Sunday, November 17, 2013

Lost in Gulugod Baboy

on top of Gulugod Baboy,
the team about to go down (Jan2006)
  (January 2006)

Around 2 months before I rode my plane to Kathmandu for my Everest expedition, I decided to do some weight training in a small mountain called Gulugod Baboy (“Pig’s Nape”?) near Anilao, Batangas. What was supposed to be a relatively relaxing, easy climb turned out to be a near-survival solo escapade. Here’s the story…

A group of UPM made plans to ascend Gulugod Baboy (Anilao) via Theodoro route. To lessen the boredom of “self-training”, I've decided to target their campsite for a more sociable night stay - but with a little twist. To lengthen my trek, I started my weighted walk (with 20kg pack) from Anilao Pier around 11:30ish, and climbed via Sulu (or Solo) long-route.

Walking along a road with a big pack is not something normal, especially when there’s transportation available. I didn’t mind the curious look of local folks and just focus my effort enjoying the back-country scenery, the splendid views of Balayan bay, the laid-back lifestyles of folks during a weekend and generally just enjoying a bright sunny day.

I did the same exercise before my Cho Oyu in the roads of Bataan. I recall one group of kids asking me where I was going. I “seriously joked” that I was on my way to Manila (some +130kms away). One boy exclaimed “ang layo naman po nun!” (that’s so far away) or something like that but I continued walking past them without saying anything more. I just heard one murmured words of amazement. Haha!

Past San Jose is my target barangay – Sulu. I’ve climbed the route solo maybe more than 5 times (it is very near my friend’s resort called “Sea House” and I used to do quick day-hikes on the same route). Soon I hit the narrower and steeper cemented road leading to the trail-point. I can’t recall exactly how long I have been walking, but probably more than 1.5hours when I hit the trail.

The first 100m of walking through that trail told me something was ‘wrong with the terrain’. There was an obvious landscape change due to kaingin (slash-and-burn) and the old trail that I was familiar with soon became a blur of dried mud, dead grass and bush and occasional tell-tale sign of animal foot prints. Being used to that kind of ‘trail’, I continued on hoping to easily find my ‘turn-to-left point’ which would lead me to a broad ridge leading to the campsite.

I missed the turn. Not that I knew about it initially. Doing memory-navigation is sometimes tricky, if a landmark is no longer there, the picture in your head and correct directions disappear. I’m used to getting lost, so I thought I can easily naviguessed my way using ‘standard’ trail or not. The walk went on and on with no proper progress until a combination of frustration, tiredness, worry and doubt made me re-assess my situation. I thought of ditching my water load (I carried ~15li of water + camping gears/food), but hesitated thinking that my so-called weight training would be useless. It took another set of minutes before I decided to finally abort.

Yes, I thought of that, never mind the risk of being branded as a quitter (a no-no in my circle), never mind if I cut my training trip short.

But then, I realized that I couldn’t go back to where I started. I HAVE NO WAY IN, AND NO WAY OUT!

I almost panicked, or maybe I did for a little while. I quickly decided to ditch some load, if I were to survive that trip – I have to go a bit faster to allow me to experiment on different invisible trails. Ahhh – a quick 5li bath of water gave me a cool and pleasant panic-recovery moment. I started to properly think!

From where I was, the terrain, sans the slashed-and-burned flora – is not at all familiar. I presumed that I was on the other side of the ridge by then and the big ridge that I was seeing ‘should be’ my target area. I decided to go for it, except that thick thorny bushes and dried tall grass plants were all stubbornly preventing me from getting near it. But I was more stubborn. Tired, anxious – but stubborn. I didn’t have a bolo or machete with me, so I started hacking with stick. I got bruised all over – I still recall how a thorny branch of a palm bush (named ‘wait-a-while’ in some places) wrapped itself around my bare head. OUCH! The thorns ripped my sunburnt skin – but just a tiny bit. I’m used to such pain.

True to my guess, I targeted the right ridge. HORRAAAAY. Beyond the thick bush was a long, moderately steep and endless-looking grassfield. Some have tall grasses, some don’t – an easy place to hike through.

But I was so exhausted especially with a quick back-and-forth naviguessing recon – and the campsite was about an hour away. And the weather is not cooperating – I saw thick clouds started to ‘move in’ and started enveloping the top part of the mountain.

Solo treks meant that I have no one that will shout ‘let’s go’ or would ra-ra me to push through. One needs strong psyche and will to pursue. I felt exhaustion and slumped down. I knew I was ‘safe’ but tiredness and uncooperative weather were weakening my ‘mental strength’. Think!

I need an energy boost. I wasn’t able to eat properly thinking a quick pleasant hike and nice campsite. I grabbed a couple of pieces of sliced white bread. Unable to chew (i.e. very tired), I forcibly inserted the soft bread in my half-opened mouth and washed them down with big gulps of water. I rested for 5 minutes and continued on.

Let me tell you, all difficult climb ends. Just don’t give up, don’t quit. Just put your foot in front of the other. Not that I was climbing Lhotse wall, but the last section of Gulugod Baboy was still a challenge given my already exhausted state (and my pack still felt heavy at 15kg).

Soon I was on top, but the campsite was nowhere in sight. Clouds closed in and I started to ‘lose visibility’. I walk towards the other side (wrong way) and saw a guy in slippers and called out ‘Manong! Manong!’. It was Dennis, a colleague in UP Mountaineers. Haha! “Hay Salamat” (Thank God!) – I thought. Then I learned that he strolled around and got a bit lost, unable to go back to the campsite. Anak ng! haha! It was funny. We went together and combed the terrain until finally we found our camp site! YESS!! SA WAKASSSS! (Finally!)

Gulugod is a mountain which can be hiked in 1.5hours or even faster. It took me a total of 5:30h!!!

Obviously, I got an endless tease from the group “Iyan ba ang mag-E-Everest” (is this the guy who will climb Everest?) hehe!

Some tips:

1. Never underestimate ANY mountain. No matter how small. All have their unique challenges and risks. I didn’t bother finding a buddy, or getting a map and compass – concluding that it would be an easy hike (it should be).

2. Presence of mind. Never lose it. Problem-solving requires thinking and data gathering. When one is tired, it’s a challenge to think straight. Rest then think!

3. Think hierarchy of needs – A quick morale boost? Experiment a trail? Quick energy boost? Finding directions? Rest? Don’t just do things, put the right sequence based on current needs. When all your experiments fail, stay alive at least until help arrives (think - water, shelter/safety).

4. Recognize and accept bad situation quickly. So you can react quicker. I already knew that I was lost, but bad habits are hard to die – I chose to continue with the wrong path hoping to get lucky.

5. Be fit enough to take this challenge of getting lost. Going up and down a wrong trail, many times – or doing recon on a wrong hilltop are normal navi-guessing effort.

6. I posted a more extensive mountain safety guidelines here for reference.

Other local climb stories (Philippines):
My first climb
A 'Navy Seal' in Mt Banahaw

1 comment:

Densho said...

I wasn't lost. Just resting. hahaha