Lessons From My First Mountain Climbing Experience

It was 3 o’clock in the morning when I woke up to the sound of an alarm. I tried my best to get up as fast as I could but still, I was the last to stand up. All of my new friends and fellow travelers were preparing their gears, ready to climb the majestic Mt. Kupapey in Mountain Province (Philippines).

In a vast room, I was sitting on my bed looking at them — Ronald, Archie, Sandy, Mike and Fung. They all looked legit mountaineers to me.

Then I looked at myself, “What the heck am I doing here?!” Hahaha!

It was my first climb, so I didn’t know what to bring. I just put on my shorts, shirt, hiking sandals, jacket and I was ready to go.

I’d be honest with you. I had some apprehensions. It was my first, and I didn’t expect it would be in Mountain Province! It felt so overwhelming for me. Imagine, I’d be climbing a mountain…in Mountain Province? That sounds redundant. That’s too much! Hahaha! So I had this idea that the climb would be a tough one.

To add to that, my legs were also killing me! It was three days ago when I joined this group of cool people, exploring Batad and Tappiyah Falls in Ifugao. It was a gruelling hike. We were 9, strangers to one another at first, but it only took some few laughs for us to become the best buddies.

Then we traveled all the way to Maligcong, Bontoc, Mountain Province to conquer a mountain that strangely named Mt. Kupapey. I lacked the experience and skills in mountain climbing, but hell I was fueled with determination.

As I walked outside the room, I was welcomed by these warm people sipping their cup of coffee prepared by Suzette, the owner of the hostel we stayed in Maligcong. The coffee was just right for the cold temperature that morning. Moments later, a woman at her forties arrived. She introduced herself as Tina, our guide for the climb.

After a few chit-chat, we decided to start the trek. We passed along this long dark road until we got to the rice terraces, the popular Maligcong Rice Terraces. Good thing I had my own flashlight with me.

We hopped on the rice paddies, until we reached the foot of the mountain. There, we started to climb the steep slope in the middle of the jungle. As we ascend higher, I felt the air becoming thinner and thinner, making it hard for me to breathe.

I realized the gap between me and the group was slowly becoming wider. God knew how I tried my best to catch up but that was just too much for an overweight me to handle.

They were always checking on me, “Jon! Where are you?”Then I would answer, waving my flashlight, “here! I’m good.”

But they never knew how badly I needed to rest. It was 4 in the morning and we were in the middle of darkness. It was only a matter of minutes when I realized I couldn’t see and hear the rest of the group anymore.

Imagine how lonesome it is to be in the jungle in total darkness. My flashlight was my only companion. I would want to run to catch them but my energy wasn’t enough. To make it worse I was already coughing so hard because of SOB, or shortness of breath.

I was trying to concentrate, trying to convince my mind that I needed to regain back my strength fast! I was breathing heavily. Coughing and breathing, surrounded by huge trees, engulfed by the dark wilderness.

Then suddenly in the midst of total silence, I heard a loud bark behind me. Oh my! That definitely scared the hell out of me!

I thought it was a wolf or something ready to devour and eat me up alive. Hahaha!

Then I realized it was Kunig, the dog of Suzette, the owner of the hostel we stayed in. I remember Suzette told me that Kunig always joins the climbers at the summit, which I did not take seriously.

But knowing it was actually Kunig was like the biggest relief of my life at that time.

Kunig kept on making sounds. I thought he was trying to overtake me, but he moved back behind me pushing his nose on me as if trying to tell me to move fast. What a sweet dog. Hahaha!

Luckily, our guide, Tina, came back looking for me. “Ano sir okay ka lang? kaya pa?” (Are you okay?”)

One thing I learned through mountain climbing is the importance of taking your time, enjoying your own phase towards the summit. Hiking is not about how fast you could reach the peak. It’s about pushing your limits, doing your best and learning along the way.

“Pahinga ka lang sir. Wag kang magmadali. (Just rest and take your time)” Tina fondly told me.

Which was what I did. She knew I would be at the summit on time, so there was no reason to be in a hurry.

In a matter of minutes, I heard Kunig’s bark again. It was the sign I was waiting, that we were so close to the peak.

It was so nice to see the entire group again at the summit.

But I sensed worry in them, worry that we might not witness the beautiful sea of clouds that Maligcong locals were boasting about. The entire summit was filled with fog. We were hoping the clouds would dispel. We couldn’t do anything, but wait.

After a few more minutes, the first ray of sunlight appeared.

The universe must have heard our longings. We all witnessed how the fog, all the clouds slowly dissipate, showing us a beautiful landscape, a sight to behold.

It was a jaw-dropping beauty of nature, the view of clouds slightly covering the Maligcong Rice Terraces was just a wow! It was like a painting, an art only nature could create.

At that time, I’ve fully understood why…why Suzette and Tina are so proud of Mt. Kupapey. The beauty that we witnessed at the summit was a rare splendour.

And there’s no other way to enjoy this immense beauty, but by taking pictures with travel buddies. It was definitely the highlight of our trip, enjoying this magnificence with friends.

Upon looking at the sea of clouds slightly covering the Maligcong Rice Terraces, I’ve realized I’ve added another feat in my life. It was my first climb.

I’ve never imagined myself enjoying the mountain peaks before, because it is definitely not easy. But I did try , and I’ve made it to the top. A simple desire to do something new in my quite boring life has turned into a never ending lesson and experience. This is definitely not going to be the last.

If there’s one thing this travel has taught me, it is having the courage to do something new, break the cycle and smash the status quo.

Who would have thought an overweight me could climb mountains?

And for the first time after all these years, I’ve toughened up and gathered the needed courage to be adventurous. The reason is just simple, life is short. Enjoy, take risks and live life.

*Mt. Kupapey is located in Mountain Province in the Philippines. First posted on my blog, jontotheworld.com

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