Posts Tagged ‘Cuenca

14
Apr
10

Mt. Maculot Revisited (Part 2)

The challenges were going back up the trails and retrace our route from the summit to find the right way.  Luckily my teammates followed my suggestion of packing light so despite the crumbling ground, with teamwork they were able to pull through with relative difficulty.   I however didn’t with my weight training.  Mt. Maculot was having its revenge on me. I was practically unscathed the last time we met; now I was experiencing the runner up for the scariest moment of my life—hanging onto dear life as my arms were solely carrying my entire weight, clinging onto roots that I dug while the ground beneath me that offered little support was slowly eroding due to my weight!  I seriously felt like anytime the roots would give out, I’d slide down, and be unable to climb back up the eroded ground.   And I can’t keep carrying my entire weight for long!

The challenging part of the trail, courtesy Jairuz

Luckily our sweeper Allen did great at his duty and stayed with me (from stable grounds of course) during my struggle and lent a hand until I was able to pull through.   I was also lucky that the others didn’t saw what happened to me as it was really scary.

I climbed up and grab onto the root we originally used going down.  As the ground crumbled I had to expose more of the root and cling to it with both arms.   I had to think fast and dig for some more roots before the ground totally erodes, and eventually I found another on my left where there’s a more stable ground.   The problem was that a really thorny plant was blocking my path to transfer.   I was running out of time as the ground totally gave way so I just reached and grabbed that root and before I was able to successfully transfer to it I felt a lot of thorns gracing my face.   From there I don’t really remember how I managed to reach for the stable ground where Allen was staying.   All I know was that I got away from it all with some small holes in my upper lip area (no thorns were carried apparently) and an inch of cut on my left knee, aside from some minor scratches of course.  Thanks Allen for staying!

Dead end! (Jumping off a ravine isn’t part of the plan) Courtesy Carina

I wasn’t smiling right after that incident and I thought that “this isn’t fun anymore!”   I felt that my heart beat was really elevated and my right quads was throbbing—all muscles of it, ready to have cramps at any second.   Fortunately running thought me some lessons so after some rehydration and proper management of effort we were all going back to the summit to find the right trail down.  And of course the idea of finding the right way brought back my smile. 🙂

We were back on top and Mt. Maculot had already given us more adventure than we seek.   Eventually the right path made itself visible to us and so we were on our way to the campsite where the infamous store used to stand.  Of course going there still gave us some challenges as we encountered crumbling trails on the way down.

This is how the old store looks like now; well it’s no longer a store although you can still buy cold drinks in the area (Pinoy ingenuity, but sadly no more halo-halo) 🙂

From the camp site most of us went to view the Rockies but only two went to it due to laziness brought about by the heat.  After resting for quite a while and some cold drinks we started our descent just before 3PM.

The Rockies which I wanted to go to but I got a bit too lazy 😛

Our group just before our descent

Going down…

Sadly the numerous Buco (Coconut) juice vendors that frequent the trail a year ago were also gone but one still managed to stay completing my day.  Again, ingenuity.

This is where “tourists” normally start their trek

Climb Tip: The advantage of descending near the mountaineering store was the proximity of houses where you can take a bath, for a fee of course.  A tricycle terminal is also located nearby.

After our descent we opted for some nice bath, halo-halo, and barbecue, all of which in the vicinity of the mountaineering store.  From there our buses back to Manila are just a tricycle ride and P20 (per person) away.

Our trail route (via Google Earth): note that from the summit we were mislead by an established trail to a dead end so we went back to summit and found a way back to the camp site (Rockies), totaling at least 6K worth of trails

To those also planning to follow our path here’s the summary of our route: start at the jumpoff point (Grotto trail), climb to summit, head towards the camp site (Rockies), and descended to the mountaineering store area (descent from summit is approximate as my GF405 ran out of batteries).  But don’t forget to register first!

Appeal: I kept mentioning the word “tourists” in this post to refer to the sets of people that litter the mountain leaving all sorts of junk that they carry with them.  Unfortunately Mt. Maculot is in a very bad shape because of them and is in fact worse state now than my last visit a year ago.  Don’t be a tourist, be a responsible mountaineer by bringing all your trash with you on the way down! Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but photos, kill nothing but time.  Don’t be part of the problem, be part of the solution!

Please keep our mountains clean

At the end of the day I was pretty satisfied with the way things turned out.  It didn’t go “according to plan” the same way our last visit did but the unanticipated moments of getting lost and finding our way back really made it into an adventure—the thrill of spontaneity.  If everything went “according to plan” we may not have enjoyed our climb as much, and even I who thought knew enough the trails of Mt. Maculot had new lessons learned.

Mt. Maculot adventure complete!

Congratulations to my group particularly the first timers for completing their first trek/traverse! Great job guys and I hope you learned some valuable things with our assault, and hope this is just the start of many more climbs to come!

11
Apr
10

Mt. Maculot Revisited (Part 1)

Stubborn as I am my injury wasn’t enough to keep me in one place—once again I’m out and about on an adventure, this time to revisit an “old friend” Mt. Maculot.  And what perfect date to set it but on another long weekend courtesy of Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor), the 9th of April.

It was almost a year ago when I last (and first) visited Cuenca, Batangas where the famous (and also infamous) mountain is located, south of Taal Lake.  This time I’m back to lead (or more like guide) new adventure-seekers in search for some crash-course on mountaineering for a bigger adventure that is TNF100.

This was my first time to lead anyone on a mountain.  The members of our previous group that assaulted Mt. Maculot were occupied, so as reluctant as I was I had no choice but to lead the group that was mostly comprised of women, many of which had absolutely no experience trekking.  I had promised that I’d take them on a trek before TNF100 for some training and so even if I was a little banged up I had to keep my word.  To make matters worse I don’t remember the trail we took before as we did our previous assault at night! Fortunately our group was joined with additional testosterone on the last minute so I was able to forget all my concerns.

Our group (clockwise from the left): Carina, Vicky, Tracy, Carly, Ric, Doc Art (which had to leave us early for a “doctor’s call”), Allen, Jai, Ellen, Me, and Glenn, courtesy Carina

I had originally planned for a 1AM departure from Manila but due to a sequence of unfortunate events we were able to leave Manila at 4AM.  Then there was a road accident en route further slowing our progress and it was way past 7AM when we finally got to Cuenca.  There goes my sunrise plan!

Travel Tip: Buses passing through Cuenca from Buendia/Taft don’t have a fixed departure time as we learned the hard way, better ask the bus company what time their buses are “scheduled” to leave and add an hour for waiting time.

Since we were already way behind schedule we decided to take the faster way by riding tricycles toward the registration site (P10/person), Barangay Hall (where we had our restroom break), and the jump-off point.  We were initially taken to the “traditional” jump-off point as I forgot to mention to our drivers that we were starting via Grotto trail and not the usual “tourist” trails, thus adding to our fare.  Tricycle cost: P30/person (five persons per tricycle) which was a little hefty in total but it’s a way of life called tourism!

Eating before taking on the Grotto trail, way past 8AM, courtesy Carina

Before: still clean shoes

A year hence, the dirt roads that we took before are now paved.  Uh oh!  Not much seems familiar!  Hiking in daylight does have the advantage of locals being awake and able to tell you the right way as I obviously am lost that time, so in summary we found the Grotto trail and everything was uneventful, except that I forgot how heart-pumping this trail was (great workout for the glutes).

Group shot at the base of the Grotto’s trail end, courtesy Ellen

Notice my huge 40L bag.  Aside from guiding friends I also was doing some weight training, also for TNF100.  I’ve no idea how heavy it was but it contains 3.5L of liquids, a 700g netbook, a pair of sandals, change clothes, etc.—no light packing today!  A year ago I was carrying a regular backpack and just wore a tee and a pair of denims—things have really changed!

With Vicky on our way to the summit: behind us are stores being dismantled (probably set up during the past holy week because of the Grotto), courtesy Carina

Our journey from the Grotto to the summit was uneventful and was surprisingly fast.  From our previous record of eight hours from Municipal Hall to summit we were able to reach summit from jump-off point in less than two and a half hours!

Vicky climbing a section of the trail I fondly call “the wall” because it seemed like one when I first saw it a year ago in the darkness of night (with glass bottles hanging on my backpack and our headlamps on). Looking at it in daylight it hardly seemed so. (Courtesy Carina)

Our “uneventful” series ran out on our first attempt to find a way to the Rockies.  I vaguely remember the details and the trail I remembered that we took were no longer that established.  With suggestions from my teammates we took the “obvious” route which spelled trouble for us.

The “obvious” trail eventually leads us to a very difficult location with a matching dead end.  Many of my teammates slid down the trail as the earth was loose—it crumbles beneath your feet, literally!  All of us get some challenge with that one, only to find out that we’re on a dead end (unless of course jumping off a ravine was part of the trail!).  I can’t believe that we’re lost! (Again?!)

(Continue to part 2)

01
Jul
09

runningpinoy’s 2009 Midyear Report

2009 is my first full year of running and with the first half completed its time to have a look back at some of my highlights for the first six months of the year.

January

The year started with “bi-polar” races: one was well praised and the other went in infamy.  Of course I’m referring to TNF Thrill of the Trail in Nasugbu, Batangas and PSE Bull Run in Bonifacio Global City, respectively.  While people can’t stop being enthusiastic about their wonderful experience with the trails of Batulao and the race overall (including myself), it was the complete opposite on the other side of the track—I’ve never heard of so much complaints about a race and it probably had the record of the longest queue at the finish.

Thrill of the Trail, Nasugbu, Batangas

The following weekend race was probably redemption for a lot of runners with the Happy Run—another RunRio event that was one of the most organized and fun race of the year thus far.

With some happy runners

It was also during this month that I acquired my Garmin 405—just a day before we were off for Batangas for the TNF Thrill of the Trails where it had an excellent stage for a debut.  Also having a debut on this race was my first trail shoes, New Balance 811.

Garmin Forerunner® 405

Garmin Forerunner® 405

February

February was the first month since I started running that I had zero races.  This was the first of two months that I was in Ohio, USA and in spite of being race-less I was not run-less: the below freezing temperature wasn’t enough to stop me from running outdoors—an experience that I suggest everyone try at least once in their lives.  While I was “chilling” on the other side of the world the race scene in the Philippines ensued the love month.  There wasn’t much high-profile races for this month making my craving for races more bearable.

My winter gear: a runner’s beanie, windbreaker with regular white cotton t-shirt, pair of gloves, thermal tights, cushioned socks, and trail running shoes

My winter gear: a runner’s beanie, windbreaker with regular white cotton t-shirt, pair of gloves, thermal tights, cushioned socks, and trail running shoes

Before leaving for the US I managed to have my first LSD (Long Slow Distance) run along one of the dreaded routes in the Metro—EDSA, from North Ave. all the way to the SM Mall of Asia grounds.

After finishing my EDSA LSD

After finishing my EDSA LSD

March

By the time race season was starting in the US due to the arrival of spring I was unfortunate enough to be packing my bags for home thereby missing the opportunity to participate in races stateside, but on the bright side I was back for one of the most anticipated races of the year—Condura Run.  This race was one of the rare opportunities to run on the SkyWay and was also my first half-marathon and first race medal.  Also first for this event was the Carbo-Loading Party of takbo.ph which they say was a first for a half-marathon race.

Running with friends at the SkyWay

Running with friends at the SkyWay

April

This was the month of LSDs for me as there were only a handful of races set.  Among these routes were Commonwealth Ave. to Bonifacio High Street via C5; Commonwealth Ave. to SM Mall of Asia via Quezon Ave., España Ave., and Roxas Blvd.; and my first LSD on trails in Montalban.

View from the summit of Montalban

View from the summit of Montalban

Arguably the highlight race of this month was the Greenfield City Run in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.  With its free shuttle service many runners were given chance to run outside Metro Manila and experience the fresh landscape of the rural areas.

Another finishers medal courtesy of Greenfield City Run

Another finisher’s medal courtesy of Greenfield City Run

May

May boasts the longest and one of the most difficult races in the country, The North Face 100 (or simply TNF100).  Many underestimated the trails of Sacobia, Clark before they even embarked on it so it was a shock for many, even seasoned ultramarathoners, on how difficult this race was this year resulting in only a select few proud finishers.  This was my first attempt at an ultramarathon and I am very proud to be one of the few finishers of this race.  It was also my longest distance-wise at 100K, and time-wise at 30 hours (raw time that includes eating, resting, and some dozing off).

Sunrise during TNF100

Sunrise during TNF100

May also sparked my return to trekking with our initial climb to the summit of Mt. Maculot in Cuenca, Batangas.  This became a “team-building” activity for me and my takbo.ph friends and because we had taken an unexpectedly difficult trail it also served as my training for TNF100 that followed two weeks after.

Having breakfast on the summit of Mt. Maculot

Having breakfast on the summit of Mt. Maculot

The month was ended by a rivalry of two high-profile races: The Earth Run at McKinley Hill and Microsoft’s IE8 Run at Bonifacio Global City.  It was a difficult time for runners on which “side” to choose but in the end The Earth Run came out with being more competitive and having more attendance.

Medal from the Earth Run

Medal from the Earth Run

June

The month kicked off with another high-profile and highly anticipated race, the Mizuno Infinity Run.  Coming from a popular footwear brand, this race has a good set of followers which were not disappointed with the race outcome as it became the first race to have a “Time Challenge.”  This year’s participants had their finish time recorded for next year’s race where they can challenge their previous record for a chance of a prize.

Kicking off June with Mizuno Infinity Run

Kicking off June with Mizuno Infinity Run

The second week of June was the Independence Week with the 12th of the month being the Independence Day of the Philippines.  For a change I left my running shoes home and put on my trail running shoes for the first Freedom Climb—40 summits nationwide simultaneously having flag raising ceremonies to commemorate the occasion.  It was the first official climb of our takbo.ph offshoot group, the RunHikers as a group, in Pico de Loro, Cavite.

On our way to Pico de Loro during Freedom Climb

On our way to Pico de Loro during Freedom Climb

If May brags of an ultra-trail race, June is not far with an ultra and trails.  More like a month-wide split of the TNF100, June had an ultramarathon road race: Botak 100, and two trail run (and bike) races: King of the Mountain (KOM) in Timberland and Men’s Health All Terrain in Sta. Elena, Laguna.

Sunrise over Sta. Elena, Laguna during Mens Health All Terrain

Sunrise over Sta. Elena, Laguna during Men’s Health All Terrain

The All Terrain race was a good race overall especially for introducing trail runs for beginners.  The race was well-organized flawed only by the fact that the trails were a little dull.  This was salvation for Men’s Health reputation from their abysmal past races.

Finally to close the first half of the year was Botak 100—the first ultramarathon road race in Mega Manila.  Despite Botak’s attempt to salvage their reputation from the last race that plagued them, it was “A” (H1N1) viral issue that hampers their efforts.  That issue led them to postpone the side events of this race to the dismay of some runners (myself included).  Fortunately enough the ultramarathon road race pulled their reputation forward that Botak could be proud to say that they “pulled it off.”  Surely there were still a lot of shortcomings but as an “active spectator” all these issues were negligible.  Welcome back, Botak!

Pacer at Botak 100

Pacer at Botak 100 (courtesy Marvin)

Truly it was a roller-coaster ride for the first half—events fell on either side of the poles.  From the best to the worst these races and other side events really made the first half of 2009 quite remarkable.  Now that the second half is about to begin, will it be able to outshine the half that was?  Or will the race organizers sit on their laurels and stop innovation?  I guess we’ll all find out soon enough.

13
May
09

Extreme Weekend Adventure at Mt. Maculot

Friday, straight from the office, I, together with eight of my friends, met up in Buendia for our weekend getaway.  It was our first trekking adventure together so we were naturally excited.  Unbeknownst to us that this getaway would be more than just a typical climb—it would be an extreme adventure!

Team Maculet

I’ll admit that I’m hardly prepared for this climb because I didn’t really expected that it would push through primarily due to the bad weather a few days earlier.  I just had my long-sleeve shirt as a jacket, some change clothes, sandals, and my trusty headlamp.  Even my backpack was diminutive compared with the gargantuan bags my friends brought.  It seemed like I was just passing by with my tee and jeans, although I was wearing my reliable NB 811.

A few minutes before midnight we arrived at Cuenca, Batangas via Lipa after one bus and two jeepney rides.  At first it doesn’t seem like you’re heading towards a mountain because of the development in the area—it was more like a walk inside a subdivision.  A few minutes later after some wrong turns we arrived at the jump off point.

Bong, Mar, and I on our way to Cuenca, Batangas via jeepney

Bong, Mar, and I on our way to Cuenca, Batangas via jeepney

After several minutes of following what we thought was the right trail, we noticed that we were no longer climbing but actually descending—wrong way!  We just noticed that the mountain was already behind us so we went back some distance until we got onto the real right trail.

First 5 hours of our climb

First 5 hours of our climb (click to view GF405 data)

We trekked on what is called the Grotto Trail.  It has Stations of the Cross along its way and ends up in an actually Grotto.  The view was amazing from the Grotto—you can see the lights of Tagaytay which was across the Taal Lake while the fog was climbing to the summit.  It was like you’re in the clouds.

Pit stop along Grotto Trail, sans-Ross

Pit stop along Grotto Trail, sans-Ross

At the Grotto

At the Grotto, sans-Bong and Pepsi

After some time the group decided to finally climb towards the summit.  That time we had no idea how far it was because of the prevailing darkness and since it was covered by clouds.  All we knew was that we wanted to reach the summit.  And this was when our extreme adventure began.

We all were expecting an “easy” climb, but after a few hours of trekking and still not finding the summit, something’s got to be wrong—wrong way again!  Instead of simply following the trails, we found ourselves climbing almost vertical walls.  It’s a good thing that ropes were placed so we could all, one at a time, climb to our next location.  And this scenario repeated itself twice more during the course of dawn.

It wasn’t a totally incident-free climb.  We were fortunate enough that nobody got seriously injured during our feat, but it sure made our adrenalin rush for a moment.

It’s during climbs like these that you truly appreciate the value of a headlamp.  Flashlights are good but headlamps allow both of your hands to be free to do more important things than hold a light.

After more than five hours my GF405’s batteries ran out.  We still haven’t reached the summit then but the sun was rising so we were able to be rid of our lights.  After some distance more we arrived at the third “rope moment” which was fortunately the last during the climb.

It was about 7AM (after seven hours of mountain climbing) when we decided to rest.  We were searching all along for the summit that we didn’t realize immediately that we were at the summit!  We were expecting a much different view of the summit but since we were at a different summit, the view was different.  We actually ended up with the summit of the highest peak of Mt. Maculot instead of the popular summit.  According to Mar (ForeFoot Runner) we took the trail that locals call 45.  It was during this break when we had our “picnic.”  It was fortunate for us that we have “real” climbers in the group so we had the luxury of drinking hot coffee in the summit with bread, corned beef, hotdog, tuna, embotido, eggs, etc.

Time for some carbo-loading

Time for some carbo-loading

What comes up must come down.  The problem that faced us was finding the right trail going down.  Mar scouted for some trails leading down but the first ones were too steep.  Eventually we found a “tamed” one, not as steep but definitely not easy.  If our climb was difficult, our descent was no different.  It was good if there were vines to hold onto as you can simply “rappel” down; if there’s none you’d have to use all your limbs including your rear—“five wheel drive” sort of speak.  You’d eventually learn to do some tricks while scaling down this mountain.

By coincidence or sheer luck our descent trail eventually leads us to the “pop summit”—where we should’ve been a few hours earlier!  We couldn’t be more happier just to see the (in)famous store there.  The thought of an ice cold soda and halo-halo was all that occupied our mind!

On the way to “pop summit”

On the way to “pop summit”

The (in)famous store atop the “pop summit”

The (in)famous store atop the “pop summit”

After some carbo-loading (and snoozing for some) we were ready to take on the “real” easy trail downwards.  If we were able to take this trail we would’ve reached the “pop summit” area so much earlier, but then again we would’ve missed our extreme adventure.

Time to get down

It was noontime when we were finally able to descend the mountain.  I was so hungry then that I ate six types of food that time alone!

Wasted!

Wasted!

Finally, real food! (Pepsi, Cele, and I)

Finally, real food! (Pepsi, Cele, and I)

We still had some more activities that followed that I’d no longer put into details.  One thing is for sure, this adventure was definitely one for keeps!

Team Maculet sans-Bong

Team Maculet sans-Bong

To fellow trekkers, I hope that we’d be responsible enough to bring our trash down with us.  I know it’s difficult but if we didn’t hike the mountain that trash wouldn’t be there.  Just some friendly reminder for everyone to enjoy nature.

I’d like to thank the people of Cuenca, Batangas for their hospitality.  I’m sure that this won’t be the last time I’ll visit Cuenca.  To my teammates, I salute you for doing what we were able to accomplish.  Not once did I hear anyone complain.  To Mar, thank you for getting us “lost” and giving us one instant summer adventure.  This would surely be one adventure to remember and definitely would just be the first of more to come.

W

W

Special thanks to Bong, Mar, and Ross for the pictures!

For some wacky outtakes of this climb (sorry but it’s in Tagalog only), you may visit my multiply site.




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The MIRACLE isn’t that I finished.  The miracle is that I had the COURAGE to START
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