climb

dodging dangers, pursuing perils, living life: part 2 of the trainee's daily bread

last night i visited jhoana at the holy trinity chapels in parañaque. i couldn't bear to look at her longer than 5 seconds because i didn't want to keep a lasting memory of her that way. i choose to remember her passing out on the beach from having had too much to drink, or laughing so hard that beer would be coming out her nose. she was always happy, and this is what i kept telling her mom, who during our conversation, started with grief and anger, to smiling and laughing while tearfully remembering jhoana's better days.

she asked me many questions, many of which i've heard from my own mother, and even a few that i've recently asked myself.

in last year's BMC, i assuaged the concerns of the trainees by telling them immediately that danger is inherent in the sport of mountaineering. however, when you're able to manage these risks, the experience does not only become memorable, but also, it becomes the stuff of legend. below are some messages i've written on the subject of the perils of climbing mountains and pursuing outdoor adventures.

Be prepared... Be very prepared

AMCI will never compromise on the safety of its members and trainees. In the past 24 years, AMCI has witnessed countless adventures that have taken members to many peaks, and sometimes, to a few lows. But in all of these adventures, many of them visited by exciting, but at times, life-threatening situations, not a single member has been so badly injured that mountaineering careers ended abruptly. Those who were hurt nursed wounds or broken bones for a few weeks; but after a brief hiatus, they dared fate again, bucked a bad experience, and pursued their outdoor passions with more feverish interest.

As you spend more time with members during your BMC training, you will hear many stories of instances that have challenged members in ways they never wished. Accidents happen, and when you walk near the edges of insanity, danger is a misstep away. But in all these stories, you are not likely to hear anyone raising their arms in surrender. In fact, while we do not ask for such unfortunate events to take place, the members respond with a presence of mind and a quickness that you'd expect only from people who anticipate the worst in all situations.

In any AMCI activity, AMCI members will always plan for the worst-case scenario. This might sound glum to those who prefer to be optimistic and positive about everything, but this "morbid" attitude has saved many lives.

In your quest for great adventure in the outdoors, you will find yourself in many situations that you never even imagined. But even in these unimaginable situations, AMCI members have always known what to do, as if they've always been looking forward for the unthinkable to happen. Most of the time, the high you derive from adventure consists in courting danger. But AMCI will make sure that you don't get an overdose. You've come to the right place.

Everything is a challenge

By this time, you all would have heard the oft-repeated admonition to never underestimate a mountain. But what exactly does this phrase mean to you? Is it enough that we fear a climb? Would it be sufficient to always begin a trek with a prayer? Would it be necessary to classify mountains into major and minor? Is respect involved in not underestimating the next challenge?

Your training in the BMC will equip you not just with the knowledge of things that will come in handy in your forays to the outdoors, but will also prepare you for the physical rigors that you will be facing in your expeditions. You will be given an opportunity to experience first-hand what it is like to be a responsible mountaineer – one who does not take anything lightly, nor someone who takes anything for granted.

But as you chalk up more and more mountains into your list of been-there's, you will succumb into the temptation to shorten certain things – to make things easier as it were. In time, the mantra would have been repeated so many times, it loses its appeal. Often, it is when we fail to grasp the true weight of any challenge, that we become reckless, that we trek close to misfortune.

If someone invites you to a fun climb, let not the adjective fun be indicative of the ease of the climb, but descriptive of your enjoyment of the experience. For anyone who is unprepared, the shortest and least challenging of treks could prove to be the most difficult. And just because you've had training doesn't give you the license to be arrogant. Take to heart as well the correlative of this reminder: that when it comes to mountaineering, you should also never overestimate yourself.

Fear is not a factor

"I'm going to sue AMCI for what it's making me do."
-- overheard at Camp Vicente Lim


What is fear? Is it just a feeling? How does it manifest itself? How do you usually react? Do you break out in cold sweat? Do your teeth chatter? Do you run to the nearest person? What are you most afraid of? Things which you see, or those you don't? Do spiders and other crawling things make you scream?

Psychologists have an explanation as to what fear consists of. Each one of us has, in one way or another, an inexplicable reaction to certain things. And each one of us has a different way of dealing with things that make our heart pump a little faster.

In the sport of mountaineering, we always encounter things that measure the amount of our courage. Mountain trails sometimes bring us to the edge. Forests thrive with snakes, stinging insects, and disgusting limatiks. Often, we fear that our lives may be on the line when we teeter close to insanity to get to a place where the view is better. We utter a silent prayer, refuse to look down, and are comforted by the fact that our friends are easily within an arm's reach.

This Sunday's activity will place each one of us in a situation filled with much drama and anxiety. There will be screaming, cursing, and crying. And perhaps, even more cursing. But AMCI will not subject you to an activity merely to put you in the arms of danger. Rather, this is to make you realize that when you are in the hands of people you trust, there is little to fear. Also, other than putting trust in your friends, rappelling teaches you to have faith in your equipment, and most of all, yourself. And in the end, you will realize that, while you start with your balls in your throat, you end with the profound realization that conquering your fear is as easy as keeping your eyes wide open and staring at fear straight in the face.

As the saying goes, never be afraid of going out on a limb. That's where the fruits are.

"Mommy kooooo!"
-- overheard at the Old Pamantasan ng Makati building

all throughout these trying ordeals, the families of both tads and jhoana were surrounded by members of amci. together with volunteers from other mountaineering clubs and the philippine navy, they helped comb the waters upstream from the river's mouth, unturning stones for signs of life. up until pooling together vehicles, coordinating with corrupt police officers, finding funeral homes, transporting bodies from zambales to manila, amci members were in the thick of things. their collective efforts, prayers, and financial contributions are of a scale nearing the unimaginable. in their haste to help, 2 of my friends even figured in a vehicular accident. chris's pick-up is now a total wreck, while his passenger neri, suffered some minor injuries. people might say that the reason for this overwhelming rush to assist in the search, rescue, and recovery of our comrades is a huge feeling of moral responsibility bordering on guilt. that may be true, but if i ever i'd find myself in dire straits, i would rather have people surrounding me because they somehow feel they had contributed to my predicament, than people washing hands, refusing to assume any responsibility.