Do not follow where the path may lead. Go, instead, where there is no path and leave a trail

August 13, 2010

A Mountaineers Level

If you had been climbing for quite a while, its quite obvious that you are developing skills in hiking. But of course its still defends on how much you are willing to put yourself to the next level. Meaning if you are climbing for say ten years now but its just around the Batangas-Cavite minor mountains, your skill will plateau just to a minor extent. Two years of climbing on Major mountains is better skillwise compared to the latter.

Given these scenarios, I had compiled the Mountaineers skill levels basing on how much he had honed his skills and physical prowess.

Level 1 - Normally this is a beginners level. When you start climbing probably on a dayhike and then simple overnights trips to minor mountains like Mt. Maculot or Mt. Manabo. If you had been on level 1 for quite a while, you may also have the ability to organize a minor climb (advance level 1).

Level 2 - This is the time when you have the urge to explore mountains which are more that 1000++ masl or so. So if you have climb Major mountains like Mt. Pulag (akiki or tawangan trail), Mt. Banahaw or Mt. Apo, you are a Level 2. You can add that an advance Level 2 hiker is the one that have tried mountains that needs technical skills. There are a few mountains that has this, but it still needs to be put into consideration. Mt. Guiting-guiting is considered technical but doesnt need ropes erstwhile Mt. Banahaw is not technical but there are a few parts that use ropes.
And the more advance a level 2 hiker is, the more ability he has to a climb farther away of his comfort zone.

Level 3 - One of the traits of an outdoorsy person is that you want to share what you see or experience. So the next level after climbing major mountains is to organize a climb, Both a minor and major. From organizing a simple dayhike to multi day trips requires a Level 3 skill. Here is also where Leadership potential comes in. By going through the previous levels (1 and 2) will also give the climber the idea on how to take care of Nature and he should know LNT (leave no trace) outdoor ethics by heart. You should also should know how to blend to the locals, and have haggling skills in getting your logistics. And like the previous level the more advance a level 3 hiker is, the more ability he has to organize a climb farther away from his comfort zone.

Level 4 - So whats next after organizing? Exploring! This is the time when you create trails for mountains that had never been climb by hikers. This requires a lot of skills (and money) since you might need the help of the locals around the area. Proper planning is also need and most of the time, a single climb will not achieve your goal. There are also time that your resources and supplies might deplete untimely and survival skills comes into play. Mt. Ugu climb was pioneered by PALMC, Mt. Balingkilat by YABAGMC and Mt. Guiting-guiting by the group of Art Valdez. The more advance a Level 4 is, the higher the mountain he can explore. And the farther also from his comfort zone.

Level 5 - Alpinism. When you climb mountains that your not familiar with. And ideally when you try to climb snowcap mountains. This mountains cannot be found around the Philippines and nearby south east Asian countries. Being a tropical country, we are not climatize to coldness. So to climb this mountains (Mt. Hood, Mt. cook or Mt. Denali) will need extra training (e.g ice climbing) and of course money.

This leveling is just base on my idea and is not official. And of course this is base from a tropical place point of view. So if you live in an area where you are alread use to snowcap mountains, this leveling is not applicable.

August 12, 2010

Mt. Balingkilat Traverse

Rainy season is here, its normally off season for hikers. But that is like half a year of no climbing? I thinks, its still okay to continue climbing during this time given that there is no severe weather disturbance.
Thats why last July 24, even the weather being glommy we opted to go to the most popular hiking destination in the Aeta Cawag settlement. Mt. Balingkilat - short for "Bahay nang Kidlat" (Home of Lightnings).

From the jumpoff the trek starts passing by the aeta houses until you reachead the "kawayananan" pit stop. About two hours from the jumpoff, this place is where hikers have their lunch and rest a bit. After kawayanan is where the fun begins.... its the start of complete assault trek. Its hiking on a trail which is 70-80 degrees incline. The trail is composed of cugon grass, scattered limestones and I almost forgot loose soil! Opposite Balingkilat (early part of the trail) is a hill, which blocks the wind. You may compare this part to a valley. This also adds to the difficulty of the hike since the place becomes very hot and humid. I can't imagine climbing here during summer. The ventillation only becomes better when you reach the height of about 700-800masl. When your almost at the plateau of Balingkilat, the trail becomes more narrow and more dangerous. I was asking myself, why didnt the group who created the trail made it a bit easier (zig-zag) and not complete assault? Well, the mountain had eroded a lot (there is no trees here) and this is apparently the best trail to create.

The valley Like Trail

rest stop

Upon reaching the plateau after roughly 3++ hours hike, its just an easy walk or around 15 minutes to reach the campsite. But we choose to wait for our companions who were left behind [angry smiley]. Bad bad idea because after half na hour or so it started to rain. We pitched our tent under heavy downpour. The rest of the night rain was off and on. But early in the morning there was good weather. We took this chance to have a good look of the area, from the campsite you can see the nearby mountains in the area (nagsasa, etc) and the far away coves/beaches (subic bay etc). You can also see the summit only about 15 minutes away. One thing amazing about this mountain is that there is a river on top (beside the campsite), which is also the water source. We took advantage of the clear weather to cook and have our meals. And then the sky closed... and the weather turn bad to worse. It was raining so hard that we settle to cancel our summit assault. We were hoping to wait the rain to stop, but it just would not. Thats the time I decided to break-camp, and just move out from this rain cloud.

Subic Bay, summit view

river beside campsite

campsite, afar is the summit

Since the trail is very steep going-up, imagine how it is after this rain. This is also the time I decided to take the traverse trail. The traverse trail had been taken by other climbers a few times, plus the hunters. Its not yet established but I know its possible. With our guide leading we took this trail, early on my mind was debating If I made the right decision. The early part of the trail was very steep,grassy, full of twigs and has loose rock and soil. But after about 30% of the trail, it became for more level and just a bit rolling. I guess its still safer than if we took the traditional trail. After 2 hours of hiking down, we reached the Nagsasa ridge. From here its an easy way going back to the jump off. We also try to pass by Pinaglabanan river but it was overflowing, guess its better to dip here during summer. Next stop.. Cinco Picos.

the traverse route, summit view

traverse route

bundok Dayungan (cloud covered) and Mt. nagsasa (left partially seen)