Greeting the Ox at Talamitam

I’m not even sure if they’re even remotely related to ox, but Mt. Talamitam at Bgy. Bayabasan, Nasugbu, Batangas sure has its share of cows though there weren’t as many as the ones we encountered 2 years ago when we greeted the Year of the Pig.  Still it was an apt replacement for Bato-bato Peak (Mt. Lobo) which was our original choice.

I don’t mind climbing the same mountain twice. It is more enjoyable as there are no anxieties about the trail and the camp site and expectation are low. My first climb at Talamitam was peppered with cows and a relentless sun that threatened to dry-up every last drop of water in our sweaty bodies. All I had in my mind was to just keep on going and going until  the campsite at the summit. Four of us had gone ahead of the pack and we had taken the really steep trail not knowing that an easier one was just a couple of hundred meters away. Up at the bare summit in the middle of the afternoon with nothing but cogon , the view did nothing to soothe my aching legs and my thirsty throat.

Same Mountain, Different Challenge

This time, the challenge of Talamitam was different. It had nothing to do with the mountain but everything to do with me.

Since November, my right knee has been bothering me, preventing me from doing any cardio workout that involves knee flexion. Even the stationary bike is painful. The result is weight gain plus a not too strong lower body and of course, a compromised cardiovascular system. I was afraid that any trail would be too punishing for my knee.  But more challenging was my recent and quite frequent “episodes” which landed me at the ER Friday of last week. Friends and the internet say the symptoms seem like those of an anxiety attack. My blood test results I got just this Friday cleared me of low hemoglobin (which the ER doctor suspected) and high cholesterol (which I suspected). I still have to get my ECG tomorrow.  I should probably have more tests and visits to the doctor but as of this moment, I diagnose my episodes as anxiety attacks. I had already ruled-out vertigo as I don’t have any spinning sensation.  What I get is a tightening of the head, a feeling of uneasiness and nervousness, and generally uncomfortable and queasy feeling.  They seem to occur when I feel the light is too dim, I stare at the computer too long  or there are too many people. But  when I start taking slow and deep breathes and tiled my head forward to stretch the back of my neck or look away, I calm down and the symptoms disappear.

Friday night, all packed and ready to go, I still wasn’t sure I was confident enough. I conferred with Ari and he advised me to go if I’m not climbing alone and to make sure I had someone with me at all time and not to fall when an episode occurred. Deep inside me, I wanted so much to go to my climb as I knew if I missed this one, I would probably miss other climbs due not so much to my condition but the crippling fear and lack of confidence it brings. No way was I gonna let this drown-out my passion. After all, if it were really anxiety attacks due to supressed stress as Ferdie and Regina suggest, it wasn’t organic but pyschological.  I knew I could pysche myself out on this one.  I got a confidence boost when Elf, another doctor, said that all indications point to what I think it was.  So there I was mid-morning with 20 other people, whiling away the time eating buko at Mang Nick’s spacious backyard at Bgy. Bayabasan.

Same Mountain.  So Many Changes.

So much had changed in Talamitam. Some controversy in the registration had the baranggay yanking registration rights from Mang Nick to someone else. But people still go to Mang Nick and his wife, Ate Tess for information and to stay at their place.   Who wouldn’t, they are as accomodating and entertaining as ever.  They remember each and every mountaineering group who stay with them even if it’s just to ask for directions, rest at their hut, or use the toilet.  Our G4M banner was still waving happily in the wind, tacked to his hut which he converted to his wood sculpting workshop. Newer streamers and even a couple of shirts had also joined in. Proof that Mang Nick is as popular as ever.

Fortunately, when we started the hike at about 3, it was very cloudy which made for a pleasant walk and in an about an hour, we made camp at the shoulder. Behind us, the summit loomed high and opposite was the undulating peaks of Mt. Batulao. With so many others having gone before us, we decided that we were better off here than at the summit jostling for tent and socials space. It was a really good idea as later on in the evening, the winds really rose and I couldn’t imagine how horrible they would be at the summit. If it were a typhoon, it would have been a signal no 3 or even a4. It was really cold and the winds were really strong coming from all sides. Trojan1 and I had to relocate our tent and put guylines on the flysheet as our tent was being flattened.

It was an unusually quiet socials night with people off to bed early and only a few breaking the midnight mark. And even more strange, there were still 3 unopened GSM Blue bottles. Hmmm…..

Not sure if I could hold-up my morning toilet call (I did), I didn’t summit. Those who did report wider trails and newer criss-crossing ones. Farmlands have also crept nearer the slopes to the summit.

We were back at Mang Nick’s around 11. I just stayed long enough to have some fresh buko and wash-up a bit. Not wanting to be in the middle of the Sunday Tagaytay rush-hour traffic and cramped bus space, Trojan1, DanDean, and I went ahead. I was back home at shittyland around 2. I had left my knee support (first time I ever wore one to a climb) and my TNF jacket behind. Fortunately, someone kept it for me.

Kung Hei Fat Choy!

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