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