Part 1 of 2 of the Cold Chronicle
We were born together. We even grew up together. And he had always left me breathless ever since.
He was the chill and quiet type. But he was also very moody at times.
This childhood friend of mine was strict with my engagements with outdoor activities. He said that he should be the only one to leave me breathless. He became too possessive and was fierce whenever I tried to sneak out. One could hear his wrath beneath my chest. It was a special tune, resembling a mad bird, that reverberated through my whole respiratory system. And it was definitely a sound only he could make.
His Filipino name was Hika. His english name was Asthma. But I would like to call him “Breathless”.
And maybe Breathless was also the main reason why I was so vulnerable to cold climate. And we were talking about cold temperature in the Philippines here, Central Luzon and National Capital Region to be exact. We did not have winter but my feet was already turning purple every December to January because of the cold mornings.
So when my friend Karah initiated a Mt. Pulag climb during the peak of the cold season in the country, I was determined to use the month-long pre-climb period to train and accustom my lungs to the cold.
Mt. Pulag, the third highest peak in the Philippines, was located in the province of Benguet, an area known for its mountain ranges and cold climate. So the sloping streets of RP Gulod, Novaliches became my training ground twice or thrice a week. I tried to do it every early morning but work just did not permit. And yes, I needed to do it early morning to catch the cold.
It was a Friday morning, around one o’clock, when I and my friends left Manila via Dagupan Bus bound for Baguio. I had two layers of clothing at the moment.
At three o’clock, we were around Tarlac area and the cold started to creep inside my lungs. I added one more layer to my clothing, a total of three layers.
Our bus surprisingly arrived at Baguio City at around 5:30 in the morning. And I was really overwhelmed by the cold. I added another layer of clothing, a total of four layers.
We had our breakfast at a local fast food chain and went to the University of the Philippines (UP) Baguio campus to meet our reliable service vehicle.
We left UP Baguio at around nine o’clock in the morning. And there started our three-hour 4D theatre viewing of soothing sceneries from our mechanical screens on both sides of the jeepney.
The seats were also specially made so you can realistically feel all the bumps and curves of the zigzag roads of Benguet. The heat of the sun through the window could also be realistically felt that I needed to remove two layers of clothing. I had two layers left at the moment.
After eating lunch at a nearby carinderia, we went to register and hear some short reminders from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) office.
Then another hour of sceneries welcomed us as we finally reached the ranger station at the the foot of Mt. Pulag, where we met our tour guide, Kuya Tiryo. I added one layer to my clothing, for a total of three layers.
We started our trek at two o’clock in the afternoon. And I just took my first few steps when I began to hear the whistling rage of Breathless inside my chest. Uh-oh, not this early please.
But when I turned to my right, I saw why Breathless was enraged.
My Breathless surely was jealous of the sceneries that would definitely take one’s breath away. And so with each step, this asthma got worse. I needed to use my brown bag as an improvised air mask.
Thank God that after forty-five minutes, Breathless was able to adapt to the altitude and the thinness of the air around. And I felt like I needed to keep going to keep my breathing momentum aligned with the climate.
At 3:45 in the afternoon, we reached Camp 1 where we rested in a small shed. But it seemed that the altitude was even higher here because Breathless started whistling again. I even added another layer of clothing, a total of four layers now.
After around thirty-five minutes, Breathless stabilized itself again. I thought it was a good thing that the intervals became shorter. I prayed that my breathing continue to calm down.
And my prayers were answered as the wrath of Breathless finally subsided when we reached Camp 2 and prepared for the night.
The cold of the night was really getting to my nerves. I now had six layers of clothing, gloves, two pairs of socks, a scarf and a bonnet on but I still could not feel any warmth. And the strong rush of the wind was not helping at all.
And then dinner ended and I and my friend Nessa were the ones assigned to do the dishes. I never thought that the water could literally burn my hands because of its frostiness. And as the time went by, I could no longer feel my hands. My knees started to tremble and my jaw began to shake. So we did the dishes fast and finally zipped up our tents.
But even the hands of the clock were frozen that night. The hours seemed to pass by so slow and the fatigue from the ascent was not enough to send us all to slumber. Even the sleeping bag, human warmth and the tent could not keep us safe from the cold. I definitely would not be fit for winter.
The only good thing about this abnormal temperature was it sent Breathless to sleep that night. And I was thankful for that. Battling the cold would have been more torture if Breathless came to make a scene that night.
Soon, it was three o’clock in the morning. It took us almost an hour to prepare and have coffee because our little butane stove was no match to the chill of the atmosphere.
Then I made a makeshift poncho from my blanket and put my rain coat over it for extra warmth as we started the one hour trek towards the summit. I now had a total of eight layers of warming material around me, but it was still cold, gah. But I thanked the Lord that Breathless was still at dreamland at the moment.
And this was what kissed us a very awesome morning when we reached the peak at around five o’clock.
And yes, Breathless never bothered me at all while we were at the summit. Maybe because he realized that he could not compete with what we discovered at the summit.
So who wouldn’t lose their breaths from this sea of clouds?
Even the view from the other side surely was breath-taking! Braving the cold was definitely worth it! And I was thankful for having really good shots here because the cold was making my hands tremble, I thought all my photos could have been defocused.
And after experiencing these magnificent God’s creations for three hours, we trekked back to camp.
And the rest was history.
This trip was a milestone for me because, first, Breathless never bothered me for the rest of the descent and I want to congratulate my lungs and my whole respiratory system for braving the cold. Secondly, my mountain-climbing skills and stamina had now improved because I was not the one at the end of the trek line anymore. I wasn’t the slowest hiker in the group now. I was even next in line with my friends, Karah and Tim, who were the master trekkers in the group. And this was just an achievement for me. Congratulations, self!
So where’s the next climb? 🙂
Next Article coming soon: “Post-Climb or Pulag Hangover?”