BY EUDEN VALDEZ
IT was August 2016 when I started hiking. My first time, an unforgettable one, transpired at Mt. Manabu in Batangas. We weren’t able to finish because of an unexpected emergency. It was raining then.
Two years later—yes, also in August—I was able to complete back-to-back hikes: a major climb at Mt. Isarog in Naga and a minor one at Mt. Maynuba in Rizal. No emergency this time but it was raining on both mountains too.
To be completely honest, in my two years of mountaineering, majority are wet climbs. So much so that there’s this running joke among my fellow RAK Ph Mountaineers. That ever since I joined, our group—of outdoor enthusiasts slash volunteers—has constantly and regularly faced wet climbs. (If you think about it, it’s natural since I joined during the country’s rainy season).
I’m used to it, both the joking and the wet climb. In fact, I’ve learned to appreciate and love the latter for all its uniqueness. It never falls short difficulty- and experience-wise.
But really, what’s up with wet climbs that make them special?
Let’s begin by saying that it is harder and because of this, a mountaineer becomes more attuned with him/herself.
I for one become more conscious of every step I take, making sure I land on solid soil or root or rock. I get to take care of myself better, a reminder that I am fragile. At any misstep, I can easily slip.
In slippery cliff or ridges, this could mean—in worse instances—falling off somewhere below. The hugot line “Nahulog pero walang sumalo”? It can’t get any more real than this. Thankfully this often simply means a minor fall, butt straight to the ground, a little bruise here and there. But I stand back on my feet, making me realize that yes, I am fragile but I am also strong. Isn’t this what we’re supposed to do in life? Stand up again after falling or even failing.
With wet climbs, I also don’t just become more self-aware. I also become more observant of my surroundings and of the people I am with.
For me, the mountain has never been more alive when it is raining. The taller trees, its leaves and branches, glisten to every hint of light and move to every gust of wind. Higher up in the mountain, the mossy forests are even more mystical and breathtaking. It’s green everywhere, and this brightened hue is a stark contrast to the white backdrop of rain clouds and fog.
There’s also the advent of limatik, bloodsuckers, in most wet, rainforests—making the hike even more thrilling.
And of course, there are the people I am hiking with. They are my lifeline, really, and vice versa. We always make sure to watch each other’s back, figuratively and quite literally too. And the best part, my hiking family also takes the dull away with their silly company and wacky conversations.
During wet climbs, I also get to feel, appreciate and endure cold weather, which gets even colder with the rains, the winds, the altitude and the forest cover. For someone who lives in the urban jungle, this is an escape in the truest sense.
All these more than make up for the lack of views upon arriving at the summit.
Take for example at Mt. Maynuba, it began pouring the moment we reached the summit.
At Mt. Isarog, we weren’t rewarded with a landscape of sea of clouds and Mts. Bulusan and Mayon of Bicol. But we were gifted with renewed passion, stronger friendships, deeper appreciation of our planet, and, I hope, better versions of ourselves.
And true to RAK Ph Mountaineers’ philosophy, it is not the destination but the journey.