Year In Review 2015 Climbs

And the year had gone so fast with all its love lost and love found, disillusionment and hope.

If 2014 was a year where I climbed the most, 2015 was as busy as the pits of hell. My journey began from the small, pristine and serene island of Palaui Island where my 2014 ended and my 2015 started. I felt so blessed that even the usual humdrum of travelling could not find a place. It was a travel for an unidentified reason. Maybe to break free from the concrete prison or just to be with myself but it jump-started my first taste of solo travel.

It was a travel worth of the trouble I’ve put myself into.

Palaui Island (January, 2015)

Cape Engaño is the highest feature of Palaui Island where a lighthouse called Cabo de Faro Engano forlornly stands, watching over a restless sea, crushing out loud on the breakers.

Wondering what more to find in Palaui island? Check my not so emotional account here.

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I and the dog stood inside one of its empty halls surrounded by its concrete four walls, the wind coming strong and hard from the arched windows caress my face. But the walls stood unbending from its continuous onslaught, where maybe a priest dreams of a woman he loves or maybe where his dreams started; where a local may have been sexually abused or where he toiled happily for his family.

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Whatever those walls had been to those who built and occupied it, it had become a skeleton of what it was once, fighting to hold on to the memories of it’s years. Becoming just a tourist attraction for those who seek the off-beaten paths; for those who, like me, were trying to find answers to love only to be faced with more questions; or for those who are lured by the idea of an island life and finding that the blogs they read were exaggerated and it was not really for them.

From the top of the lighthouse one can view the dos hermanos islets and the pristine beaches that surrounds Palaui Island.

Wondering how you can get to the Island? Read it here.

Mt. Iraya (January, 2015)

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View of Mt. Iraya from Mahatao area

The Ivantans calls it their mother and true to its name, it stands mysteriously overlooking the 3 islands of Batanes. Walking its trail on my birthday felt like I was walking towards someone or something, hoping to find answers I couldn’t find on that small island named Palaui.

My guide  – a local Ivatan and Diomar Dela Peña, a new found friend I met on the group tour of Batanes who also happens to be an avid hiker. Both huffed and puffed with me towards Mt. Iraya’s cloud shrouded summit. The steep ascent worked out our lungs as we tried to breath in the cold air, thinning as we got closer. We found the summit occupied by overgrown grass and two crosses, one felled by a super typhoon.

From where we stood, we can see the sun shinning brightly over the island yet leaving off the peak of Iraya still in clouds. The snippets of clearing came in every twenty minutes as we softly chatted, took some commemorative photos. We ate our lunches in companionable silence where both greeted me a happy birthday sometime in between chewing food and drinking water.

I whispered my birthday wish, crossed my fingers the mother heard me and started the arduous descent.

Been wanting to go to Batanes? let me inspire you more with my article titled Dios Mamajes Batanes! 

Mt. Pulag via the Akiki Trail (January, 2015)

The beauty of the trail is incomparable indeed as the mountain ridges, that is part of the Cordillera ranges, unfolds just beyond your eyes. From its label, the “heart attack” trail, I call it “enchanting” trail instead. Its steep ascent is indeed worthy of the first but the pine cones lying on pine needle beds were eye candies worthy of the second.

IMG_6054Our two-day sunny trek led us to the grassland that spans its summit and beyond. The storm gathered its strength as we sleep and the sea of clouds we have come to see ended in a fiery of strength to get off the mountain swirling with wind. I couldn’t wait to sip a scalding coffee and take in hot noodles. I got to meet new friends too like Kenneth, Jervin, Nanay Fe (my tent mate), Lek lek and the rest of the gang.

Pigging out and laughing with Iggy and Donno was one of the highlights of this climb.

Check out some of the photos here.

Mt. Kanlaon (February, 2015)

IMG_6395-1My non-clearing streak continued as we stood – wet, tired and hungry at the camp site of the volcanic mountain tagged as the highest land mass in the Visayas region. The wind swirled strong, coming in burst that I could hear the familiar sound of the wind. The rains of late January had caught up with us at the summit making us miss the beautiful sight of its crater.

Below the mountain, the rain too fell but the sun was up as we explored the twin falls and scenic spots of Negros Occidental. As with all climbs that does not withholds the gift of summit, the Mt. Kanalon trek was one of my devastating climb this year. Missing the picturesque Lugud crater and even the Margaja valley was disappointment at its best.

Yet, as I’ve recounted on my account via Counting Blessings

“None, there are no bad climbs because nature will and always would be neutral. Wind and rain are neither good or bad and mountains has its own temperament because she is free, a part of nature.

We are free and so is the mountain. Yet, we expected it to give us the pictures we created in our minds. In the process forgetting that the mountain is part of nature, operating on its own internal cycle. We are free beings and so is nature.”

Mt. Pinatubo (February 2015)

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The Mt. Pinatubo crater, a picture-perfect backdrop

Is a rare panorama indeed, borne from the tragic eruption that had covered the three provinces with lava and volcanic ash came the beautiful panorama that is the lake on its crater.

Also famous experiences are the 4×4 ride, the ‘toblerone’ like mountain made up of hardened lava and the fine ash that gets into your pores and never let go, the Carabaos launching under the heat of February sun, the sparkling water that navigates its way down the mountain and the colorful flags that marked the trail of trail runners. Several photos can be seen on my account of the trek titled “Walking on Molten Lava”.

One can also meet several foreigners from Asians to Europeans and that is where I and Kristine met Nazrin and Ahmed – two travelling Malaysian nationals who fell in love with the Philippines and new found friends led by Kenneth who happens to love backpacking and pours his experiences on his own blog site aptly named Mr. Bratpacker.

Mt. Talamitam (March, 2015)

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My second attempt of this mountain. With more than 10 pax of fellow trekkers both from my previous company and a few friends on the the list, we were exposed to the mid summer sun. Since the trail was exposed, the heat from the sun just rebounded on bare earth. It was a miracle no one was attacked by vertigo. However, the reward was the 360 degrees view of the flat lands.

My memory of the peak in 2013 was a mist covered one, where visibility was no more than 5 meters and the photos I took were cloudy that the flash has to be activated. This year, it was the complete opposite.

Need a sample itinerary? I made one in here.

Mt. Pulag via Ambangeg Trail (April, 2015)

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Second chances are sweeter indeed. We were blessed by a beautiful sunrise and the famous sea of clouds that is known of the mountain. The crowd gathered at the summit snapped photos for Instagram and Facebook missing to enjoy the moment when the sun finally broke out into the horizon.

Lost is the moment of silence, the electrifying split second magic, that goose bump inducing moment of a natural miracle unfolding just beyond your eyes. Lost in the swirling of electronics, ego and narcissism.

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But this climb was clearly an indication of good things ahead or so I planned. My deepest gratitude for breaking my non-clearing jinx Ma’am Carla, Ivan and Jon.

Mt. Gola and Manalmon (April, 2015)

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Can you see the moon? Opposite that is the settings sun. A Murakami inspired eerie scene

Mid summer means scorching sun during the day and bits of rain during the night. It was the perfect setting for nostalgia where one can compose poems, songs and sonatas. The beautiful dried leaves baked from the heat and the greens catching up from the base of the mountain would have inspired anyone to sing their hearts out in happiness.

The trek was that for me. And it was more vivid because I recently finished one of Murakami’s darker novels about two moons appearing on two different life dimensions. It was eerie as the full moon rose behind me and the sun descended in front of me.

It was also where I tested one of the best gifts I received for 2015, Sawyer’s Mini Walter Filter. It was a gift of health as much as a gift of something else. Read up my review here and I encourage you to include this on your pack, a need. No that is an understatement, it is a necessity.

Your senses pricked? Find out more of my musings on Face Off: Gola and Manalmon

Mt. Makiling (April, 2015)

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From left to right: Gil, Ven, Glenn and Tony

My take away from this trek was the laughter and the warmth from the conversation I had with mountaineers I’ve met during my last year’s most memorable climb – Mt. Apo. The bonus was I could be with some several friends too.

The trail was a little bit on the easy side and the major factor for that is the time of the year. If it was the rainy season, it would have been challenging – muddy, limatik and slippery boulders as anyone who had walked its trail would describe.

The view was one of those scenes that are to-die for and my Maktrav: A Gift of Time is even better because the trail blazer, Sky Biscocho had given his insights. What can get awesome than that? Click on that link and be enchanted by Makiling.

Mt. Marami (May, 2015)

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It was a long walk but the trail was awesome too and like Mt. Manalmon, the trail was located on open space. The sun was bearing down on us as we started on our long walk.

Just a few kilometers, a buko station is situated just right to quench the thirst of trekkers who had not realized yet what they were in. But all long journeys end to beautiful destinations and it was true for Mt. Marami. At the end of that long walk is the beautiful rock formation dubbed as the look-a-like of Mt. Rushmore but known locally as Silyang Bato.

My realizations were a bit out-of-the-box in my “So Close on Mount Marami”.

Standing on that numerous rocks and looking down at the vast landscape of green, a citadel (or mushroom) in front and Mt. Maculot just off the distance was worth the walk and the buckets of sweat.

And recently, I wrote about a girl who squashed all ideas and did a masquerade pictorial on top of its rocky rock tops. Know more about the Girl in a Dress here.

Bukit Timah (July, 2015)

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Standing just the same as Manalmon or Gola, this landmass is said to be the highest on the island-state of Singapore. Blessed with an approximately 1.5 meter width trail where two people can actually hold hands (may pa-sway sway pa!), the commune with nature starts off at McRitchie Reservoir or vice versa.

Joggers of different nationality passed us by at McRitchie till its highest point but the walk from there to Bukit Timah was rather lonely after that interaction with the crowd. Along the trail, birds tweeted merrily away and several mammals darted in and out of bushes. At the end of that long walk was a disappointment but that was easily erased by the sight of a huge python and the gregarious baby monkeys.

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Mts. Haponang Banoi, Pamitinan and Binacayan (September & November, 2015)

Trilogy as they call it but for some its just plain peak bagging but the awesomeness of the challenge was too beautiful. We scrambled towards one peak after another until we could not feel our legs beneath us.

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I ended with an all-male team and my gratitude for their patience. After months of not hitting the tracks, I felt my stamina was on rock bottom. But the rock formations and their stories were too irresistible. Their fight against the elements – sun, rain and man is too noble not to be appreciated.

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My second climb for Mt. Pamitinan was with an all-female team and it was an impulse after finishing the rock climbing event on what was dubbed as “The Verandah”. The climb is just too irresistible like the first, it was a day packed with the outdoors.

Mt. Guiting-guiting (December, 2015)

Seeing the beautiful jagged peaks of what is renowned to the mountaineering community as one of the most challenging hikes in the country was disbelief and then gratitude. You can read my account here.

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As daunting as the trail, which we halfway experienced, is indeed true (a little exaggerated). The journey to the peak was half the fun – a type of fish glided above the waves, the quaint little town of Romblon, Romblon was a beauty, the island where marble are mined is a reminder of human greed and of the need to survive, the kindness of Tatay Toto made me realize that kindness lurks everywhere.

With all its beauty, lessons and joy my year end climb was still worth the journey. I’m waiting for a second chance.

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Cheers to 2015’s beautiful landscape, chill and chilly climbs and friendships. Stories that touched our hearts and the lessons we learned!

Excited for 2016’s friendships, love and landscapes!

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