When I said that I am not the mountaineering-type, I really mean it.
First, because I am deathly afraid of snakes. Second, because I am aware that my poor body, especially my knees, cannot take the strain of conquering a mountain. And lastly, because I am the type of person who loves my little comforts.
So, it really doesn’t make sense why I decided to risk life, limb and my remaining dose of self-preservation by agreeing to be part of the mountain-climbing activity of my Fitness group.
The mountain in question is Pico de Loro, nestled in a Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) sanctuary in Ternate, Cavite, Central Philippines. At 664 meters above sea level, Pico de Loro is considered a medium-difficulty level mountain for climbers and is perfect for a day climb.
In spite the raging alarm bells in my head a day before the climb, I still showed up faithfully for the early morning call time in our meeting place. From there, our rented van was able to reach Ternate by 8AM. At the jump off point, we divided ourselves into two — the advanced group where most of the people are, made up of experienced climbers and the athletic, active types in the group; and the beginners group, a ragtag group of 10 who were already having second thoughts even while still in civilization, i.e. the group where I was part of.
The trek started uneventful, until the 30th minute when one of my companions decided to get her knees closely acquainted with the rocks and protruding roots. In a span of an hour, she fell one after the another, collecting a series of abrasions and minor cuts along the way. In my head, I was a bit happy for my achievement — apparently, I will emerge unscathed from this activity. Well, almost.
After the gloating, I started getting acquainted too with the protruding roots and sharp, jagged edges of the rocks littering the forest. Nothing major. Just the typical war wounds I get even while sitting in bed. Moving a bit to inspect a tree *kzzzzzzh — knee connects with boulder* walking along the trail *kzzzzzh — stubs toe on tree root*. But, yep — I didn’t fall down one bit.
There are specially marked trees within the forest that served as trail and place markers, telling the next batch of mountaineers where to turn, etc.
I was already dying of exhaustion by the time our second hour rolled by, and we aren’t even anywhere near the first base camp where one can refresh, do the number one or two, and eat courtesy of the kind family who maintains a “kubo” (hut). Maybe we were too preoccupied with getting the job done that when we finally had the chance to look up, we realized that we were letting a lot of awesome views go by.
While on our way to Base Camp 1, we chanced upon this cutie:
This handsome fella was one of the dogs raised in the mountain and calls the DENR office home. Our guide, JP told me that the dog pretty much guides the mountaineers who goes up Pico de Loro. JP suggested I give doggie something and true enough, the little schmuck immediately warmed up to me after the third piece of bread was given to him. But, after finding some of his “friends” (a pack of dogs) whom he proceeded to wildly chase around the area — the dog left us to find our way to the summit.
After a quick rest at the base camp, we proceeded to scale the rest of the way, finally reaching the viewing deck just when our friends (the advanced group) were finishing their lunch. It was clear that in the viewing deck alone, the pain (and the bruises) were worth it.
I initially had reservations if I will push through with the final ascent going to the summit. From where I was standing, I can see that there were no trees to serve as guides or even safety nets. But I figured out in the end that I might as well do it. I was there, anyway.
And the picture above is my own definition to the term, “…hanging on for dear life”. Please note that I was desperately clutching a few clumps of dead grass.
After the ordeal seen above, I finally reached the summit and it was worth it.
I keep thinking, “God, I really do have a beautiful country…” To our front was the Corregidor Island, a tiny island glistening in the middle of the azure ocean, further up was Bataan, while to our left was the beaches of Ternate, Cavite. And well, directly below us is a dense forest, where hawks circle the air just beneath our feet. It was simply magic.
Of course, we eventually had to go down (another death-defying stunt) and continue the trek down the mountain, until we reach civilization by 8PM. Yes, we got caught by sunset in the middle of the forest! Imagine, finding your way down with barely 3 flashlights (one was already malfunctioning) and with the moon just leading your way. I tell you, my over active imagination was on overdrive and I was close to crying already due to the insane fear of being in the middle of the forest at night. When we finally made it down, I was so profuse with thanks that I managed to do what I used to dread way back.
And yes, I managed to come out of the dark forest in one piece.
IF YOU WANT TO CLIMB PICO DE LORO:
1. Transportation going to Ternate is not easy. Best to rent a van and split it amongA your group.
2. Always make sure you have complete gear, especially the flashlight which will come handy should you get stuck like us at Pico de Loro at night.
3. Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but memories.