“Move mental mountains, climb real ones.” – one of my favorite reminders from my room’s wall.
Leyte Alto Peak, also known as Mt. Aminduen, is 1,332 miles above sea level (MASL) making it the highest peak in Eastern Visayas. Though this giant wonder is located at the heart of Leyte Province, it can be accessed from Ormoc City.
April 18, 9AM (Holy Thursday) – My team arrived at Brgy. Cabintan, the drop-off point. Local tourist guides, led by Kuya Ramil, seem happy to see us back again after a year since we assaulted Lake Janagdan here. I am happy too, seeing their association using the map we personally donated to them. It’s their protocol to orient all climbers prior to engagement and it is a big help for them to use that extra huge map instead of that letter-sized map they used to orient us.
Let me introduce you to the party people in the club: Me is the lead of the pack with the least pack. On my right is Ormoc City SK Federation President Jasper who admitted that aside from basketball ring boards, he have not climbed anywhere yet. My third-time trek companion, OYDRRM Ambassador Ken, who is the youngest in the pack but his bag is the fullest pack. The other four are Astrophile Family‘s Shedrick, Niño, Ryan, and Ash, who [except Shedrick] I’ve been with in Lake Janagdan last year. We are all first-time for Alto Peak. Let’s go team!
Most parts of the road leading to the campsite are already concrete. I should admit that unlike before, the paved road saves us effort since we can already access half of campsite through motor vehicle. But be extra careful, the road is steep and, on the last part, rocky. One of us had his knee kissed the pavement. Yes, he covered my motorcycle with dusts and bent my side mirror but he’s all smiles. All is wheel. Hehe
We needed to unload our back rides when the steep got really “challenging”. So while waiting for the walkers, Ken and I took a doufie at the junction called “Sulfatara”. Our backdrop is the Mt. Pangabaga named after the visayan term of shoulder (abaga) because it is the shoulder of the Alto Peak. This point is called sulfatara because they say it is sulfur something that stinks here. Without that explanation, you’d believe it’s scattered sh*t that smells bad around here. *covers flat nose*
After our tour guide Ate Janet helped us hide our Ducati motorcycles to a secret portal only those with eyes could ever see, we already started the walk to remember. All trek starts with smiles of excitement. Let’s see how far can you keep those smiles. Lol
We reached the campsite at 12 noon, making it only around 2 hours from the drop-off point. As experienced climber I was really surprised how going to the campsite was just a long walk in a gradual ascend.
After putting up our tents and eating our lunch, we are now ready for what is considered be one of the most ambitious attempts in our life. Since the walk to campsite is easy even for beginners, we expected that the bulk of the “difficulty” that this peak is known for is in the trail towards the summit. Janet the ninja never failed to also remind us of the impending struggle. Carry along essentials only like water and water, she said.
Our assault started 12:45 PM. The summit trail is a total of 1.7-kilometer far. 1.2 kilometer of which involves up to 60 degree angle horizontal. If you’re weak in math like me and don’t understand that measurement, it is basically the part where a rope is needed to proceed. Having heard that, we already prepared ourselves that (1) ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN including hurting our knees and all (Edit: Everything can happen) regardless of how prepared you are.
As we went on, we occasionally stopped over to wait for our tail. Ken? Weeee!
(2) YOU HAVE TO SACRIFICE SOMETHING TO GAIN SOMETHING… because you can’t have everything in this world. We sacrificed our time that could have been devoted to a vacation with our family to gain a memorable experience. We even sacrificed not brushing our teeth overnight and taking a bath in the campsite because it has been recently disallowed after someone left a soap near the flowing water leaving the rest of the drinking waters contaminated. Tsk.
My Pokedex is beeping. Aha! Rare little pokemons! But you’re not supposed to do anything with it except take a picture. Sacrifice, remember? There’s these pokmaro froglets waiting to come out. Then there’s this itchy (katol) worm (huh? Itchy worm?). Also little bes was there, but unfortunately she might have been stepped upon or what. We found her fighting for her life but we can’t apply CPR because how? And lastly, there’s a baby stick grasshopper shopping around (I honestly don’t know what it’s called) still learning the skills of camouflaging. Nice try, dude!
Although its season is on November yet, you can spot wild strawberries every once in a while. Just take precaution as harmful plants like Rattan and Poison Ivy are lurking around too.
SK Federation President and City Youth Development Officer seem to understand that social status cannot save you here. HAHAHA #SimulanNatinAngBagongSK
(You okay, Ken?)
This is it! The part where holding on is the best thing to do. Although later on you will have to let go [of the rope] in order to move on. Unleash the ninjas!
*Background music: Kung wala ka nang makapitan, kapit ka sa akin, kapin ka sa akin… the cold never bothered me anyway.*
This is also the part where we realize that (3) IT’S MORE ABOUT MENTAL STRENGTH. We are often confronted with unfamiliar situation we think we cannot surpass because our mind is fearful and in doubt. Accomplished climbers here include kids and old ones. We cannot conclude that they are physically strong, but we are pretty sure they are mentally strong.
That was one little accomplishment right there. *sigh* We can’t stop unless we reached the destination, but we can always rest for a while and regain much needed energy.
My heart is racing playing crazy disco beats. *Tsug-dug asdfghjklqwertyuiopfdjadsjf*
The nature never fails to reward us with a breath-taking view. The city-life is nothing compared to the relaxing winds here paired by lavish flora and fauna sightings situated in enormous mountains. And we have not even reached the destination yet.
Looking at this picture perfect framed scenery is the best way to appreciate the Creator of these wonders in this Lenten season. Just wow.
After over 2 hours of struggle and wiggle wiggle, we finally reached the highest peak in the whole of Region 8!
This is how it looks like from up here. You can no longer determine which is the ground as all you can see are vast mountains. Tour guide said we are fortunate to have chosen this day and time because the weather up here now is clear, thus perfect. (You’re welcome guys!) Unlike the group that came after us who might have been taking a photo with a “bond paper on the background”.
(4) AFTER EVERY GREAT HARDSHIP IS A GREAT REWARD. We don’t wanna say more, we just want water and groufie and selfie while catching our breath. *Ngiting tagumpay! Ahoo ahoo!*
This is the kind of sense of fulfillment we can’t easily get when we hit the beaches. This is totally different from all other kinds of satisfaction.
We stayed for only less than an hour since we need to be at the campsite before it gets dark, besides we had shortage of water so we need to go back to the base before we die dry. HAHAHAHADTONA
If going up needs a lot of air and water, going down on the other hand needs a lot of potassium. If ascending was exhausting, then descending was painful. Someone’s sh*t breaks whenever he bends his knee (ehem) while someone’s knee was literally shaking 10 inches left and right. (Clue: They’re both public officials) The others? Oh, either slipped or tripped over and earned bruise by unplanned stunts. (Ninja ka sa injo?)
It always seemed like an endless walk until you see your endpoint. It’s like I came home from a war, no more poise during arrival. Water! Sit-down. Breath. Celebrate in silence.
I’m not saying Ash was the one who fell and stumbled because he was running while taking actual footage of it (yeah, that level of craziness. HAHA) but Ken portrayed his being Junior Responder by treating the wounds accumulated from motorcycle slip and running down the trail stunts. Awwwee. At least the motorcycle and camera are intact. Huehue
Dinner under the bright moon in 23 degree Celsius temperature (like that of air-conditioned room). A little bedtime scary [and repetitive] stories. Then we’re off to dreamland recharging for tomorrow’s continuation of this adventure.
(5) EVERY TREK IS DIFFERENT. Our camp “neighbors” in 3 tents is a family [with 2 children] from Minglanilla, Cebu. They call themselves “KaLag” (Katkat dala Laag) and they’ve been climbing for years including the highest peak in Cebu with over 1,900 MASL (higher than Alto Peak). But they’ve been asking us about the experience and said they won’t take for granted the Alto Peak because every trek is different and yep, anything can happen. They are scheduled to assault the following day.
April 19 (Good Friday) – I was the last to get out of the tent hoping to rest more but I had to join them preparing for breakfast. But honestly, I wasn’t able to sleep well because my knees were like being run over by a bulldozer. I never expected I’d walk like a grasshopper in the morning, all I know is (1) ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN. Haha! 😥
Boys Scout of the Philippines – Alto Peak Chapter now preparing the food via state-of-the-art butane burner. Me still hopping around like a grasshopper figuring out how to stroll to our next destination.
Our only source of water is the spring flow from uphill. I have sensitive tummy but I never had any problem after drinking this. I can attest that it’s safe for drinking.
Had our breakfast and then packed up. But we’re not going home yet! Our next stop is the Tres Aguas Falls…
Thanks to these 3 habal-habal drivers. For without their world-class drifting skills, this adventure could have lasted for weeks. Haha. Oh no, can you guess who among them dropped by at the vulcanizing shop?
Despite wanting to leave behind my right leg for being painful and useless, I still managed to come along to our next destination [because read number 3]. At our back dropping high with waters colder than her heart is one of the 3 majestic falls in Tres Aguas.
6. DOCUMENTING AND EXPERIENCING: YOU CAN’T HAVE THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS. You can take a lot of photos and videos and you can enjoy the experience, but you can’t have the best of both of it at the same time. Because every moment spent on the other is also a moment missed. By the time I finished roaming around taking pictures, my team was done enjoying the waters. See? That’s why they say that the best moments in life are undocumented, because it can’t be the best thing if you were behind the lens on the first place. So choose wisely.
After I dripped in the water, of course I chose to take shots of my favorite subjects: the kids.
They are enjoying the plunge and they’re really good at stunts (I mean real stunts, Ash).
SUICIDE: Before this picture goes viral in Facebook, let me explain it here…
So yeah this is the “Final” vs. “The making” comparison of my Summer Body Shot. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAPPY?!
Souvenir shot with our tour guide Ate Janet! I have forgiven you for always saying “we’re almost there”. That could have been part of your training as tour guides and I understand that’s one of your ways to motivate us to just keep walking [or hopping]. 😀
Thank you for being our instant photog, for offering your vita juice when we ran out of water at the summit, for providing me [kahoy] trek pole when I was dragging my right leg, and for simply joining our kakulitan. *Mais!*
I’m afraid of heights since little kid. I can’t try zip lines and Ferris wheel. HAHA. Even looking down from my office’s window frightens me. And I have learned to accept the fact that I cannot change that. But one last look at these high torrent of falls and thinking about how I just managed to conquer the highest summit in Eastern Visayas led me to the last realization: (7) YOU CAN’T GET RID OF YOUR FEARS, BUT YOU CAN LEARN TO LIVE WITH IT.
Those are the 7 things I learned from Alto Peak and Tres Aguas Falls.
Those are the 7 things I learned with 7 people (to include Ate Janet).
Literally the coolest accommodation. This refuge will be missed… *insert lonely background music*
Although the best things in life are not all free [since you have to pay for minimal entrance fee and tour guide fee], I believe that the best things in life sets you fee. It allows you to breath away from the weight of everyday struggle. It offers you chances to reconnect with mother Earth and rediscover yourself. Take risks and do something you haven’t done before. Have a break, have a katkat. 😉
Good job, team! ’till next time!
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