“Life begins kapag hindi ka na nag-iinarte,” so the UP Mountaineers say. What could this actually mean for the longest running mountaineering organization in the country?
Its forty years tell us how UP Mountaineers pioneered and sustained mountaineering as a consequential sport. More importantly, it showed how mountaineering is not just about literally reaching the summit, but going beyond it.
Mountaineering as a sport
Since 1977, the UP Mountaineers have counted over a thousand professionals and students as members, as the open organization has welcomed individuals in and outside the UP community. Its strength lies in its observance of two basic rules—punctuality and participation.
UP Mountaineers President Ed Magdaluyo defines mountaineering thus: “Primarily, like any other kind of sport, it requires one to be physically fit. In fact, during the application period, applicants go through a physical fitness program, which is later applied to levels of climb activities before attaining membership status. It’s also about setting the right attitude while performing those tedious physical activities,” the UP Mountaineer Batch 2013 adds.
UP Mountaineer Batch 2016 Donna Padilla emphasizes attitude and mental fitness as very important qualities to possess as a mountaineer. “Like any other sport, mountaineering requires a holistic kind of preparedness, which means equipping oneself with physical strength as well as mental toughness.”
“To those who are wondering, mountaineering is not an expensive sport. As long as you have a good pair of hiking shoes and proper clothing gear, you’re all set,” says Magdaluyo. “Other hiking gear is shared, especially among UP Mountaineers,” Padilla adds.
Magdaluyo, an associate professor at the Department of Mining, Metallurgical, and Materials at the College of Engineering, says that mountaineering is a multisport.
“We have developed various physical fitness trainings and programs necessary for every climb we take. In turn, this exposure to high impact physical fitness, such as running and swimming, has turned members into trail runners, rock climbers, bikers, even triathletes.”
“I have been joining small groups of mountaineers in several hiking activities. But only when I signed up for the UP Mountaineers did I change how I value my every climb. It taught me to not only think about myself, but also to consider the surroundings, to become responsible in general,” College of Home Economics Food Technology major Padilla shares.
Of course, Romy Garduce’s Mt. Everest climb is one of the many shining moments of the UP Mountaineers, according to Magdaluyo. Besides that, the organization also takes pride in its unrivaled expertise in opening up new and emerging trails.
Padilla and Magdaluyo also mention the mountaineering training programs that the organization has developed over years of hiking experience, from basic mountaineering courses to outdoor life support, and crisis and rescue response.
The recent success of the Akyat Convention held last May 18-19 with over 300 participants in attendance was a gratifying moment for these members. Magdaluyo describes this year’s convention theme—transformative learning beyond mountaineering—as a platform that provided discussions on pressing issues in four identified areas such as biodiversity, the digital age, ecotourism policies, and practices from various mountain terrains.
While the UP Mountaineers have achieved these milestones, there are also moments in its history that remind them of constant struggle, even the inevitability of death.
“It is a challenge to encourage students to join because they think that this endeavor is expensive and difficult to integrate with their studies. But as I have always said, UP Mountaineers is all about sharing and responsibility too,” Padilla explains.
“Every year, we have a special climb dedicated to the fallen members of the UP Mountaineers. Our memorial climb commemorates the lives of our fellows whom we have lost along the way. We usually conduct this at the same time as the induction climb of our new members,” says Magdaluyo.
Going beyond the sport
So, what does it mean, when the UP Mountaineers say, “Life begins kapag hindi ka na nag-iinarte?”
“Every climb yields a different view which you can never see in the lowlands. Of course, there’s the sea of clouds, but that’s temporary. It is more about your vulnerability and keeping yourself open to the enchantments of nature, the mountains. It is a different kind of fulfillment to reach the summit from a long, hard struggle in the trails, and rewarding yourself with good food at the top,” Magdaluyo explains.
Padilla adds that “every time I reach the summit, it is always a humbling experience for me as I see myself as just a part of the whole vastness of nature.”
The statement also means to look past the self and go beyond the sport, according to Magdaluyo. As the current UP Mountaineers president, he is looking forward to numerous ongoing and new projects such as trail explorations, ecotourism training projects, and geotagging research.
He emphasizes the need for these training projects and collaborations with local government units to properly educate local guides as well as provide guidelines in implementing trail entry policies and security and environmental issues common to all hiking areas such as waste pollution and forest degradation.
Padilla, for her part, emphasizes the continuing education of the members as well as non-members of UP Mountaineers on responsible mountaineering. “If we are able to raise their awareness through education about responsible mountaineering, they will be able to have that drive to take care of nature. We desire to educate people to be mountaineers.”