Mount Guiting-Guiting is one of the mountains in the Philippines featured on every Filipino mountaineer’s dream. Its uniqueness and degree of difficulty attract adventure-seekers. Its sharp-edged rocks and dangerous ravines thrill everyone who has the courage to scale up its height.
I commenced my journey to try what everybody has been calling as the G2 Challenge. But do you know that the attempt asymptotically trailed to cancelation? It was midday and I did not know how to escape the four corners of my workplace. While sitting in the bus towards the port, I was reminded of how I was so anxious the night before because of the ticket. Though I was in contact with somebody in the port to purchase my ticket, I was a bit scared that something would interfere. And it became real when that “somebody in the port” declared to me that the trip directly to Sibuyan Island has been sold out. Talk about peak seasons. So many questions in my mind, while my lips were trembling, trying to ask the person in front of me what are the available options to get to my destination.
Then my friend Andrea arrived with two bags that looked insanely heavy. While on the line for terminal fee, I told her the not-so-good news – that we needed to travel all the way to Odiongan, take a jeepney and travel 52 kilometres to San Agustin, where the boat that would ferry us to Sibuyan Island, is stationed.
We had to endure the long travel.. the G2 would surely compensate all our efforts and struggles. After 17 hours, we arrived at the DENR station in Tampayan, Magdiwang. Sir Bilshan Servañez was already waiting for us. He is from Romblon and he actually pushed us to pursue this hike because it is part of his bucket list.
I was worried with my hiking shoes (Merrell, that with the Gore-tex label) because it failed me when I climbed Mt Mayon. Though it provides protection to my feet, it does not offer that to my whole body as it does not cling well to rocks and hardened clayey soils. Yes, sliding is free but it can make one irate, in addition to buttsores and muddy stains. In a distance of 5 metres only, I was caught up in a slippery part and BOOM! There I went with my first slide! I still continued and ignored the possible danger that my shoes could bring. But after the next almost-slide, I decided to change my shoes. I hate it when branded products (Read this, Merrell!) slap you with their high price and subpar performance. My shoes for river-crossing, I thought, might work. And yes, the pair was also made by Merrell. Damn! Why can they not just make all high-quality products?
At first, the guides estimated that with our pacing, we could reach the campsite (Mayo’s Peak) at around 6 PM. When we reached Camp 1, the guides told us that we could get to pitch our tents at around 7 PM.
But no! We reached Mayo’s Peak at around 5:45 PM.
There were already mountaineers in the area but finding a place for our tent was a bit easy as the campsite is favourably wide enough. At around 8:30 PM, 3 or 4 female mountaineers decided to trek down. We later learned that the other mountaineers tried to hold them because it was already dark and the trails are unsafe and dangerous. But they still proceeded with their headlamps on their foreheads.
The drizzle was already switched-on when we woke up the following day.
The real challenge started with the appearance of sharp-edged rocks as trails. To make rock-hopping easier, I brought out my acrobatic skills (read: I had to almost creep and walk on fours). At the Knife Edge, where either your left or right side is a deep ravine or both, I became dead serious with my grips and steps. I did not mind my aching legs from the runs and trainings I had that Sunday and the hike yesterday. I had to make it through this deadly ordeal!
Then, the sky started to water us like plants. Rocks turned more slippery and my bag became heavier. Then, everything crumbled in my mind when I heard from our guide that summiting would not be possible if the rain does not stop. All the excitement and energy within me were turned off.
Then we came to a death-defying portion – the Hillary Pass. In this part, one has to pass a 90-degree wall that becomes slippery and impassable when raining. But the guides were able to do it. So I can also do it, in my mind. I scrambled myself up, urged all my muscles to work and brought out everything in the name of flexibility. Splitting or spreading your legs as wide as possible is never fun, the more when you are doing it in the air, with a cliff ready to catch you when you give up. But I had to do it. Damn! Why the steps are so distant from each other? Were they not taught with camaraderie? All the funny thoughts were not working. The guide from the second group, who caught us up in the Mabel’s Spring, was yelling and telling our guide, “Get his bag! Get his bag!”
“Sir, give your bag! Give your bag!” Nobody told me to remove my bag when trying to climb that part. My heart was broken. How can I give my bag when I am struggling to hold on to a protrusion out of a piece of rock? Imagine my position as the human in Da Vinci’s arts. I was in an X position. And there was no rope tied to my body. Fortunately, the second guide was able to push me upward. My shoulders almost gave up from the weight of my bag. Though my fingers were bleeding from holding onto the rough edges of the rock, I was glad that I made it through the dreaded Hillary Pass. Then I thought, we had reached the summit. It’s the Peak of Deception, named as such because everyone with zero-G2-knowledge is driven to think that it is the summit.
After a few minutes of walking, we reached the summit at around 12 noon. Since we were already exhausted and tired, we decided to take a rest and eat lunch. Too bad the fog stayed while we were there. The clouds cleared a bit just before we started to trek again down to the other side of the mountain.