I am, though manageably, afraid of great heights.
|Twin Peaks: Mt. Gola and Mt, Manalmon on the horizon|
When I was around 10, I ran away sobbing like a scaredy cat from a twenty-ish foot rappelling wall at Big Bang sa Alabang just as I was about to slide down the rope. In 2010, I almost fainted as we traversed from the summit toward the western viewdeck of Mt. Tapyas – and anybody who’s been there will say it’s a walk in the park.
|Interesting stuff along the way|
So it was counterintuitive for me to climb a first – well, technically, second – mountain before I reach 30 – reason why I had to do it. It was counterintuitive and I was turning 30. Reading stories wasn’t sufficient. I had to be engulfed by it with my own eyes.
Dead tired and with only four hours of sleep, the doubts rushed in. Could my slight acrophobia allow me to reach the summit? Lia has never been left without both parents for more than two hours since birth; I wasn’t sure if such a high-maintenance toddler could survive eight to ten hours without us.
|Inside Madlum Cave|
But that item has been sitting on my bucket list for eight months. I knew my stepdad, wherever he was on the horizon, would have wanted me to uncheck it. So I put away my coffee cup, strapped my trekking sandals on and prayed for the old man’s grace in the wind.
We left home at 5:30, just 30 to 60 minutes before Lia finally wakes and bawls her eyes out realizing Mommy and Daddy bailed on her. Within two hours we were at the riverbed of Madlum River, where we also had our prenup in ’09.
After several unanswered calls to my sister-turned-nanny-for-the-day and the exchange of pleasantries with the registration folks at Madlum, we began the two-kilometer walk to the summit. Based on mountaineer accounts, the whole ascent from the base takes one to one hour-and-a-half. Ours took about an hour-and-forty five (40 minutes upon descent), with one five-minute cigarette break and occasional one-minute stops for photos.
It was an arid though gloomy day. The rain has transformed the grass-fringed trail porridge-soft. The wet, brown slush of earth soaked my Tribus down to my nail beds. Had it not rained, the walk would have been super easy and enjoyable for a beginner like me.
Except for the slippery and irregularly shaped boulder past Madlum Cave, much of the trail is well-established and consists of flat lands. There are tree branches to hold on to when it gets steep (i.e. near the summit). Also, a guide will always be there to help out. Trust me, if you’re a novice and a female, you’ll be thankful you have one.
|The trail is mostly a combination of these.|
Two rivers, one cave, slippery boulders and slushy trails later, we were almost at arm’s length from Manalmon’s first peak. I was giddy. From the first stop, it only takes three minutes to reach. Getting there is not an issue. The structure of the peak somehow conceals the view from below. It is being there, at the shallow, crater-like center, that’ll surprise you and send goosies.
|Climbing steep first peak.|
You see, the rock face slopes to the center like a bowl. It is small, irregular and bald. You will share that constricted space with whoever you are with, without any twig to grab on just in case you make a wrong maneuver. And to make it extra fun, you will land directly from a 550-foot ravine down to rocks or a gushing river. Yikes.
|So. Here’s where you’ll end up if you make a wrong move.|
As I sat on that peak, my knees began to feel wobbly. I couldn’t concentrate. Should I crawl or walk my way down
or ask for a heli pickup? I can’t breathe. Yes, I can. Wait, what the hell did I get into?!
The guide invited us over to the second peak about a couple of minutes away. Still palpating, I stared at the steep and narrow path ahead. My sandals were all covered with mud, the soles barely gripping. There is no way I can get there. I said no. The husband said whatever you think is best. Our guide say, “Hell, no! You did not come all the way here to chicken out.” Of course, he said in a milder manner, but you get the gist, eh?
|Path that leads up to second peak.|
I looked at Kuya Nonat, top-heavy, clad in thin, worn-out Spartans. He surely made it look so easy-breezy. He stooped down to me and with dead-set reassurance said, “Ma’am, I will guide you all the way through. Nothing will happen to you. Now, remove your shoes and climb that summit!”
|This guy kind of saved my scared arse.|
Going up wasn’t any easier than the first, but I could tell you the second peak is a lot easier. It is flatter, wider, and slopes gently down below.
From there, you’ll enjoy jaw-dropping views of Madlum River from east to west, with an easterly backdrop of the Sierra Madre range, the adjacent Mt. Gola, and Mt. Arayat up north. There is a lone tree at the western side, which I hugged in joy. The river was peaceful, ant-like in movement. This is what’s it’s like to be up a mountain tip, so close to the world, so close to death. The quietude is so immense you could hear your own heartbeat and grass fluttering from ten feet away. The fear was still there but it is no greater than serenity and contentment. And it was awesome.
It began drizzling. From out of nowhere, two butterflies flew around us. I would like to believe one of them is my stepdad, shaking me hand. I was turning 30 in a day and I just crossed three streams, spelunked a bit, and climbed a 555-foot mountain barefoot. Now that’s more I like my 30th as a mum.
Need detailed directions and tips on climbing Mt. Manalmon? I have it all HERE.