Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Mt. Guiting-guiting, 1995

Mt. Guiting-guiting is found in Sibuyan island, Romblon province. The province is composed of around 7 islands; the biggest of which is Tablas island, comprising of several municipalities and is the center of provincial commerce and marble quarrying; Romblon island is smaller but it's the seat of the provincial government and hence, provincial offices of national government agencies are found there. Sibuyan is a quite island, more forested and mountainous, and very little, if any, quarrying activities.

I have climbed Mt. Guiting-guiting sometime in the middle of 1995, with 2 other friends, Jules (our team leader in Mt. Pinatubo climbs a year earlier), and a Japanese scientist (I forgot his name, but Jules invited him) who was looking for a special kind of ginger ("luya") of about 4 feet tall or higher for his PhD dissertation in Japan. He heard that such kind of ginger can be found in Sibuyan island.

The mountain is famous for its difficulty in climbing. Several years ago before we climbed it, 4 members of UP Mountaineers fell on its rocky cliffs and died. It was a big news among mountaineers then since the casualty figure was high. For me, I was still "high" and inspired in climbing as many mountains and volcanoes I can, after our 2 climbs in Mt. Pinatubo, climbs in other high mountains (Mt. Apo in Davao-Cotabato, Mt. Halcon in Mindoro, Mt. Pulag in Benguet-Mt. Province, and so on). So, the challenge of climbing this dangerous mountain sent some adrenaline rush into my curious mind.

A friend in Congress, Donna Morgado, briefly toured us in the municipality of Magdiwang(?). She also introduced us to a famous guide there, nicknamed "Bulod", I think. Bulod was one of the few strong climbers and guides who retrieved the bodies of the fallen and dead UP mountaineers in deep and pointed rocks of Mt. Guiting-guiting. Bulod assured us that since the weather looks fine and sunny, we may need no ropes when we assult the mountain; nonetheless, he brought us a 50-meter rope in case the weather would turn sour.

Day 1, we climbed up the so-called "Mayo's peak". This took us around 6 hours, I don't remember. We camped for the night. This is the first of 2 summits that we have to climb; the second summit will be Mt. Guiting-guiting's peak. Mayo's peak seen from the lower plains, is like the long and big teeth of a giant hand-saw. The jagged terrains cover Guiting guiting's peak and hence, gives a false sense of ease in attempting to climb the mountain.

Day 2, we have to leave our heavy back packs. We will climb Mt. Guiting-guiting with only drinking water, trail food and a camera to make our climb easier and faster, then come back at Mayo's peak in the afternoon, before sunset. The first few hours of trek was not so difficult. Comes now the flat walls of huge rocks, we have to walk on its ledge of only around 2 feet wide, sometimes narrowing to only 1 foot, and you have no protruding parts of the rock to cling on! Bulod said it's this part of the mountain where the 4 UP mountaineers unfortunately fell to their death.

By then, I was getting nervous and afraid. I felt that my balls have gone up my neck, wondering if I'd ever join this climb if I realize it's this dangerous! Just one false step and it's "goodbye world!" You wouldn't even hope that you'll survive and be a veggie for the rest of your life if you fall on those cliffs and pointed rocks below! But then, I said to myself, If I have climbed a dangerous volcano like Mt. Pinatubo where no one else have traversed except my buddies, I should be able to go up and down this mountain! Bulod assured us the tracks are dry and non-slippery, so he didn't have to tie the ropes for us to cling on. With enough encouragement, we passed that dangerous part of the mountain.

We reached Mt. Guiting-guiting's summit after 4 or 5 hours. Its vegetation up there is composed mainly of small, "bonzai'ed" trees and flowers. There are plenty of pitcher plants, those plants that collect water from the clouds and dews, deposit them in a pitcher-looking stem. The rocky, very little top-soil crust of the mountain's summit does not allow big trees to survive since there are not enough minerals on the rocks; besides, the strong winds in the top makes sure that tall trees are felled. Thus, only small and short vegetations will survive and thrive in this kind of environment.

Our trek back to Mayo's peak was faster and I was less nervous. Having achieved our goal -- to reach the summit safely -- I felt like a-floating a bit while walking down. We camped again for the 2nd night at Mayo's peak.

Day 3, go down to the plains with our back packs and probably catch a boat leaving for Manila by noontime. So Jules and I were practically jumping and running like kangarous on our way down the mountain. By 12 noon, we were in Magdiwang and hurriedly run to the pier area and we were able to catch the departing boat for Manila.

Watching Mayo's peak from a distance in the boat, and nursing some scratches in my bruised legs, I was thinking that I'm lucky again, once more, for having seen and reached another dangerous mountain. Yeebbaaa!!!

No comments: