Traveller, Photographer, Mountaineer, Human

Posts tagged “Samsung P&S

Journey Part 1 (from Cellphone Camera to Bridge Camera)

I didn’t really intend to get serious on photography.  It was far from my mind less than 2 years ago.

My very first camera is the camera on my cellphone (a Motorola Razr).  It took ok pictures.  I took pictures with it on some of family and company travels, my vanity, etc.  At that time, a dedicated camera costs a lot.  A Sony point-and-shoot camera costs Php20,000 or more.

My mother and father (shot with Motorola Razr cellphone camera).

Samsung’s Beauty shot (before and after) with Espie, an officemate.

My first dedicated camera was a Samsung point-and-shoot.  It was ok, it documented my limited travels and social gatherings before.  I really loved the Beauty shot feature (basically, you take a photo of a face and it applies an algorithm to blur away details (lines, pimples, etc.) on a face.  It doesn’t always work well but in most situation, it gets the job done.

Then I started mountaineering (in March 2011).  The Samsung took ok pictures but I found that it has a very limited zoom, the pictures aren’t always that good (especially on the trail where the trees cast a dark shadow on everything).  I looked for a good camera then (my definition of “good” was very different then).

Bright-capped cisticola (Cisticola exilis) (right) and a moss (below), shot in Tarak Ridge, the day after I bought my Fuji S4000.

A After research online, I settled on a Fujifilm S4000 bridge camera.  As a novice, I wanted the largest zoom I can find and the budget I alloted for a camera was limited (the S4000 I think cost Php12000/$285 before).  My officemates told me that I should have bought a DSLR as they thought that I’d upgrade very very soon.  This was in April or May 2011.

Coming from a point-and-shoot, I was amazed with the pictures I was able to take with this camera (especially with the 24-624 equivalent focal range).  The quality was great (I thought they were great).

A child on the beach (left), bamboo sidings (right) taken in Nasugbu, Batangas with Fuji S4000.

It was then that I began learning about photography – composition, apertures and shutter speed, etc.  The S4000 has an aperture priority as well as shutter priority but this is severely limited.  You can only go one stop above or below the automatically chosen value.  My biggest gripe with S4000 is focus.  I could have lived with the picture quality but focusing (especially in low-light) takes a very long time.  I think I could have gotten quicker focus had there been a manual focus on the S4000 but it has none.

In one of my climbs, a fellow mountaineer brought along her DSLR (a Canon 1100D with the 18-55 kit lens) and I get to try it.  I was a total noob when it comes to DSLR (I was looking for an image on the LCD without even thinking of looking through the viewfinder).

One of my first DSLR pics (shot with Kyt’s Canon 1100D).

My impression of 1100D (and DSLR in general) was that it takes great pictures and focusing is quick.  I like the shallow depth of field.  However, whenever the 18-55mm kit lens focuses, I fear that I may have broken the lens.  There is a very loud noise as the lens elements move from one end to another.

After that climb, I resolved to get a DSLR (making my officemate’s prediction come true – this was July 2011, a mere 3 months since getting the S4000).


C8 Pico de Loro Traverse (Getting Lost… Again!)

June 4-5, 2011

After my previous experience of getting lost in Pico de Loro, I could not get it out of my mind and couldn’t believe that we got lost.  Well, technically we did not get lost, we just took the longer way out of the mountain to Nasugbu.  Felix and I planned return with a vengeance to Pico.

This time, I invited my mountaineer officemate Adam to join us for an overnight return to Pico de Loro.

Me and Adam on our way to the summit (photo by Felix).

After running out of water in our previous dayhike, I decided to bring more water up the mountain.  I brought 6 liters of water (3 liters in my hydration bladder, plus 3 liters in PET bottles).  This with the tent, cookset, stove, butane, etc. packed in my 85 liters backpack totalled about 26 kilos.  Very heavy!

As in my previous climb, bus to Ternate from Pasay Rotonda (this time Felix just waited for our bus in Bacoor), bought cooked lunch in a carinderia, rode a tricycle to DENR and hiked to Base Camp 1.

Me, resting on a tree (photo by Felix).

It seems that I overestimated my strength and endurance and forgot the difficulty of climbing Pico from Alibangbang to summit.  I was very very slow in my ascent due to my heavy pack.  Adam was fast (he’s younger and carried a lighter pack) so I told him to go ahead (no getting lost on the way to the summit) and we’ll just catch up with him.

The climb up was hot, I took a rest every 5 or 10 minutes (will eventually learn to carry a smaller overnight pack) but eventually, Felix and I reached the campsite, where Adam was waiting for us.

We camped in the bamboo grove area and Felix cooked our dinner (canned goods).  Adam brought a small Gilbey’s gin but since he isn’t a strong drinker, Felix doesn’t want to drink and I didn’t want to drink on my own, we didn’t finish the whole bottle (probably just a quarter of it).  We decided to give the rest to our noisy camp neighbors (whom I’ll eventually know as Alex and his group).

A group of mountaineers appreciating the view (above), the summit (below left) and a close up view of the steep side of the summit (below right – photo by Felix).

We woke up early the following morning, cooked and ate breakfast and broke camp since we were doing a traverse and wanted to go to the beach.  Adam and Felix decided to scale the Parrot’s beak while I stayed on the summit to take their pictures (since I’ve been there in my previous climb).

Felix and Adam on their way to the beak.

The campsite as viewed from the summit (we camped on the tree-covered part on the left) and a self-portrait on the summit (right).

The Parrot’s Beak (left) and Felix and Adam at the beak with other mountaineers (right – photo of Felix).

Felix and Adam at the beak.  The small figure at the background is me on the summit (left – photo of Felix).  A zoomed view of the two from the summit (right).

The way up or down the beak (left) and Felix and Adam resting after scaling the beak (right).

Me at the foot of the beak.

After their conquest of the beak, we rested for a while then pushed on with the traverse trail down.  The descent is ok (having experienced it in the previous climb) but is a little harder since we were carrying bigger and heavier pack.  From the descent, we reached a portion where there is the start of level trekking. We were walking for more than 2 hours when we realized that this is the same trail we’ve walked the previous climb.  We were lost again!

As with the previous climb, we turned left instead of right (I thought we got lost after this point) but later realized that we should have turned right.  The right turn doesn’t seem to make sense since it appears to go back to the mountain but it is the correct turn if you want the shorter trail.

We’ve walked too long and far to go back (plus backtracking would mean ascent which would be harder) so we just continued.  We stopped by the mango tree and had some of its fruit (more ripe and less delicious than before).

Solo and group pictures in Sitio Kumbento (with the Pico peak and beak at the background).

The residents in Sitio Kumbento told us that the nearest and best beach is in Calayo, Nasugbu.  We rented a jeepney (the same jeepney we used the previous climb) for Php500 to take us to Calayo.  We rested, cooked and ate a late lunch and swam in one of the resorts for a discounted fee (since it was almost 2pm when we arrived there).

Swimming and resting in Sitio Calayo, Nasugbu, Batangas.

At about 5 or 530 pm, we packed our bags and rented a tricycle to poblacion Nasugbu for the bus home.  This time we were able to catch the second to the last bus trip and home we go.

This was my second attempt to do the traverse trying to follow the common traverse trail. We ended up the same “wrong” trail but I have peace of mind since I already know the correct trail for the next climb.  This is the last time I’ve passed through Sitio Kumbento in Nasugbu and I’m missing it.  With the beautiful farmlands, lots of goats, chickens and cows, it will be an ideal location for a photowalk or photoclimb but that still has to wait ’til I can schedule a climb.

C7 Pico de Loro Dayhike Traverse (Getting Lost)

May 21, 2011

The Parrot’s Beak.  That’s me at the top.

Pico de Loro is one of the most climbed mountains in the Philippines but is almost unknown to non-mountaineers except those living in Cavite or those who have heard of Hamilo Coast development of the SM Group.  It is one of the most  beautiful mountains I’ve climbed (in addition to Pulag and Maculot) and this beauty and the fact that it’s relatively near Metro Manila makes this a popular weekend climb destination.

I’ve gotten confidence in tackling mountains without a guide (I’ve done Maculot and Batulao without guides and we were not lost).  However, this is not without preparation.  Before I did Maculot, Batulao and Pico de Loro, I’ve read and researched about these mountains and pored over the articles and comments in Pinoy Mountaineer as well as other sites I could find.

A newly shaved and very red me at the DENR station.

After Maculot, Pulag and two Batulao climbs, I was on a roll and decided on climbing Pico de Loro again with my friend Felix.

To get to Pico de Loro, I met Felix in Pasay Rotonda and we waited for a bus bound for Ternate, Maragondon.  From the bus terminal in Ternate, we hired a tricycle to take us to the DENR Office in Magnetic Hill (that is after buying our packed lunch).  The tricycle costs Php150 (for two persons) and there is a Php20 (each person) registration at the DENR office.

From the DENR office, it is a five-minute trek back (on the road) to reach the trail jump off.  From there, there is an immediate ascent, then level trekking and finally a descent until you reach Base Camp 1 in 45 minutes.

Langka (jackfruit) just a little past Base Camp 1.

From Base Camp 1 it is just a few minutes walk to Alibangbang Park.  At that point, I thought to myself that Pico is an easy climb.  In Alibangbang, there are signboards showing the waterfalls (the left) and the summit (to the right).  Felix and I checked the waterfalls (about 15 minutes from that point) but since it was summer, the falls was dry and what remained of the basin below looks more like a pond where carabaos bath (small, shallow, muddy).  We went back to Alibangbang to continue our quest for the summit.

We saw Gideon Lasco (author of the Pinoy Mountaineer website) with Agot Isidro (the actress).

It was just up down level up down climb.  However, just past Alibangbang is where the challenge begins – non-stop continuous ascent.  And I mean continuous ascent, it is lucky if there is a ten-step level trek from that point on.

It was very hot despite the tree cover since there is hardly any wind blowing and the sun was high.  I was drenched in sweat (hence, the change in shirt).

At the campsite, the peak behind me is the summit and behind that, the monolith or beak.


It only got cooler (and the trail more level) as we got near the campsite.  At the campsite, we rested for a bit and climbed to the summit where we had our lunch.  It was not a pleasant lunch as there were many small insects flying around.

There were a few people on the beak at the time we were eating lunch.  By the time we finished eating lunch, they had all gone back to the campsite (or gone down the mountain) so that when I climbed the beak, I was alone.  (Felix stayed at the summit.)

On the way to the beak.

Climbing the beak is not as hard as it seems as there is a way up (on the right side of the beak).  However, it’s not easy as I had to wedge myself in the cracks of the rock.  Thankfully, at the time there was still a rope to hang on.

I’m on top of ….. well, just on top of the beak.  Forever alone.  That’s a bird on the left side of the picture.

Going down is much harder than going up as I cannot see the footholds and I just had to extend my foot and hang on for dear life.  I momentarily lost my hold on the rope!  Thank God I did not fall.

Our plan was for a traverse but I did not know where the traverse trail begins.  We went back to the campsite and rested.  Fortunately, Dan and Noy who I climbed with in Arayat during my first hike arrived (didn’t know they were going to Pico) and I was able to ask where the traverse trail is.

Felix at the foot of the beak.

We also met a group of four (Brenda and four guys – forgot their names) and they were also doing a traverse and didn’t know the trail either.

We decided to join together and make our way to Nasugbu.

Dan said that the traverse trail is on the right side of the beak.  After some searching, I finally found it and we started the steep descent that passes through trees, bamboo, grass and other plants.

The traverse trail (left).  Our on-the-spot companions (right).

Pinoy Mountaineer’s itinerary for a traverse trail indicates that from the summit, the exit in Nasugbu would be just about 2 hours of trekking.  We have been walking for more than 2 hours and it seems we are not getting any nearer any sort of settlement or sign of an exit.

We walked and walked and run out of water until we found a mango tree laden with ripe and almost ripe fruit!  Manna from heaven.

A view of Pico’s summit from the farmlands of Sitio Kumbento.

We finally saw some houses and requested for water.  We also gave the kids some of our snacks.

It was already dark when we reached the houses.  The residents said that the nearest public transport to Nasugbu is more than an hour’s walk away as the vehicles from there have rested for the night.  We were forced to rent a jeepney to take us to Nasugbu (at a total cost of Php1000) and we asked the driver to take a bath at their house (outside of their house at an artesian well).

Picture taking inside the jeepney.  Tired but happy that we can finally go home.

The jeepney ride from Sitio Kumbento to the town of Nasugbu took more than an hour (yes, it’s far) and when we arrived at the bus station, the last trip for Manila has already left.

Felix and I were ok with checking in in one of the resorts in Nasugbu but Brenda and her companions have appointments the following day so the jeepney driver brought us to a road junction to wait.  Thankfully, a van bound for Pala-Pala arrived.

Tired and sleepy, we fell asleep on the van and woke up when we’re already in Pala-Pala.

It was a new experience for me – getting lost.  According to the residents there are many hikers who do traverse that end up in their place.  I was hoping that when we get to Nasugbu, we can still go to a beach but getting lost in the trails took those hopes away.

That was several months ago and now (see next post on Pico), I’m missing the beauty of the farmlands of Sitio Kumbento.  And I miss the mangoes!  I will definitely comeback.

C6 Mt. Batulao Traverse Revisited (Old-New Trail) Nasugbu, Batangas

May 14-15, 2011

A week after I first climbed Mt. Batulao with Felix, I went back there with my officemates Jay, Tin and Hero (below).

This time, the purpose of the climb is more about fun and less about reaching a place for the first time.  I also wanted to see the views from the summit as it was foggy the previous week.

Jay and I would meet in Pasay Rotonda and Hero and Tin would join us in Evercrest since they will be coming from Bacoor.  For some reason, Jay confused Pasay Rotonda with Buendia-Taft intersection and arrived later.  Furthermore, there was a long line at the bus station and it took more than an hour before we were able to board a bus for Evercrest.

Since this climb would mostly about having fun, I decided to set up camp in Camp 1 due to the availability of water and toilet and the bigger camp space.

The trek is pleasant though it was very hot.  We stopped at each rest stop and had buko juice at all these places.  Upon arrival at the campsite, we had our lunch (bought from the carinderia at the highway) and proceeded to pitch the tents.  I brought both my tents (the dome and the tadpole) as none of them has their own tents.

After setting up the tents, we chatted had some naughty fun with shadow play (right) and played some card games.

There were other people in the campsite and some people passing through from their dayhikes (as I said, Batulao is a very popular hiking destination both for overnights and for dayhikes).

Me with a group of dayhikers wearing the same NatGeo Fun Run singlet.

The card game and chatter was then joined by drinking and drink we did!  We had several bottles of liquor and we were drinking well before the night fell.

Tin with our liquor.

Tin did not drink as she’s in charge when the three of us (Jay, Hero and I) are drunk.  Hero was complaining of a toothache earlier but it seemed to vanish due to the effects of alcohol.

By the time the sun set, we were pretty tipsy that the dinner Tin cooked went mostly uneaten (I think Jay and Hero ate but I was too drunk to touch the food).  I had too much to drink that I vomitted and spent the better part of the night sleeping outside the tent (near a steep incline where I can just wake up, puke or take a piss).

I only went inside the tent past midnight since it was getting cold outside.  My sleep was not peaceful as I was consistently woken up by the need to do #1 and I was very hungry.  I had not eaten dinner and the remaining contents of my stomach were already vomited.

Morning and time to climb the summit then go down.  Break camp after breakfast then on to higher ground.

Camp 1 is a good 30 minutes away from Camp 7 (where I last camped with Felix) and by the time we reached it, I was already panting, probably from dehydration.  After some rest and rehydration, we climbed until we reached the summit.  Tin had some doubts about climbing the roped segment but she pulled through without any hitch (as I knew she would).

And finally, I was able to see the beautiful view from the summit.  From the top of Mt. Batulao, you can see Mt. Talamitam, Mt. Maculot, Pico de Loro and Batangas Bay.

At the top of a beautiful mountain, what else is there to do other than appreciate all the beauty that God made?  Take pictures!

We also did some jumpshots but my camera’s battery died before we could get decent shots.  We had some Mountain Dew, admired the vistas then went down the new trail.  Luckily, no one had cramps this time.

It was indeed a beautiful weekend spent with officemates outside the confines of work.

C5 Mt. Batulao Traverse (Old-New Trails) Nasugbu, Batangas

May 7-8, 2011

Mt. Batulao in Nasugbu, Batangas is one of the most climbed mountains in the country.  It is highly accessible from Metro Manila and the trekking time of less than 4 hours make it a minor climb and a great dayhike destination.  On two successive weekends in May 2011, I climbed this mountain for the first and second time.

On the way to the campsite, the summit and the sawtooth peaks are visible.

The first time I climbed Mt. Batulao was with my friend Felix.  After researching about the mountain in Pinoy Mountaineer’s website, I planned an overnight trip.  We did not hire a guide for this trip as the mountain has few forks and many mountaineers climb it (so the possibility of getting lost and not having anyone to ask for directions is small).

A view of the summit from one of the rest stops.

The get to Mt. Batulao, you would have to ride a bus bound for Nasugbu or Tuy or Balayan (all in Batangas) and get off in Evercrest Golf and Country Club (just immediately after passing the Alfonso, Cavite border).  From there you can ride a tricycle or walk on the concrete road to the jumpoff.

Stores and stalls are along the way where you can get refreshments (Mountain Dew, halohalo or buko juice).  The first part of the trail is through a rough dirt road then a series of ascents and descents until the fork is reached.  From this point on, you can either choose to go up right (through the new trail) or down left (through the old trail).

Me resting on the tree in Camp 7.

One or two hours of trekking will get you to Camp 1 (the biggest camp) where there is a caretaker that also sells mountain dew and souvenirs.  There is also a makeshift toilet and you can buy water for cooking and toilet use.  After Camp 1 comes Camps 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 11, 12, 13 (not in particular order).  Camp 8 is near the summit while camp 9 is on the summit itself (both quite windy and surrounded by cliffs) and camp 10 is in the new trail.

We decided to camp in Camp 7 since it is the highest camp (excluding Camps 8-9 which can be dangerous).

This is the first time I will be using my new tadpole tent from Apexus (after getting wet from the rain in Arayat and Pulag, I’ve decided to choose a better tent).

Resting after a tiring day.

There aren’t many people who climbed that weekend as the following Sunday is a Pacquiao fight and many mountaineers decided to stay home and watch the fight the following day.

It rained that night and in the morning, the mountain is very foggy.  From Camp 7, the lower camps and the summit are obscured by the fog.

The hike from Camp 7 to the summit is through an exposed trail of grasslands and through steep ridges (not very difficult but extra care must be exercised).  There is a roped segment but it is not that difficult climbing up.  The summit was still foggy when we arrived and there are no views to be seen.

Summit finally.  Me resting (left) and with my friend Felix (right).

We stayed for a while in the summit hoping that the fog would lift but alas, it did not happen.  The trail down the new trail is relatively easier (there are steep cliffs on both sides but no steep climb or descent).

It was a good climb but of course I would have to come back since I didn’t get to see the views from the summit.


C4 – Mt. Pulag (Ambangeg-Ambangeg Trail)

April 17-18, 2011

Mt. Pulag is Luzon’s highest peak and the third highest in the Philippines.  Probably one of the most climbed mountain in the Philippines.

When I started mountain climbing, I’ve read a lot about mountains in the Philippines (mostly through Pinoy Mountaineer website).  One of the most visited page on that site is for Mt. Pulag.  I decided to climb it soon.

Lucky for me, DPM (the group I joined for my first climb in Arayat) was scheduled to climb that mountain in April.  I invited Felix to join me in this climb (hence, the training climb in Mt. Maculot in my previous post).

The famed Pulag grasslands.

We were supposed to climb it on April 16-17 (Saturday-Sunday) but due to the scheduled Climb Against Cancer, DPM moved the climb to Sunday-Monday as the DENR advised that the mountain will be full (200 or 300 carrying capacity).

The road to Pulag is a long one:  a bus ride to Baguio (we left on the 11pm bus trip), a “monster” jeep from Baguio to the DENR office in Kabayan (which takes around 3-4 hours including some break in a resto and a stop to view Ambuklao dam), 30 minute video presentation + pep talk by Ma’am Mering (DENR officer in the Pulag National Park) and another 2 hours or more of road trip through rough roads (very dusty when we visited).

The official jumpoff is the Badabak Ranger Station.  On arriving there, we saw the many (and I mean many) participants of the Climb Against Cancer (including Jeffrey Santos and Rocky Salumbides).  A quick lunch at the ranger station then off we go up, up, up!

The trail through Ambangeg is not that difficult (many Luzon mountains, including Batulao, Maculot and Pico are much harder) but the combination of the cold climate, the thin air and high elevation, not to mention the time and expense it takes to get to Pulag from Manila makes this a “major climb”.  The trail begins through a dirt road passing through plots of lots converted to vegetable plantations, then through a mossy forest (not that thick on the trail), then through the famed grasslands of Pulag (which contains dwarf bamboo grass).  It took us a few hours (3-4 hours from the ranger station to Camp 2, grassland camp).

The grassland camp (picture above and below – right side of the picture).

When we arrived at the campsite, we rested for a while, set up our tent and rested some more.  Rain (on a summer day) began to fall and I and Felix got drenched inside my cheap dome tent as water got inside and I had to poke a hole in the sack flooring so that water could go outside.  Thankfully, the rain only lasted less than an hour.

Felix and I resting before pitching our tent (photo by Lirio Flores).

The rain was soon replaced by fog and the temperature went to 14 degrees Celsius (in summer!).  I was wearing a shirt, a sweater, a jacket, a bonnet, sock, pants, and still I felt cold.  I did not join the socials as I had a headache or was too tired but I kept waking up due to the cold.

We woke up early the following day as we had to trek to go to the summit before sunrise (an additional 1.5 hours of walking through the grasslands).  Three of our companions – Joel, Aisa (his wife) and Blezh (Aisa’s friend) – chose to stay behind in the camp to sleep.

On the summit of Mt. Pulag at sunrise.

Sunrise at the summit is beautiful and I get to see the so-called “sea of clouds”.  Pictures here, pictures there, yosi here, yosi there until the sun rises and time to go down.

Mt. Pulag’s summit.

On getting back to camp, they cooked breakfast (cooking is not my thing) and after we ate, it was time to break camp and descend.  We passed by the DENR office again to get the t-shirts we bought (which says “I survived Mt. Pulag”) and then finally a dinner at 50’s Diner in Baguio before we rode a bus home back to Manila.

It was on this climb that I first met Blezh (when I first saw her, I just thought that this girl is all about makeup – retouching when we arrived in Baguio, in the DENR office, in the ranger station, at the campsite, on return to the ranger station) who became a good friend of mine and a climb buddy through some memorable climbs; James (what can I say, he is fast, barely a month after he first met Blezh in Pulag, they became a couple); Edel (unforgettable line:  “Gaano pa ba katagal hanggang camp” “1 hour” “Pahinga na lang tayo dito ng 30 minutes para 30 minutes na lang lalakarin natin”); and the sweethearts Ochock and Lirio (sweet but not cheesy).

James, me, Allan, Aisa, Blezh, Bong and Ochock.

Dyumar, James, Edel, Alan, Ochock, Lirio, me and Felix.

* * * * *

On this climb, I get to see the beauty of Mt. Pulag.  I would eventually return and face it’s harshness giving true meaning to the t-shirt print “I Survived Mt. Pulag” but that would be for another post.

(All pictures taken with my Samsung point-and-shoot camera, except as indicated).

C3 – Maculot Traverse Dayhike

April 9, 2011

A few weeks (or one week) before the holy week, I decided to go to Maculot with my friend, Felix, and climb – sort of preparation for him for Mt. Pulag.  He has climbed Makiling (UPLB side) before but that was a long time ago.

This will be my first climb where I don’t have a more seasoned companion, where I don’t know the mountain or the trail (except for some research on  Our plan was to go up the grotto side, then go down the rockies side.

We climbed to Grotto, which, according to some locals is not the correct trail going up (as it is much harder due to boulders and steep slopes) and that it is being used by people to go down from grotto.

Coffee bean ingested then excreted by civet cat.

We took some pictures in the grotto then halo-halo in the huts and stores set up by the locals.  (Pilgrims climb the grotto during holy week as it has stations of the cross – which we didn’t see since we took the wrong trail).

At the grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes (with Pieta beside it).

Halo-halo anyone?

It started to drizzle and the trail going to the summit is foggy, slightly wet but really good (many trees).

We reached the summit but it was a disappointment – just a small clearing with no views and lots of garbage.  It also started to rain.

The descent from the summit is much harder than the ascent due to the slippery trail (mud caused by the rain).  I slipped going down, good thing Felix was descending on all fours, otherwise, we’d both go tumbling down.

After an hour or so, we reached the campsite, ate lunch then went to the famous rockies.

The Rockies is a small outcrop of rocks and overlooks the Taal lake.  We didn’t get a very good view of the lake due to the fog.

The descent was supposedly easier but Felix has a harder time descending than climbing so it took us longer.  Some washup and off we went home.

* * * * *

Felix and I in the rockies.


C2 – Mt. Balagbag

March 19-20, 2011

After the ordeal at Mt. Arayat (my first climb) and after the sore leg muscles and dead toenails have subsided, I was itching for another climb.  At that time, DPM has no scheduled climb so I searched in Facebook and found an open climb by Yapak Mountaineers.  The climb is to be at Mt. Balagbag in Rizal/Bulacan province.

Since there will be many people there, I asked my officemate (Jay) to join me in the climb.

The climb participants fit into two buses.  The trek started with a river trek (which at the time was still mostly dry), then trekking through a treeless dirt road at around 2pm.  HOT!

A pic near the summit.  Only later that day did I realize that I was wearing my shirt inside out!

The summit campsite is big (it can be used as a landing area for helicopters) and has a beautiful view of the city and some mountains.

It was Jay’s first climb and the combination of the river trekking earlier (requiring large steps), eagerness and the hot hot sun caused him cramps.

Jay, my officemate turned cook.

I cooked the rice (not cooked enough), he cooked tuyo.  In the morning, he cooked all (the rice is still not good).

That night was supposed to be a special night as the moon will appear at its biggest but we spent it sleeping (too tired).

In the morning, we trekked through a different route (Karahome) and I guess I was too careless that I fell and had a sprain.

Yosi break.

After the trek, we arrived at a place that will be the place for wash up, lunch, etc.  We didn’t wash up (too many people washing up in a small place), didn’t eat lunch (still full) and just rested.

Because of the heat, I was dehydrated the following days:  felt too tired, have headaches, etc.  It’s because of this that a return trek through Balagbag is not high on my priorities.

* * * * *

C1 – Arayat Traverse: Cramps, Dead Toenails, and Mud

March 5-6, 2011

After deciding to start mountain climbing (see previous post), I searched google for the group Dahong Palay Mountaineers.  I found the group’s multiply account, which is no longer used.  Then I found an event in facebook organized by DPM:  an Arayat Traverse.  I asked if an outsider can join (I knew noone in the group) and the group’s leader, Bong, said that it’s ok to join.

The climb was originally set for last week of February but was moved to the first weekend of March.  Based on the event wall, there were more than 30 attendees to the climb and one of them is an officemate.  (I since learned not to trust the number of attendees based on FB event wall).

Being the eager person that I am, I researched much about mountaineering before my first climb.  I researched on how to pack a bag (something relatively soft and not too heavy at the bottom, heavy stuff in the middle nearer to your back, and lighter stuff at the top.  Those that will be needed first or more frequently should also be on top), what to bring, etc.

I bought a backpack, trekking shoes, tent (the cheap dome type), flashlight and some other stuff a week before the climb.  I also thought of jogging to tone my legs and lessening yosi to improve my lung’s capacity.  A few days before the climb, I decided to buy a trekking pole.  Friday before the climb, I went to Expedition Plus in Amorsolo (in Makati) to buy a trekking pole.  The price surprised me:  one trekking pole costs P2500 (Petzl) and there was nothing cheaper so I decided to bite the bullet and buy it.

Night before the climb, all my gears are packed.  On the morning of the climb, I woke up early since the itinerary specifies 6am meeting time in Victory Pasay for the 630am bus departure for Pampanga.  I still did not know anyone from the climb (other than Bong who I’ve chatted with in facebook) and I didn’t have anyone’s number.

I arrived at the bus station around 6am and nobody for the Arayat climb seems to be there.  I waited, waited but noone’s coming.  I asked an officemate to send me the number of the officemate who was joining the climb (based on the FB event) and texted him.  No answer.  I called, no answer.  I thought that they may have gone before me so I just rode the bus to Pampanga hoping to meet them there.

Upon arriving in SM Pampanga, I looked for the others but noone’s there.  I asked the jeepney barker if anyone going to Arayat has come and gone but he said none.  I waited for an hour.  While waiting, I was thinking whether to just go home or wait.  I then rationalized that I already bought a lot of stuff (which are not cheap) and that if I let that chance pass, I may lose the drive to start again.  Thankfully, the group arrived.

The group apologized for being late as they had a “pre-climb” session the night before and was drunk to wake up early.  He said that some people are coming from Pasig and we had to wait for them.  After the Pasig boys arrived, we still had to wait for SM Supermarket to open to buy butane for the stove.

My first impression of group?  They were rougher (not a bad thing, just that I’ve never interacted with outdoorsy people before) than I anticipated and I was thinking if all of this was a mistake.

And finally…… we’re bound for Magalang, Pampanga for the jumpoff.

In Magalang, we had to stop in the Magalang public market to buy food and eat lunch.  After that, we’re off to the jumpoff point.

Near the jumpoff, we went first to the military camp to register (there is a military installation at the peak and we had to register at the lower camp so that the guys at the peak will know that mountaineers are coming up).

At about 1pm, we started the ascent through rough road.  Fortunately for us, there is a truck carrying hollow blocks going up the road so we hitched a ride and the ride saved about half an hour of trek through a hot rough road.

We started climbing through the forested trails.  Everything’s doing ok so far.  Several rest stops and we reached a small house for additional rest and some light snacks of trail food.

After an hour or so of additional climbing, my pack seemed to be getting heavier and my legs are feeling tired but I must go on.  I started the climb near the front of the group but as the climb went on, I’m getting nearer and nearer the back end of the group.

Just before the main water source is a rather steep climb through boulders.  On reaching the watersource, the first cramp on my leg appeared.  One leg.  After a few more minutes of walk, another cramp appeared on another leg.  A few more minutes and both of my thighs had cramps.  Wow, what pain.  Fortunately, I bought a trekking pole which helped a lot in the ascent.  Instead of putting all my weight on my legs while climbing, I can use my arms and trekking pole to push me higher and higher.

The sun was setting lower and I was seriously looking for a place to camp as I thought I could no longer climb.  Every slightly flat clearing becomes a candidate for an emergency campsite.  But the climb must go on.  I was thankful to Dyumar (the designated sweeper) pushing me on higher and higher.

On reaching the part where we had to turn left (right goes to Haring Bato), we rested and I took some painkillers to ease the pain in my legs.  After that, more ascent through steeper trails.  Fortunately this time, there are many roots to hold onto putting less strain on my legs and more on my arms.  As before, I am second to the last in group with only the sweeper behind me.  It started to rain!

It was getting dark until finally……. we reached the summit (Peak 1) and campsite!  My first summit (or what I considered to be my first summit)!

We pitched our tent.  It was again fortunate that I bought a tent as the group forgot the big tent and two other climbers had to share the tent with me.

They cooked food while some of us rested.  Rest did I do to those sore legs and a slightly throbbing head.

Mealtime was spent standing up, eating on plastic with bare hands (no plates, no utensils) while the wind blew and the rain fell.  Nevermind that our hands maybe dirty from all the mud and nevermind that all of us were eating while shaking from the cold.

After dinner is the time for socials but I did not join as my head was now throbbing harder.

Sleep was not restful.  My cheap dome tent was leaking and a puddle was forming on my side of tent.  It was cold even inside the tent and my clothes were wet.  The blanket that my tentmate brought was soaking wet but a wet blanket is a better protection from the cold wind than bare skin.

Finally… morning!

The view at the summit is beautiful but only for a few seconds as the fog covers much of it.

After breakfast, it is now time to break camp and pack our things for the second and more difficult part of the trail – the traverse part.  The police at the summit station warned us that there is a landslide going up the next peak.

The traverse to peak 2 started on a very steep descent through slippery mud.  I asked if this is really the way and yes that was the correct trail.  (In my two other climbs in Arayat, others also asked if that was really the trail).

The traverse trail was easier for me since there were less ascents and there are many roots, branches, trees, grasses to hang onto (just had to be careful as there are the dreaded teka-teka plant full of thorns).

We reached White Rock and they climb to the top to take some pictures while I was so tired that I just rested.  The descent from White Rock is another difficult part as it was almost 90 degree descent through a rock wall and just holding while hanging on to a few roots and some cracks in the rock.

An hour or so of walking through more densely forested area and we rested before the start of another difficult assault.  There was indeed a landslide, there were few plants to hang onto, and I had to rest standing while hugging the muddy slope.  Patrick almost fell and Noy had to take his backpack so he can get to safety.

An assault which seemed to last a very very long time and we reached a rather flat area on the way to peak 2.  At this point, I was very very dirty – mud on my shoes, mud on my legs, mud on my shirt, mud on my arms, mud on my face, mud on hands, mud on my backpack, mud, mud, mud, mud everywhere!

We are lunch in Peak 2 and a short trip to the viewdeck and we’re going down.

I thought finally descent.  How much harder can it be?  Apparently, it was still hard.  If the ascent was very hard on my legs, the descent was punishment for my knees.  The rather steep descent through rocky soil and the heavy pack on my back makes each step more and more difficult for my knees.  My toes were also getting squished inside my shoes and they were hurting.

Two or three hours of descent and we’re out of the forest!  I again thought that it was the end of the trail but noooo!  We spent an hour or more walking through flat but rough trail before reaching Baño (Arayat National Park) where the locals are not very friendly (earning the Arayat side of the mountain the name Magulang as opposed to Magalang on the other side).

Some swimming, cooking and eating and then we rode a tricycle to Arayat poblacion where we rode a jeepney back to SM Pampanga.

The Pasig boys went home on the bus bound for Cubao but the rest of us went in to do some window shopping and for some reason, we were always taking stairs instead of escalators compounding the pain in my already protesting legs.

Finally we boarded a bus bound for Pasay and home!

* * * * *

I realized that mountaineers are kind (my belief of which was further strengthened in my succeeding climbs).

For a week, my legs hurt and I walked like an old man with arthritis on his legs.  My knees hurt for two weeks.  The toenail on my right foot completely died and came off (the whole nail – which is my first ever souvenir of a climb and is still here at home).  It was all worth it!

Thank you to Bong, Dyumar, Dan, Noy, Buboy, Mira, Topet, Jayjay, and Joseph for this wonderful journey, the first of many.

Conquering Arayat brought a new confidence to me.  If I could conquer Arayat on my first try, I certainly could do more!

For additional pictures, please see: