As much as I want to have a mountain run in Mt. Pico de Loro (situated in Ternate Cavite), last week end climb was not a mountain run. That was just another mountain climbing. I’ve been to this mountain for 7x and I’m pretty familiar with the trail.
We planned to leave Silang at 1pm, but the rain didn’t stop since morning. I’m already wet just after I step off from my apartment. The whole members met at the Mang Inasal, Pala-pala and we eventually left the place at around 4pm.
It’s fun to climb while raining but you gotta be ready for it, otherwise it will be a disaster for you. Heading to the jump-off station, I didn’t see any worries from their faces. Everybody were so excited to hit the trail and get wet despite the bad weather that afternoon. 11 of us managed to reach the jump-off station accompanied by heavy rain and strong winds. Little did I know that there was a typhoon going on that time somewhere in Mountain Province.
And yes, the moment we got off from the jeepney, we all wet. After final packing and a short of prayer, we hit the trail. I told to the expedition leader that I want to be a sweeper. The first 100m from the jump-off was a challenge. It was a sudden ascend and strong current of water occupied the rocky trail followed by slippery and muddy trail.
Everybody were in high spirit to reach the summit.
Most of my climbs in this mountain were during summer so practically all the rivers that one should passes by to the summit are dry. That night, we faced flash flood and strong current of water in all rivers, however we managed to crossed them all. Just before we crossed the last river, I was left behind together with another buddy. We walked pretty slow because of the load that I carried (25+kg) and the headlamp of my friend wasn’t working and I had a very dim flash light.
Passing the last open field into the jungle, still the rain was unmerciful poured out from the water gate to us accompanied by strong wind. Got into the jungle, another challenges waiting for us. From this point, trail became steeper, slippery, rocky and flooded. Another guy join our group and now three of us left behind. Both of us were carrying a backpack full loaded. The lady was happy with her day pack. Three of us trekking up slowly and had few stops. I was soaking wet but not all with the water from the rain. I was incredibly sweating too!
Knowing that we were departed quite far from the main group, I gave a signal by whistling to wait for us. But it seems they enjoy with their pace. From this moment, I can give a prophecy that something will go wrong because of many reasons. There was only one guy in that big group who had been here once and that was two years ago. I’m pretty sure that the trail was not so familiar to him anymore. The rest are first timer to this mountain and novice climbers. The principle of climbing a mountain is let the experienced climber lead the way or at least be in the group to help in leading the way. Another reason was we came here as a group but we walked individually. Majority of members in the big group brought only day pack which is lighter, only one of them carried a backpack which is also lighter compare to us. Obviously, they could walk faster compare to the rest. The principle in climbing a mountain with a group, slower climber must be in front and control the pace and no long gap between climbers, especially in this weather. Stick together!
As much as I want to sped up just to avoid freezing cold, being a sweeper, left no one behind.
We were united only once and that was after we passed by the open farm into the jungle. My calculation was we were 30minutes separated. From the moment I started conceived the idea that something will happen, I began to think of worst case scenario.
Upon reaching the campsite before the summit at around 7pm, we looked for them but couldn’t found. We asked the fellow climbers if they saw a group of 8 climbers arrived earlier but negative response. I went into the bamboos trees and into the trail to the summit while whistling but no response.
I worried so much. My mind goes back to the search and rescues operations I participated in the past thinking how vulnerable and unlucky they must be *if they are still alive*. My mind recalled on the common accidents in the mountain in related to this situation, hypothermia, fall into the cliff, injury, cramps, etc.
All of us were shivering already. The rain was on and off by now but the wind was extremely strong and foggy. I could see the tents of the other climbers were deformed because of that. There were tents flooded and abandoned.
We decided to set up our tent and it was a 20minutes gruesome tried to pitch it due to rain and strong wind.
While I was trying my best to erect the tent by myself while the other two tried their best to covered the tent with a flysheet, the rain was unceasingly discharged us. When the flysheet of the tent was able to put at the right place, we were saved.
Having established our tent, changed our clothes, we cooked our dinner while thinking and discussing the situation of the rest of our member.
Where could they be?
It was not a good night for me. Although it is always my favorite time to sleep inside the tent, at the summit while rain but I couldn’t sleep well. My mind was keep on thinking of them.
Early in the morning around 5am, I was on my way to the summit although back in my mind I was thinking that it is impossible for them to camped at the summit. And it was true. I went down to the tower just in case they were there but negative. Backed down to the camp site, I asked the Filipino buddy to accompany me to talked to the climbers at the summit. That weekend, the summit was crowded. More than 10 tents were pitched up there. I talked to the them that we got a situation here. I also called their attention to stand by just in case something went wrong with them.
That chilly morning I wore my wet socks and boot again and get ready to tracked down the mountain. I eat two pieces of bread, drink enough, brought a bottle of Gatorade tiger, survival knife, whistle, a webbing and another two ropes (for artificial stretcher), cell phone, and aluminized emergency blanket.
“Every second is life”…
I jogged down from the camp site. I didn’t know if they survived the night and I didn’t have any idea where could be the possible trail/point that they got lost. I also tried to remember the place of our last contact with them. Every five minutes of jogged, I whistled for 3x but no response. Every time I met a junction, I intentionally took the wrong trail or hunter trail and left marks on trees.
During my conversation with the rest of the climbers at the camp site, we had a common presupposition that they got lost on the fork trail where there is a fallen tree just before the summit. From this point, climbers/hikers are expected to reach the summit in about 15minutes time. Unfortunately, many climbers had made a common mistake in that point. Generally, when you are about to reach the summit, the trail becoming steeper. However, when you reach this point, instead of continue going up, you have to take right turn and going down again for about 50meters and follow by a relatively flat trail and a gradual short hill to the camp site.
I know very well this location because I was once got lost here too but managed to tracked down to the fallen tree and got the right trail. When you go straight up from this point, you will walk for about 10minutes, passing through bamboos and very steep rocky trail and you will find the fake summit and it’s a dead end trail. From this point you could see the camp site which is very close and the real summit if not foggy. If you pass this trail during day time, you could easily find that the trail isn’t so clear and have not often used.
When I reached this point, I went up to the fake summit and whistling for several times and at the same time tried to get clear orientation of the surrounding. I knew that the camp site is just somewhere down below but I couldn’t see it, I could not orient my self due to very thick fog and strong winds. I sent text to my fellow climbers in Silang and informed them about the situation and asked them to stand by. I decided to went down again after waiting for about 10minutes and found negative clue about them.
While going down, I met a group of climbers and inquired if they saw 8 climbers. They didn’t. They spent the night at the nipa hut. If my friends decided to tracked back last night after knowing that they got lost, they should have met this climbers. After directing them on how to reach the summit, I jogged down again until I came out of the jungle to the open field with the two signboards of Pico de Loro. From this point, I decided to went back to the camp site again.
I ran back up to the camp site again and keep on whistling.
I was alone, just between me and the jungle…
Unceasing prayers whispered hoping that God will take care of them…
Tired but I have to find them *dead or alive*!
It took me 25minutes from the camp site to this point and another 45minutes to run back up to the fork trail.
Approaching the fork trail again, my whistle was responded. I sprint to the fallen trees and found out that the group I met before got lost too and to my surprise they saw the 8 climbers up near the fake summit inside the bamboo trees. They literally cry out that they got lost and met the 8 climbers. I thank God for them though puzzled thinking that I was there but didn’t found them.
I directed them to the right trail and rushed up to the fake summit. I finally met them having an emergency camp close to the fake summit. They were all smiles and about to eat their breakfast. What a sweet reunion!
That was an experience!
*breaking up my tent, I discovered that one of the ropes to fasten the flysheet was cut off by a dull object: DISASTER!*
*garbage in Mt. Pico de Loro is still an issue: DISASTER!*
*vandalism is still as strong as the wind at the summit: DISASTER!*
Will be back to this beloved mountain and put up a reflective signboard at the fork trail near the summit.
Get ready for search and rescue operation
Just got back to the camp site after meeting the 8 climbers, happy, tired, and hungry.
Brunch chicken mang inasal at the headquarter
Sweet reunion with the whole group
Last group picture before leaving the camp site
Mt. Pico de Loro on August 2, 2009
“Never Stop Exploring”