At last! After months of bungled weekend schedules, asphalt overload, and pollution, I was off the beaten track again. Well, not really, as there were about 5o others who had the same plan at Gulugod Baboy. But what the heck, after the cancelled Napulauan climb, I would climb even the hills of Antipolo.
Gulugod Baboy is quite memorable to me– my first climb with Guys4Mountains and my first encounter with an elemental . For that climb more 2 years ago,I bought a brand new “serious” backpack, real trekking shoes, a cookset and stove, and a North face jacket. It would only be my 2nd climb (the first being at Famy with the short-lived Backpackers) but somehow, investing in all those stuff, I was convinincing myself that there would be no turning back. Amidst any apprehensions of a newbie climber, I knew I was going to embrace mountaineering for life. I have not regreted it. My backpack and my shoes have since been soiled and I have climbed nicer mountains. But it’s more than half a year since I last climbed and I really miss the G4M gang. It was time to have fun again!
Debut of the climb buddy
This was also my first climb with a climb buddy. I originally bought the yarn doll from Chatuchak Market in Bangkok to be my buddy. But it didn’t quite match my backpack so I settled for the stuff-toy frog that Vince gave me for Christmas. It was cute, had a pink ribbon around its neck, and sang something when you pressed it.
As expected, there were already other groups at the jump-off. The restaurant (well, that’s what is proclaimed to be) was packed and my order of tapsi was turned-down by the surly waitress. I was really hungry and already started on some of the biscuits I brought with me. My last meal was at 5:30 am and that was a small bowl of oatmeal. We finally found a place that had some rice and canned goods.
Up, Up and Away
The most difficult part of the climb is actually the cemented road that leads to the trailhead. It just goes up and up and up until your calves start screaming bloody hell. Finally, the real trail begins. Think of a broken escalator or a really difficult stair climber. With nothing more than the steepest incline on the treadmill or at the cross-trainer for the past months, I knew my legs were gonna hurt the next day. Apart from the usual trees and greens, there’s nothing much to see along the trail unless you stop and look behind. The view of Maricaban Bay and the islands are spectacular. The sea with its gently ripppling waves is postcard-perfect. What I like best about Gulugod is inspite of its short height and easy trail it can boast of a wonderful view, a beautiful campsite that makes you want to break-out singing “The hills are alive with the sound of music…” and fog. Yep, at less than 500m, there is fog and lots of it. But it was only about 3 pm and the sun was in full-force. The fog would creep in a little later.
I went ahead of the others and overtook a really slow-group ahead of me. Finally, I was at the peak. Sitting quietly staring at the sea with the wind blowing around you is an almost religious experience. That is until the horses and the cows start mooing and neighing and you look at the ground and see dried horse and cow shit all over. Well, something’s gotta bring you back to earth from your religious experience. When the others arrived, we set up camp near the fence where there was a pole with a dried-up dead chicken hanging (an offering?). It was still early and I just laid-out my mat and stared at the blue sky. Star-gazing conjures romance while sky-gazing conjures immortality. The clouds, the vast expanse of blue, the sight of a jetplane flying—it all seems so mystical. It’s as if the whole world and one’s existence is enveloped by all that blueness.
There were other groups at the site with others setting camp at the 2 other peaks. Incidentally, one website talks about the confusion on which peak is Gulugod Baboy exactly. The highest one with a sloping contour (which is where we were) by consensus, seems to be the “real” peak. The entire mountain is actually named Mt. Pinagbanderahan. In WW II, a Jap plane crash-landed at the peak. The soldiers planted a flag as a victory sign of their survival. Hence, the name. The plane has since been carted off piece-by-piece to junk shops.
The case of the missing corned beef and ham
The dogs probably took it while we were busy with our digi-cam moments at the summit. So we settled for Ogie’s corned beef, an egg, potatoes, and Cris’ slated eggs and tomatoes. Not that I really missed my corned beef as I already had canned corned beef for lunch at the jump-off point. Thank god for my stash of Nips, biscuits, shing-a-ling and Ogie’s Curly Tops. Otherwise I would have been so corned-beef-out. I admit, I really didn’t put too much planning on this trip. Normally my pack would be about 80% provisions. I packed lightly this time.
I was asleep by 9 lulled by the cold and the fog. I skipped the socials altogether though I did wake at around 1 am but it was just too cold. I slept again to Ari’s sing-song chant about Wapak.
All that sh*t and nowhere to sh*t
With all those cows, a couple of horses, and some dogs, plus a few chickens during the day, there is so much shit around. But there really is no place to sh*t unless you don’t mind being the show-of-the day. Except for a few guava bushes, there is absolutely no cover. I woke-up needing to really take a dump. I thought of going behind one of the slopes at the peak where the horses were grzing. But when I did that 2 years ago when “it” was about to come-out the horse behind me started to gallop. I got so scared, I stood-up and ran. It would be utterly unglamorous to get trampled on by a horse while trying to shit. So no way. How about the fog as cover? It was already about 7 am and the fog was still quite thick. Maybe I could squat behind the guave bushes near our tents, wait for the fog to roll and take a dump in 5 minutes. But there were too many people at the summit looking out towards Sombrero Island. If the fog suddenlys rolls out, I could just find myself posted at Multiply or Friendster. Social death. So at the end. I stayed put, climbed down to the trailhead with the lead group. Ran all the way down to the resto at the jump-off point and took a dump. Next to reaching the summit, it was the second most-heavenly experience.
Till next climb
I really did miss the outdoors so much. Even packing for the climb seemed like a new experience all over again. I even had to think of what I needed to bring and how to pack my bag–was it heavy in the middle and light things at the bottom or the other way around? (I packed correctly). Ascending the trail at the start, it took a while before I got my old footing back. Watching where to step, avoiding the dried leaves, looking for branches to get a grip on, it all seemed so like my first climb. Though I did reach the summit ahead of everyone else, it was still a little hard work for me. Descending was even worse. I like assaults more as descents challenge my injury-prone weak knees a lot. I had to rely on my trekking pole a lot as there were a few slippery parts because of the showers. But every step and sweat made me miss the mountains more than ever.
There were a few new faces in the group. Some I had never climb with before but had only met at the Christmas party. But the same laughter and camaraderie, the stylish camp outfits, fancy food, and insane humour that could only come from rainbow-minded guys were all there.