful national parks in the Cordillera. Pulag is different from other rain forest mountains because of it’s open area (Pulag is a local term for Bald). Mt. Pulag turns brown during dry seasons and light green or rich dark green during rainy season. Locals believed this mountain to be a playground of the gods.

How to get there:
Going to Pulag usually starts with a trip from Manila to Baguio. It is advisable to have an overnight trip for you to have some rest. Take 10pm-12am departure from Manila.
Victory Liner (Cubao or Pasay)
Genesis (D. Jose)
Philippine Rabbit (D. Jose)

Then you can arrange your transportation by hiring one of the jeepneys along Caltex Station or Session Road. You may also opt to take the Bus going to Kabayan Benguet.

Established Trails:
Ambangeg (the trail we took)
Akiki or the Killer Trail

You will have to register at the DENR before proceeding to any of the trail jump-offs. You will have to pay registration fees (P275) and environmental fees.

At the ranger station or the jump-off,you will be assigned a guide (P100 per person per guide) and you have the option to hire a porter (P250 one way) to carry your things.

Ambangeg trail leads to camping ground 2 and 3. The guides will help you get water from the water source.

Summit assault usually starts at 4 am for you to get the best view of the sunrise and the sea of clouds.

The best months to climb Mt. Pulag is during the cold months of November to February. Some of the things you should not forget to bring are: fleece jacket, waterproof jacket, mittens, socks, leggings. Dome type-tents are not advisable in here unless you have a tarp to cover it to avoid getting wet inside.