Never in my life have I longed for the sun with such intensity the way I did in the dawn of the 27th January. We were marching on a muddy trail, I had been relying on what little light that lands on my pathway from the flashlight of the person behind me. The light’s movement was so erratic and unsteady I suffered from dizziness that lasted for half an hour. I was tempted to rely on my mobile phone for some illumination but I worried it’d be soaked in the rain. And so I prayed for the sun, willed the rain to stop, and I seethed with regrets, wishing for the entire thing to be over. These are my thoughts on what I considered my most uncomfortable climb to date; Mt. Maynoba.
Save for my cousin, Jackie and my friend, Krish, I climbed Mt. Maynoba with a new set of hikers. A few of my classmates from French class showed up, as well as three people who saw the event on my Facebook page. The group assembled at KFC Kia Theatre in Cubao at 1:30 a.m. I couldn’t climb on an empty stomach, it usually makes me lightheaded, thus I ate a full meal. We left at around 3:00 a.m.
One of my friends, Krish, hailed an empty van and negotiated with the driver to take us to Rizal. He agreed to do it for ₱2,000, Krish haggled until she got it down to ₱1,500 ($28.85). We were a group of 10, everyone was amenable to pay ₱150 ($2.88) per head.
I sat in the front seat, tried to catch some zzs to no avail. It’s safe to assume not a soul in that van had a decent sleep the night before given how early our call time is. My cousin came around in my apartment at 10:00 p.m. so we’d go to Cubao together. We turned off the lights, we said goodnight, and just before I was drifting off to sleep, my clock alarmed. I turned on the lights, Jackie reported that she wasn’t able to sleep; neither did I.
The reason we were early is that I didn’t want to miss the sea of clouds this time. When I went to Mt. Batolusong, we arrived a tad too late to see the SOC (yes I just acronymed the sea of clouds, get over it). To ensure our success, I read up on mountains with the highest success rate of seeing the SOC; Mt. Maynoba topped the list. I set our assembly at the ungodly hours. I told them if I don’t get to see the SOC this time, I would throw a tantrum.
Mt. Maynoba is a 728m mountain and one of the hikers’ favorites in Rizal. It is classed a 3/9 in difficulty and may take 2-3 hours to finish. Aside from the chance of seeing the SOC, the other highlight of this loop hike that climbers can look forward to is the 8 waterfalls.
The network signal in Rizal is hard that we couldn’t rely on Waze or Google Maps. One hour in the road and I knew we were lost. The dark road seemed endless, the driver clearly didn’t know where he was going but he drove on anyway like he was hoping it would eventually lead us to our destination. I told him that we were lost, he denied it and said that he just happened to take a wrong turn somewhere. I sat there and maintained my eyes on the road, trying my best to keep my composure. Internally, I was trying to simmer down my growing frustration.
The driver apologized profusely when we reached our destination. I told him it’s okay, but my facial expression might have told otherwise. It was not his intention that we lost our way, but you got to understand none of us slept to be early for this trip. We wasted precious time that might have reduced our chance of seeing the SOC.
The rain showed no sign of stopping further dampening my spirit. It did cross my mind to cancel the hike. They didn’t pay me to arrange this trip, but I still bear the responsibility for being the organizer. I have never climbed a mountain in this terrible weather condition and never in this darkness. I knew this would be extra burdensome. Were they silently regretting that they ever joined this trip? It would be sad to know if they did, but I couldn’t blame them especially when I know exactly how it feels.
I inquired if they wanted to go on; they all said yes. And so climb we must.
Our next ordeal was a half hour ride to the jump-off point on a crooked, muddy road. Over the huge craters of the puddle, the tricycle hammered on, while we got tossed inside the small vehicle. We paid ₱200 ($3.85) for each tricycle. At the registration area, we paid ₱100 ($1.92) per head, and we were given three guides, each one is compensated with ₱500 each. A briefing from one of the guides ensued, and then a little before 5:o0, we were ready to go.
The rain hasn’t stopped, if, at any, it grew stronger the further we went. We were hoping to buy some raincoats from the stores but they said they were sold out. Jesse had a raincoat, which he said he always brings in all of his climbs. Krish, on the other hand, had an umbrella; the rest of us had nothing to protect us from the rain.
I had a backpack, inside there’s a gallon of water, my camera, extra clothes, and toiletries. My bag is not waterproof, but the material was thick enough to prevent water from soaking all of my stuff. Still, I was worried about my camera the entire hike. I have put it in a plastic bag and sandwiched it between my clothes for protection. I didn’t care that I was bathing in the rain, if I get sick I can recover, but if my camera gets wet, it might not. While I was thinking about this, I recalled a childhood memory of my mother advising me to take off my shoes if I have to walk in the flood. I remember feeling a little bit hurt that my mother is more concerned about the shoes than me. Years later, there I was, climbing a mountain under the pouring rain, more concerned about my camera than my own health.
If I wasn’t carrying a gadget, would I have enjoyed the experience? I can’t tell for sure. All I know is that it was no fun, trekking and not seeing where you are stepping on and feeling your damp clothing clinging to your skin. When in my previous climbs my most insistent thought is getting to the summit, this time, all I wanted was to head back. My great sense of discomfort was mirrored by my companions.
20 minutes to the first peak, the rain grew stronger. We had to take a pause and assess our situation. There is no doubt in my mind that I want to go back, I don’t think it’s worth the risk and I was no longer enjoying the climb. I asked the group if they wanted to continue or to go back. Half of the group wanted to return, the others wanted to go on. We all agreed to push through to the first peak.
It was still dark and we could barely make out the surrounding by the time we reached the first summit. From a distance, we saw what we believed to be the sea of clouds, a big mass on the horizon. It was too dark that it was difficult to appreciate to view. We waited until there was enough light to take some photos.
We spotted a few tents set up by the campers. I couldn’t believe they were there since the night before and in this weather. It’s not hard to imagine that they had an uncomfortable if not a rough night. Jessie and his friend, Paul originally wanted to continue but after reaching the first peak, they changed their minds. The three joiners who saw my Facebook event were the only ones who finished the hike, kudos to them. The rest of us, mere mortals, retreated to where we came from. We encountered the other hikers on our way back and because this is a loop hike, they knew that we didn’t complete the trek.
I felt no shame for not having finished it. I know how to pick my battles. I skidded and fell on my butt twice from walking over the slippery slope. By the time we reached the jump-off point, was covered in mud.
They say that a bad experience makes for a good story for which I’d have to agree. As a writer I find the poignant tales and the most harrowing of experiences to be the most interesting themes to write. This is not to say I want to court misfortunes to create better stories, I just accept the fact that sometimes, things go downhill despite your best efforts. What’s important is the learning that you can take from each experience, in this case, one must always check the weather report.
Even so, my Mt. Maynoba climb takes the cake for being the most memorable. Hell, we got rained on. What could be more unforgettable than that.