6 Years and Climbing

The last climb I had with my social mountaineering group Batang Hamog Mountaineers was two years ago. I have updates on the recent ones but never got the chance to join due to very limited and restricted resources of either time or money. I envied the Mt. Apo climb last year. It could have been my shot to glory!

But anyway, fate was with me this time as July marks our anniversary month. The chat group in Facebook was very active and I just go by seeing and feeling. Until the final mountain was selected, itinerary summarized and I am still not sure if I can go. 

Mt. Ulap, Itogon, Benguet. This was the agreed destination. 

What made me go was the scheduled training I have in Dagupan City (July 8-9)and the opportunity to join could not be held back. The training finished after lunch and I went back to my hotel to get my stuff. I was expecting my friend Erald from Manaoag to fetch me and join me in the hike by lunchtime but due to some road blockages we saw each other by 7pm. The weather was second to not good for a climb  but the group was already at the jump off site. Unfortunately, they were not allowed to climb by authorities so they spent the night camping at the basketball court, which later I would have to discover it becoming a tent city as other groups also camped out in the area.

So Erald met me while I was trying to finish my training reports. I was famished. He suggested me to try the Dagupan dish Pigar-pigar at the famed Uson Pigar-Pigar. It is a dish made of carabeef or carabao meat thinly sliced by the talented hands of the cooks. It was really fresh as they slice the meat when you have your order. Pigar-pigar actually means to flip over and over and I confirmed indeed it was when I saw the dish being cooked in oil with vegetables, sauteed back and forth, flipped here and there. It was gamy and tangy, very like beef but stronger in aroma. The other dish my friends wants me to try was called kaleskesan, a broth-y concoction with sliced innards and carabao skin. Upon hearing the ingredients, I backed out of eating it. I only had a taste of the broth which I find really pungent. Dinner was great. I was full and ready to go to the town of Manaoag to leave my things and just bring a day pack. 

It was raining cats and dogs when we headed to Manaoag, more or less 60 kilometers away from Dagupan City. With just a motorbike we braved our way to the town. We have to spend the night and prepare our things in that small fabled place. It was also my first time to visit,it being popular for believers of the faith, seeking miracles to Our Lady of Manaoag. Didn't see the interiors of the church though and I wasn't able to glimpse the image. But my contrite heart prayed for our safety.

There was only one bus company who goes around Manaoag and it was the Dagupan Bus. Catching one was a challenge especially at night going to Baguio. We never had the chance to rest and sleep so we took the time going to Baguio and slept to our hearts content until we reached the place. It was really cold. But I was in my apple green shorts and varsity windbreaker in blue and white, it was so cold I can feel it in my bones. I didn't bring much as it was only a day hike. We have to come back by night fall of the same day. 

As we waited at the jeepney station in Lakandula St. near the market in Baguio City, three people were also waiting only to find out it was another friend Del waiting to join the group as well. We cannot wait for the jeepney so we hired a taxi going to Ampucao for 600 pesos. Zero visibility approached us as we went ahead to the long and winding road. Apparently, the socials that happened the night before got ahead of them and finished 7 bottles of brandy. It was a joy to see the same faces again, albeit most of us has changed a lot  compared to the time we started climbing. After breakfast, we readied ourselves, took pictures and listened to the orientation by the guides. We prayed for safety and deliverance from danger as the weather was really bad. 

As always, being with the team was so much fun. We hiked for 4 hours going up to the station called Gungal, the most popular station where the iconic rock formation can be found. The flora and fauna alongthe trail was really rich and diversified. There were pine forests, grasslands sloping around the hills. I got to taste a wild berry growing along the pathways. We walked amidst steep and muddy trails that one wrong step could mean life and death. Ravines on both sides. That was one glorious walk of fame. 

Other groups came in droves. We took turns at taking pictures in the rock formation. It was another life and death scenario since the rock was slippery, and when you slip, hello down there. 

Photo ops were taken. As usual I had my Pride flag with me. 

We decided not to proceed to the summit as the winds are really strong and everyone was wet despite the rainproof jackets and ponchos. We hiked back by taking the sides of the mountains. I was being dragged by the wind at one point. Imagine how strong the wind was. Yes, you can laugh now. 

So we walked back. Another 3 grueling hours of walking the same path. This time some of us were really on the brink of hypothermia. We were so wet. And we made it alive. 

I can never replace this group. Even though we only see each other once a year now, we still have that connection. Every time we see each other, it always feels the same like it was the other climbs we had before. Some of us had become couples along the way, had children, became chubbier and healthier. But others did not even change, like gain weight for example. Some had gone back to the faith by cutting his hair for a very good purpose. Others have gone, fulfilling their own purpose,chasing waves and a chance at love. We are still the us, the group who are fun, and bubbly and always full of funny acts. It was the same us who takes pictures longer than our trek going up the summit. It was six years. And we still got the balls to climb every mountain possible. 

Happy 6th guys!

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Get a happy version of this adventure by reading Sirang Lente's entry. Yeah, Meym Dharzie is so much fun!

The struggle is real.

Group picture with the Gungal rock behind. 

With dem boys...

The Pride!

Endless poses here, there and everywhere. 

Stopping by to eat some Chinese goodness. He was holding a vacuum-packed chicken. It tasted like chicken but felt like plastic. Yummy tho.

Trail going down the slopes over purple flora.

The evidence that we made it back.

A much deserved post-climb lunch / dinner