You see mine or your friends’ post of sea of clouds or some pretty peaks with a blue sky worthy of a postcard or facebook or instagram and you think, “whoah, that must be fun!”. But believe me, most often, mountain climbing is no fun at all especially those multi-day treks.
★ Limatik / leech
They come in variety, in different colors and sizes but they aim for just one goal, suck the blood out of you. Go inside the Cordillera mountains and you’ll find what I call “bullet” leech. They are very small but they can hurl themselves towards the target when they smell red hot blood. If you are afraid of anything that crawls, you’ll probably faint when you see one hanging on your shins or worst inside your eyes or ears. For consolation, these bloodsuckers drink their fill and falls off on their own. Is your blood type O? Well, get ready for a much bigger attack.
★ Earth Bed, Dug-out Toilet, No Bath, etc.
The human mind is programmed to want to be comfortable, warm and cozy. Those who want the opposite, well they’re crazy (include me :)).
With just a thin tarp separating your skin with the bare earth, you get to feel how cold and how hard it is. Bad? It could still escalate from bad to worst when the clouds and gods decides to rain upon your camp area accompanied by angry winds, water can seep inside your tent and sleeping gears when subjected to both elements for hours. Waterproof? That’s all sales talk.
Even on dry weather, sleeping on bare earth where rocks, vegatation and tree roots are protruding ain’t no fun at all. And most of the time, the camp area is not at all flat so during the night you unconsiusly slide while you sleep. Next morning, you’ll find yourself snuggling your climb mates’ unwashed feet.
And when you find yourself wanting to pee in the early hours of the morning, you got to walk in the dark a few meters away from the camp area. Afraid of the dark or white ladies or snakes or maybe your imagined other-worldly creatures? You are out of luck if its Mt. Cristobal or Mt. Kanlaon. Well, you just got to hold your pee until their is light.
Lucky if a makeshift toilet is present at the camp site but brace yourself for the smell, a shallow dugout smells worst than a dead rat. And then again, how can you judge the dug-out when you smell of indian curry yourself.
★ Waging war against yourself
Yes, you start at the jump-off with a team. You eat, drink and laugh with them but sometime during the ascent or descent you’ll find yourself alone and during those silent interludes you start waging war with your inner demons.
You struggle on the boulders on your own, you fight the lightheadedness, you calm the beating of your heart. You suffer all on your own because one of the requirements of mountain climbing is being prepared physically, you must have the ability to survive. Asking for help is not a sin but becoming an additional weight your climb mates will carry around is definitely not advisable. Be reminded that each is experiencing the same struggle as you. I have had that experience during a climb and before I was thankful, I was guilty for putting a stranger in a danger zone.
Mountain climbing is more of a personal journey and it can get lonely and liberating.
★ Lugging around a heavy pack
Most mountaineers or trekkers, whatever you want to call yourselves, are self-contained. When we say self-contained you carry everything from food supplies to the smallest gear. But nowadays, porters are there to help and you can off-load the supplies and tents to them leaving you bearing your own essentials i.e. sleeping bag, clothes, jackets, trail food, med kit, other personal gears and personal hygiene kit. They may sound so little but they still weigh a lot because as the body gets tired, the pack gets heavier. It could be worst when you are soaked to the bone by rain.
★ Muscle pain, sprain, blisters, dead toe nails and cramps
You can suffer all of the above during the climb. After a multi-day hike, muscle pain is your worst enemy that you’ll hate stairs or anything downhill maybe for 2 days to 1 week.
If you are an office girl working in the glitzy Ortigas, Fort or Makati area where wearing high heels is a must, you’ll gonna suffer but you can ditch that and go for flats. However, if you must wear those heels then avoid peep toe’s or wear nail polish to hide those dead toe nails.
Dead toe nails are a pain in the ass.
★ Death and Danger
It is dangerous and the risks are higher if you are not prepared emotionally and physically. In a mountain where one can be inflicted with malaria or be drowned during a flashflood, danger lurks everywhere. The risks are not contained.
Life and death is only separated by a thin line. One wrong step and you can stumble down a ravine, a wrong footing and you can slip that could lead to many possibilities of bone fracture. Mostly, the nearest hospital are kilometers away and PAMB’s are not equipped with emergency helo’s maybe even emergency protocols. It would take hours before a registered medical personnel can see you.
But then again, death is a part of life.
★ Being Disappointed
That feeling is the worst of all. You dread when your guides greets you early in the morning wearing a gloomy face and anounce that you won’t be allowed to summit because of zero visibility or strong winds. You feel that kick in your stomach and the thought of all the preparations, money, effort, sacrifices i.e. vacation leave, overtime just to cope with the paperwork but boom! you end up standing halfway to your destination. Your mind won’t come to terms with the reality.
It would be a huge consolation if you have at least had a sporadic clearing or you stood at the zero visibility summit.
You tell yourself that this situation is bound to happen and that turning back is essential to mountaineering if you are sane enough to recognize danger. Deep down you knew that mountains or fate or the gods and other-wordly creatures dictates the mountains’ weather, still…the peak is just within your grasp.
Then your mind undergoes a process, from disappointment to acceptance to planning your revenge climb. You are back to square one.
‘The mountain would still be there’ is a clichè but it helps.
You still think mountain climbing is fun? Not everyone is cut out for mountaineering. One can be stripped of basic human need, be subjected to life and death situations and it is devoid of the modern comforts we indulge ourselves which is no fun at all.
In exchange is the realization that death is a part of life, disappointments too. You learn to appreciate every victory and blessings. Once in a while you witness the beautiful landscape from atop, endless blue sky and the breaking of dawn. You meet a lot of braggarts, a sprinkle of angels and you make a lot of connections. You hear different stories, beautiful laughter and sadness.
Still, only the select few can continue to walk the trails of the mountains.#