All right, there’s no denying it. You have fallen in love with the awe-aspiring views of lofty mountains, sky islands, and seas of clouds through your adventurous friends’ Facebook, Flicker, and Tumbler accounts. You can feel the adrenaline and excitement as you read through the detailed tales of their adventures, their blogs and Facebook statuses. It is then that you realize what your heart wants to do: to go up to the mountains, see the world from a different perspective, and enter a life full of adventure.
However, how exactly do you kick-start the passion? Obviously, you don’t want to climb a steep mountain by yourself. You need someone to guide you—-someone to teach you about the safety, rules and ethics of mountaineering. You need to gain experience. You want to check out what exactly the sport entails before you shell out money for high-quality mountaineering and hiking equipment.
A perfect way to have a taste of mountaineering for the first time is to join an activity, usually called a fun climb, organized by established mountaineering groups. And last September 21 and 22, 2013, there was such an activity dubbed Lunatrek 12 organized by the venerable, non-profit organization Cebu Mountaineering Alliance, Inc. (CMA). Made up of seasoned mountaineers and outdoor-activity organizers, CMA successfully gathered both mountaineering newbies and veterans alike in a windy weekend of fun, music, and friendship on Cebu’s most historic mountain, Mt. Manunggal.
What sets Lunatrek from other fun climbs is that the climb itself is undertaken at night! Yes, up above the mountains under a full moon and away from the sun’s punishing glare. Furthermore, CMA added a few extras which made Lunatrek 12 better than ever.
Lunatrek 12 started on a Saturday afternoon, September 21, 2 PM, at the Lahug wet market. The adventure started as soon as we arrived; all participants were packed in an open dump truck which CMA arranged earlier during the week. The ride was an adventure in itself!
Now, why did we consider this ride an adventure? Well, as you can see, we were packed like sardines in the truck’s bed; we were so tightly squeezed to each other that no one can move an inch (Sweetie’s expression is genuine and speaks of how difficult the riders’ positions are). Oh, don’t assume that those people sitting at the edge of the truck’s bed are more comfortable. They have to hold on really tight when the truck swerved, sped up, or braked or they will fall off a large, fast-moving vehicle.
Since there was nothing to hold onto, riders swayed, lost their balance, and fell on top of each other whenever the truck does a maneuver. As one mountaineer quipped, “It’s either your face smashes on someone’s butt, or your butt sits on someone’s face.”
After more than two hours of using all our strength to maintain balance, avoid pushing or pulling one another, and trying to keep on our toes, we finally arrived in the small highland barangay of Magsaysay, which was our drop-off and starting point of the climb. Relief washed all over the faces of participants; the bone-jarring, knee-popping, muscle-straining, scream-at-the-top-of-your-voice, dangerous ride was finally over.
After raiding the small stores of crackers, bread, and ice-cold Sparkle, Lunatrek 12 participants started to line up to officially register themselves for the event. Most of them already paid the registration fee a week ago, so all that was left to do is to list down their names and get their IDs, T-shirts, and certificates.
After the registration has been completed, CMA officials started Lunatrek 12 with a short course on Basic Mountaineering Course. BMC is about learning the basic skills, equipment, rules, ethics, precautions, emergency responses, and techniques that you need to know regarding the sport of mountaineering and wilderness travel.
Before climbing your first mountain or during your first few climbs, it is highly recommended that you enroll in BMC. By learning BMC, you will become a more socially and environmentally responsible mountaineer. You can arrange a BMC session with a few outdoor enthusiasts with CMA, EWIT Mountaineers, Enthusiasts of Cebu Outdoors, Visayan Trekkers Forum, and other mountaineering organizations.
Sir Yongco and his fellows showed participants the parts of a technical mountaineering pack, their functionalities, and how to pack it properly. Techniques like these, which are learned through BMC, can make your mountaineering experience safer, more efficient, and more enjoyable.
Participants also learned how to tie and use different kinds of knots. These skills are quite important and could make the difference between life and death out there.
Participants were also free to share their own experiences, techniques, and skills to make tropical mountaineering better and safer. Here, I volunteered to show two vital skills—one, how to adjust a backpack to tailor to one’s physicality and to improve dorsal interface; and two, how to properly put on a heavy pack to avoid back and shoulder injuries.
Fun climbs like these allow you to meet old pals and make new friends. Sharing stories, catching up on times, taking photos, and laughing with one another are all part of the fun in mountaineering. With all that fun blended with the responsibility of looking out for one other in the uncaring, merciless clutch of Mother Nature, it is not difficult to understand why mountaineers form a very strong bond with each other.
While waiting for the second batch of mountaineers to arrive, we posed for some group photos with spelunkers, hikers, trekkers, and climbers. Different genders, ages, professions, and personalities all congregate to achieve one goal: to have fun in the outdoors. (Photos below courtesy of Welcome Back and Puza Alnie)
The second and last batch of Lunatrek participants arrived almost 7PM. After registration (they weren’t able to take part of the BMC), a short break, and a short prayer, we started the hike in total darkness to reach Mt. Manunggal’s campsite.
The cool air and fertile mountain soil makes the Cebu highlands an ideal place for growing fresh vegetables, herbs, and root crops. We saw a few locals preparing their freshly harvested vegetables and getting them ready to be transported to Balamban market at the break of dawn.
After more than an hour of trekking in the cool night on both rough and cemented roads, we finally reached the parking area of Mt. Manunggal.
By the way, Lunatrek 12 was a mass climb, meaning, there were a lot of participants—estimated to be more than a hundred—of this event. Normally, Sweetie and I don’t join mass climbs as we find such activities difficult to manage and damaging to the environment. Furthermore, we climb mountains to find quiet, solace, and an opportunity for spiritual reflection; the often-noisy and messy social gathering during mass climbs prevents us from enjoying peace and quiet.
We, however, made an exception to Lunatrek 12. That’s because Mt. Manunggal’s executive trail, where all participants were walking on, is cemented and graveled. There are also established footpaths made of cement blocks that lead to the campsite. The campsite, too, is large and established. All these make the area suited to accommodate a large number of climbers.
There were so many tents that it was quite a challenge setting up our own on level ground. Sweetie and I were able to find a grassy, slightly inclined plot where we set up our trusty Luxe Habitat tent. It has been quite awhile since we slept in this tent.
Yes, we had a full moon, but thick clouds concealed Luna as we finished setting up camp. You see, Cebu was at the outer edge of Super Typhoon Usagi, which explains the presence of thick clouds. Indeed, it was very, very windy that night.
No matter how easy a trek is, the mountain has a peculiar way of emptying your tummy. Sweetie and I prepared a meal of rice and sardines with egg. We wanted to prepare something gourmet, but the lazy bug bit us for the week. Hehe! No worries though; whatever food you prepare up there in the mountains somehow tastes better than when the same meal is cooked in the lowlands.
Sweetie and I found a nice shed where we did our cooking just few paces away from our tent.
Dinnertime! Sir Ronald, Sir Morey and his partner Ma’am Angel of Anjville.com and their friends Sir John Michael and Ma’am Apple shared their dinner with us. Good thing they came; we were able to eat lechon manok, monggo soup, and other goodies that they brought along with them.
By the way, you might be thinking we bought bottles of Sparkle all the way up to the mountain. No, we didn’t. There were a couple of sari-sari stores at the campsite selling a variety of goods.
After dinner, the clouds parted and Luna showed herself, albeit temporarily, in her glory and touched the land with her silvery fingers. Suddenly, we felt like children again. We remembered our childhood years when we played games such as hide-and-seek, tag, tubig-tubig, and buwan-buwan under a full moon.
Beautiful moonscape amidst a tent city! You can’t see amazing scenes like these in the city. This is one of the foremost reasons why we want to climb mountains; sunrises, sunsets, moonscapes, and vistas more spectacular than anything you’ve ever seen can only be experienced in the wilderness (Photo below courtesy of John Michael Gonzales).
After dinner, social gatherings—in mountaineering lingo, we just call them socials—started. One of the most awaited part of camping, socials allow you to interact, share experiences, and have fun with fellow outdoorsmen. More importantly, socials strengthen your camaraderie with them, something that is quite crucial in the passion of exploring the outdoors.
Activities like Lunatrek may include great entertainment for those who love night life and music. CMA was able to organize a really nice concert in Mt. Manunggal. How cool is that? A concert on top of a mountain!
Just because we’re mountaineers doesn’t mean that we only enjoy the sound of the rustling leaves, bird chirps, the blowing wind, and other songs of the wild. We are normal people, and we love music just like everyone.
As you can see, the audience was having a lot of fun!
A sudden downpour didn’t dampen everyone’s spirits or dimmed the participants’ brimming energy. All that was needed was to hold up a large tarp over their heads to protect themselves from the relatively light shower.
Mountaineering teaches you to value seemingly simple things. It makes you realize that everything in life, no matter how trivial, is precious.
Sweetie and I don’t drink alcoholic beverages, so we turned in early. Not surprisingly, we were one of the first ones to wake up and see the beautiful sunrise.
A magnificent sunrise uplifts your spirit and makes you feel alive. Be thankful; you survived a day to live another day. Make the most of your time; remember that how you want to live your life and what you want to get is totally in your hands. Every day you live is a beautiful sunrise of your life.
It was a windy but beautiful dawn. What a way to start the day! You can only see the raw, awe-inspiring, full glory of Mother Nature’s paintings in places that are untouched by human hands. Mountaineering and exploring the outdoors is certainly a way to get that privilege.
Here’s another amazing sight that you rarely see in the city. The moon still shone brightly even as the dawn broke out, as if she doesn’t want her reign to end.
Wow, a candy-colored tent city at dawn! That’s the main campsite. As you can see, the campground of Mt. Manunggal is spacious, making it perfect for family and group camping.
We prepared the most important—and our favorite—meal of the day. Preparing food, no matter how simple it is, is definitely more fun out there, especially if you share the task and the finished meal with fellow outdoorsmen.
As you go out more and more with your comrades, you will learn how to invent, prepare, or modify gourmet dishes. You will also learn special cooking methods that are applicable only to high-altitude meal preparation; for instance, cooking rice properly in the mountains involves a different technique than when cooking rice in the lowlands.
Mouthwatering, filling, and nutritious breakfast coming our way! Sir Morey prepared his signature cucumber and tomato salad, which tasted awesome!
It’s time to eat! By the way, coffee or hot chocolate is a must when you go up the mountains. Trust us.
After breakfast, we broke camp, meaning it was time to dismantle the tents and re-pack everything. After a great night’s sleep in the mountain, a full breakfast, and the realization that you’ll have to walk again with a heavy pack on your back makes breaking camp more exhausting than it actually is.
The bright morning sun lit up the surrounding landscape, allowing us to have a glimpse of a breathtaking vista of the Cebu Island. We can see Mt. Mauyog, a huge part of the Central Cebu Protected Area, and tiny mountain villages. We silently enjoyed the view and the serenity.
We also passed by a cool pine grove on the way back. Wow! It’s like we’re in some alpine terrain minus the snow. A grandiose scenery like this never fails to let you realize how beautiful the world is.
It was time to hike back to the jump-off point. The late-night rain seemed to make the greeneries more alive than usual this morning. Getting to the exit was easy thanks to a clean, established trail.
On the way back, we passed by the remnant of Mt. Pinatubo’s engine, the ill-fated presidential aircraft that carried President Ramon Magsaysay. On March 17, 1957, Pinatubo crashed on this very spot, taking the lives of the president, 17 of his presidential staff, and several news correspondents.
We will tell you more about this event after we climb Mt. Manunggal again on a future post.
After walking a few minutes from the crash site, we finally reached the summit of Mt. Manunggal. Just check out those magnificent pines! Pines like these grow in cool mountainous regions; we saw similar pines when we went to Osmeña Peak.
After resting for a little while, we started our long, downhill trek back towards Barangay Magsaysay. Along the way, we saw interesting natural features such as this naturally eroded cliff.
Sweetie admired the lovely trees. For some reason, the leaves change from green to yellow at this time of the year. Is this perhaps a tropical version of autumn? Nature is full of surprises.
At 1003 meters above sea level, you can see an encompassing and vast view of the Central Cebu Protected Landscape, the surrounding mountains, and the lowland portion of Balamban.
Be careful, ladies! Sweetie and the girls test their nerves by sitting precariously on an embankment while admiring the view.
After a bit more than an hour of walking, we reached Barangay Magsaysay. Finally, we can drink Sparkle, have a snack, and enjoy refuge from the sun’s blaze. Since we missed the first truck, Sweetie whiled away the time by resting. A fellow mountaineer brought a nice guitar, so I played a few cool tunes.
One of the trucks arrived at noontime, and as soon as it was full of mountaineers, we departed for Cebu. A quarter of an hour later, while speeding downhill, we had a near mishap; we almost crashed on a dump truck climbing uphill around a blind corner. Good thing both drivers were able to slam on the brakes.
The road is so narrow that it can only accommodate one truck at a time. After several long minutes of very careful maneuvers, the two trucks finally passed each other safely. See the photo below? The clearance between the two vehicles is actually less than an inch!
It was hot, cramped, and a torture on the joints during the ride back home. However, that was just a minor inconvenience. What mattered most was that
- first-timers were able to have their first taste of mountaineering
- all participants learned skills, techniques, and ways that could help them in their pursuit of adventure
- all participants were able to strengthen their bond and friendship
- everyone had fun!
Congratulations to all participants of Lunatrek 12! And a special thanks to the Cebu Mountaineering Alliance, Inc. who successfully organized and handled this fun and enriching event!
1. Cebu Mountaineering Alliance, Inc. (CMA), a veteran organization of Cebu-based mountaineers, often organizes Lunatreks and other outdoor events.
You may contact the following CMA members for membership and information:
- Reo – 0916-9124358/0908-8186859
- Niel -0923-4218862
- Dean – 0949-9534257
- Jamjam – 0922-8078790
- Yongco – 0932-5984371
- Tadu – 0917-6292668
2. If you want to enter into the world of mountaineering and outdoor adventure, then we recommend joining an outdoor organization or mountaineering club (CMA is an example of one). Not only you will be guided by Basic Mountaineering Courses but you will also learn a lot from the experiences of seasoned outdoorsmen.
As you gain experience, you may go freelance, meaning, you are not affiliated with any mountaineering group. But until you gain such level of experience, it is best to be a part of an organization.
3. It is recommended, but not absolute, that you join a Basic Mountaineering Course (BMC) before your first climb or within the first few months of your membership with a group. By enrolling in BMC, you will learn the basic skills, techniques, methods, ethics, precautions, and emergency responses associated in the sport of mountaineering. Also learning the practices listed in BMC helps you make better and informed decisions to minimize the environmental impact in your outdoor pursuit.
Take note though that just because you have learned BMC means you can tackle the mountains by yourself. Note that BMC is a “reference,” and it should not be used as a substitute for proper, controlled training and professional advice.
4. You do not need a complete array of expensive mountaineering gear to kick-start the endeavor. In fact, what you may need to start your first climb may already be in your closet! And if you go with experienced mountaineers, chances are, they will have equipment which is shared by the group. However, don’t be wholly dependent on other team members.
For your first mountaineering experience, please do bring the following:
- trekking shoes or sandals
- sturdy backpack
- extra clothes
- underwear and socks
- cold-weather gear (sweater, warmers, jacket)
- rain protection gear (raincoat or rain jacket)
- sun protection gear (cap, hat, sunglasses, umbrella, sarong)
- blanket or sleeping bag
- flashlight or headlamp
- water (at least 2 liters)
- first-aid kit (including your personal medication if you’re taking any)
- foodstuff or packed meals
- toiletries and personal stuff
- extra money
Don’t worry if you don’t have a tent. There are various ways of acquiring one if you’re not ready to buy your own.
- Borrow one from a friend who is a mountaineer.
- Ask a member of the group if you can share his or her tent; most would be willing and happy to share his or her tent with you.
- If you have a friend who has a tent and who is going with you, ask if you can share his or her tent. Offer to share the load; for instance, he or she may carry the inner tent while you carry the flysheet and the poles.
5. Before a climb, officers of your group may hold a pre-climb meeting. It is highly recommended that you attend the pre-climb meeting to know what you can expect of the climb, what you need for the adventure, what are the fees involved, and other important details.
6. If the organization requires payment so that you can join the event, please pay promptly, preferably before the deadline.
7. Be on time. If the call time is 8 AM, then you should be at the venue at most 15 to 30 minutes before 8 AM.
8. You will face a lot of inconveniences when experiencing outdoor adventure. Stuffed vehicles, stifling heat, cold and wet weather, carrying a heavy pack, and many other factors will all take a toll on your physical, mental, and emotional fortitude. It is important not to blow your top and ruin everyone else’s day, so don’t complain or gripe. Remember that you made a decision to leave the comforts of home, and no one else should face the consequences of your regret or choice.
9. Make yourself useful. Offer to help pitch the tent, carry a lady’s backpack, cook food, or serve the tagay. All mountaineers greatly appreciate gestures of help.
10. Enjoy the outdoors and have a positive attitude.