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Anticipating an Atimonan rock climbing adventure
Source: Manila Bulletin
Date: 2006-05-11
ROCK climbing may be an unpopular sport to most due to its dangerous nature. It is highly recommended, however, that one should try even once in their lifetime. Why? Like traveling, you get to explore and learn a lot from rock climbing, especially made ‘unforgettable’ because you literally experience life at the edge! Don’t worry; climbing is a safe sport since you are adequately protected. All you need is a reliable gear, good company and a lot of guts!

I had been anticipating for this trip for quite some time since this is my first time to climb a real rock!

The road to adventure

Atimonan in Quezon province is known for the sinuous zig-zag road or popularly known as the "bituka ng manok." It is located inside the Quezon National Park. Though Atimonan also has a variety of beaches and historical sites, its rock climbing area is worth a visit. But for rock climbers, the municipality is a destination to experience an exhilarating rock climbing adventure.

Rock climbing in Atimonan is ideal between November to January and preferably during a dry season. The site is 165 km south of Manila, and since it is near, one could even take a public bus which plies through the Alaminos-San Pablo-Lucena route. One of the terminals is located in Cubao. During the trip, the Morong-Pagsanjan-Lucena route is a very scenic road that offers a picture of the rustic countryside. Since numerous public and private transportation pass through that road to reach Southern Luzon or the Bicol region, it is very much prone to traffic. Travel time is around three to four hours, so it is advisable to bring a book or an iPod to entertain oneself and bring merienda on board, just in case you get stuck in the road.

The rock climbing area is almost beside the Maharlika Highway specifically in Bgy. Tinandog. The site used to be a rock quarry area so it is advised, especially for first-time ascent climbers, to wear helmets due to the nature of the rocks (limestAone).

The established climbing routes are at about 10 to 40 meters in height, with a range of difficulty levels. Depending on the climber’s skill and ability, one could climb on a top rope or the traditional "trad" climbing (for individual or a small group). Complementing the difficulty level is the level of protection. The higher you go, the need for a more secure protection.

Climbers are advised to bring tents and related camping paraphernalia. The camp site is only about several meters from the climbing area. Just be sure that you pitch your tent in the unshadowed by the towering coconut trees or else you’ll get knocked out by falling coconuts. Before any activity can be done at the site, climbers should see Kagawad Billy Vila first (at the house situated at the entrance of the climbing area) for registration.

Finding food, in case your group didn’t bring any, is not a problem. A nearby carinderia offers home-made food sold at a reasonable price. Or, you may have it prepared by a host (thru Ka Billy) if you are in a big group. The locals are friendly and accommodating and can assist you in preparing your meals.

Know the sport

Top rope climbing is relatively the safest among the climbing methods because the climber’s rope is passed through an anchor at the top of the wall. In case he/she falls, the climber is belayed down (a method of controlling the rope so that the climber won’t fall) safely. Trad climbing involves the "leader" placing all the protection (without the rope supporting the climber from above). The leader may climb alone or in a small group (in our case – three individuals). The climber wedges or sets the protections on the rocks and attaches the ropes with anchoring devices such as carabiners as he arrives to the pitch. The climber/s may go down by walking or rappeling.

Rock climbing, especially trad climbing, was not very encouraging before because of the cost of equipment such as the protection gear and other devices. However, because of the availability of indoor climbing gyms or outdoor climbing groups, bringing only your basic gear is now possible. Just ask or join these groups and they would be glad to have you as company – whether you are a serious climber or just a "curious adventurist."

For beginners, it is best to start in indoor sport climbing gyms. If you are an ultimate beginner or climbing on a tight budget, you could rent your basic gear such as climbing shoes and harness at the gym.

According to Joey Cuerdo, general manager of Power-up Gym, "Sport climbing would not only make you fit – since it involves full-body workout – it develops your self-esteem and self-confidence because every climb challenges your fear of falling."

With regular workouts, your performance gets better every time. Then, you challenge yourself to do more difficult routes and try to conquer those challenges. Aside from giving you a sense of accomplishment, sport climbing improves your overall physical form since this is an arduous exercise that involves a lot of muscle groups in the body.

The difference between indoor and outdoor climbing is that the former mostly have artificial rocks (or holds) drilled into walls (some walls have textured fiberglass). There are also "guides" or pre-labeled routes of different difficulty levels. Also, in indoor gyms, your comfort zone is high (top ropes and sufficient cushion in case of a botched belaying job). It is very different from outdoor climbing since you rely on your protection and your trusty belayer. Outdoor climbing is pure adventure!

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