Who was I kidding?

Thanks to Facebook, I observed that Jen, a college friend, found a new hobby passion in mountaineering. Last summer, she went to at least one climb every month (including “rock scrambling” in Norzagaray, Bulacan where, upon seeing the photos, I knew I wouldn’t be ready for in a million years). Seeing all her beautiful pictures reminded me of the feeling of awe I had when I reached the summit of Mt. Pulag (my first and up to that point, only mountain) so I sent her a message asking if I could tag along to which she replied “of course”. After a couple of days, she invited me on a day hike to Tarak Ridge in Bataan.

Learning from my Pulag mistake, I researched  a bit about Tarak Ridge. Compared to Pulag which is 2,922+ meters above sea level (masl), Tarak Ridge is only 1,130+, less than half! This gave me confidence. If I conquered the former which was higher, I can definitely conquer the latter. When it came to difficulty, Ambangeg Trail is only 3/9 while Tarak Ridge is 4/9.  It was a one point increase so my confidence was still there. If only I was told how big a difference that one point is especially for a neophyte and sedentary person like me, I would have made an excuse not to go on the last minute. But alas, I realized that only when we were an hour or so into the mountain and I had no other choice but to finish what I started.

That’s one thing about expectations, they surprise you. And boy was I surprised.

tarak ridge (2)For starters, I was with hardcores, a word used to describe people who love the mountains so much it’s practically like, I don’t know, climbing stairs for them. Kuya Jason has climbed Mt. Apo (my dream but not attainable yet) while Ate Airis has just traversed D2K2! Kuya Jay, Ella, and of course, Jen are no strangers in the mountains as well.

tarak ridge (2)Ella owns a GoPro and using it for the first time made me want it more.

tarak ridge (3)Obviously I’m the newbie in a Jansport bag.

tarak ridge (4)tarak ridge (5)Back to the hike. We arrived in Bataan at around 3 AM and spent the time at a roadside carinderia. We started the official (official talaga hahaha) climb at around 6 o’clock. An hour or two into the hike, I was looking like this while everyone else was practically mud-free. Seriously, their agility and endurance and ability to climb without holding on to anything is inspiring. I, on the other hand, had to sit, kneel and hold on to every plant for dear life because it just rained and the trail was bloody slippery.

tarak 1Aside from realizing that height (masl) is not the only important thing and not all trails are as tourist-friendly as Amabangeg (yes, even though me and my friends went through a lot of difficulties, THAT IS AN EASY TRAIL), I also learned the hard way that proper gear is important. Before, I find it impractical to spend five thousand pesos on hiking shoes and other mountaineering paraphernalia. Now I’m thinking of investing in some. Yes, they’re investments especially if they’ll make your life easier. Take for example my fake Columbia shoes from a second-hand store somewhere along Espana. I bought it for 800 pesos and half way through the climb, the pair gave up on me. Not only that! It was hell on the ankles it felt like my joints were about to be dislocated. It also cannot firmly attach on ground so I kept slipping. At one point during our descent, I slipped in a straight line and my Jansport backpack was the only thing that kept my head from bumping into a rock. Out of my anger, I removed the  shoes, threw them (of course I picked again) and finished the remaining trail in my Sandugo slippers (which still didn’t make it any easier. I ended up walking barefoot when we reached the jump off point).

MUD IS YOUR ENEMY!

tarak ridge (6)I’d like to thank everyone for their patience and understanding. I was so slow I believe they could have finished the hike an hour or two earlier if it wasn’t for me. Since I was always last (plus Kuya Jay who was the sweeper), I always find them waiting for me in a spot and I’m sure they’ve been resting for a couple of minutes already. Despite their talents, they don’t pressure me to keep up with them. They even give me tips (listening to loud music helps). Again, thank you very much! (drama!!!)

tarak ridge (7)Along the trail are a couple of mini-falls which are good backdrops for pictures. Hehe. Seriously, if Ambangeg is mostly just walking in an elevated path, Tarak Ridge involves climbing on rocks and tree roots. Up to now, I still can’t believe I was able to overcome those obstacles. Well, it’s all thanks to my companions. Left  alone, it’s impossible because I lack diskarte and they say mountaineering develops that in you. Heck, I was so useless they even tell me where to put my foot next HAHAHA! And I always find myself gasping for air while they breathed normally. Experience is the best teacher daw so climb lang ng climb.

tarak ridge (12)Every mountaineer hopes for a “clearing” so the wonderful view can be seen. Unfortunately, when we reached the ridge, only the clouds and cold winds welcomed us.

tarak ridge (13)Ganito po ang itsura ng mga taong nilalamig, mukhang nagpe-pray.

tarak ridge (8)That didn’t stop us from taking selfies tho. Especially with Ella’s GoPro.

tarak ridge (6) tarak ridge (7)On our descent we stopped by Papaya River. The water is so clean you can practically drink it! It was so refreshing especially after all the hardships I went through (OA!).

tarak ridge (9) tarak ridge (1)Thanks to the water, my clothes were cleansed. Of course it got dirty again during the descent. Worse, in fact, since I mostly used my butt in going down.

tarak12Thank you again for having me! Grabe, I am still amazed with their abilities. Ate Airis practically jogged the descent people from other groups pointed at her and said she was the girl they couldn’t keep up with. And all of them thought the hike was just average bordering on easy while it was  the most difficult of my life (well, it was just my second, but still).

tarak ridge (14)I was too tired I didn’t even take a proper bath in the house where we used the bathroom. Everyone washed their clothes. I just dumped mine in the garbage bag I brought and decided to wash it at home which was a huge mistake. Another lesson learned: remove the mud ASAP lest you want your bathroom to smell bad for the next few days. I washed my clothes 5 times already but the water was still brown so I just threw some away. Upon inspection, I found holes on my jogging pants probably from all the butt-sliding I made during the descent. Lesson number three: don’t wear cotton because 1) friction destroys them easily and 2) they absorb water and other particles which makes them a ton heavier when wet.

tarak ridge (11)

We left Bataan at around 10 on Sunday and arrived in Manila past midnight. I was so tired I wasn’t able to wake up for my 7.30 AM class so I missed a quiz but that’s okay. Despite all of those, I still enjoyed the hike. It was a milestone for me because it felt like the equivalent of one week of jogging. Haha. Annnnnnnnd aside from pictures and memories, Tarak Ridge left me another kind of souvenir.

tarak ridge (10)I wonder where will my next mountain be?

Special shout out to Ella who made this video of our climb :]

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