Tuesday, December 6, 2011

BOOM !!!

8a? at Banyang Cave, Getu Valley, China

SEA Games 2011, Palembang, Indonesia

And so it begins !  Let's just see how this goes !  Maybe some photos of the recent trips to refresh where I am right now.  2011.  SEA Games and then the Getu RocTrip before that.  Moving forward and then back, I'll try and recall how I got to this chair and decided to to write about things that I revolve around on.  Climbing maybe the meat of everything in here but it may evolve into something else.  

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Get to Getu!

Get to Getu!

Day 1 - The long wait…

The warm sunlight blazed through the untinted window of  the taxi’s backseat. The brewing  of unfamiliar exciting days ahead laced my brain with a full spectrum of  tastes. It’s always like this at the start of a trip, half anxious, half  excited and a stomach that almost always seem empty and grumbling even on a full breakfast.

I’m late arriving at the airport, Aldwin had been waiting for more than an hour and the check-in counter had a queue that lasted half the time it took me to get to the airport.  Checking in seemed forever at the old NAIA but we made it before the boarding time printed on our passes but only to find out, however, that our plane arrived an hour late. We were later seated at the last row where seats can not be reclined.  It then began to seem that all choices we could make for this trip were being sucked away from us. Complaining seemed futile and it all became a bit worse when the rear toilets began to reek through the cabin.  

Our plane landed safely at 4:00pm in Guangzhou. We we’re happily greeted by an 8 hour layover in between connecting flights.  There wasn’t any decent wifi. Our circumstance left us eating fries, drinking coffee, and walking almost endless circles around the airport mall, looking at overpriced consumer products begging for attention from the weak willed and easily hypnotized into a Jedi mind trick sort.

Guiyang finally at 11:40pm.  The plane tickets said a “with meals” flight and so we didn’t down too many fries before leaving Guangzhou. Our late arrival to the 5 degree cold city had us famished.  The quick comfort of a late closing KFC at the arrival hall saved us from a freezing, empty stomached, lost in translation kind of night. 

I handed the hotel reservation form to a taxi driver and he quickly understood the Chinese translation which I hoped we’re correct.  A few minutes later our taxi dropped us off in the cold, unfamiliar streets of Guiyang City in front of Homytel.  English doesn’t work in this city.   All directions and communications are handled with Chinese characters printed on paper.  At the reception counter, I handed our reservation form looking forward to a nice warm room for the rest of the night before heading out again to Getu Valley.  We later found ourselves chatting with the concierge in front of a computer terminal and conversing via Google translate.  It was funny at first but soon turned a little bit grim as we later found out that the room I reserved timed out late that afternoon.  It was then around 1:00am and we’re still cold toed and back hunched from the heavy day.  Warming up to what I started to believe would be the common trend for this trip I found myself absorbed in the moment.  After another hour we found ourselves at an adjacent hotel, more Google translate and paying a little bit more than what we planned but at least we had a few hours of warmth before heading out again to the unknown. 

Day 2 – Welcome to Getu Valley

The bright, cool, crisp morning felt refreshing.  Though we still felt being lost in translation in the city, the colors around us seemed to pop out and give a more comforting vibe.  The day started with a “Chinese style sort-of-Starbucks” walk through breakfast.  Just point.  No speak.  This, this…thumbs up and pay.  A smile almost always starts a day right.  We sipped what tasted like oats and milk and chomped down on a couple of steamed bread buns as we made our way to a bank where we changed for more RMB’s.  The first order of the day was to get as much comfort padding as we could.   More RMB’s seemed to equal at least not getting hungry on the run. 

We decided to get lost for a while around the city as we had time to spare before heading to the bus station.  My phone rang about past 10am.  Sig was on the other end and informed us he was already at the Guiyang airport where a Petzl shuttle transport would be taking climbers to Getu Valley.  We happily welcomed the news and headed back to the airport. Finally with two other pinoyclimbers, Sig and Isa, we enjoyed conversing over lunch.  We also got to meet Sean Villanueva, a soft spoken, climber from Belgium.  

The day moved along slowly.  The shuttle got full whilst we we’re unsuspectingly enjoying lunch and then some.   The main shuttle left early.  We got informed by English speaking volunteers from Guiyang University that there would be another shuttle but we’d have to split in two groups.  The mini-van would only take three people at a time plus luggage.  Me and Aldwin we’re 2nd in line.  Sig, Isa and Sean left earlier. When the shuttle came for us it was already 3:00pm.  They took us to a hotel for us to wait until more climbers would arrive.  The wait was long. We had time to mope around the city a little more and finish “Cowboys and Aliens” on my computer until it was already 7:00pm.  Instant spicy noodles for sale at the hotel lobby saved our hungry stomachs. The ensuing darkness seemed to tighten up the room to feel like a small coffin.  Finally, a rapping at the door.  As we opened up, 2 volunteers greeted with a “the bus is ready to go.”  The news filled the room with new light and air rushed to our lungs as if we’d come up from deep water. The bus to Getu Valley got going.   Only one more climber joined our trip, the rest, staff and volunteers.  Said Belhaj from Sweden joined us on our last leg.  Isa, Sig and Sean were able to hop on the earlier bus early that afternoon.

We arrived in Getu 1:00am.  We got booked in the local school dormitory.  We dumped our stuff on the bunks and shared the room with climbers from Hong Kong.  We made our way to the adjacent canteen, ate instant noodles again and clinked a couple of Tsingtao’s before hitting the sack.  Happy birthday to me and welcome to Getu Valley!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Without a Sound

Without a Sound

This silent, quiet, Saturday makes me reflect on, what I think, largely the first half of my lifetime.  Things have definitely run the rough road.  Im now slightly deranged but still functioning well enough to get by this wild world. 

The only distinct sound I hear comes from this wind chime I bought over from my climbing trip to Japan, October of 2002.  It was the year I landed  the highest podium finish in the Philippine National Climbing Championships.  It was a sweet year for my climbing.  That memory though is a distant past.  It almost feels like unimportant but somehow, thinking deeply, it was something that has helped me move on as a climber.  This year, 2011, again brings with it a new challenge.  Slightly 9 years after stepping onto the podium, I am now given the opportunity to take my climbing towards as slightly different direction. My awareness is once again awakened to a new start.  Climbing for me is a very personal quest. For me at least, I’ve always been fascinated by how much satisfaction I get everytime I’m outdoors, climbing with nature, and pushing myself to my limit, trying to take myself to a place where the force of nature and my own heartbeat are the only ones existing.  Now, however, I am given a new view on climbing.  Teaching climbing or at least sharing climbing passion with others has been a residual effect of spending time with others in and outside the gym. The repercussions of actions and mental imposition bore no weight and responsibility.  Last May 2011, this non-responsible approach became different.  I’m now coach of the 1stPhilippine Climbing Team for the Sea Games.  Now, words I say and formulas I have in mind no longer are personal.  Sharing thoughts on performance now have to be weighed several times over before getting my suddenly pragmatic personal approval before sharing them to the team. 

On one hand, the responsibility is a bit of a load on the back, on the other, it somehow balances my approach to my own personal climbing.  I’m challenged by the fact that I’m training the younger and the stronger.  It places me in the midst of a lot of energy.  I’m also pushed to my limit trying to keep up and also trying to pace the team.  I am teaching and at the same time learning as we go on. 

I’m not entirely sure of the path this leads to.  This road has opened up for me many times before but to fully tread on it has always been jittery.  The pattern repeats itself.  I’m the eldest of 4 siblings, in high school I led the Marist Photography Club, in college I led the MIT-Mountaineering Club, I even started a short stint as Sensei for the Ateneo Aikido Club.  Now once again, I’m faced with a decision. How far am I going to take this? It sure does open a lot of doors and the possibilities seem endless.  I don’t know the answer.  One thing is for certain though.  Climbing has forged me into mostly what I am today.  A huge percentage of my life has been devoted to climbing more than any other activity I’ve delved into. I can’t even wait for the day when I can say I’ve been climbing for more than half my lifetime.  So maybe the decision will come easy, or maybe even harder.  But the fact is, I love climbing and sharing it with others gives me great pleasure.  The coaching responsibility is really heartfelt. To make individual members of the team fully realize their potential and to see them breaking out of their old limits is already a reward in itself. The finality of such a decision may take me away from competitive climbing.  But maybe it is rightfully so.  It will be a step indeed.  How to stride will be the next challenge.  Who knows what happens next?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011



2011. April. It’s less than a week to go and I’m finally headed up north again.  It has been too long since I first heard of the new area that is Ambongdolan.  Now I have the time to go visit the boulders and do some quality climbing outdoors.  It has been a bit busy all of a sudden during the last month and a half.  Days have been a mix of baking under the sun, minding 3 meter deep trenches take form, facilitating some baking projects by little girls, training for climbing in the evenings and coaching for the National Climbing team training pool. 

So, this Holy Week will be a bit of a break from everything.  Though I find myself climbing and pushing myself with the team during training, I still feel that to go out and climb outdoors will still be a much needed respite from all the indoor climbing.  I crave for the fresh air, the natural feel of soft limestone, and spending mindless hours just climbing for the pleasure of it. 

Ambongdolan, Tublay, Benguet, is more famous for the Bengaongao and Paterno Caves (named after General Paterno who used the cave as a hiding place from the Japanese military during the war) .  Recent trips to the area by pinoyclimbers however have given it a more inspiring allure.  Boulders on a very scenic, clean landscape now lures me.  Here is what I know. It takes around 1 1/2 hours driving from Baguio City to the vicinity of the caves. Distance from Baguio to the Ambongdolan Caves is around 25 kilometers via the Tuel route. Another route is the Kapangan route which is around 30 kilometers from Baguio City. What I’ve seen are inimitable photos of the boulders.  The images and stories from those who already came from there have always been on the back of my mind. To be there and feel the rock first hand is something I’m really excited about.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Pieces to start with

Pieces to start with

Ghostly  gunshots ricocheting  on the smooth, pale rocks,  bloodsteel  grinding on the natural whetstones of black basalt, explorers  traversing into the heart of the jungle to get to the west coast of the island… scenes from the past… alright, maybe a “little too long ago stories” perhaps but flavorful enough when  served for  today’s palettes.  2010 may not be as noble, bloody or as epic as the tales of heroism, hard effort, and bravery of the previous century’s,  as might be what the ghosts of the past may speak of today’s chronicles.  They watch us by the sidelines and “pufffttt” out judgment,  but we in the now generation can at least give them a show of divine passion without being brutish, archaic  and ancient. 

2010.  Efforts well spent, miles logged and numerous crimping and rock slapping birth new spots and new lines, sometimes even leaving behind worthwhile projects in the wake.  This is a worldwide phenomenon.  Some  lead in the spectrum of difficulty, some in innovations, some in creativity, some in discoveries… the many ways to contribute to climbing’s progression is as healthy as a fat cow sucked for all its milk but still manages to produce some more a few days after.  It is a process that repeats itself.  This can be called the circadian rhythm of climbing, a macro cycle in the mirco vertical world.  It has become my obsession to keep climbing and apparently when not climbing I’m just as oblivious in talking about it and writing what has led to my entirely exhausted fingers.

As perfect as any other day, maybe it’s a good time to recount some highs of the recent year before moving on.  At least this way maybe we can further the progression.

January 2010.  I’ve taken time off the beaten track of overseas climbing destinations.  Instead, I’ve decided or more likely it has been decided for me by my tapped out resource bucket, to stay grounded to the local climbing scene.  The nearest crag, Wawa Montalban, is the first logical place to start.  Near, cheap expense, and the possibilities still raw. Numerous trips to the crag in the crispy early mornings have taken me back to those years when I first started climbing.  Though the usual 6:00am call time is now 7:00am, I still feel the urgency to wake up instantly.  Meet-ups are now slow going but once at the crag, hell breaks loose and new lines instantly get sent.  The new facelift … some 30 new boulder problems.  Not bad for casual trips to Wawa.

February 2010.  In between trips to Wawa, I manage a few trips up north.  The Mountain Province Region and Benguet is a second home for me and I find myself comfortably shuffling between crags in the cold, pine scented air of Baguio, La Trinidad, Lamtang, Asin and Mt. Cabuyao.  I’ve yet to do a whole article on this less publicized arena of boulders. I’m hoping perhaps maybe this short intro may inspire me into doing just that.  The whole landscape of Benguet and the Mountain Province is nestled on a plateau that breaks above the clouds.  The low temps in the high altitude makes for the perfect weather for bouldering.  The constant searching for new areas for bouldering and the number of boulders scattered throughout each area makes it very difficult to map out and document all the existing lines.  Spread all throughout this region could be the highest number of boulder problems, named and unnamed, graded and ungraded, projects, moderates and warm-ups, all within reach and an hour or less drive from the city of Baguio. 

March 2010.  Projects.  Within a few weeks of constant bouldering several projects have come up, fantastic lines that continue to puzzle and challenge the ego.  I’ve laid my rope and quickdraws to rest and have fully dived head on into bouldering.  Still, much of the trips are spent on searching and “projecting.”  Even a day spent on just one problem yields nothing.  The levels should be pushed and sometimes I feel worthless infront of these giant projects.  Still we try.  We push ourselves despite our bruised egos.  The progress is at snail’s pace but hopefully it changes.

April 2010.  Summer is in high swing and the Climbing Nationals are set to go.  Sadly, I wasn’t able to take myself to climb on lead at the comps.  I think I was bouldering up north when the nationals swung in.  Nevertheless, the Nationals were held in Bagasbas Beach in Daet in the Bicol Region.  Much of what I know, I know only from stories.  It was for sure something I missed.  I can’t say for sure though if I was unfortunate to miss the climbing or if I was more unfortunate to miss the partying at the beach!  Maybe both, but at least it was an event which fills in a void in the local climbing scene.

May 2010.  The last good days of summer are coming and it’s at this time when unfinished business should be settled.  Trips to the crag become more and more geared to sending projects.  Some specific training had to be done to refresh knowledge on kinetic principles.  Time at the gym increases to fulfill  an obsession.  The hurt begin and the usual casual approach elevates to a more focused and engaged drama on the rocks.

June 2010.  The rains have come. Time on the rocks grind to a halt and nothing is left but climbing in the gym.  The time to get stronger doesn’t come at a more perfect time than during this season.  There is nothing left to do except accept the fact that projects sometimes gets the better of us, some remain and all that can be done is use that factor as motivation for the next season. 

July 2010.  Relatively not all of the country experiences the sour weather.  Down south, news of a new haven pops out over the internet.  A local spot near Cagayan de Oro entices and word comes out spreading fast.  Bouldering on new rock is always worthy news. In the meantime the thrust during the wet season takes a detour towards holding exhibits and lectures.  Preparing for the “Puro Bouldering Exhibit” takes up the slack and while there’s not much climbing being done outdoors, the mind swims in a plethora of lucid dreams of climbing.  The photo exhibit on pure bouldering would last a whole month and the opening night featured the new film I composed.  Not much really, just a night of good vibes, and a month of showcasing some of the current  local spots for bouldering. 

August 2010.  At last Cagayan de Oro is right outside the door step.  We stepped down the plane, walked on the tarmac, exited CDO airport, threw our bags in the hotel and then went bouldering.  The first day was a fast one.  After checking in, we checked out the boulders of Catanico.  The closest bouldering area to the city.  Immediately we got awe struck by the new rock, the new set of vibes and the frantic energy.  Like mad dogs set loose, our efforts went straight to sending route after route until we all got shut down by the resident project in the area.  The finest there - the “Sir Robin of Locksley” project.  It still stands unsent to this day.  One hold broke on the last day of attempts which made the problem possibly a grade higher.  Several other areas were visited.  Kimaya and Jasaan also hold some new gems which can surely be added to one’s tick list.  Projects on basalt rock,  respite from the normal limestone bouldering.

September 2010.  Rocktrips.  After arriving back in Manila all that lurks in the mind was the return trip to CDO.  Planning on taking a bigger number of local climbers to the basalt boulders were set in motion.  Operation Goo-Goo Ga-Ga started rolling.  The plan involved setting loose rabid boulderers on those rocks and expecting new breakthroughs.  The day had to wait though.  At the moment another annual rocktrip was also being set into motion.   The Lust for Lime -Season 6 was just about to start.  The series is an annual gathering under Cantabaco’s majestic limestone cliffs.  The tune of the song twangs on ropes and quickdraws though.  The remainder of the month was spent stringing up and clip-hanging to prepare for the 30m new lines.

October 2010.    Lust for Lime-Season 6 begun airing.  The show had a nice new setting, a few new cast members and new, entirely unrehearsed scenes.  The new bolted lines and the new areas that opened up transformed even further the climbing in Cebu.  New multi-pitch routes were bolted and new extensions to existing lines upped the grades.  While the route dubbed “Lust for Lime” takes center stage much of the time, I’ve taken a liking for the route “Jack Sparrow.”  It is perhaps the newest and hardest line in the area.  Looking at the way “Lust for Lime” moves, I’m confident to say that it is much like a boulder problem, a short section of hard moves smack in the middle of some easier climbing.  It is much more suited to my current condition of climbing. “Jack Sparrow” on the other hand is a full 2x the length of “Lust for Lime.” It’s an endurance fest and not necessarily something I’m prepared for.  Dialing in the moves in your head begins the ordeal.  The long route has so many moves it’s a bit taxing thinking of what to do every step of the way.  I can only recall the two crux sections but the remainder is something I have to climb entirely on feel.   I always blotch my sequences and it shows quite heavily when I get to the crux.  It is a definite new high.  The number of tries I made on the route now numbers at four .  It will be good to return to it soon and see how much more beating I can take.

November 2010.  Mourn the dead.  Perhaps I feel, after failing on “Jack Sparrow”,  that I’m sliding down the pit and slowly dying.  But no,  I think I’ve still enough juice to squeeze.  All I need is a break.  I laid down low and haven’t really pulled hard lately.  I’ve less than a week to pull off some magic if I want to make a good showing in the up-coming Bouldering Nationals.   A week or so after getting back from Cebu, the Bouldering Nationals set to full swing.  Day one ended well, I got in to the semis.  Day two started unexpectedly pretty well.  I was properly juiced up going into the semis and finished well in top seed at the end of the round.  I’m still doing well on the first boulder problem in the finals.  But somehow, someway, all of a sudden I got tired.  I failed on all three remaining problems.   The problems weren’t impossible and on any good day those could have been pretty easy.   Racking up excuses at this point though can be fairly easy but I’m not about to let that happen.  There were things I should have done and things I shouldn’t have.  It’s all about adjustments.  I still managed 5th, so not bad though for a casual day at the office.   

December 2010.  Goo-Goo Ga-Ga.  It is the event for the year.  It’s been a long wait since the previous Bouldering Rock Trips.  Kulafu in Malubog, GSM Blue in Lamtang and now Fighter Wine in Cagayan de Oro.   Going Goo-Goo Ga-Ga over the basalt boulders of Cagayan de Oro I think highlights another fine year of climbing here in the Philippines.  The short three days of climbing during the much anticipated event opened up yet newer lines and set standards higher.   Going back home for the holidays in the wake of left open projects  isn’t at all bad I suppose.  Getting shut down time and again must only mean one thing.  We’re setting up for new levels and we’re not satisfied with what is near possible.  We’re setting up for bigger possibilities, paving the way for the future and making what looks impossible – possible. 

From where I sit, now looking at all these, I feel 2011 has a tougher job to follow.  But already there are climbers finding their way to Atimonan, to a new bouldering area near Baguio, to the long forgotten bolted routes of Wawa and to gyms to get even better and spend quality climbing time with like minded rock rats to wait for the next trip.  It is a good start.