AFTER SUCCESSFULLY climbing about half a dozen mountains, with the most recent one just the previous month, it was easy and perhaps even natural for me and a few members of the Delbros AB Normal Club to think that we could handle any other mountain of approximately the same height and difficulty rating.
Mt. Makiling in Los Banos, Laguna didn’t seem too difficult a mountain to us. At 1,090 MASL, it is slightly higher than Mt. Malipunyo (1,005 MASL), the highest peak of the Malarayat Mountain Range, which we successfully conquered just a few weeks back. Its familiarity to us (since we see it a lot whenever we go to Laguna or Batangas) may have also contributed to our feeling of comfort and ease. “Been there, done that” was the prevailing sentiment.
We estimated two hours to climb Mt. Makiling and another two hours to descend it. We started at 10am and expected to be back at our jump-off point by no later than 4pm.
In other words, we thought Mt. Makiling would be an easy climb. One that we could easily add to our fast growing list of “mountains climbed.”
We could not have been more wrong. And Mt. Makiling made us realize this in a manner that can only be described as “in your face!”
Our underestimation of Mt. Makiling only shows how amateurish we still are as mountaineers. Professional mountaineers never underestimate a mountain, regardless if it has been rated as a low difficulty climb. Professional mountaineers also do not compare mountains by how high they are. That two mountains are approximately of the same height does not say anything about how comparatively difficult to climb these two mountains will be.
Ironically, two professional climbers were with our party in climbing Mt. Makiling, and being much wiser than we are they were the first to recognize when the climb was already doomed and therefore decided to turn back. At close to 5pm, approximately seven hours since we started our hike,†together with three others from my group†they decided not to pursue the summit anymore.
On the other hand, with three remaining companions, our two local guides, and my ruffled pride, I bravely continued on towards the summit.
We crawled on an almost vertical and seemingly never ending slope. The loose, muddy slope and the seemingly ubiquitous and thorny rattan plants made matters so much worse. About halfway through our estimation of where the summit is, my three other companions couldn’t muster any more strength to go any farther and decided to end the lunacy of our doomed objective to reach the summit.
Always stubborn and proud I still continued my ascent. Our two guides were practically creating a trail for me for there was no more trail to follow. Finally, I came to what seems to be a “peak.” But was it the summit? Maybe. There is supposed to be a wide enough clearing where the summit is. So maybe not. I could have been within 5 meters or 50 meters of the summit. No one can tell with any degree of certainty whether I made it to the summit or not (but I know I did not make it).
And then the two guides looked at each other and then turned to me. I understood even before they said anything. It was pointless to continue. Visibility was less than one meter (the peak where we were was blanketed by a rain cloud). It was raining and the wind was howling. I have three dog-tired companions left on the slippery and thorny slope several meters below. At that point we were climbing up for almost eight hours already (it was already almost 5:30pm), and we still needed to descend and trace back the trail to our jump-off point.
At that very instant I swallowed my pride and surrendered.
Our two guides must have sensed how disappointed I was so they offered to tell everybody that I did reach the summit. Somehow I found that very funny. But I appreciated their gesture and it sort of gave me back my bright disposition. With a smile I told them, “thanks but no thanks.” I am man enough to admit that I failed. I disrespected Mt. Makiling by underestimating it. In return it taught me an important lesson in humility… among other things. #