Thursday, February 26, 2015

#Once Upon A Climb #Spot Filipino Climbers

Camp 3, a bouldering area deep in the ravines and hillsides of Kennon Road, is less than an hour's drive from the cool pine scented city of Baguio.  This off the beaten track bouldering area has a generous amount of boulder problems scattered over a relatively small area that straddles a small river on both sides.  

I've been there a few times.  I'm no longer stranger to the area.  I've hiked up and down the river, crossed the old hanging bridge on several occasions, and have had my fair share of searching for boulder problems under the sunny blue skies of the former military outpost.  When the whim hits and the need to be out on the boulders strike, I just drive.  It may be five hours from Manila to Baguio, it may be the middle of the night, it doesn't matter, I just go.  A tall aluminium alloy of a coffee tumbler filled with my usual long black is all it takes to keep me awake on the dark quiet drives, sometimes with a few friends and sometimes just by myself.  My bouldering trips to Camp 3 has always been with a small crew.  I meet up with the locals, the infamous band of highly dedicated boulderers, the "Baguio Boys" club, and just enjoy a day or two of shredding fingers on the cool boulders.

Last February 2015 a rock-trip unfolded among the humble boulders of Camp 3 albeit in a different shade.  It wasn't solitary and wasn't kept with only a few friends. The areas were filled with climbers from all over the Philippines, coming from as far as Cagayan de Oro, and even coming from as far as  Europe.  James Pearson and Caroline Ciavaldini, professional athletes of The North Face, visited for #OnceUponAClimb and the #SpotFilipinoClimbers project.  It was amazing to see a lot of climbers converging once again to celebrate climbing.  All were eager to pull test their fingers, pull on the edges by the very tips of their fingers and continue pulling through with their heavily cabled arms, scum rubber on rocks and spend quality bouldering time with new and more familiar climbers alike.  

Crashpads, lots of them, lined the shady bottoms of boulders which led to more mentally comfortable pulling on cold pockets, small edges and slopey holds.  New lines were easily discovered and put up, and new social connections were woven into the existing fabric of an ever expanding  local and international climbing network. 

Huge rock-trips inspire people to go out, to be with nature, to be with friends, and to just go climbing.  It is social multiplied ten-fold, it jacks up climbing energy levels higher, and it generally costs lesser because of shared expenses.  All these makes it more convenient and comfortable.  Those and the fact that more crashpads are generated during these trips, like the miracle of 7 loaves and fish, provide added motivation to gun for the perfect looking lines that shoot up higher than one's ego.  It is the perfect time to be braver than one's usual day-to-day bravery.  It is the time when digging deep becomes easier because of the increased number of spotters.

The presence of strong international climbers also made a huge impact.  It's not to say that one needs to be insanely strong to make a difference but more than that is the fresh set of eyes that came with them that could interpret the rock differently.  Imagine an indoor bouldering session with only one person designing the problems.  The theme becomes monotonous.  Having more climbers pitch in their own design adds more flavour to the mix.  The same is true outdoors.  What may seem improbable becomes probable just because a different perspective arises and a stronger belief of the "yes, it can be done" floats in the air like chalk dust gliding easily with a breeze.

Thank you to Caroline and James and all the local climbers who made the event happen.  From where I was, the view I got to catch a glimpse of was truly inspiring.  The magnitude of the number of climbers wasn't staggering but I got to see people I wanted to see and climbed with people I wanted to climb with and that is for most part what is important.  I'm always motivated to climb but to share that motivation with others with the same fire is rare.  Trips like that multiply the likelihood of that happening.  

We can only call ourselves climbers if we truly do climb.  We stay in the present, always on our next big project, always searching, always climbing.  The moment we sit down and let time idly pass us by without pulling ourselves up is the moment we let ourselves fall victim to the torments of "I miss", "the good old days", "I wish" and "next time".  Trips like these are far in between.  Sometimes they never happen twice.  To be a climber is to be out there. Camp 3 will be there and so are the other many climbing areas just waiting for the next band of explorers.  The choice is definitely yours.  #climbphilippines

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Wicked Wizardry

Stories come in chapters.  They are told in an accumulation of characters you meet in  slow unfolding mysteries revealed through clues that keep you seduced into reading. 

Sometimes they lead you to one thing only to redirect you in a completely opposite way.  They spur on an emotion that coasts on dips and rises that makes you turn page after page.   They carry you away through imagery and mystery in worlds of shadows and magic through words.   

Photos can speak of stories too.  Every color, contrast, blacks and whites hold levels of emotion just waiting to be seen and be felt.  Bright emerald eyes peeking through a veil, long stranded straining leg muscles stilled by blurry movement, or even a cold breath on a misty day if captured in evocative eternal stillness can, like music, play a tune that can both be happy and sad at the same time or confusing and arrogant to a fault.  A photo as they say, is worth a thousand words.  If my photos do indeed say as much, I think I have written stories worth more than a few hundred chapters.  

Some of my stories are brave and find their way out while others remain tucked away like scrolls that get buried, sometimes even forgotten.  It's not sad to have some stories forgotten.  They age and get better with time, much like wine kept in oak barrels deep within cold dark cellars.  They reveal themselves in due time intense of flavour, robust, and shiny in a hue of brilliant deep red.  They would touch your lips and leave an impression like a first-time kiss.  Something that will remain indelible through time.

When the seasons change, when the hot becomes cold, when leaves turn color from deep green to dark red, and when sunsets light from bright burning orange to cool hazy purple, perspectives change.  Just like all these, photos change meaning depending on when you look at them or where you're at when you decide to stare at them.    

A photo of an empty bench and picnic table can suddenly look ghostly with faded figures of people laughing and children playing around.

A photo of a hike shot from behind can depict the start of a modern day adventure starting from a dust covered trail or a scene which can easily be transmuted in minds eye to show a medieval quest filled with wizardry, romance, and fellowship, such as an epic journey from the Shire to Rivendell. 

A reflection on a focused pair of Oakleys perhaps just is a map or a guidebook that shows the next crag.  It can also be a picture of a plan gone wrong being corrected or a strategical play being formulated that can alter the course of a timeline that changes the course of history.

A narrowing trail into the woods.

Shadows of gigantic trees flanking both sides of a narrow path.  

Treacherous terrain coverable only through horizontal climbing.

Burnt Spam and a wide open campsite.

The crucial clip.

Leading.  Taking rope and unafraid to fall.

On second, fully protected cautious and always willing to learn.

The send, the goal set solid in an unwavering mind.

The drive home for temporary rest and recovery.

First time at the Blue Mountains.

The test on crimps and hard biting sandstone.

Vibrant orange, blues and greens.

A few days before sending "These People are Sandwiches"

The river of lost souls.

Boronia Point warm-up.

Maxie, Matt and Jess


The Heart of Stone

Whatever the photo and whatever the color, the meaning they hold will be different with every changing pair of eyes that sees them.  In a different time and place even my own story of them might change.  But as of this writing, I like what I see.  What I see tells me a story that curves my lips up.  Right now the story leaves my eyes smiling.  Right now a glance at any one photo wraps my soul like a blanket keeping me warm on a cold day.  It's a good story, one with more chapters to be written and one with more pictures to tell them.