It’s easy to think and say “circumstances have been against me” when things don’t work for us. Easy to rationalize our actions and factor all the ifs and if onlys that contributed to our defeat. But, truth is, deep in our hearts we know that all these are nothing but just sugar-coated excuses.
Trust me, I learned it from experience. My recent climb to Mt. Madjaas taught me this.
The question is not at what age you want to retire, it’s at what stage. After my Mt. Apo climb with friends, I seriously considered “retiring” from hiking and mountain climbing. RETIRE. Such a big word coming from someone who has not seen it all. Someone who has not reached that far. IKR!
At some point, I just thought it’s the next logical step. Nature has witnessed us growing together on the trail, and it seemed like time has come to for us to grow separately. To find our own niche. Forge our own paths. As for me, maybe it’s time to rekindle an old love. My first love, poetry.
But it turned out easier said than done. So there I was, on another boat trip to an unknown land.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has recently approved the reopening of the Tinagong Dagat, a two-kilometer caldera which is said to be the old crater of Mt. Mandalagan. And when Jharm of Lakwatserong Engineer posted that he was gathering 15 hikers for a DIY climb, James immediately reserved our slot. Jovy, Kim and Shiela also decided to come along and join the fun.
New Faces, New Stories
The group met at Cebu North Bus Terminal for the 5pm bus trip. It was mostly shy smiles and few nods at first since most of us were stranger to each other. If this was six years ago, I would have paled to the thought of meeting new people. But experience — and probably age too — changed that fear to thrill. Well maybe still a little anxious, but definitely an improvement…
What goes up must come down, they say. So there we were, descending 740 meters from the summit of Mt. Apo to reach the iconic Lake Venado where we would encamp for the night. A short distance for many, but a challenging one nonetheless.
The trail to Lake Venado was evidently spoiled by time and people. It was steep and muddy and slippery. But for someone who prefers downhill over uphill terrain like me, it was honestly a little fun. Had we not been carrying our backpacks, we would surely enjoy running — even sliding — on the mire like kids. But nobody dared to take photos during those two hours of balancing our feet. Our minds and eyes were focused holding on to branches/roots/grass to avoid tumbling down.
It was 4pm when Shiela, Karl, James, Ate Sherlyn, Shandy and I finally reached the lake. The rest of our group went ahead and had already set up camp. For us, we took a quick breather and stared at our feat. We survived the Lake Venado trail!
“Somewhere between the bottom of the climb and the summit is the answer to the mystery why we climb.” This quote by Australian-born rock climber and mountaineer, Greg Child, perfectly summarized our three-day Mt. Apo climb.
As I have shared in Part 1, this climb was two years in the making. So with still sleepy eyes, but excited hearts, we woke up on the second day knowing that something important is about to happen.
It’s 2 am. Save the light from the night sky, outside was pitch dark. The air was cold but thankfully our guides prepared hot soup before we break camp.
From Tinikaran I, it would take an estimate of 4 to 6 hours to the summit — depending on your pace and your stops. Kuya Babu briefed us what to expect along the trail. He told us not to stray away from the group since there were many confusing forks ahead. He warned us of the steep ascent. That it would be long and grueling and somewhat endless. At quarter to 3 am, we began. To make sure that no one would drag the hike and none of us gets left behind, we decided on the lead, midpack and sweeper group. As for me, I chose the latter.
As I walked at the back of the pack, I saw the string of headlamps snaked to the sky. We hiked through a thick forest, passing by Tinikaran II. We used the roots of bigger trees as foothold and means to pull ourselves up the trail. Some fallen branches also acted as hurdles. We hoped and crawled our way through until we reached the forest’s exit.
4:30 am. The first light started to break by this time.