Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Karakoram - Trek to K2 Base Camp

(from my book Akyat)
K2 (2nd highest mountain) behind me, at Concordia camp, on the way to the basecamp.  2001

Godwin-Austen Peak, locally known as “Chogri” - popularly known as “K2”, is the 2nd highest mountain in the world (8611m) but the toughest mountain to climb.  It is said that the death rate of K2 is 1 death for every 3 who made it on top - a lot more than Everest in terms of Death-to-Summit ratio. Everest used to have 1:6 but greatly improved over the years now I think 1:10.  Still scary - but better.  Anyway, I think K2 got its name from the old survey and expedition map with numbered peaks.  The Map of course covers Karakoram (“K”) and the peaks where numbered 1,2,3… so on.  Godwin-Austen was marked “K2” (Karakoram #2 peak), and so the name.   Movies such as “K2” and “Vertical Limits” popularized this mountain.  It’s the most dreadful peak, an extreme challenge to the most elite of mountaineers. Since I was only a tadpole-class mountaineer then, my plan was to do K2 half-half --  Hit the basecamp, and dream the rest. :) 

Friday, October 13, 2017

My GoPro Adventures

(video grab) Having a moment of hesitation as I climbed over this rock along the long summit ridge of Carstensz Pyramid, Papua 2011

If there's one great innovation in the past decade, as part of the arsenal of video and picture documentation - it has to be the compact (pocket-able), high-density/ high-quality, all-weather, mountable, shock-proof, light-weight and easy to operate video-camera device! And GoPro easily comes to mind.
I've started using this way back 2011, and the difficulty of mountaineering docu-work suddenly became highly manageable, if not at times - easy!

In my past climbs - I used to operate a bigger handy-cam (which in those times were already compact) which I actually find user-friendly and manageable.  But with various reasons such as old technology of using tapes, use of tripod to shoot oneself for an unsupported (no crew) trips, bringing spare batteries (for long trips) which are bigger and heavier, and inability to bring a spare video-cam unit given weight and bulk, or even ease of copying digital files  -- one will re-look at better options available in the market.  And GoPro happens to perfectly address the requirement of "easy and light".

Over the years, it has become a regular and reliable companion in my outdoor trips and activities.  And just to reminisce, here are some snapshots of my so-called "GoPro adventures"!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Tents – A Beginner’s Guide

My tent - circa mid-90's.  This 2-man tent was able to 'sleep' 7 people (uncomfortably of course), and 'housed' 11 people during a social gathering. 

One of the exciting aspects of going outdoors is camping out! 

In most social cultures like the one in the Philippines – camping is not just about erecting your tents, eating dried food, and saying good night.  It’s mostly a big social event.   Cooking and dining is ‘big deal’ compared to the simplified eat-your-freeze-dried routine. For most of us – we pre-cook and preserve the meat ready for a fast but tasty recipe.  Being a “rice-country”, a good partner dish is a must which also means cooking and dinner time is longer, noisier, more chaotic but more fun!

After dinner, there’s usually a gathering for an extended social affair -  exchanging horror stories, or singing, or endless bantering or joking.  Usually with bottles of booze to lighten everyone’s mood.  And sometimes, a good volume of booze even – turning the camp site into a party zone!

I strayed a bit.  Going back to my story objective – it’s evident that one of the most crucial equipment to have is a tent!  A good spacious tent to sleep after a good dinner and fun socials; a sturdy tent for rowdy or clumsy people; and perhaps a big tent for social gathering especially on wet and rainy nights.

Friday, September 1, 2017

What to Invest On - for Mountain Climbing Beginners

Right outwear ensures comfort, safety and good performance!  My team in Dulang-Dulang Bukidnon.

Long time ago, like +20 years back – finding the perfect and affordable outwear is like finding treasure in the middle of a hidden, dense jungle.  Well not exactly – but it was like an adventure in itself!

And it’s a lot more challenging if you’re looking for something that can be used for colder weather or high, snowy and windy altitude.
The practice back then is to hunt for surplus or factory ‘rejects’ – mostly in Cartimar or Cash & Carry areas, and SM’s Surplus Shop.   

I’ve bought a number of semi-functional but affordable items back then – enabling me to pursue my tropical mountaineering adventures, and even helped me survived the likes of Nepal Himalayan trek, Kilimanjaro climb (Africa) and K2 basecamp trek in Pakistan!

The last 10 years witnessed the big change in the outwear sourcing landscape - outdoor stores sprouted here and there, some selling top-of-the-line brands previously not accessible in the country.  It’s no longer a question of finding what you need – it’s getting the money to buy them!
Being in commercial areas most of the time – I’ve observed that even lifestyle brands started their own line of outdoor wear and sportswear, to get a piece of the pie of the growing active lifestyle market.  

And one such brand and store happens to offer a trove of treasures for the picky taste of hiking enthusiasts and beginners – UNIQLO!  To the newbies who are unfamiliar with the intricacies of proper outwear – here’s a quick guide on what items to prioritize and features that you should consider.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

History Con 2017

Eagerly receiving the award on stage.  
I watched shows in History channel and FYI so imagine my surprise when I got an email from their local PR asking if I can be part of their History Maker awards program.  Who would say no, right?

Just to be safe, I asked for a list of other awardees (I got a partial list) and seeing respectable names - I concluded that it will be definitely a great opportunity.

To be honest, I was not familiar with History Con event so getting there and seeing jam-packed booths and endless flow of people - I was both surprised and overwhelmed.  They promised 'bigger' and better - and seeing large halls of the World Trade Center filled to their maximum - it was really BIG.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Enchanting Hawaii

Diamond head crater hike, Honolulu (Oahu).  Only a short ride bus away from Waikiki, a simple 1hr (or less) hike - but with a spectacular view all around.  

I've always wanted to visit Hawaii to see its active volcano (no, not to ride their scary surf), and so finally booked my ticket, packed my bags, hauled my tour group and took off.

The good and bad news about the flight is that - it's relatively short distance from Manila (10hr 1-way), but there seems to be no reliable airline.  The local 'P' airline I used was delayed by 6hrs going out, and at least 4hrs going back.  A waste of precious time!

But Hawaii did not disappoint.  This is probably my most "chill" travel, so far - staying several days in one place, even 1 whole week in Waikiki.  I thought that spending a week each in my 2 target islands will be enough.

Big Island (Hawaii) was my first target, staying in both Hilo and Kona.  Hilo is quieter, more like a retirement paradise.  That is, if you don't mind frequent rains.  If you're after the volcanoes (Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, Kilauea) - then this is a good jump-off place.
Kona is more vibrant with good beaches, nice restaurants and bars.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Quotes to Live By

One and a half a year ago, I started with my Instagram –(yeah pretty late I guess) but discovered that I enjoy the challenge of inventing or relating a quote to each picture that I post.

In a way, Instagram – along with this mind challenge had become my quick mental exercise while waiting for my coffee, or beer – or someone.  (No, I don’t do FB or twitter or others with my smartphone – a deliberate self-spacing decision).

As I review some phrases or quotes, I realize that some of them were half-meant, some serve as self-reminders helping me stick to my own life philosophies, or some are meant as joke-with-a-sense.

So as not to forget and lose them – I compiled some of them in this blog post. For entertainment, or perhaps as reminders when we face some life challenges. 

1.      Don't always stop when the road ends. Sometimes you just have to make a new one.
2.      View a mountain to feel peace, climb a mountain to feel life.
3.      Flowers wither, chocolates melt, but true love endures.
4.      Keep calm. Have faith. Things will be alright.
5.      Eat good food to be in a good mood

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Eco-Living: Small DIY Furniture Projects

Carpentry is a real man’s skill.  Something I only partially learned from my Dad during my teen-age years.  But came the corporate life, and a busy social life – and the old-school skill was lost.
But it doesn’t have to stay ‘lost’ forever.  There was a time that I found it ‘painful’ to see wood scraps from my friend’s home project. After decades of not handling a hammer or saw, I just worked on it – intent of removing the scrap from sight – and producing something useful.

Alas, my first in the series of small DIY from-scrap projects – a small giraffe-themed short foyer table (that looks like a bench) of some sort.
My Giraffe table.  I only used angular to connect the 'legs' (back then I have not learned using wood glue), all parts were scrap plywood.  +5 years and still alive, recently as our home's Christmas tree stand.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Eco-living: Indoor Plants for a Better Home

Snake Plant - a matured 'cutling' that I simply transferred/re-planted from an overflowing pot.  Decorative pot or vase (variable and changeable) adds beauty and positive vibe. 

I’ve been a reluctant garden enthusiast being in the Metro city with limited ‘garden backyard opportunity’ to tend do.  But visiting my home in the province more often lately (to visit my ailing mom), coupled by a good read of NASA’s top 10 air-improving plants - I’ve instantly became a hobbyist. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

Eco-Living: Baking Soda for Home and Personal Care

Initially experimented adding stevia (for flavor) and sea salt, but later just use VCO mix.

Yes, sodium bicarbonate.   Food-grade, but also useful in many other things.   

I happen to watch this CNN episode on green living and saw this home-made toothpaste – which made me intrigued.  I’ve heard the same stuff before, but never tried it.  Yes, even after reading that fluoride is a known neurotoxin – an indispensable ingredient in every toothpaste that we buy.
Now NaHC03 (the baking soda, dude) – is simply natural with no harmful effects on human.  Food-grade! Used for baking!  But a very good cleaner and acid neutralizer.   It’s been around for centuries (actually ancient Egypt used the same substance for mummification)  – but distracting advertisement easily lured us all in buying bad brands and products.  So start the better alternative – DIY!

How I make my toothpaste
Get a small re-purposed glass or plastic container.  I used a very small candy jar, (and another small pickle-bottle to store my ‘deodorant’).