i may have used some lawyerly tactics when i cross-examined my doctor after he said i could resume running (as long as it's not a marathon), but not mountaineering. knowing that the definition of mountaineering as well as my doctor's idea of it may involve some really extreme conditions, i clarified: how about a trek, which really just involves walking on an inclined plane? my doctor said that should be fine, provided i avoid situations which may involve falling, slipping, and scrambling over really rough terrain. with this amended assurance from my doctor, i decided to participate in a day hike with friends up and down mt. gulugod-baboy in mabini, batangas.
ever since my pink (then later green) cast was removed last april, people have bugged me about when i would return to mountaineering. i knew that my recovery would take time -- six months, in fact, which meant my fracture would have only fully healed by the beginning of september. i had already psyched myself and everyone around me that i would not see mountain trails until then. i braced for a long and difficult separation from many of the things that i loved. but when the doctor said last may that i could probably start running again in late june, i was given a glimmer of hope. i had passed up on the chance to climb several times until i received word from the doctor. and although i stretched his professional advice a little, it was enough to convince me that yes, i can go at it again.
climbing gulugod-baboy answered many questions. first was whether my ankle would be able to endure the rigors of a hike. although the mountain is by no means comparable to some trails i've recently experienced (it really is for beginners), its short but steep trail was a good measure of my ability to tackle a trek. my ankle survived. i endured no unusual pain or discomfort. best of all, it wasn't particularly swollen when i finally removed my boots. i've also had virtually no physical exercise since that unfortunate evening in march, so i also wondered if i still had the stamina for it. i was humbly reminded of when i started to climb mountains: i wheezed, huffed, and puffed. i had this eerily familiar feeling that my lungs were about to explode, and i felt inadequate as a mountaineer. the hike also answered my hopeful prayer to be able to join the training climb this weekend.
the mountain still looked very much the same since i was last there. the route to anilao from STAR tollway is peppered with several unfortunate traffic chokeholds, although efforts to widen the roads are underway. a portion of the wall had crumbled to the concrete path that leads from the national road, where women required us to pay a fee but failed to issue a receipt. at times, this mountain attracts droves of climbers, many of them first-timers, and the trail is covered by trash, particularly until you reach the houses halfway to the summit. it was drizzling slightly when we began the climb, although we had windows of clear skies when we finally reached the top, seeing the mountains from laguna all the way to the island of mindoro.
after the experience, i realized that the source of doubt about my ability to return to mountaineering was me. truth be told, i was a shadow of the mountaineer i used to be. my injury took a chunk off the rock that was my confidence, and consequently, my agility was halved. i was neither jumping nor running anymore, and i often hesitated, lowering my center of gravity, grabbing handholds and wedging my shoe between rocks and roots. i shifted the burden on my knees, which trembled many times, sometimes uncontrollably. i had to be assisted, often embarrassingly, by my climb companions. but i confirmed that i was still this lover of mountains, this passionate pursuer of adventure, this gallivanting wanderer, this curious collector of memories. not absolutely there yet, but i'm glad to be back, and i thank the Lord for friends and believers.