Since the very first time I climb a mountain, the mighty sun is supportive until my Mount Marami (13th conquered mountain) experience in Maragondon, Cavite.
In the early morning of 08 May 2011, I struggled my way through the group’s meeting place at 7 Eleven in Buendia because of the heavy rain from Sauyo. This was not enough to discourage us from conquering our target mountain more so because majority in the group (including me) were just starting with their mountaineering careers. The insatiable hunger was still there. Most of us did not even bother to bring a rain suit for the impending bad weather.
The rain stopped pouring once we boarded the bus bound south. I was really hoping the heavy downpour did not reach Mount Marami so my images of a lush purlieu over the mountain’s vertiginous heights will be captured by my camera. The vorfreude brought on by this thought gave me so much alacrity. However, this was not the case. On our last leg of the trip, I saw puddles along the way scattered like garbage. My hope for the sunshine to say “hi” to us was pulverized when pentrichor entered my nares. I must admit, there was a picayune of disappointment with the thought of possible struggles we were to face in the wilderness. Nonetheless, we proceeded as planned. There was still no rain when we were crawling our way at the jump-off point because of the thick mud; I was able to snap some precious subjects of the sylvan surroundings.
The sky was dim. There were countable sun rays trying to peep through the dense clouds. One thing was for sure: another heavy downpour is on the way.
After a few hours of battling with a series of bearable puddles and mires on our way to the clearing where the medieval-looking monoliths (one of the subjects I wanted to capture) rise, the grey heavens started to sprinkle. The temperature lowered; the atmosphere started to diffuse fog; and the sky looked gloomier. A few minutes later, the water started to fall in fine drops until it turned into big blades. Lucky those who brought a poncho with them. As for me, I could feel the rain piercing through my head.
Photographing the grandeur of the monoliths became a totally mission impossible. The supposed smooth terrain turned slippery on the spur of the moment.
In the middle of our “take 5” under a lonely tree, the worms of despair began to crawl on each of us. Filthy feet, shrinking hands, greying lips, and quivering bodies say it all, still we pushed on when the pouring subsided. This time around, the struggles were more oppressing. We had to endure the countless overpowering gravitational pulls right on the slippery and long stretch of steep side trail. There were times when some of us slipped; fortunately, the shrubs along the area were strong enough to give support.
The worst part is as we were gaining altitude, the temperature got colder and colder so that we had to stop time and again. During those moments, I felt like we were being punished. All the four elements seemed to be in a bad mood. It became a lot darker around. The slap of the wind intensified. The heavens continued to weep.
That scene lasted for almost an hour till the rain metamorphosed into moderate. Slowly, the fog obscuring our vision disappeared. We then had to take the assault so as to have our lunch at the summit. It was obvious that we were indisposed to take the steep, final leg of the trek, but our growling stomachs were already desperate to be filled up. So amidst the downpour and a narrow path of moss covered rocks up the summit, we successfully made our way. Immediately, we had our packed lunch emptied like we did not eat for years. Being at the summit is a gluttonous time for edacious consumption of finger foods. Actually, whatever provender available in the backpack.
We were all that eager for photo op after that; however, the fog earlier at the saddle was replaced by thick clouds thereby blocking the view of landscapes below. So we refrained, still one of us managed to risk his camera. We were not rewarded with views of astonishing landscapes or the barely visible flora at that point but the mere gift of life and being able to reach the peak, given the circumstances, were enough reasons to celebrate. In spite of the ascent’s discouraging weather and toil, all of us managed to bring that needed smile on our faces. These are the times that make me really believe and proud that we, Filipinos, are true reflections of resiliency.
While we were having a break from lunch around 2:00 o’clock in the afternoon, we sort of reflected on what transpired and how to deal with the descent. I was glad that all of us were no longer vacillating to wend to the next phase of the adventure. This climb is not a traverse but looping so we will just have to follow the trail back to the base.
The torment of the trail on our way down was a turkey shoot. The bad part: it slowed us down. We had to scrape mud bedraggling our footwear from time to time, among other forms of hassle. You get the picture.
Consequently, the supposed four-hour descent did not happen. Soon, eventide started to descend on the massif particularly when we were tramping the boscage part. The rain was still pouring and the surroundings became muggier. All the sense of the world was gone. The track suddenly turned interminable. Eventually, the group of 17 got separated.
At one point, I remember being requested to go after two members who took the wrong path. We were to meet at that big tree where we had our longest rest. Fortunately, I found them. When the three of us got back to the meeting point, we could see no one. So we waited for almost 30 minutes in the hope for someone to show up and lead us back to the group. This was where panic began to attack. We were lost in the middle of a forest with little stock of water, no food left, and it was still raining yet we stayed to face the challenge of the wilderness. The only thing that seemed pretty useful was our headlamps. After walking on for some time, we took a rest. It was only there that things started to sink in. As we feel the ordinary blades of the rain still cutting through our bodies, shadows of frightening shapes littered the ground. I could feel the two beside me falter from the ominous peril. Simultaneous with entertaining this kind of alarm was thinking how to get out of the situation. I prayed (and I am sure my companions did the same). A little bit later, I remember that from the very prodigious tree where we were standing is already the pathway’s part marked by trees. We figured out we were already near the farmlands. This gave us the idea that we could use the trees to lead us out of the danger zone. And they did!
The trees did not only serve as reliable landmarks but guideposts and trail markers when we were trudging the farmlands until we reached the base. The flickering lights visible from where we were at made us astir as soon as we learned that those were from our friends. In the wake of that moment, one of us asked, in a jokingly manner, “So would you dare to have another climb of this nature?” All of us answered, “Bring it on!” It was only after we washed up that the rain stopped.
What happened next was we exchanged stories of how we got lost and how we made our way out. Then we parted ways around 10:00 o’clock in the evening. The next thing I knew I was in the bus pondering upon the experience. My ideas of mountain climbing from that point changed. The unexplainable discomforts that enveloped the entirety of Mount Marami on that very long day raised the value of comforts I get from sleeping on my bed with my three raison d’etres. Having said that, the challenges of the mountains remain sweet and tempting and I will not miss an opportunity to climb.
Photo Credit: Paul Basco (for our foggy pictures on the trail)
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