The Start of a New Adventure

“Life is like a mountain, hard to climb, but worth the amazing view from the top.” ~ Anonymous

Earlier this year, my office mates agreed to have a “Biggest Loser” competition”. The objective is to lose the most weight in the next three months. Losing weight has been on top of my agenda for the last four years or so. Unfortunately, I never did anything to achieve this goal. This biggest loser challenge is the first opportunity (well, not really the first but) to take losing weight seriously.

To achieve my goal, I thought of ways to achieve my goal of losing weight. The first thing that came to my mind is to climb mountains, an outdoor activity that is currently on the rise as mountains are being opened for mountaineering activities. Through a friend, I began my first mountaineering excursion in late January at Montalban where we climbed Mts. Binacayan, Pamitinan and Hapunang Banoi in one day.

I thought this blunder wouldn’t last but for the next three weekends post Montalban Trilogy, I was again on the mountain trails of Benguet, Batangas and Rizal. Before I realized it, I began enjoying the challenges and the hardships of mountain climbing. Since Montalban Trilogy, I have already climbed a total of 18 mountains, for a total of 21 for the year.

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Dark. At the start of the year, I was literally in the dark vis-a-vis mountain climbing. I barely had an iota what the hype was about. But then things changed. (Serendipity at the summit of Mt. Daraitan.)

Why I Climb

As I look back on the past seven months, I  begin to realize that my newfound vigor for mountain climbing is like my revived enthusiasm for blogging. Both has become my outlet, a means to escape the mediocrity and difficulties of my quotidian existence. I never thought that I’d carry it on for a long period. To be honest, I never thought that I’d even be able to conquer one mountain. I guess being a son of the mountains helps.

But what kept me pushing through every mountain are the following reasons.

a) Health Benefits

“Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.” ~ Jack Kerouac

One of the primary reasons why I climb are the health benefits I derive by immersing myself in physically strenuous activities. Last year, I spent most of my time, and weekend procrastinating. My unhealthy lifestyle has caused my weight to alarmingly balloon to 77 kilograms early this year. After seven months of dedicated mountain climbing, I have reduced my weight to 67 kilograms.

This significant drop in my weight is not just due to mountain climbing. However, I must say that mountain climbing helped me a lot in achieving my goal of losing weight. Numerous studies have already proven that mountain climbing aids in losing weight. It is a holistic exercise where the muscles, the lungs, the heart and the mind collaborate to overcome every obstacle.

b) The Journey

“Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you’re climbing it.” ~ Andy Rooney

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Journey. I packed my bags and then set out on a journey – just me and my bag. I was nervous because I didn’t know what to expect. (On the way to Mt. Ugo.)

“It is not about the destination, it is about the journey,” is such a hackneyed phrase. Nonetheless, this phrase holds true for mountain climbing. Mountain climbing entails a lot of long trails, hence, long journeys. Each trail has its own set of characteristics and some are easy while some are difficult. But then again, we have to remind ourselves that there are no easy paths towards success.

Over the past seven months, I have encountered different journeys. Some were relatively easy while some were difficult. There were even some that nearly made me give up prior to obtaining my goal. Some even made my doubt my capabilities. However, I keep coming back in spite of the difficulties because I have learned that the journey is as important as the destination itself, if not even more important.

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Apprehensions. The first steps are always the most difficult but I’ve gone a long way. (On the way to the summit of Mt. Dayungan.)

There are some journeys that are fraught with challenges and obstacles. But these challenges are the ones that hone us to be a better climber and person because they are usually the ones that teach the most lessons, about mountains and about ourselves. I am not saying that the easy journeys doesn’t, they also do. Whether it’s easy or difficult, once you get the hang of it, you can’t help but just come back and experience the journey.

Through the journey, I have become drawn to nature. I have seen things that I do not get to see on the urban bedlam like the trees, the mossy forests, and the plethora of flowers. I have surmised that the journey has two destinations – the first one is yourself and the other is nature. Either way you win.

c) The Lessons

“Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing.” ~ Barry Finlay

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Endeavor. At first, it was just an escape. (On the trail of Mt. Ulap.)

It has been my firm belief that mountains teach us different lessons. Having spent a good 20 years of my life in the mountains taught me that. This is something that I have carried on with me when I began these new adventures. The lessons we learn along the trail are as equally important as the journey itself.

Lessons come in different forms. Some come from the mountain itself while some lessons are learned from fellow climbers. Each lesson is also different. I remember during one of my ventures in Daraitan, someone asked what the formations on the cave are. I said they are stalactites and stalagmites. She has learned something new. This goes to show that we there are new lessons waiting outside of our comfort zones. Even I had learned a lot of things from the pieces of advice that fellow climbers imparted. These lessons are intangible things that I carry with me as I take on more journeys.

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Captivating. But I was soon won over by nature. (On the trail of Mt. Maculot.)

d) The Scenery

It is inevitable that one gets choked by the same scenery one wakes up to every day. As a result, I always long to have a change of scenery. Aside from traveling, mountain climbing gave me that opportunity. What makes it more fun is that I never get to know the scenery each mountain has in store for me because each one has a different one to offer. This surprise just keeps me coming back for more.

d) The View on Top

“Climb mountains not so the world can see you, but so you can see the world.”~ David McCullough Jr.

The views are without a doubt among the top drawers for mountains. Mountains offer the greatest views. Ironically, the views were not among the main reasons why I began climbing mountains. I finally began appreciating the views after climbing more mountains. I am in awe of the views that mountains offer. Each view is as different as the experiences one encounter while climbing mountains.

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Amazing. The view is just magnificent. (Maligcong Rice Terraces as seen from the summit of Mt. Kupapey.)
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Idyllic. I wanted to come back for more. (At the summit of Mt. Pulag)

Mt. Pulag is one of the highest mountains in the country and one of the more popular because of the sea of clouds that everyone wants to witness. When I actually witnessed the majestic sea of clouds on the summit of Mt. Pulag, I was lost for words. It is simply beautiful. There is a different sense of nostalgia in experiencing something that you just used to see on pictures. It was the same feeling I felt when I climbed Mt. Maculot, with its idyllic view of Taal lake. These views have come to define these mountains.

The views are wonderful rewards after the long and strenuous climbs. It is no wonder that even non-climbers flock to the mountains just to witness the majestic sea of clouds. Lest we forget, mountains are not there just for the view. They are also there to show us a different perspective – may it be of us or of our lives.

e) The Challenge

“It’s not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.” ~ Edmund Hillary

Being a natural competitor, I just cannot let these challenging physical activities pass me by. I found it very important to keep challenging one’s self and mountain climbing is a challenge I wanted to undertake, especially after seeing others doing it. I wanted to know what my body’s limits are. In mountain climbing I have found a perfect way to test myself physically, mentally, and spiritually.

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Daunting. I kept coming back in spite of the challenges and difficulties. (A view of Mt. Ugo.)

I took this challenge one step at a time. I didn’t expect to begin with step one then automatically jump to step ten. I began by doing minor climbs first to physically prepare myself before taking on sterner tests. I only began doing major climbs when I felt that I can take on bigger challenges. I will be dwelling on these mountains in the meantime before taking on the most challenging climbs.

Food for thought. Each mountain present a different kind of challenge. Of utmost importance when climbing mountains is having ample preparation. Over the course of seven months and 21 mountains, I have learned that mountain climbing is as mentally draining as it is physically challenging. As equally important is one’s spiritual being when climbing. So be physically, mentally and spiritually prepared when you take on one.

f) The Company

“Memories made in the mountains stay in our hearts forever.” ~ Anonymous

I have come to enjoy mountain climbing because of the journey, the challenge, the view and the challenge. However, the topmost reason why I keep on climbing mountains is the company I gain during and after each climb. On my journey to the summit, I have gained new friends. Humans are social beings after all.

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Buddies. I returned because of the people I meet along the trail. (At the summit of Mt. Balingkilat)
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Climbers. They taught me that the journey is not complete if it is done alone. It is most enjoyable when done with a company. (At the entrance to the mossy forest of Mt. Tapulao.)
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Determination. A little bit of persistence can go a long way. (At El Saco peak.)

I am trying not to romanticize it but there is just beauty in shared endeavors. There is just a different sense of being when challenges are shared – knowing that the next person is going through the same challenge. More importantly, there is just a different rush knowing that you have the same goals. It makes the journey all the better and all the easier.

Just imagine climbing with just the company of your mind. It is nerve-wracking. During my latest climb, my right knee buckled under the pressure and nearly gave up on our way back to the base. I had to stop to rest my knee and thankfully, one climber was kind enough to accompany me even though it was dark and it was raining. We got left behind because the others were going too fast. Thankfully, the pain subsided and I was able to complete the 19-hour climb.

I am grateful to the people I met on the trail. Sharing challenges and victories with them made the journey worth the while. I am not sure I would have achieved these feats if it wasn’t for them and their company. I just can’t imagine taking on these challenges all by myself. So, thank you everyone! Let us make more memories climbing mountains together!

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.” ~ T. S. Eliot

How about you, what makes you climb mountains? If you haven’t thought of climbing mountains, I just hope this article makes you change your mind. 🙂

~CLB

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Prosperity. So yeah, let us jump for prosperity. To more mountains! (At the summit of Mt. Pulag.)

P.S. Lhefa is the Kankana-ey term for “echo”.

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