Monday, November 17, 2008

A Muerte!

The recently concluded novice climbing competition was an inspiring one.  Though it was a battle to the death, “A Muerte”, it was amongst friends, some new and some old and no one got hurt.  Well at least physically. 

The night before the competition, we set the routes that would challenge these saplings.  We tried our best to conjure up creative routes that would test physical fitness and problem solving might.  It was a long night and we truly hoped to have done a great job. 

The competition started half past 11 of the next day.  The isolation zone got full and slowly the heat and humidity within the small make shiftroom escalated to a level that could rival a sauna. Well, that’s the reality of climbing in a tropical weather country. And true, the initiation to a formal competition format really does include the excruciating pain and agony of the wait in an isolation zone.  While filling up the iso area, it had become apparent that some tweaking had to be done on last night’s routes.  It seemed that some of the routes were a bit too harsh. It’s a problem easily rectified but could have been avoided with proper pre-registration.  Log in your height, weight, sex, years climbing etc. days before the comp.  Yes, I also feel that’s too much to ask but proper routes come from well anticipated pool of participants.  It’s either that or vote for a bunch of soft-hearted, kind, and peaceful route setters. 

“A Muerte!”  The competition was tough.  Multiple top-outs in the women’s category forced Gale Roque, Chesca Galang, Mhick Tejares and Ken Banzon into a four-way superfinal. Gale’s pragmatic climbing took her to match Chesca’s high point.  Mhick cruised the early stages of the route to fall from a burly dead point to a pocket but it was Ken, powering her way into a campus move on the roof, that out matched Mhick’s high point.  Ken took top podium followed by Mhick and tied for 3rd are Gale and Chesca. 

In the men’s category, one by one the finalists took their attempt. The route started with a sketchy balancey gaston eliminating some climbers early. It leads to a corner that allows for a body tensing left cross from a slopey under cut further cutting down the pack.   Moving into the roof section found some climbers failing on the dynamic crux.  A series of momentum laced moves had climbers cutting loose from the feet and some falling off totally.  Emerging from this section is Ronald Halili in 3rd  falling slightly behind Hiro Mashida in 2nd.   Ferdinand Mansibang moved fast and strong early on the route. He powered his way through the cruxes.  Keeping to the edge of their seats, the crowd watched Ferdinand cruise the evil sections that gave problems to previous attempts.  From almost falling to quickly recovering and then almost falling again to quickly recovering again, the roller coaster ride kept the audience watching.  It was a spectacular show.  He finished 1st on the podium. 

The competition ended with a slideshow by Miel Pahati and Marco Malacca.  Thanks to all the participants and sponsors.  We’ll be seeing all of you soon again.  Keep climbing - “A Muerte!”

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Bouldering Sensation

My eyes trail a small bead of sweat as it drops from my forehead…..  It falls for an eternity….. an eternity that lasts short of a second.  Its perfect globule hovers over the thick humid air, hits the floor and makes a loud spattering sound, sending waves that echo to my ear.  It is the only sound audible to me.  More beads of sweat trickle down my face.  Each breath I take continues to warm the air around me.  Vapors escape my collar and streams of sweat run down my neck and down my torso.  I could feel each rivulet running down like rivers of fresh water that seem to wash off some heat and leave subtle sensations that partially cool my skin.  I feel the pounding of my pulse from my finger tips, down through my veins and through my ears.  I could hear my heartbeat without effort.  My fingers look steady but I feel them expanding with each rhythmic pulse.  I stare blankly upon my fingers, scanning, but not knowing what to look for. It could perhaps be a clue that could tell me to stop climbing….. There’s none to see.  All I see are white fingers, dry and heavily callused.  I trace each thumb across my finger tips.  What remains unseen surely is felt by my raw sensitive skin.  Each tap felt piercing.  Even the softest touch left sharp impressions that collapse my morale.  The boulder problem comes into focus as I sink my hands into my chalk bag.  More of the white powder flies into the air forming a foreground that I walk through to the base of the boulder.  I clap the excess chalk off my hands and sit down slowly whilst looking up for the first holds. The touch of the holds triggers subsonic electric impulses that send warning signals across my brain.  The pain spirals up as I bear down and lift my feet off the ground.  The holds light up.  They become vivid and seem to present themselves in crystal clarity.  They grow bigger as I continue to move towards each one.  My arms cut through the air like hot knife over butter.  Each cut parts air and produces an inaudible sound that can be felt.  Short powerful burst of air heaves out from my lungs.  Breathing becomes heavy and each breath become primal screams for continued existence.  Each powerful move numbs my senses for a while. I’m moving and I’m suddenly lost in the flurry of unending energy.  The last hold comes into view…..  A last full effort consolidates.  My feet dig in, my fingers resolve to the pain and an inner core of energy mounts for one more huge move.   The mind and the body unwind.  Like a spring uncoiled, both feet lets loose, both hands move towards it’s intended destination….. I float into the air,  it feels like an eternity….. an eternity that lasts short of a second…..  the end doesn’t matter.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Where to start?

Where to start?

Again and again there is always this urge to go out and climb and explore whatever feels natural to go to.  Again and again there is something written about these things that echo in our minds.  The next best trip, the next best article, the next best photo. The story that will be told unfolds and the pages of climbing history again written in light of its writer’s perspective. 
Everyone has his or her own take on the happenings.  The rocktrip, the burly competition, the breakthroughs. . .  every single event has a character we wish to re-live.  It has been  more than a decade now and a lot has transpired in Philippine climbing.  No longer can we say that our experience is still in infancy. But then again, in comparison to European or American climbing, ours is truly a baby.  We write our own pages but sometimes we take things for granted.  It is true that the best stories will be the ones you say or hear first hand.  But also in the passing of years these stories will be told by someone who wasn’t even there.  These stories become legendary.  They become hyped, super stylized and even overwhelmingly inspirational.  There is nothing wrong with this of course but I feel to get people more involved in climbing, there is a need to get these events written down somehow.  We always stumble upon this most famous saying “with great power comes great responsibility”.  I heard it from a Marvel comic book and somehow it transcends onto everything.  Our society thrives on its past.  Without the Microsoft Windows 2000, there couldn’t be a Windows Vista.  Those who weave the present day pave the way for the future.  Those who blazed in the past, shape our present. 

So, where to start? The many stories in and out of climbing draw inspiring paintings in our minds.  Sometimes we need these things and though the many photos that fly on the internet create a hype themselves, there is nothing like a good story told in a vivid literary piece. 
There are a few stories that could be written soon.  That climbing trip to Cantabaco and Dingle, Miel and Ina’s trip to Yangshou, China, and that bolting project in Caramoan, Camarines Sur.   There could also be this trip to Pagudpod for bouldering on the Kapurpurawan Rocks and Xtian’s exploits on his 2 month stay in Hong Kong.  We don’t have a magazine to do this nor do we have a steady flow of climbing videos to present Philippine climbing to the future.  What we have though is a good network of people on the internet. There is no consumption of paper, just the bashing of brain cells to create art or even just plain old news casting. 

If you feel that need to create, whether it be single photo, or a worded painting of your most recent trip, use the net.  Start somewhere, share and for sure it’s going to “Multiply”.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Warp Speed !

Projects, new areas, new motivation, new year ahead . . . good vibes and lots of fuel to burn . . .  It keeps getting better and better!

I'm still uncertain though if this feeling is something I and few climbers share.  Imagining all the possible ways for which to go to inspires me to move forward and not think of any of the circumstances which might arise from abrupt decisions that are sure to be made.  Whatever they are though, I'm sure there will be  recourses for some rectification.

Coming from more than a month long exposure to climbing in Europe has fueled my desire to climb more.  Coming back home, I'm now more driven to look for places, new areas, and  new rocks to climb on.  A month now has passed since I came back and right now things are really looking great.

There are  now plans of going over to the Bicol Region for some bolting on the virgin rocks of Caramoan, Camarines Sur.  The limestone there looks really solid and maybe there will be a super route to sink our fingers on.  The plans are solidifying even as I write. A project route, a 120 ft. long single pitch badass that will not go in just one visit, is something that has been on my mind lately.  To bolt something like that and climb it is going to push so many limits.

There's also a new bouldering area that promises new sights and a different setting in Pagudpod.  The white cliff band on the beach looks really impressive.  Bouldering is really nice and powerfull, but bouldering by the beach imaginably  presents more energy.  The crashing of the waves over some of the rocks creates a background that is surreal.  The energy will be overwhelming and yet I could also visualize the sun setting and the waves giving off a calming effect.

Chris Lindner's visit, I believe, has also made a huge impact in everyone who climbs and who wants to climb.  It's a solid showing that no where is ever too far or too obscure if your desire is bigger than you.  Last Sunday's event overpoured with energy and it undeniably started a lot of people on their own personal journeys and with this it has also started something anew for Philippine climbing.

Climbing in the Philipines is definitely beautiful.  The rocks are pure, no chipped holds, everything is natural and the hikes into the jungles for a single area provides a lot of  adventure and adds to the total make up of the stories.  The climbing areas in our small archipelago are still hidden from most of the world but it is also this that makes it unique. The climbing areas are scattered all over the country, each one giving a different experience.  Those who come to explore climbing here is rewarded with quality climbing and a lot of friendly faces eager to meet new people who share the same passion.  

Sunday, September 7, 2008

European Climbing

European Climbing

I'm home at last.  I still feel tired and my day is starting out slow. Orpierre, Ceuse, Vailfroide, Rodellar, Perticara, Fosso Dell' Eremo, Monte Aquilone and Maiolo now become mere bits and pieces of memory stored away in the vast depths of my conciousness.  It's amazing how every experience we have soon become something like digital records that gets burried deep within our brains.  It's so hard remaining in the moment of every happening. Time passes by so fast and sometimes it is as if as soon as you start something it's already finished.  The past 40 days have truly awakened me.  The climbing, the people, the culture and the places have changed me somehow.  It's not an apparent change that would have me acting so differently in an instant but something more subtle.  All the small details I've seen, heard and felt along the way have once more contributed to my way of thinking.  It's a change I'm welcoming freely.

Where to go now?  Mallorca, Kalymnos, Albaraccin...  I'm still unsure of the next trip.  The where, when and if ever at all still escapes me. There are so many interesting places and the number of crags increases with new discoveries.  I'm glad I'm given the opportunity to see these places.  

Thursday, September 4, 2008



Only two days of climbing left.  This climbing trip has truly been an eye opener.  I've learned so much and have met so many interesting people.  Life on the road is a very enriching experience. I would do it all over again if given the opportunity. 

My time here in Ravenna has been very relaxing.  I've been waking up late and having huge dinners compliments of Shane and Oscar.  On my first night, Shane cooked "Sinigang" and so I almost ate an entire kilo of pork with two full bowls of rice.  Italian food is "buonissimo" but I feel I miss pinoy food.  On my last night Shane promises to have an "Adobo" night.  It will be a party with everyone who I climbed with here in Ravenna. 

We go to different climbing areas everyday and so there isn't a chance to project something.  It is a good motivation though to onsight.  Perticarra and Monte Aquilone are both sandstone crags and have been very interesting.  Today we will also be going to Maiolo, also sandstone but for bouldering.  We tried to go there two days ago but it was raining.  We went to the Marina instead to do some climbing on plasitc.  It felt wierd somehow. After climbing on rock for sometime, I think I've lost some plastic skills.  There will be enough time though to get back into it.  I'm also excited to go back home for the Purisho Cup. 

Fosso Dell' Erremo is the nicest crag I've been to so far here in Italy.  It's an hour and a half to go there by car.  The place looks like a smaller version of Rodellar and climbing there felt really natural.  The routes at the Grottone Sector are no less than 30 meters.  The long routes really remind me of some sectors in Rodellar.

Well, two days can still be a long time.  I hope I can squeeze in as much climbing as I can in such a short time.  The Rock Masters in Arco starts on Saturday too.  Sadly I won't be able to watch.  Perhaps next year, who knows? 

Friday, August 29, 2008

All business . . .

All business . . .

Rodellar has truly pushed my climbing up.  I feel I've never climbed so much in a day anywhere else than on it's cliffs.  My fingers got bruised and I ripped some skin off and my rest days was reduced to just one over the ten days I was there.  Everyday was a hard day in Rodellar. 

The many people who climb there inspires me.  Fatima finished her project, a bouldery 7a+ and she continued to push harder on some 7b's,  Tita, a late-50's, lady climbs 8a's on "La Surgencia", a very steep cliff sector, then a strong spanish climber with one leg climbs on "Gran Boveda", and finally a huge family with 6 children with the oldest being 12 and the youngest being 5 all climbing 7a+.  Then there's also Dalia Ojeda.  She is so pretty and strong.  Anyone who sees her will surely be inspired!

I tried as hard as I could on my project.  Fatima and I even went on to sacrifice a day in Barcelona just for one more day at the crag.  In the end though I left "Familia Manson" still a project for me.  It could have been better but I'm glad I tired.  I think I fell on it 17 times.  I got way past the crux but carrying the pump all the way to the anchors proved to be another difficult task.  I kept falling 2 moves from the anchor.  I'm sure to think about it in days to come.  This will indeed be a very special route for me.  Even though I've left it behind, I'm carrying with me a high regard for it and maybe if given the opportunity, will surely come back and try it again.
I've barely touched what Rodellar has to offer.  It's cliffs are varied and every sector requires a different climbing style.  It's a strange feeling, leaving something behind just as soon as you're getting to know it.  Ten days isn't enough to fully develop a keen sense of familiarity and comfort with the rocks on its many sectors.  I don't know for sure when will be the next time I will be there or even if there will be a next time.  It feels sad but I think the future would hold new things for me.  I have 1 more week of climbing here in Italy and I feel more motivated than ever. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

8a, 8a+ and flappers

8a, 8a+ and flappers

After 6 tries over 3 days I´ve finally made progress on my first 8a in Rodellar.  It feels like breaking through a boundary. It definitely feels good.  What´s even amazing is that it came at a time when it was just a climb and nothing more.  I simply enjoyed it and as soon as I came down from it I immediately felt sad it was over.  The trying presented more meaning than the end itself.  

The 8a+ however felt different.  I´ve still to try it today.  I´ve been falling on it 9 times already and on my last good effort, ripped some skin off.  I have a huge flapper on my middle finger and it is deeper than any I´ve had.  Though it´s still painful and raw I will still try the route today.  Whatever happens will be acceptable at this point. 

Thursday, August 21, 2008



My one night in Barcelona was quite "romantic",  I found myself wandering off in medieval alleys in the old city.  La Rambla in itself is a feast for the eyes.  Sagrada de familia is still being constructed.  One poster says it´s completion in 2020.  Who knows really.  My one night in this backpacker´s inn had me sharing good conversation with two lovely Italians over the balcony of our room while also watching the dim streets become empty. 

The drive to Rodellar was a difficult one.  The long drive on the Autovia alone is definietly a crux.  The high cost of the car rent had me very carefull of the driving.  I did manage to hack in 155km/hr.  The car is a small Citroen car but as small at it is, it was just powerful!

Yes, Rodellar!  It is indeed a wonder!  The caves upon which the routes are bolted on are gigantic.  Routes are severely overhangging and the lengths go up to 40m and up.

I´m back at a relatively  familiar comfort zone.  I´m with Shane and Oscar and they have been truly kind and graciuos.  I´m treated every night to a pasta dinner at camp and a huge blowout with paella at the bar last night.  Sangria is the drink of choice and I find it truly lovely.

The grades in Rodellar, I think is softer, than Ceuse.  I´ve been onsighting 7b´s here and have jumped on two 8a´s already.  I´ve had the opportunity to be belayed by a very patient Shane and Oscar.  One of these routes I´ve tried and fallen off already 3 times and have come to be quite attatched to it.  I think I will work on it more.  I´m pushing it here but my body is becoming tired everyday.  I hope I can manage to hang on for a bit more longer. 

Dany Andrada was at the bar last night and I also saw Pablo Barbero at the cliffs.  Hope to see them climbing some more to get a dose of inspiration. 

Well, more days in Rodellar would present me some more possibilitites.  I´m excited for each day.  I wonder what will happen today:

Sunday, August 17, 2008



Hola!  It´s no use for me now remembering what day it is so I think it´s best I change the headings on this blog.  I´m in Barcelona for a night before heading out to Rodellar.  The car hire office is closed on Sundays so I think it´s a good enough reason  to check out the local scene.  I´m at a backpacker´s inn and its so cool here!  Hope my room mates are o.k. Haven´t seen them yet.  I´ll go down La Rambla later and have a cerveza!

Well, Ceuse was a blast!  I can´t explain how much it has given me.  New friends, new highs, new´s just so enormous.  I finished "La Privilege du Serpent" in plenty of time to enjoy the other routes.  It took me 8 tries to finish it.  It felt good and I hope i could push myself even further in Rodellar.  The last day at Ceuse was probably the best.  I was climbing without thinking of finishing anything.  The day started with me falling on the 2nd clip of a 6c+.  Then a flash for "Super Mickey" a 7b, I think, and then just before leaving an onsight of "Vagabond" a 7c.  Finishing "La Privilege Du Serpent" was definitely harder and fulfilling for me but the onsight of "Vagabond" was more delightful.  I wasn´t thinking of finsihing it one go but it eventually did.  It feels so grand.  Grades at Ceuse are meaningless.  The variety of climbing will eventually reveal to you your weaknesses and strengths.  Sometimes there are routes which are graded higher which I feel are easier.  I´m weak on slabs in Ceuse.  The overhanging routes feel easier for me.  I did enjoy climbing on the slabs and for me has taught me good lessons but playing on my stregnths felt so natural.

I will miss Ceuse and I hope to visit it again.  

Monday, August 11, 2008

Day ?

Day ?

Viola!  Am in Gap, an hour away from Ceuse.  I don't exactly know what day it is now.  I lost count already.   It rained today at 1:30 p.m. I'm glad I woke up early today to do some more climbing at the Cascade area.  It is in the shade only in the morning and so it's a must to go up the cliff while it's still cool.  I've been hiking up that cliff for three days now and everyday seems to present new things for me.  I'm also constantly changing climbing partners as most of them leave or have another schedule to keep.  It's interesting to be with different people.  Sm still so stoked by all of this. 

Yesterday we went almost the whole length of Ceuse.  From the overhangging cliffs of the Cascade area, to Biographie and the Demi Lune.  Realization is indeed an inspiring route.  I think the start isn't at all impossible.  Given time I think some pinoyclimber could take up the task.  To do it though would take a lot of patience and hard work.

Also I was able to watch this lovely french climber hike up a technical route.  She is so hot!  Reminds me of a friend but my friend is lovelier for sure!  Hehehe...   it's only today that I saw her picture in a climbing magazine.  Turns out she is a star here and is a sponsored climber. 
Tres bien …

I've been falling off "Le previlage ..."  for 5 times now.  The route is a dynamic one.  Holds are quite massive but far apart.  The crux is at the very top and so it has a very mental aspect for me.  I'm already familiar with all the moves and all of the different pumps on it.  Resting before the crux move isn't at all restfull for me and as soon as I leave for the crux I can almost feel the pump surging back fast. 

I've also tried some slabs and to be honest they scare me more.  The long runs for the bolts go up to 3 meters and some routes sometimes 4 meters.  I don't mind falling on an overhangging route but the thought of falling on a slab is quite nerve wracking.  Still though I try everything and for every one route I finish brings me closer to facing more and more of my weaknesses.

It's amazing here in Ceuse. It is truly overwhelming.  At first it shrinks you and then the next, it presents you itself in a very opposite way.  It welcomes you and draws you closer to itself and makes you want to come back.  The cold 1 hour hikes to the cliff is tiring but once you're there its always a grand feeling.  The people at the cliff become friends and the feeling of being alone is replaced with closeness.  Words can't fully cover the meaning of climbing in Ceuse. 

Well, I have to go.  My friend is waiting for me at the town center.  It's easy to get rides here. Just be friends with everyone and for sure you'll get the right ride on the right time.  
Ciao!  Au revoir!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Day 10

Day 10

Rest day today, well almost.  I'm still thinking of climbing something easy today or maybe not so easy...  Orpierre has been truly great.  It is truly a perfect place to start your first climbing trip to Europe or to France.  It is very comfortable. Everything is so close; the post office, the internet at the tourst office, a swimming pool for a hot day and a good bar to go to after a long day at the cliffs.

My time here is done and tomorrow i'll be off to Ceuse.  I've done with whatever I started out to do, Meme Pas Mal is a classic 7c after all and it felt really good.  Bookarai Banzai an 8a is also a fantstic route and though I only linked its moves, felt not so difficult.  Its unfortumate my time with it is not enough.  I did one try on it just before the day ended just as it was getting dark.  Im sure though that Ceuse will have more routes to be amazed on.  Whats difficult might be getting up from sleep and hiking up the cliff for an hour or so. 

Well,  the line here for the internet is quite long.  Theres only one terminal and so I have to end quickly. 

Au revoir!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Day 9

Je voudrais une amie francais !  Hahaha ... You should try it in a bar here and make sure all the nice girls hear it.

My circle of friends has been slowly getting bigger.  It's nice to finally know almost everyone at the crag.  I'm not wandering off to any other sector so it's basically the same people everyday.  Some new pretty ones too sometimes ... the pretty strong, the pretty huge and the pretty cute ...  hehehe.  The Cheateu area to me is the nicest.  There are good warm-ups and lots of possible projects, the hardest of which is this 8c "Mission Impossible".  It is interesting but hasn't drawn my interest just yet.  There is a lot to do and I'm still working my way up, but maybe today do "Meme Pas Mal" and then move on to the more really harder routes and see what happens.

I'm in the company of some really strong climbers and it's so easy to get carried away with the energy.  Climbing and pushing yourself hard here is the norm and its difficult sometimes to stretch on the energy to last the day, but its fun, so much fun!

Ajhourd'hui, nous envoyer!

Day 8

Day 8

Bonjour ! ça va ! Aujourd'hui, senti superb ! C'est mieux, I am beginning to get used to the climbing here.  The pain in the finger tips has begun to be tolerable and the height of the routes is becoming common to me.  I'm slowly making my way up the difficulty of the  climbs and no longer hesitant in taking long falls.  There's a route now I've come to be attached with, "Meme Pas Mal". I've tried it three times now and close to finishing. Its very consistent all thoughout and has managed to make me grunt on its many moves.  I think though what kept me from doing it is the thought of finishing it insteqd of just doing it.  It always creeps out when you don't want it to and that's when you're two moves away from finishing. Hope tomorrow comes naturally for me.

Tres Bien …

The beginning of the day was enchanting too.  Sent some postcards and am happy to say, managed to speak some french. Although I did speak it and got to let the lady know what I needed to do, I didn't understood a word she said afterwards.  The postcards got stamped and am happy to get a few lovely smiles from the people lining up behind me.  Specially from une fille boucoupe jolie et boucoupe adorable en bureau de poste, mais ma français est faible et brouillé...oh well...

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Day 4

Day 4

ça va ! Bonjour!  Je suis a droit, a gouche, Orpierre, Laragne, Sisteron, Gap, Grenoble. Boucoup adorable! Its been a very lovely 4 days now!  Je un amie adorable boucoup!  Hehehe.  Just kidding! 

The routes are long and pumpy.  I'm not far from my comfort zone just yet, though I've awakened with sore muscles with just two days of climbing.  Today is my third day of climbing with my rest day just yesterday.  My skin have grown quite a bit and so I might try and push myself today but nothing too far from what is to me something that would come naturally. 

I'm climbing with a Belgian guy, Fredrick, and we always meet up at the cliffs.  He's like 6 foot tall and so there is quite a difference in climbing style.  Slowly I hope my fingers would be able to last longer on the crimps.  The harder routes aren't so forgiving. 

As for  the house, I'm living with two old Polish guys who are working on Stash's house.  Stash has left for Poland and I'm left with his uncle and friend who don't speak a word of english.  I'm left with a book on polish and have learned "dobry" which means "good" and "jutro" which means "tomorrow" which I always use to fend of consecutive shots of vodka! I did some work on the house yesterday.  Did some shovelling to help out in building the house. 

Au revoir!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Day 1

Day 1

Nuthin' much going on really.  I've still got five hours before the connnecting flight to Paris.  Singapore Airport can become really small soon.  I might take a walk later just to get tired and then easily fall asleep on the  8 hour flight later.  I finshed two movies already on the previous flight.  I'm not really looking forward to finishing 2 more.

Well, at least there's the X-Games on the TV.  I guess I have to save some more energy and get one of those push carts.  I'm lugging around 10Kg. for hand carry.

Word is though it's a bit rainy in Orpierre.  Cold and wet.  Hope it changes when I get there. 


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Day 0 . . .

I just got the visa and tickets yesterday  for my odessey to Europe.  It was a long wait and I'm still to wait a few more days before the plane really starts me on my journey.  My flights got moved by three days and so I'm still here and starting to get really anxious.  Travelling alone presents a lot of intimidation.  There is that slight fear of getting stuck in the middle of nowhere where no one would understand you and running out of funds for the next lap of the journey.  But also, as a friend told me, there is a lot of experience to gain from going in solo.  It's also very reassuring when she said we as climbers are a very altruistic community and we can always find a friend.

The plan is to get to Orpierre first.  The routes there are nice and moderate.  It will be the perfect place go get aquainted with the rock in France.  I'll be staying at a friend's house and so the comfort I believe might be close to home.  After a few days I'll be enroute to Ceuse.  Fatima and I will be camping for 10 days.  Without that bed and the very cold nights, I could imagine not getting in so much comfort.  I'm still with people I know at that point and the worries aren't so impossing.  The next few weeks will find me wandering off to Rodellar or Siurana probably.  Anywhere in Spain would be cheap I think and mistakes there could be forgiving.  The first option was Millau for Gorge du Tarn but it's too expensive to be spending too much time in France alone.  But things could change and events lining the road might blow me to places which might be even better.

On the last week I fly off to Italy to meet with the Amici's.  Shane and Oscar will be there and Fats will fly in from the U.K. again to get in some climbing at Arco.  Sadly my visa only allows me 40 days and so I'll miss the Rock Masters by a day...I'll be flying off home Sept. 6th on the day the Rock Masters start.

Well, all these things aren't really that crisp and solid.  I'm sure there will be changes and they are more than welcome.  

Monday, July 7, 2008

Waiting game . . .

...waiting, waiting, waiting... it's been the story so far.  I just came back from the French Embassy and again after so much explanation I'm still to wait some more.  This visa has been occupying my mind so much.  I've still to get this "attestation d' accueil" from France and it might be another 2 weeks before it arrives.  

Good news though, the guy at the counter told me the visa has been granted and everything is just a matter of documentation and paper work.  Rules.  It's their rules and I think I have to play by it to get the visa.  

The trip promises a new world and to be prepared for it is something I can only hope for.  I've done what I could to be prepared but  it's best for me to just throw away all my expectations.  I'd want to carry out an agenda or what others might call a "tick list" for a hundred or so routes but then again I'm not to know how these things would go when I'm there.  It would be nice but it's not all that important as just being there and just climbing and taking things on a personal level.   

More waiting. . . I think I have to rest my mind and just climb at the gym . . . see how all this waiting is affecting my climbing . . . 

Friday, June 20, 2008

Focus . . .

. . . it's a state of being attuned to just one singular purpose, a decisively intentional mindfulness of shutting off everything else around you and being in the moment of your exsistence.  I envy those people who have this singular purpose.   The quiet mind and the solitude percieved by these people sends them to an eternal connection with the energies of the universe.   It is no wonder I think that the phrase "good vibes"  has so much more meaning than just the phrase itself.

In this day and age of multi-tasking and fast paced life it is difficult but not impossible to share in this peace.  For me it's through climbing and sometimes the intense moves of bouldering that automatically sends me to a quiet mind state.  Also, sometimes during runs and long swims this energy becomes available to me.  

It becomes a constant search for this place that keeps me moving.  When a problem or a route becomes easy, there is always a point where the mind wanders off.  Sure it's still fun but the more a problem gets harder or a route becomes more tenuous the more I feel closer to focus, the more I feel closer to staying within a quiet place.  It's an addictive state.

A harder way for this though is my tea or coffee.  It's a good practice to just sip  it in and just not think of anything.  A blank mind is a happy mind and one cup a day of this total blankness is sometimes intoxicating.  
The easiest way? Beer, wine and alcohol but that is a totally different approach and there's just so much more of this topic that I alone can't fully cover.  

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Focusing and Unfocusing

It's been close to a month of trying not to go climbing.  It's hard focusing to unfocus on climbing.  The rest has taken me back to running and swimming mostly.  The weather feels right for late afternoon runs and early evening swims.  Although I miss climbing, I must admit that my diversions have been really interesting.  My runs take me along the streets I used to walk on from school as a child.  The trees have really grown, the small flowers from the fire trees line the asphalt streets and the afternoon chill from the late afternoon rain always become good enough inspiration to get out and run.  Swimming at the nearby lap pool also brings a different draw.  Hmm, needless to say there are so many gorgeous things that can be seen pool side.

Of course I'll be going back climbing.  It has to be soon too.  I've a trip that hopefully becomes reality and I want to get really focused on climbing to get fit for it.  It's going to be harder again I'm sure as I've once again drowned in a new kind of high.  I'm sure I'd miss my runs and swims once I switch back to climbing mode.  

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Layers . . .

It's amazing that sometimes, as a climber, I feel moments of strength and synergy, a time when everything goes well together in a single instant.  What seems so impossible becomes easy without knowing why or without totally paying attention to the problem.  I look at my hands and feel power and I feel so ruthless on the rock.  All that skin biting back at the rock instead of the rock telling you to back down.   

Most of the time however I'm always trying and sometimes I get to peel off layers of skin from trying too hard.  At times I get two or three bad flappers in ovelapping days.  Right now I'm looking at them, one already healed, one just drying up and one really raw one.  It makes me think and I'm amazed again.  These times when I feel weak and beaten up, when the pain swells up my brain, when I'm tired and wasted are the times that makes that single, effortless passing moment during a climb so grand.  I think if it's not for the number of times I fail on the rock or peel off layers of skin from my fingers I wouldn't appreciate climbing that well.

To feel weakness I think is the first part of feeling strength.  Hopefully though  I wouldn't get to  peel anymore layers of skin this week.  

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Barbara Z. – Manalmon Rain (Part 2)

Skin and slopers and chalk and dust, it’s the story so far on Barbara Z.  It’s our second visit to the boulder this year.

April 13, 2008.  It’s been weeks since Me and Miel had our last encounter with this ominous boulder problem.  Maybe I just imagined too much of the enigma so linked with the problem.  I couldn’t get the thought off my mind of getting to latch the crimps only to falter on the dyno for an impossible sloper.  It’s as if I’m already preparing myself to fail.  Hopefully this changes. 
Below the boulder, now with Kristian, we again start cleaning up the problem which remain to draw us with it’s long standing history.  With the dry spell cast on Manalmon a few more crimpers show up.  A few brush strokes then suddenly Barbara Z. looked different.  Warming up to the moves on the problem took a while.  Each attempt took us one move further at a time.  Crimpers began to bite down and every try at the problem became more painful than the last.   With each unlocking of a sequence came more of the puzzles that kept coming.

It was certain that this problem would consume us.  It was a race with what our minds and bodies were willing to give against the rate at which the boulder would be eating us up. Kristian stuck the dyno to the sloper! The crimp that looked key came next!  Everyone got on their feet to transfer some energy … then blank.  The sequence to the sloper got clear but the pain on our finger tips crawled up to our brains simply shutting us down.  We tried the new efficient sequence again and again but it was becoming more and more difficult to let go of the pain and just climb.  Sure, the problem felt better.  We packed up knowing we’re one step closer to realizing a puzzle.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Manalmon Rain (Part 1)

Feb. 23, 2008 . . .

11:00 a.m. Only Miel, David, Lawrence and I were  left to dare the impending bad weather and continue on with our plans to do some bouldering.  Three of five cars that sped the highway for three hours have left and carried with them 10 of 14 people for another 3 hours for their drive back home.  It was very ambitious to keep on for the bouldering despite the bad weather and I for one had my indecisive moments. But going out there to do some climbing and camping out was one obsession that had to be realized.  I get lots of energy from staying outdoors and I think I need a lot more of it.   The last of the cars drove off and we checked everyone off . . .  and then there were four.   After a few acknowledging stares at each other, we carried our packs and crash pads.  We crossed the river and in 30 minutes we’d be amongst the limestone showground of Manalmon.

8:00 a.m. The last of 5 cars came up slowly in the parking area.  The runoff water parted as the mud-spattered tires came to a halt in the coffee brown puddle.  Most of us waited outside our cars and stood under umbrellas in the chilly drizzly morning.  The water soaked landscape was vibrant with color.  The only gray was the cloudy sky that loomed over us like a forewarning of a long uneventful day.   Everyone was restless; most of us waded in the knee deep river and watched Bear swim across.  Bear is a dog, she’s Alex’s and Nana’s German Shepherd and she looked she was the only one enjoying the rain.  Everyone else of course came for the bouldering and it was basically impossible to go climbing on the super slick wet limestone. 

9:00 a.m.  We all woke up from our slumber only to stare blankly at the sky through the hundreds of water beads that formed on our wind shields.  The rain had weakened but the gray cloud cover still extended as far as our eyes could see.  For most there isn’t at all a reason to stay longer.  Xtian, Beau, Anna and Harley decided to go.  There wasn’t a way to convince them the weather would get better, I wasn’t sure myself.  The rest of us decided to go out over The Madlum Cave Area.  Some rocks could have been sheltered and could have remained dry. 

The air got cooler as we neared the cave entrance.  A cold draft run the short  dank tunnel. The darkness was short and there wasn’t a need for headlamps.  We took time groping in its blackness.  The cave exit greeted us soon like a gateway to another world. The edges of the cave framed the outside world in a pretty picture.  It was a sight.  We’ve been through that cave more than a dozen times but that instant was exceptional.  Maybe because the moment presented the right opportunity to relish something that we usually just pass by.

10:00 a.m.  There it  was, a new line.  It was something we simply ignore every time we pass by that area.  It didn’t look hard and the moves on the boulder problem looked obvious.  The holds were big and not very far apart.  Just after a few minutes of searching we found what could probably be the only boulder problem we might be doing for the day.  It was dry and it was perfect.  Not so hard to get you stumped and yet not so easy either that it captures you.  It was something very important. It got our spirits up.  It could be classic. Yarding off on it’s cold features was simply joyous. I dubbed it “Rain Shine”.  It’s over hanging at the start and continues on with jugs and then exits from a good undercling to an extended reach for the last good hold at the topout.  It was a good boulder problem for a wet, chilly, semi-gloomy, semi-happy morning.

11:00 a.m.  From the fun photo sessions on “Rain Shine” we proceeded back to the cars. We brought with us some good enough high to send us off wherever.  Everyone was preparing to call it a day and head back home.  Finally, the wind blew across our faces, strands of hair wafted our cheeks and the clouds parted slightly to reveal blue patches of sky. After a few hesitant moments, I came over to the huddle and declared, “We’re staying…” .  Three of us, me, my brother David and Lawrence were willing to stay and chance it.  Miel went over to Ina and after a few minutes decided to stay as well.  
12:00 noon.  We arrived at our first hurdle.  The river had risen and the current got stronger. Crossing became a major obstacle.  We had to cross back and forth to carry one by one our packs and our crash pads.  The water rushed around our legs and forcefully torqued us to topple down. It was hard getting a good firm foot hold in the gushing river.  We had to crouch down low to prevent us from toppling over.  There were no style points in crossing the river that time.  We just had to get it done. Some dunkings were in order but it was no big deal. It was a short epic but we managed to get through and with much better appreciation for the adventure. 

1:00 p.m.  The rest of the hike was uneventful.  We passed by lush green fields and mango trees festooned with hundreds of fruits that seem to weigh down the entire tree.  We soon arrived at our campsite, had some lovely cold cuts,  and proceeded with some much needed rest.  The landscape in Manalmon changes yearly. Storms shape the landscape constantly and each visit is always a new experience. The river was deeper by the campsite, the banks of the campsite got higher and the “Gardenia Boulder” stood even prouder.  The sky was completely clear, the blue patched only by a few white swirls and the wind blew harder.  The dark gloomy feel when the day started was replaced by contentment and surprise.

2:00 p.m.  New boulder problems were everywhere.  In the span of 8 years I figured maybe the area had been squeezed out of new lines.  In the few minutes of searching we’ve seen a number of unclimbed lines.  Our eyes got bewildered by these possibilities.  They were there years ago but it was only then that we got to see these things in a different perspective.  Everything we saw presented huge potential. 

2:30 p.m. “Scary Movie Too” sits right of  “Scary Movie”.  It starts low on a few good crimps. The problem got a few hard changes midway all our attempts as a few crucial holds popped out.  In the end, the problem got technical and more demanding.  The crux lies on the upper section of the line; it’s a fully extended right hand jab to a pinch above head level from a crimp that’s around hip level.  It sends the climber to tight and extended “iron cross”. The next long reach left to a good hold high up on the boulder’s lip presented another teeth grinding scenario.  Although the hold got better, the thought of the hold popping out and sending you off right towards the water seem to be the real crux.  This I think is what makes outdoor climbing more interesting.  Indoors, all those dyno’s and quick moves  are all easy, but outdoors, you have to choose wisely when to cut it loose.  Sometimes, specially on precarious limestone, it’s wiser to be more delicate and pragmatic but still remain confident. It’s an interesting mix and it’s something only climbing outdoors can offer.

4:00 p.m. “Barbara Z.”  is one of the long standing projects in the area.  A good friend Anthony Prieto saw it some 6 years ago.  I tried it and tried it and got close to finishing it but the last lunge for a bad sloper was all too impossible for me at that time.  Our visit this year might tell a different story.  Me and Miel stood below “Barbara Z.” and lovingly brushed it’s pockets and crimps.  We got on it but it was still a bit wet from the morning’s rain.  The chalk marginally dried the holds and at the time we just had to make do of what was given.  We saw some new possible sequences and immediately jumped on the problem again and again.  My fingers got sore, my body sagged out of tension and the daylight slowly faded. Miel got on it several times more, strongly stable on the opening stabs on its pockets and then dynoing to the last move but too was running out of time. Perhaps tomorrow would be better. After a good rest and after “Barbara Z.” getting air dired, the chances of getting it done will be better.

6:00 p.m. The day slowly ended and the light gradually turned orange.  We had to get back to camp, dip in the cool water, prepare dinner and just wait for the stars.  The day was more than perfect.  What started out short of an epic ended up to be a really fine day.  We cooked delicious spicy pasta al tonno and stayed out in the stars for as long as we could.  The skies were clear and mapping out constellations became a good pass time.  We camped beneath “jurassic” bamboo trees.  It’s leaves rustled a distinct tone and the it’s stems crackled with the wind.  The melodic tunes of nature nestled us to slumber while the iridescent moon watched over us.   

Part 2 soon . . .

Monday, March 17, 2008

Expanding climbing

Rock climbing, bouldering, sport climbing, competition climbing, deep water soloing, trad climbing, aid , they all are as varied as they can get.  Each one defined by a specific aspect of the climb and each has its own charm.  But for whatever its worth, all of them still constitute a basic reality.  All of them still focus on the ascent and, as simple as it can get, they all require you to haul your ass up from the ground on a vertical path.  I have been on this path for a little more than 10 years and still climbing has always been new and ever expanding.  The limits of where to go next are pushed out further and further.  You could go bouldering and then do deep water soloing, join a competition or do some lead on some 30 meter routes or whatever suits you and all of them are unlimited.  New climbing areas are being discovered and the rates at which these areas are being developed are getting faster and faster.  Access becomes a minor issue as more and more climbers are willing to go great lengths, trail blazing and setting up routes even on remote reaches.  The places to go are vast and limited only by your ability to create the time for it or fund yourself for the journey. 

My journey into this world of climbing is an endless one.  I can not see myself ever running out of places to go and rocks to climb and though the act of climbing itself becomes the ultimate goal or finishing a route being the definitive act of accomplishment, the search for the boulder or the search for the line you want to climb is actually already a big part of it .  For me being able to get to the right setting at the right time, seeing a pretty place, a pretty face and being amongst people with lots of energy for the climbing is already a reward in itself.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Small Things and Big Things

What’s more about climbing is it’s quintessential effect that transforms you to appreciate the smaller things in life and help you see the bigger picture.  It’s a humbling experience to be climbing outdoors where you are with the elements.  You are dwarfed by the presence of these huge rock formations, the depth of the water you fall on when deep water soloing and the immensity of areas you visit while searching for a project.  Then, you also get to see the smallest of crimps.  They are small but as small as they are they also present an inspiring validity of our existence.  We are giants in this whole new different scale and yet not all of these small crimps will be easily dispatched.  Small things also demand a level of respect sometimes equal and even greater than those you would expect. 

It's good to be a climber

Dingle, Iloilo.  Photo by Marco Malaca

In a world soaked with harsh realities, wet from world hunger, poverty, global warming, and civil wars that trickles down to unrealized dreams, forced unions, and broken promises, a climber is reduced to just that, a climber.  He becomes someone with a personal agenda having little or having not much effect on society or a community.  He is not bound to save the world from itself; he is not destined to solve world problems.  He practices climbing that becomes an excruciating luxury to some and becomes just a passing fancy to most.

Manalmon Bulacan, 2003
A climber veers bravely away from the norm when time permits.  A climber takes himself far away from urbanity, far from the idiosyncrasies of the city, and far into the wilder side of his surroundings.  He takes to an escape sometimes looked upon by others as almost solitary and sad.  It is an image tainted with prejudice.  It is judged through standards of a society that rose from commonality, living in a coexistence that sometimes become full of multiple compromises. 

Tali Beach

Disinterested, indifferent, solitary; this is a climber to the eyes of most.  Why become a climber? Why is it good to be a climber?  This maybe the question one may ask that would aim to fit the branched out world of climbing within a uniform society.  It would try to fit a world where a climbing trip, the next 5.14, or the next project takes precedence over politics, stock markets, religions and washing dishes.

Benguet Capitol Boulders

Catanico Boulders, CDO

Sto. Tomas Boulders, Baguio

Puting Bato, Cogeo

Slayer, Wawa, Montalban

Hugan Province, China

Let me offer a few maybes.  Maybe it is good to be a climber because we climbers get to see the world in the eyes like that of a child.  Everything we see is vast, the expanse of where we go is endless.  Everything is new, and even the small things become of great interest.  The view from atop a cliff is undeniably surreal.  It takes great effort to be there, and the time we spend up there is always a short-lived moment lasting a few eternal minutes at the most.  We celebrate small victories then move on onto the next quest.  It’s pure and untainted.  It is as honest as it can be.  There is no way of cheating up a cliff.  We get to where we want to be the only way we can, through hard effort and pure grit.  You can’t say this and do that, you’re always real when you climb and to share this honesty amongst people who share the same passion is intoxicatingly magical.  

Central Crag, Hong Kong

Training in Malaysia

World Cup Singapore

Getu Valley, China

Ailfroide, France

Tonsai, Thailand

Under the Gran Boveda, Rodellar, Spain

Asian X-Games 1998

The climbing life is simple.  It is a gift and gifts are always good.  There will always be a crux in any climb.  It is right where a lot of “the difficult” conspires to make you give up.  Everything hard for you come to one point, condenses to give you the toughest time, and blurs your vision of the imaginable.  The gift is that single moment when all the right elements fall into place and allow the convergence of all the good to come play with you to finish the route. It is that single moment when the absence of one element can spell the difference.  That single moment when the wind blows, when the pain in the finger tips vanish, when there is only silence, when everything that was so impossible becomes possible, … that is when you get to feel why it is good to be a climber.

Dispatch Magazine

Sidetrip Magazine

Ambongdolan, Mt. Province