Thursday, June 30, 2011

Mt. Maculot

Cuenca, Batangas
Jump-off point: Brgy. Poblaction, Cuenca
LLA: 13°55'15"N; 121°2'30"E; 706 MASL
Days required / Hours to Rockies: Half day / 1-2 hours
Specs: Minor climb, Difficulty 2/9, Trail class 1-3
(Source: http://www.pinoymountaineer.com/2007/08/mt-maculot-685.html)


The Backpackers:
Conts Cirujales
Jovy Duremdes
Liz Honrade
Deepee Piano
Frank Aguilar
Heinz Lopez Alvarez, Jr. 
Ivan Laurence Ignacio
Ralph Flores
York Advento
Len Tomas



Guests:
Angel Cawaling
Marion Macapagal
Weng Topasi
Mark 
Andie Yardan



The BACKPACKERS
Proven SOLID After Mt. Macu-LOST
By: Heinz Lopez Alvarez, Jr


Estimated Time of Departure (ETD) was moved to a later time. Shopping for climb food took  a longer time. Some BP members arrived late at the JAM Bus Terminal in Cubao. Those delays happened definitely due to valid reasons. However, though many different things were delayed that day, the group still looked forward to reaching the peak of a mountain in Cuenca, Batangas. A mountain very known to local climbers as Mt. Maculot. 

From left: Andie, Dee Pee, Contz, York, Len, Heinz, Jovy, Mark, Marion, Liz, Weng, Angel, Ralp, and Ivan.
Each mountain that we had climbed in the past varied on the challenges they offered. But this Mt. Maculot Climb outlasted them in terms of the difficulties that we encountered and the all-kinds-of-challenges that we had to go through.


A Physical Strength Test
Tired as everybody came straight from work, the group agreed to assemble at the bus station. It was already almost 11:00 AM when the headcount got completed. With our heavy backpacks on, we started the journey. 

Before leaving our house, when we (I, Ivan and Angel) were shouldering our bags on, my Mom commented while talking to her friend "Yang mga bag nayan (?), ang bibigat nyan! Sinubukan kong buhatin kagabi, naku di ko mabuhat..." But what's unknown to her was- the physical strength test did not end there.

JAM Bus terminal in Cubao
BP in town

Mt. Maculot as seen from the town proper.
York, Heinz, and Marion
BP Lead Ivan and Angel

At the Mountaineers' Store
It took an hour-and-a-half bus ride Manila to Batangas. We started the actual climb at 2:45 PM. 

Majority wanted to have "real adventure" so the Climb Lead, Ivan, led us to an unestablished route. Zero trail on a flat ground. It was all ascending with most part at atmost 60-70 degrees! There was a part where everybody struggled climbing up. It was slippery and muddy as it rained earlier. There was almost nothing to hold on to for support. It was a total steep. Our shoulders were aching because of our heavy packs. Our arms and knees were trembling. Stuck and could not move yet our sweat continued to escape. We were dehydrating and consuming a huge amount of strength early on. 

Then we realized not all could pass that crucial way up. Ivan, Angel, Liz, Ralph, Jovy and I labored to get a stable post before directing others to find a manageable and a possible way going up. The group split up, continued the climb and met at a still-difficile spot.



A Sign.
Since it was almost impossible to climb up with our heavy backpacks on, we decided to transport them first. The boys positioned so we could pass the bags through until they reached a higher ground where we temporarily dumped them. Unfortunately, Marion's backpack fell and rolled down the ravine The backpack looked like a human body, very helpless against the earth's gravity. 

What if it was one of us? That event's lesson was very clear... SAFETY FIRST.


The only part we considered manageable was where there were trees to hold on to or roots to hang our weight on. It was a continuous stiff steep all the way. We hoped to reach the campsite before dark, but it was already past 10:00 PM and we were still exerting all our efforts, pushing ourselves up, and consuming our remaining strengths hoping to reach a campsite. Until we reached a dead end. No more possible way to advance. Cliffs in both sides. We failed to find a campsite. We then confirmed- WE WERE LOST.

To give the Climb Lead time to think, I and Ralph initiated to lead the pack down and back to the nearest planter's' resting area which we saw earlier. It was then an official emergency camp in a place where fixing a tent is impossible. Ivan cooked and we had our dinner at past 11:00 PM. Then, with our bodies already weak, slept right in there- in an almost 45 degrees slope relying on some trees to support us from rolling down to death.



We survived the night. Ivan and Jovy cooked and we had a good pancake breakfast. Feeling somehow recharged, we started our descent. It was yet another physical challenge as the only trail down we knew was the trail we created the night before.



An Almost Accident
While we were struggling descending, someone shouted "bato... bato... bato!" I saw a relatively small rock, almost a stone, rolling far from us. But when I looked up, my eyes caught how York managed to skip  on the two  big rocks, almost as big as human torso! It rolled towards my direction and I was too lucky to have a tree by my left. I hid behind it as fast as I could. The bigger rock got suspended right in the foot of the tree where I hid. 

What if the tree was not there at all? What if York failed to skip on the rolling rocks?

Survivors of the Rolling Rocks: York and Heinz

The other big rock continued to roll down the mountain, which was a blessing in disguise because a planter did noticed it, went up, and found us all stranded in a dangerous part of the mountain. He helped us find the real trail and we were thankful to find ourselves safe again in the surface of the earth.

BP: Back in the flat safe and intact. Kuya (far right) led us to the right trail and back to the Sitio.

How Mentally Alert We Were (?)
That Climb was also a test of how alert our minds were. Ivan needed to make important decisions and strategies all throughout the course. All of us needed to think on how we can make ourselves stable in those death-defying degrees. Me and York needed an alert mind to escape the danger brought by the two rolling big rocks. Everybody needed to think of survival. And we did survived.



Emotional Strength
Of all the Climbs that we had, this one was the most exacting... the most killing. It was not the Rockies (summit) yet but "one miss, you die" was very true because of what we experienced. But it seemed nobody felt afraid all throughout the course. Nobody gave up. Everybody pushed himself. Everyone encouraged his mate with "kaya yan!" and "hawak ka dito tapos apak ka dito... good job!" A few complained after some physical pain but nobody surrendered. Emotions were strong. Everybody was a fighter.

We credit our emotional strength to the strong bond we have.



Faith
Being lost in not expected but is always possible. That's true even for seasoned and professional mountaineers. For The Backpackers, faith is always the core of our physical, mental, and emotional strengths. We believe that no matter what happens in the wild, we will be able to go back down in the flat intact.


Thirst for adventure quenched.
The Backpackers. 
Proven. 
Solid.


Celebrating Survival at Mt. Maculot View Resort








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