Nature-ral High

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

October 9, 2011

Mt. Kosciuszko (The Climb)

I walk up early the next day. A miracle did happen, I can see no clouds in the sky. The sun was shining bright. Nadia told me I was very lucky, and shes also sure that lots of people will go up to ski or to hike.
  So I hurriedly prepared and proceed with my hike.  I was glad I decided to take the chairlift, it was a 15 minute scenic ride. Very enchanting (yet scary) view.

Good Weather

Just like Baguio but better

The ride


    For the record, I have no experience climbing in alpine/snow. Since there were fresh snow from last night, the whole mountain top was covered in snow. Alpine hike is very very much different from the tropics, everything was white and there is no trail. As the sun goes higher, the surrounding goes brighter, to the point that its very difficult to open your eyes. To those who are still not aware, long exposure to this surrounding can cause snow blindness. UV light is several times stronger in the mountain,specially in alpine condition.  Adding to the problem was that I forgot to bring my sunglasses (which I think is still in-adequate). Miracoleously, a good Samaritan lend me her snow glasses. She said that I just put it back to a rock where we met. Shes really an angel. The terrain is rolling until you reach the summit. Whenever there was a bit of uphill trek, I was breathing heavily. I dont know if its the weight of the snow boots and shoes (around 2-3lbs each leg), or the air was just thin. Footing was also difficult on uneven terrain due to the size of the snow shoes.  I got lost twice following two ski tracks, losing much precious time, I guess its just my climbing instinct that saved me. Since time was not on my side, I didn't took my lunch. I just ate the choco trail food I brought. My perception was that when you on snow it will be chilly, but as I quicken my face, I sweat a lot. But whenever I made short stops to catch my breath chill immediately take over. The most difficult part was the final assault to the summit, it was steep. I reached the summit at around 12:15pm. A few minutes early of my turn-back cut-off time. 
       The summit view was unexplainable. Snow cap mountains on the close distance and as it goes farther the view gets greener. I met a Swedish and Australian couple on the summit, I believe I was the 4th to arrive at the summit that day. I really want to stay a bit longer to enjoy the view, but time was moving fast. 

A river runs through it

The Angel and her kid.

Mt. Kosciuzsko (in the middle)

Heavy foot

Avalance (below is a lake)

Trail to Summit

If you look closely, 2 climbers  are on the right

Summit Marker

Summit Friends

     As I went down I met other hikers, who hired guides. A guide cost $100AU, thats the reason I didn't get one. Plus the fact that they started late so it dont match my itenary. I talked to the guide, bragging aside he was surprise that a tropical climber like me was able to summit without a guide and at a quick pace. Going down was much easier, other than ther is less assault, the trail can now be easily seen because of the number of climbers that went after me. Going down the chairlift added another great experience. You can see the whole village below. As I pick up the rest of my things, I saw that that bus was already there. And guess what, it was the same driver as yesterday. hehehe
Climbers going up after me.

The same climbers
The view going down is also mesmerizing

      I really thanked God I was able to do this climb. After a few days, I learned that not all locals climbed (or want to) Kosciouzsko during winter. As of this writing, the skin on face is having its second peeling due to intense sunburn. I told my american friend before I can't imagine climbing without trees, now I know, and its also beautiful. I am really against solo climb, but I have no choice for this one. It was more mentally tiring than physically.  Travelling home in the bus I rarely slept because of the mental strain. Even when I got home in the comfort of my bed. I remember Bear Gryllys (of man vs. wild) crying a few hours before his flight above everest using an untested flying craft. Pastour Imata also cried before his final assault to everest summit. I also felt the same uncertainty, specially the day before the climb. I was sometimes shivering, thinking what I got myself into. And also when the time I got lost. But I guess, thats what makes an adventure more rewarding. When you conquered adversities. 

October 8, 2011

Mt. Kosciuzsko (Preparation, Logistics and Travel)

 When I told an American friend about my Australia assignment during a family dinner. "Why dont you climb Kosciuzsko, its not that high but its one of the seven summits" - he told me. Its the first time I heard of this mountain, but it gave an idea on what adventure I can do in the land down under.
  Fast forward to mid-september, for two weeks I had been researching almost every night on how to go to Thredbo, a village right at the foot of Kozy (how the Australians calls Kosciouzsko). There are two ways to reach the summit, via Thredbo or Charllotte pass. I chose Thredbo for mainly two reasons, it can be reached by public transport during ski season and there is a backpackers lodge. I also checked if its possible to climb Kozy during early spring, since most Australians climb this mountain during summer. A date was also chosen, October 1-2 since, October 3 was a public holiday in NSW. I will have an additional day to rest. Since Ski season (winter) was almost over in Thredbo, only a few transportation regularly go there. I chose the one most convenient, cheapest (though its not cheap) and was okay for my chosen dates.
Below is the summary of my Itinerary
7:00 AM - ETD Sydney to Thredbo (Bus)
3:15 PM - ETA Thredbo
3:15 PM - LOdge in Hostel, roam around the village. prepare for next day.
6:00 AM - start of climb (not use the chairlift) 
12:00 NN -ETA summit
3:00 PM - ETA Express Chairlift to village
4:15 PM - ETD Thredbo to Sydney (Bus)

The Bus ride is via reservation, so I really need to be there on the time of departure, and only one bus travel each day. The last bus for the snow season was October 3. There is also a chairflift (Kosciuszko Express) from thredbo up to certain part of the mountain, this is a help for skiiers to be able to reach the snow easily.

  A week into the climb date I was monitoring the weather forecast. Eventhough its early spring, the weather had been bad in NSW, even in Thredbo. On the last minute, I had to adjust my climb schedule to October 2-3, since the weather forecast was better during this dates. Good thing the bus and lodge booking can easily be moved. 

  The travel from Sydney to Thredbo was approximately 7-8 hours (500KM approx), stopping only in Canberra. As we arrived in the village, the weather was worst than I expected. The mountain was full of clouds, and it was drizzzling hard along the road. The mountain trail has a 10 feet visibility. To make the situation worst, the driver told me there were no more bus travelling the next day (October 3), he was so -sure since he was the driver assigned for the snow season. But the customer service says otherwise. In any case I have no choice, I leave the worrying for tomorrow since my biggest concern was the climb. Arriving at the village, the temperature was Negative celcius.

Bad Weather

 One thing good was the lodge Manager (Nadia) was very kind. She helped me how to go around the village and anything she possibly can. She also help me in monitoring the weather forecast the next day. The forecast changed again, and was not good. 

Thanks Nadia

Dining and Living Room

Another view of the Mountain top
I visited Thredbo sports (rental) to check for the gear I need tomorrow. I plan to hire snow boots since my hiking shoes is not waterproof. They said I will also need snow shoes since there was fresh snow all week, problem was they open 8:00am, I decided to change my Itinerary and just take the chairlift going up. Snow shoes are also heavy that it was difficult hike carrying it (early part has no snow). 

Thredbo Map

I slept with a heavy heart worrying about tomorrow. I also prayed that a miracle would happen about the weather. 
   Related posts:

July 5, 2011

Mt. Cristobal Traverse

      It was really a good decision that I moved the Cristobal Traverse climb to July 02-03, the prior weekend was very wet because of the Tropical Depression that affected parts of Luzon and most of Southern Mindanao. Below is my blog entry of our traverse trek to Mt. Cristobal.
Jump off (pic from one of the hiker in the group)

        After alighting the bus from Manila, we hired a jeep going to the jump-off in Dolores, Quezon. From the jump-off it’s around a 1 hour walk up to the first rest stop and landmark which is the Montelibano House. My assumption is that this house was created as a rest house but is rarely use by the owner. We met the caretaker who advised us that we are free to take fruits around the yard and refill our containers with water. 

Montelinbanos House (pic from one of the hiker in the group)

 From Montelibano was the start of the “real” trek. Continuous assault under the cover of thick and mossy forest. The inclination is around 45-60 degrees. Good thing that there are lots of protruding roots on the trail, this made our foot hold much easier. You’ll be able to see very large trees that I believe are centuries old. The early part of the assault was so humid that I think I consumed my water ration more than I budgeted. I was literally sweating like a pig! And since there is no water source in this mountain, each of us brought 5 liters of water making the assault more difficult. When you reach around ~1000 masl it becomes a bit colder and trek is now much easier. 

The trail (pic from one of the hiker in the group)

The trail is mostly the same until you reach the crater campsite. I was really surprised that there is some sort of mini lake right across the campsite. The water was not pristine but was clean. Though we were the first to arrived at this camp, we camped on another campsite a few minutes from the crater. This was for the reason the crater camp has a tendency to be flooded if there were persistent rain. The other campsite (bulwagan saddle) can fit around 8-10 tents, and mossy trees surround it making cooking a breeze. My estimate is that temperature is  around 15-16C degrees in early morning.

Crater Camp


Crater Lake/Swamp

Salad looking plants


Bulawagan Saddle (pic from one of the hiker in the group)

4 of the 7 lakes of San Pablo

Jones Peak (pic from one of the hiker in the group)

We commenced our traverse at exactly 8am the next day. The early part of the trail was established but very beaten. Its very hard to go down unless you hold the cugon grass on your sides. After a few hours walk (or slide) the trail will become covered by trees again then it will become another open area. I believe this is the part where we made the wrong turn. Our intention was to exit in Tala, San Pablo, we should now be able to see the cross of Tayak Hill after a few more minutes of walk. But after passing banana plantations we ended up in an open farm where there are pechay and kamote (sweet potato) crops, the hill and cross was not in sight.  We assess the situation and took our lunch. 

Where we lost the trail (pic from one of the hiker in the group)

 Some of my companions said that they were able hear dogs barking. Me and our sweeper did an ocular inspection of the place. After around 15 minutes of descent we were able to find the source of barking. It was the hut of the crops owner (~650 masl) were there lives 3 old folks. They said that the trail that we found was actually the original traverse trail exit, but ever since the Tala exit became popular rarely did climbers pass by their hut (exit point) anymore. They showed us their logbook which has a record date 2008 as the last entry.

The old folks (pic from one of the hiker in the group)

Traverse Exit. To our right is the
old folks hut. (pic from one of the hiker in the group)


From their hut it was around 30 minutes of easy rolling trail. When we got to Sta. Elena (~400 masl), we talked to the contact person given by the old folks regarding the hiring of tricycles. But before going back to San Pablo, we took a very rewarding and relaxing clean up in their “Batis”. A big water pipe which water flows to a small pond.

           Upon reaching San Pablo, we took a hearty meal of Gotong Batangas and Bulalo, after which we took our respective bus bound to Manila.
            This is one of my most enjoyable climb of PALMC. This is not because I’m the EL (Expedition Lead), but because I really love old school mountaineering. Itinerary was followed diligently and drinking was just to warm the cold body and without over indulgence. Everyone was so independent and showed due respect to nature. All of the participants showed patience when lost our way. I’m really hoping to participate in more climbs like this in the future.
            Trivia – Banahaw and Cristobal long had the perception of being mystical, positive and negative respectively. Let me share to you my experience I had during our climb.
            We slept early as we were all tired from the trek and we had minimal sleep the previous day. At around 11:30pm I woke up because I need to pee, I was trying to hold it but since it was so cold and there are 5-6 hours before dawn I had no choice but to do it. So hastily, I pick up my head lamp got out of the tent even though the hair on the back of my head was already standing up. I bowed my head so that I wont be able to see anything but the creep keeps on sinking in…… I turned off my headlamp…. What I saw was there are sort of round rings that are glowing on the ground, green round rings that looks like a glow in the dark item. And there are lots of them even from afar. I keep rubbing my eyes thinking I’m just seeing things. But were really there...... I felt that that was the longest pee I ever had.  The next morning, I woke up at around 4:30, I checked but the neon lights were not there anymore… it was still very dark.
            I told this to the group in the morning and a companion said there was scientific explanation for what I saw…. Bioluminescence. What I know about bioluminescence is a plant emitting light, but not circular lights. What ever it is, still a very scary experience.

note: most photos were from Linson and some from Aris our guests. 

April 26, 2011

Kibungan, Benguet to Sugpon, Ilocos Sur (Cross Country Trek)

Maybe your wondering why there is no mountain name in the title of my blog. Because this hike is a cross country trek which consist of climbing several mountains. I have been longing to do this trek for several years now, and when a friend invited me, without hesitation I immediately joined. I had been into several major climbs but this is the first time I will climb without a porter, only guides. I also had been practicing lightpacking for sometime now, but without guides on a multi day hike will put my skill on the next level, so don't be surprise if you'll see me wearing same shirt for several days. LOL!

   The jumpoff point is Sitio (small village) Tanap which is about 30 minutes from the municipality of Kibungan, Benguet . The start of the trek ascending in between valleys. Eventhough were in the mountain province it was still very humid and hot. The campsite for day 1 is in the Sitio Agdanganan, its a village for locals which is located in between mountains. At 1300 masl, it was very cold in the night.

map of Kibungan with all the mountains and Sitios 


Rice paddies 
Close up 

1st camp 

With the local kids 

   Second day consist of 4 hours of non stop assault. The destination were the mountains that can be seen on the 1st camp, Mt. Bulalakaw (1,772 masl) and Mt Almase (1,811 masl). The view was spectacular and the mountain walls are like pillars. After the assault was the mossy forrest that lead us to the highest peak of our climb. Mt. Oten (1854 masl). During our descent it started to rain, our guide advice us to camp about an hour away to our intended destination. We lodge at Sitio Dalipey, yes lodge because they have dormitories for students who live far away. Sitio Dalipey is one of the few Sitios that have highschool. The place is very secluded that they don't know how to speak tagalog, even speaking the local dialect ilocano was a struggle. They also dont have electricity. But locals are so hospitable that we are like celebrities. They dont mind we enter their village unscheduled and the even serve us coffee before we left. 

There are lots of hanging bridges

steep steep!

rest stop

summit of Mt. Almase

Summit of Mt. Oten 

Resting near summit of Mt. Oten

Grass eating pig

Pic with the locals.

Igorot house

Benguet Mountain coffee anyone?

Third day consist of passing by Mt. Dalipey (1300++ masl). The summit is an open field with wild flowers everywhere. From a distance you can see big mountain walls that makes you think you are in the Lord of the Rings! After a few hours walk will lead you to Pipi-wan stairs that I can say is about 70-80* inclination, makes me really wonder how they were able to create this way, there are some part which are cemented but most part are carve from the stoned wall. Continuing will lead you to the view of Les-eng rice terraces. After which there will be another assault to Sitio Batangan then Mt Batangan, the last high point of our trek. There were no complete clearing but we were able to peek from the clouds from time to time. The view was very grand and amazing. After this summit was a complete descent for 4 hours! We were only able to rest at Likungan, Sugpon Ilocos Sur (Yes we are already in Ilocos). This was the most difficult descent I have experience.  Very steep and very long. Our trek ended we we reach Amburayan river. A very wide river but has less water during summer. Finally, we were able to take a dip and clean up without feeling cold.
Summit of Mt. Dalipey

A local carrying Rice Stalks

Cherry Blossoms?
Stairs to Infinity

Les-Eng rice terraces

Wild mushrooms for dinner

 Peek at Mt. Batangan



 Our initial plan was to trek all the way to Sugpon town proper on the 4th day. But since the river was low, jeepneys can be hired. Yippee! The jeep has wheels of the bus so that it can navigate to the stoney trail of the river. The jeepney ride took three hours, imagine how long it will take us to trek. The river is just like the pinatubo trail so there was not really much to see. Our cross country trek ended when we reach Sugpon town proper.

Jeep Bus


Kibungan to Sugpon
      This trek was one of the most enjoyable for me. The views were magnificent and spectacular. The place was really great. Our Lead said that this was the "easier" trail compared to the one he had last. I might opt to go back here again, and try the other trail for a different experience.