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.