Thursday, August 21, 2014

Mount Palali: Return to Skyworld - Still didn't get to the Summit

The return to Mount Palali was a year in the making. I took a break for a year so that the bad experience I had during my first attempt to climb this mountain would be forgotten. Actually, I never forgot the experience. It made me realize that the weather can really make or break a climb. With that in mind, I set out to climb the mountain again. Summer was the ideal time to do this to avoid rain altogether. Climb was set on May 17 to 18.

Of the 4 of us who climbed last year, only two of us would be returning, Joy, who is now my wife, vowed never to return to that mountain again. Worthy, on the other hand, was still game, but Ann, would not be joining anymore since she and Worthy had a falling out. This time around we were joined by Barry, Worthy's brother, and Clinton my climbing partner whom I share gear with.

Upon arriving at our house in Aritao, we made sure we could rest early and had our gear sorted out, packed, and ready to go. We started earlier than we did last year and the climb commenced at around 8:00 AM. It didn't rain at Palali for the past week and we expected a very dry, and warm trek despite the fact that rainy season was just around the corner. We were thankful for the good weather despite the fact that it rained hard in Aritao the night before. However, Palali is located about an hour away from Aritao via car so it wasn't a surprise that it didn't rain at Palali.

The climb started out pretty much the same was as it did last year. We had 2 guides, our packs full of my mom's home-cooked meal, water, and determination that we won't let this mountain get the best of us this time around. The only difference is that there was no rain this time. The sun was up, the ground was dry, and the air was cool. To my surprise, the trail seemed to have changed. We didn't pass by the river where Worthy got injured last year which was rather strange because all the other parts of the trail were the same.

We were really fast on the ascend. We reached the camp, where we stayed last year, in 5 hours. It would have been 4 hours if we didn't stop most of the time to take photos. We also took our time during lunch break at haring bato. We didn't want to make camp at the first camp grounds since there was no water source nearby. We reached the 2nd camp after another hour. There was a beautiful spring for a water source. Clean and fresh mountain water that was clean enough to drink. We pitched our tents and had a bit of siesta before preparing for dinner.

Worthy's tarp came in handy to put up out kitchen and dining area. We just cooked a bit of rice since there were a lot of leftovers from lunch. Mom gave us bistek, adobong manok, and fried tilapia for lunch, but we were not able to finish it all. And I have to say, nothing beats my mom's beef and chicken. Even my companions praised my mom's cooking.

As night came upon us, we were faced with the possibility of rain. Having Worthy's tarp setup, we were confident that our gear would not get wet. Thankfully, the rain didn't come over us because we saw flashes of lightning at the distance just west of the mountain. With our stomachs filled, we set out to get our sleep. It was a comfortable and dry albeit cold night. We were able to go to sleep with no problems. At least for my companions who snored their way to dreamland until the morning.

I was the first to wake up at 5:00 AM. It was still dark. The stars were still very vivid and the moon was still shining down on us. It was a perfect time for me to think to myself and reflect about my life so far. It was really cold that morning and the biting cold made me remember the past. I think I stood there staring at the star filled sky for about 30 minutes when I heard the other tent unzip. Worthy was up, but he was awoken by the need to relieve himself. He was surprised to see me up and about, but he nonetheless decided to join me star gazing. As we glimpsed the first rays of the sun, we both sighed. Its the start of a new day.

We took our time cooking breakfast. Everyone was up and about at around 6:30. We cooked our meals, ate, packed our stuff and set out to return at about 8:00 AM. We didn't bother going to the summit since there was nothing to see there. It was all covered with trees and I was told that there was no view. I decided to myself that I would return again just for the summit.

The trek down was surprisingly quick. Clinton was really booking it during the descend that it only took him 3 hours to get back to the jump off point. I was green with envy because I knew I could do it too, but I was the sweeper. I took it to myself to make sure all my companions were safe. Taking the back seat also had its advantages for me. I could look at the surroundings more rather than just blazing through the trail like there is no tomorrow. I even happened upon the Palali fruit. Now I was sure that this is where the mountain got its name from. The Palali tree was rather tall and stocky. Its fruits were round and yellow. It was more like an unopened flower than a fruit. The peeling of the fruit was in layers and it was relatively easy to open. The edible part of the fruit was the core. Its rather sour, but I was told that it was used for sinigang. I took one to show my father. Our guide said that wild boars love to eat the fruit. I was surprised that there were still wild boar there. Unfortunately, we didn't see any.

Clinton was already waiting for us at the jump off point and he was all smiles when he saw us. I was still green with envy at the 3 hour descent he did. We waited at the jump off point since my family was coming to pick us up. I didn't think they would bring the entire family to come get us. When they arrived, I happily showed my father the Palali fruit and he gladly confirmed that it was indeed the palali fruit. It was then I knew that the name of the mountain came from that fruit.

Reflecting on our climb on the way home, I came to realize that timing is very crucial. Last year's climb was a disaster all because of the rain. This year's climb was surprisingly easy, then again last year was more fun.

I'll return to Palali again to finally conquer its summit and to get to bathe in the hidden waterfalls. I don't know if my wife would still want to return, but I know 3 other people who do.

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