climb

the size of courage: AMCI B2k9's rappelling weekend

i really didn't have any concrete plans for the long weekend. i was half expecting to hie off to some far away place in search of answers to questions i have not asked. instead, i found myself practicing french at aris's party, worrying about a flash flood, heckling chickens, and inducing a groin injury.

on friday, ninoy aquino day, i left with fabian to attend a small inuman in mandaluyong. unexpectedly, aris had some belgium-based guests with whom i carried on conversations in french. it's a good thing despite my level 8 vocabulary, i managed to survive a possible whipping! there were lots of beer at the party, and i was drinking till dawn the following day. al openly expressed his derision about my criticisms of his decisions even prior to TC2 but later admitted that my suggestions resulted in the improvement of the climb. i think we were actually stuck there because it rained non-stop shortly after midnight. all of a sudden, JC and i were left with the possibility of having to commute to the PNPA in cavite, just past santa rosa. it was B2k9's rappelling weekend, and there turned out to be very limited member support on such an important activity, so we decided to go -- but there was no way we could hitch a ride with any of the trainees, since by the time they were making their way for cavite, we were just on our way home. i peeled myself out of bed (surprisingly, no swirling headache, just a bit dazed and dizzy) at lunch time and met up with jing, bitoy, maxine, and JC for our ride to cavite. i packed my tent and thermarest for the camp out.


we arrived at the PNPA just as the trainees were doing the standard rappels. i'd done this many times: the first time in 2004 when i trained in sierra, then again in 2005 when i had my AMCI BMC. read about it here. i also demonstrated the rappel at the condemned pamantasan ng makati building in 2006. rappelling is really not about developing skills which may come in handy either in life or in mountaineering. rather, it's about conquering the evils that haunt us from within, and learning to have faith in your friends, and trusting equipment. without these, you will end up being consumed by the demons that whisper fears into your ears, that tell you you'll fall, that taunt you with nightmares about death and despair. the reason i was so eager to do the rappels myself was not because i was show-boating. quite the opposite. i hoped to inspire. i ddin't come into the PNPA knowing everything. in fact, i had to ask JJ to tie my rope harness and even asked questions from the instructors, just to confirm whether i remember the technique correctly.

so after i was reacquainted with whistles and screams to God, older brothers, mothers, and fathers, i volunteered to do the aussie (the instructors called it a rundown). i remember very distinctly why i feared this the first time i did it: i couldn't see the rope and whether or not it was attached to the 8 ring. so there's distrust. but immediately after i got over that initial lack of faith, i realized that it was not something to fear, but to experience. certainly, the height of the tower did make me feel a bit dizzy: it's a long way down, but i am assured of the fact that no one has died there. so even though i wasn't appropriately dressed (i was wearing a sando), i did my jump, singing, and hopefully showing, that it won't kill. many others followed immediately after i did, while a few others crumbled under the weight of their feather fears.

in the evening, we moved over to the campsite and pitched tents in an open field, not far from the firing range. hearing all those shots can sort of distract you. it was a nice, dry evening which moved quickly, and before i knew it, the morning had already arrived. there was a ropemanship lecture again, and i don't know why many seem to be still unfamiliar with even the most basic of knots. the PNPA approach is of course a bit different. afterwards, our instructors said that they'd take us on a short trek. i wasn't supposed to join, but went anyway. it was like having a TC2.5. crazy. and the narrow channel is prime candidate for a flash flood. i could tell by the level of the debris. the trail was also very steep.

the rest of the day was for the remaining trainees to do the aussie. again, fears were resurrected, but mostly conquered. others manufactured excuses, and some of the rappels became optional. i remember in 2005, everyone had to do every single rappel, crying and cursing be damned! in the end, despite the tears, we rather appreciated the activity, and were happy to have been subjected to the terror and the torture it does to the mind. unfortunately though, we ran out of time (it takes much to shore up courage), and only yob and myself did the lizard. yob's brand spanking new NB running shoes had a nasty rope burn on the left sole. and so did my salomon XA pros! sigh. but it was worth it.