Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Thai Cave Rescue - a Feel and Glimpse

A leisure caving that quickly turned into survival scenario.  Java Indonesia

Disclaimer:  I am not a cave-diving specialist.  The fiction narrative below is based on my experience as a Scuba Dive Master, limited wreck and cave-diving experience, and a few spelunking (caving) trips – including 1 major trip in Java where my team got lost for 6 hours with no map, guide and extra provisions.  And although part of mountain and water - Search & Rescue team, hands-on experience are mostly reef-diving related.

Invite me to participate in the Thai cave rescue and there will be no second thoughts to say NO!  Or I’ll think 100 times, 99% saying No.  That 1%? – It’ll be ”If there’s no other choice” and/or a loved one was trap in there.  It will be a big life risk – equally, if not more dangerous than climbing a high-altitude mountain ridge with a sudden squall.  Caving alone is dangerous, but mixed with diving will be something else.  Further mix it with a complex task to rescue teenagers – that’ll be a perfect recipe for disaster.  There’s very little margin for error, if at all.

Now, inspired by Discovery Channel’s feature -  here’s to provide a (fake) story to give some audience a ‘feel and glimpse’ of what it could be like for the rescue divers…. The fear, the daunting tasks, the thankless job.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Picture Poetry Series 2

See Picture Poetry Series 1

As a past time and constant mental sharpening :) I write - or try to, :) pieces of poetry posted in my Instagram account.

Here are some of them...

Mt Ama Dablam, Nepal

Big goals- lofty and high,
Getting there can make you cry;
Goals require a sacrifice,
Success - always has a price.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Picture Poetry Series 1

See Picture Poetry Series 2

As a past time and constant mental sharpening :) I write - or try to, :) pieces of poetry posted in my Instagram account.

Here are some of them...
Mt Vinson Massif, Antarctica (to high camp)

Just like a ghost, quietly it follows,
In the high mountains, or in the shallows,
It mimics you, in triumph or in pain,
Shooing it away will just be in vain.


Sunday, April 1, 2018

Freezer Training

Inside a freezer sharing layering principles and techniques; temp at around -25C with Louie (FWD North Pole marathoner), pic c/o FWD Insurance
I must admit that this recent 'freezer session' supporting FWD North Pole Marathon candidate’s training was my first.
At first, I thought that it was a joke, and that if ever - the freezer would be some sort of active cold storage facility complete with dead pigs and huge tunas!  Not that it was very surprising as I also heard of the same idea from GMA 7 - when they were still on their planning stage on how to go about training their crew in a winterish environment (to document part of my Everest expedition).
Hearing that the FWD representative has no previous snow/ ice/ winter experience – I thought that it was the logical (if not the only available) approach.

But just to share my own thoughts and opinion for those who are planning to short cut the process and really consider doing a ‘freezer training’, here are some things to consider:

Monday, March 12, 2018

Winter Survival - Quit or Not Quit?

Session with Louie - the North Pole Marathon participant, along with coaches Ige and Ani.

I know that we should seldom entertain the word ‘Quit’; but reality dictates that we should be practical and smart in our approach, whether that’s attempting a summit in a very cold place, or – as these questions are designed for, attempting a marathon in the North Pole!

I used these questions to preempt my one-on-one sharing with the marathon candidate, to see his risk perspective and detect what should I highlight in our discussion – and sharing this to you in case you plan to climb or do any winter endurance sport. 

How many ‘Quit -yes’ will you answer?

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Year-end Review - 2017 Highlights

“Reflect on the past – to design your future…”  J
A review of past year’s events, activities, as well as top picks on gears and stuff.

That was fast!  2017 seems to have went by too fast too soon! Perhaps a guilty feeling that there were unfinished work.  But focusing on the good side and big highlights – I can say that it was another wonderful year!  Yey!

So, here’s my top picks for 2017…

1.        (event) History Maker Awards! (Read past post here).   It was an honor and a privilege to be part of History Con 2017 as one of the awardees!  Recognizing mountaineering feat is always a good help in promoting life-nurturing adventure activities.  And to be lined up with big names is both humbling and inspiring!  Thank you, History Channel and all event stakeholders!

Artists, musicians, physicist, celebrity stars, adventure riders, athlete, among others

2.        (advocacy) Mt Apo 25,000 trees!   This is a UP Mountaineer project (partnered with EDC and various volunteer groups) that I started Sep of 2016 - and I’m glad to report that we’ve finished planting 25,000 trees since Nov 2017!  There’s another 3 years of maintenance effort to ensure the trees grow nicely – uprooting invasive grass and replacing dead saplings!    My team is promoting Adopt-a-hectare to outdoor organizations that are willing to help. Visit  https://www.facebook.com/mtapo25000trees/  and send us a message if interested.

Volunteer group from UP Mountaineers with DENR monitoring team - Sep2017

3.       (product) Uniqlo outwear campaign! (see related post – What to invest on – for mountain climbing beginners).  The campaign allowed me to check and field-test some garments and it was a good surprise that those that I’ve used were truly functional, and equally important - affordable for thrifty buyers.  Some variants even have better specs (i.e. material blending) compared to more expensive brands. In the early days – it was a struggle to find a good brand that are highly useful for outdoor activities – especially alpine mountaineering.  Uniqlo’s various options for winter (and general outdoor) wear were good in its class,  but differing favorably in prices.

Instagram Post (How to fight cold) wearing a seamless down parka

4.       (travel) Hawaii trip!  It may be a “been-there-done-that” for many, but this recent trip was my first in this island!  Or rather, group of islands!  The hike around Kilauea volcano and visit to Pearl harbor were good highlights!  Of course, I have to add the ‘good scenery’ in Waikiki and Kona beaches!  Read trip post.  
Hiking at Diamond Head crater near Waikiki.

5.       (travel) Transformer - Universal Studio Singapore!   Ha ha!  I have to add this.  I’ve been to Universal Studio Japan (where unfortunately I heard more Nippongo than English) and I’ve concluded that Water World and Terminator were the best.  In Singapore (where there’s no Terminator and have an exact the same Water World show) – I’ve concluded that riding Evac (the unknown Autobot) while escaping the clasps of Megatron and other decepticons was a thrilling experience - even for a grown-up man like me!  I did wish that we were given a big weapon to help fight at least.
Joking around.  Universal Studio Singapore - Near Transformer area (behind me/ covered, is Bumblebee). But yes - Star Wars has nothing to do with Universal ha! ha!

6.       (product, top picks) Uniqlo down jackets.  Seamless down parka - this product has a lot of potential for alpine and high-altitude mountaineering use.  Or just any winter country use!   Being affordable (less than 100$ in local store) can make it an easy choice! Mountaineering brands will cost 200$ and up, and perhaps 150$ for cheaper or on-sale brands.  The Ultra-light down is also a good entry, being light weight but highly useful as additional layer or stand-alone for less-than-cold scenario.  And a lot cheaper!

7.       New product experiment – Inabel Neck Warmer.  Still part of my Inabel hand-woven campaign project – I’ve created a new line of brand that is small, functional and very cheap!   The 200+ pieces of gift order I got last Christmas was a good enough reason to pursue this product line.  Hopefully distributed to partner store – Lagalag, this quarter.  Wearing one is advocating the use of local and hand-made / artisanal product.  Or just being fashionable.   The cowl is long and is typically worn in double loop to cover the neck.  With 1ft width, it can also be used to cover either the face or hair typical of shorter neck warmers.  It comes in various colors usually using the popular ‘Trambia’ weave pattern.
UPM team at Mt Apo's Maag camp.  Field-testing the neckwarmer.

8.       (product/gear top picks) Bags by Rubber Tree – “corporate backpack”.  Wanting a laptop bag that is artisanal but corporate has been a challenge.  I even designed (custom-order) a Tinalak-plus-leather version a while back.  Full leather will be more professional-looking however, but being a “backpack-person”, I wanted something different from the usual messenger type.  Fortunately, Bags by Rubber Tree owner (a friend from the outdoor community) gave in to my request J  i.e. re-using their brown leather backpack design to come up with something special.  It’s proving to be a good buy so far, with its smooth leather – it is easy to clean and shine.   It doesn’t have a built-in laptop compartment nor cushioning – so I just put a paper board divider inside, and now more careful to avoid banging it against a hard surface.  It’s big enough to hold my laptop and various accessories, but small enough to be carried easily through crowded areas.  In a nasty scenario, running with a backpack is better than running with a messenger bag!  

No big climbs or long expeditions for me this year – but that’s by design.  One has to respect the ‘season of recovery’ (if not the season of saving cash or attending to family needs).  =)

Let’s see what 2018 will bring… 

Happy New Year!

Best Nine of Instagram 2017

More than photos, the quotes or poems are added 'entertainment' to my Instagram postings!

As part of my personal challenge, I have to come up with a quote or poem that is relevant to the photo that I am posting.
Here's my 2017's best nine photos and their corresponding quotes/poems...

a. We can either read, or write history. 
     Event photo during History Con 2017 awarding
b. Adapt to thrive, not just to survive.
     Uniqlo's outwear campaign, re: layering tips

c. Dark, cold and lonesome - are problems of the unprepared man.
     Uniqlo's outwear campaign, tips on keeping warm

d. Fitness is a means to accomplish something, not an end goal.
     Climbing Mt Cho Oyu

e. Sometimes, life is about toughing it out together...
     Summit shot of Mt Aconcagua

f. The mountains will stay, 
    the forest will regrow; but we... are simply passing by, 
    and will disappear before the sky. 
     Mt Makiling traverse

g. Limits are but mental boundaries 
    broken by strong mind and will...
     Mt Everest's camp4 at South Col (+26,000ft)

h. The birds chirped and flew by; the insects buzzed then went by;
    A lonely cloud floated overhead, a sudden wind blew it to shred;   But We? We never tire, looking at each other - the mountain and I.    
        -revised version of one of Li Bai's (Li Po) poems
    Mt Apo Reforestation Trip 2017

i.   Be strong like a rock and patient like a mountain. 
    Life is tough and the journey is long...
     Mt. Denali - during one of the rest days in high camp.

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. :) 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Climbing Mt Apo - Then and Now

1994 - my first climb in Mt Apo, with UP Mountaineer friends. (photo credit - Ivan Sarenas)
I first climbed Mt Apo way back 1994, as part of my team’s backpacking trip in southern Philippines including Leyte, parts of Mindanao and Cebu.  This was that time that reaching Tacloban (Leyte) by boat from Manila takes around 25 to 30 hours!  My group was the usual gung-ho type where fun is the priority, and planning was next to none.

Before the trip, one senior org member that we consulted told us that Mt Apo is “typical” and nothing to worry about.  Only to experience, unprepared - for a windy summit camp with temperature dipping to 0-degree C during the night!

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"!