G2: The Unfinished Story

Like a soulmate, the peak of Mt. Guiting-guiting was elusive.

I am really just sad to begin this article with such a negative vibe yet in every journey or undertaking we still learn something new, we meet people, we see, we feel, we experience. We are transported into another phase in time. We have moved out of our comfort zone and those rewards are more than enough. So read on!

Here We Come G2!

I was hopeful even after seeing the clouds surrounding Mt. Guiting-guiting’s peak the day we started the climb, however the clouds did not left the peak and as we gained elevation just below Camp 3, we entered the realm of clouds and rain.

After spending a blissful night accompanied by the howl of the wind and the coldness of the wet surroundings brought by the continuous rain, we woke up to a cloudy sky. And it was the guides’ somber look an hour later, pronouncing that summiting would be hazardous due to strong winds at what was dubbed as “knife-edge” trail just below Mayo’s Peak view deck, confirmed everyone’s thoughts.

I felt the kick on my stomach as the sinking feeling rose from its depths. Disappointment would give you those emotions and being turned back after coming a long way, investing time, money and effort (doing overtime to compensate for leave of absences at work) was hard. The summit is just within our sight. Going through the process of being disappointed then accepting the circumstances and then planning another climb sounds just like those psychological pep talks.

The circumstances are beyond anyone’s control but for someone to negate the efforts and investment put in is sprinkling salt on a wound.

Unexpected Gift

IMG_0409As we approached the final stretch towards Mayo’s Peak, an open ridge with a cliff on one side, as if on cue the sky opened and the clouds slowly drifted to reveal what the pictures we’ve seen countless times, the jagged mountains.

Shouts of “wow, ang ganda!” burst from my team. Me and the rest were so ecstatic upon seeing the jagged mountains slowly being revealed by the drifting clouds. Super wow, was my first thoughts and words. This was due to the reason that the other team who also climbed the same day as us, turned back due to zero or no visibility.

The rock mountain is coated in greens, trying hard to stick on its surface and like in the movies, water sluice down it’s crevices to form several waterfalls.

It was a panorama that would never be forgotten, etched in our minds until the next scene comes. The clouds started to close in on the jagged peaks and the wind picked up where it left off as if pushing us to continue our ascent towards Mayo’s Peak.

Although the seasons in Sibuyan were not very pronounced, according to the geographic makeup of Romblon and its islands, the wet season occurs from June to December and a dry season from January to May. Rainfall is more frequent from July to December. So I guess the best time to climb the mountain is between January to May.

However, according to the guides and porters, the campsite at the summit is too small to accommodate the high volume of summer trekkers.

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The jagged or saw-toothed peaks as viewed from Mayo’s Peak view deck  (c) VenAp l November 2015

The Trail’s History

The mountain known for its challenging trail by climbing enthusiasts was summited in June 1982 during a time when mountaineering was still considered “a game and done with the spirit for adventure”.

Edwin Gatia, one of the trail blazers reminisces,

“In late June of 1977, after climbing Mt. Mayon, I took the boat from Manila to Roxas City that made a stop-over in Romblon, Romblon. At that time I have already known Mt. Guiting-Guiting and I asked some of the locals as I was having coffee at the port, they told me that the mountain has never been climbed (in the mountaineering sense) and that fact somehow stuck in my mind”

According to the DENR Region 4B- MIMAROPA website, the park which was proclaimed in 1996 as a natural park covers 15, 265.48 hectares which includes Mt. Guiting-guiting and Mt. Nailog mountain ranges. It is bounded on the North by the Municipality of Magdiwang, on the East by the Municipality of Cajidiocan and on the South and West by the Municipality of San Fernando.
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After knowing the mountain was never summited, Edwin Gatia, the founder of Philippine Mountaineering Society (PMS), Mt. Guiting-Guiting became one of the primary objectives of the group to trail blaze, explore and summit.

The team that brain child the trail up Mt. Guiting-guiting and as a mountaineering destination includes Mon Ruiz, Kim Valino, Bobboy Francisco, Bubut Tan Torre, Luigi Gana, and Rene Reyes from UPM while Edwin Gatia, Art Valdez, Fred Jamili, Ike Atonson, Mayo Monteza of PMS and Rene and Bulod both locals of Sibuyan, Romblon.

The collaborative efforts of the PMS, UP Mountaineers and the support of the locals resulted to what is known today as the traditional trail starting off at Magdiwang and ends at the same jump-off. A trail that would become their legacy to the mountaineering community.

It was only recently that the traverse trail was opened, starting off at Magdiwang and ending at San Fernando or vice versa.

“Conquering the summit of Mt. Guiting-Guiting was not accomplished in a single shot. It took a couple of expeditionary undertakings to do the task of attaining the objective. When we finally stood at the summit of that mountain for the first time in geologic history, we were extremely flooded with euphoria over the accomplishment”

The Challenging Trail

According to Edwin Gatia, the 3 top qualities a mountaineer-explorer should have or possess the following:

  • Courage brought about by one’s curiosity to go boldly where no one has ever been before
  • Physical and mental capability to undertake the task of venturing into the unknown
  • Patience and perseverance, undying determination, positive outlook and attitude and the will power to achieve and accomplish an objective

And those three qualities had given us Mt. Guiting-guiting and with it the interesting characteristics that had been passed down from one mountaineer to the next, maybe from generation to generation.

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The trail in fog and ferns just between Camp 3 and Mayo’s Peak (c) VenAp l November 2015

Points of interest are camp 1, 2 and 3, marked as an area where climbers can take a rest, camp or just to be informed of the elevation gained while the more famous points are:

Mayo’s Peak which was declared by Bobboy Francisco (UPM) to commemorate Mayo Monteza birthday, one of the members of the original team

Peak of Deception named by Edwin Gatia because as the name implies, the team was deceive thinking that the peak infront of them was already Mt. Guiting-guiting’s highest peak only to find out it wasn’t when they finally got to the top

Bulod Spring named after Bulod who was one of the guides/porters (he is still alive and one can visit him as an obeisance or just for the stories)

Mabel’s Spring which was named after another member who joined the  2nd expedition.

G2’s Summit, based on the photos and descriptions from the PAMB MIMAROPA, the summit of Mt. Guiting-Guiting is occupied by low growing trees, shrubs or vegetation and grassland with exposed rocks on the serrated ridges.

If the mountain permits, I hope to set my two small feet at its summit on my next ascent.

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Resident beauty along the trail up Mt. Guiting-guiting, Sibuyan, Romblon (c) Venap l November 2015

What of Knife-edge, Navel, Camelback and Kiss-the-Wall? Those are points infamously known among the younger generation of mountaineers. But as far as Edwin Gatia is concerned he had never heard of those and Alan Galang, who hails from Romblon and an old time mountaineer also confirms that such labels were just recently coined.

However, who and how those labels had come about doesn’t matter much since it had already stuck, making Mt. Guiting-guiting more daunting as it is. It’s those perceptions that elevated it into something surreal.

“Online references had scaled Mt. Guiting-guiting with a 9/9 difficulty and the summit has to be reached with time pressure. So it was that easy for me to worry about the level of my strength and capabilities before the climb. The photos I saw and the blogs I read stating how majestic this mountain is, my excitement was enough to conquer my fear”, said Nics, who aside from climbing mountains also does dragonboating as a side dish.

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No visibility along what was dubbed as “The Knife-edge Trail” (c) Venap l November 2015

Foiled Attempt to Summit

Our team was made up mostly of women. Coming from different sector of society, the activity pooled us together to create a mixture of stories of love lost and love found, of laughter and fun, of smoke and malt beer, of misfortunes and mischances.

Because our climb organizer, Sir Migs of Yabag Mountaineering had set foot in the himalayas, the conversations was mostly dominated by Everest – the how to’s and his funny adventures. Accompanied by photos and videos, we were again reminded that the peaks in the himalayas are much higher and more picturisque, fueling the desire to set foot and lay eyes upon it in person.

Our resident walking dictionary, Doc Rhoda, who also reached Everest Base Camp (EBC), had an interesting (love) story to tell – a story worth another blog.

Mountaineering is a passion and those who have the passion for mountains may be referred to as “mountaineer” ~ Edwin Gatia

We spent Day 2 on Mayo’s Peak where we witnessed another ‘clearing’ at its view deck. From where we stood, the narrow trail down and up Deception Peak can be visible from the thin cloud. Just opposite it, the sun burst into an orange-yellow color in the horizon. The cloud that had been loitering since mid afternoon at the jagged peaks slowly drifted apart, giving us a longer glimpse of the the green landscape, waterfalls and the jagged peaks. In the midst of the ring of our laughter and photo-ops, the wind swirled and howled at a rate worth a storm signal.

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One of the four types of resdient mouse that could be found within the Natural Park (c) VenAp l November 2015

Back at camp, out of the four (4) types of rat/mouse that is to be found in Mt. Guiting-guiting, one was running to and fro to the safety of its hole and the camping ground trying to scavenge off from the remnants of our lunch.

And then night slowly descended amidst the love stories, lessons in mountain survival from our resident survivalist and corny jokes from Helen and Niño. I slept uncomfortably on the makeshift bed to the tune of the drizzle and the wind, of the mountains’ own rhythm and the songs of its residents while worrying that a leech might sneak in.

If you can’t connect to love, connect to nature. There, you might just find that you had ceased loving yourself – VenAp

We woke up to Day 3 with the same climate (and no sign of leech) but thankfully the winds had abated sometime during the night and the challenge to walk the trail until the ascent to Deception Peak was beckoning. I and Doc Tuts managed to muster our courage and we descended the boulders down Mayo’s Peak, posed for photos and enjoyed the foggy view.

“I learned to let go of any expectations and that we can’t be so sure what is waiting on top, what will happen along the way, who will we meet, what we will see. I have understood that nature has its own way of introducing itself to humanity. It may have warned us of any impediments prior to summit assault but I consider myself fortunate enough to have reached Mayo’s peak with minimal clearing. Clichè it may be but it’s always about the journey, not the destination. The bonding among the team was superb. I felt blessed enough and with that I am more than contented” says Helen of her experience.

How to get to Sibuyan Island

Sibuyan island is one of the three (3) islands of Romblon. It can be accessed by sea or air but climbers usually choose the sea route for economical purposes.

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If you are coming from the Metro Manila, take a bus bound for Batangas Pier (Alps, Jam, Dela Rosa etc.). Once at the pier, you can buy your ferry ticket via Montenegro Lines, 2Go and other shipping lines linking Batangas and Romblon on a regular basis (do call in advance just to make sure of the schedule). You just have to go to the pier very early if you haven’t made any reservations. The departure time is usually at 5pm and arrival would be the next day at Romblon, Romblon or directly to sibuyan. If its the first, then you need to take a smaller ferry to Sibuyan. The ferry travel time is approximately 14-16 hours.

 

Footnote:

Edwin Gatia is one of the trail blazers of Mt. Guiting-guiting and currently based in the small village of Fleetwood, Philadelphia, U.S.A.

He started mountaineering in 1972 and is the founder of Philippine Mountaineering Society (1977) and co-founder of MFPI (1979). To this day he is still active in the mountaineering scene and through his 61 years had undertaken local and international treks which includes the himalayas.

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The Team

Special thanks to Sir Migz, Tatay Toto, Nics, Princess Sarah, Niño, Helen, Anna, Doc/s Rhoda and Tuts, our guides and porters. Till our next climb!

To the sound of too many walls, dingdiringdingdingdong!#

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