I’ve heard the horror stories… the mountaineers who died on this 9/9 notorious climb. Months before we already started training for this trip. In our group were world-class athletes, experienced climbers and I, your average Joe who just loves the mountains. I had to train extra hard because I knew I was the weakest link. Worked day in and day out with a strength and conditioning coach and weekends were made up of wall climbing and running up and down steps. I felt I was ready. Felt confident I put in the work. Boy, was I dead wrong.
Nothing could’ve prepared me for the challenge that was Mt. Guiting Guiting. Day 1 started with excited chatter downing coffee at 4am. At 5am we were ready and being briefed by a very popular organizer named Remy who showed us the highlights or should I say scary moments of the climb. I heard phrases like “Kiss the Wall”, Knife’s edge, 90 degree descent and it didn’t dawn on me how severe everything sounded. No worries, I would know them all rather intimately as the climb progressed.
As I saw the first part of the ascent, my jaw dropped. All the eyes could see were sharp rocks, mud and branches. Time to get on all fours and call on my spirit animal to help me Bear Crawl my way up. The original plan was to finish the climb in 3 days. Trouble started brewing when dark clouds began to gather around us. This pushed us to climb faster.
We felt pretty strong and decided to push for the summit campsite called “the secret garden.” By reaching the peak early, we were counting on an easier day 2 and 3. BUT Mother Nature had other plans. She decided to give us the truest test of will and mental toughness. Aside from the 9/9 climb, Madame Nature threw in strong winds, torrential rains and slippery rocks and mud. By the time we reached the summit, my lips were blue and legs shaking like jelly but my heart content and full.
People ask me why we climb. It’s because of the feeling of accomplishment when you reach the peak. It’s the feeling of going against all odds and reaching the top. It’s the sense of overcoming all the turmoil within you and getting a grip of the fear and panic inside. That’s why we climb.
We shared a tent that night… everyone’s body heat making the cold more bearable. We prayed hard for the rain and winds to stop as even the inside of the tent was getting wet. The rain would die down once in awhile but the howling wind would wake me up in the middle of the night.
Needed to force myself to sleep. I knew that tomorrow was going to be a very long day. I couldn’t wait for the sunrise. A new day promises to bring warmth and hope. I needed both, badly.
Some Photos by: Meggie Ochoa