Friday, September 9, 2005

Go, Pinoy Mountaineers, Go!

Latest news about our Pinoy Mountaineers...

No turning back for Philippine mountaineers
First posted 05:43am (Mla time) Sept 09, 2005
By Jasmine W. Payo
Inquirer News Service

AMID the biting cold and gale-force winds, veteran mountaineer Leo Oracion knew there was no turning back.

As one of only three Filipino climbers left to scale the punishing Mt. Muztagh Ata along the Pakistan-China border, Oracion admitted he just wanted to get it over with.

"It was very difficult because of the weather conditions," said Oracion. "At that time, I was only thinking of putting the flag and taking a picture. I had no time to look around or even enjoy the moment because of the strong winds."

But that fleeting moment on August 25 still proved to be a historic feat for the Philippines. At 7,546 meters (24,758 feet), it was the highest peak any Filipino mountaineer has ever climbed.

Only Oracion reached the summit. As the weather grew harsh, he had to ask fellow climbers Karina Dayondon and Erwin Emata to turn back.

Getting dangerous

"They were almost at the peak but I had to tell them to turn around because the weather was changing," said Oracion. "It was getting dangerous."

Too dangerous, in fact, that lives were lost in previous expeditions. During his lone ascent, Oracion saw the bodies of two Germans who were reported lost three days earlier.

Dayondon, the only Filipina in the seven-member team, confessed that there were times she felt scared.

"I tried not to think about the height," she said. "My focus was just to climb the summit. I didn't want to get too nervous."

Not used to the alpine environment, the Filipino climbers all ended up with frostbites and other illnesses. Member Ariel Ambayec suffered a mild stroke.

"He cannot move and he was suffering," said expedition leader Regie Pablo, who asked Oracion, Emata and Dayondon to continue the climb. "Almost all of us had frostbite in our feet but mine was the worst. I also lost 10 kilograms. But it was all part of high-altitude mountaineering."

The team also included Levi Nayangahan and team physician Ted Esguerra.

Real test

The climb, though, was just all part of training. The real test will come when they scale Mt. Everest, the world's most famous and highest peak, in 2007.

Art Valdez, leader of the First Philippine Mt. Everest Expedition Team, was very proud of his members' recent success.

"The Philippine team was the least in number, least equipped and had the least time to acclimatize in the mountain," said Valdez. "They were also carrying their own loads compared to the other nationalities who had porters. Despite all these handicaps, it's a testimony of the Filipino's toughness and dogged determination."

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