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lucid thoughts

UP Mountaineers August 15, 2005 Monday

UP Mountaineers (UPM)

UPM has a reputation for being hard-core...and they are. They have mandatory timed runs, mandatory attendance for the basic mountaineering courses (being late is NOT an option), training climbs that put you to the mettle, and an overall no-nonsense culture. Call it militant and rigid. That's them.

Late is Late
Having just arrived a year ago in the Philippines from a long absence, a lot of things regarded as acceptable norm showed their flaws like a sore thumb. Take promptness for instance. UP is supposed to be the cream of the crop...future leaders of this country. How come nothing starts on time? Classes never start on time. Teachers hardly show up on time. Heck, even movies (at the Film Center) never start on time.

UPM is a sigh of fresh air. Late is late. A few seconds late constitutes ground for re-applying. Harsh? I don't think so. It's a shot in the arm we all need. Late people penalize people who come on time by making them wait. Let's just say time is expensive and life is short.

A few weeks into my application, I began to question a lot of things the UPM was doing. Why do we have to go down when we just arrived at the top? We just set up camp! We've earned that climb, why can't we stay long enough to enjoy it? Why do we push into a climb in the midst of unrelenting rain? Why not reschedule for good weather? Why is the schedule so rigid and militant - rushed cooking, rushed meals and rushed camp setup? Am I a glutton for punishment by being here? What the heck am I doing here? Where's the fun?

Tough Love
It takes some bonding with the members to get through their thick kick-ass carapace. Inside, these guys have big hearts. As I mentioned in my "Tapulao" story, they yell "MUSH" and crack the whip. However, that is equalled only by their random acts of kindness. I've seen a male member going topless in the freezing cold to lend his jacket to a shivering applicant...or a hot mug of coffee passed around by a senior member to us applicants, while we were cold, shivering and wet.

A Leisurely Climb
A non-UPM mountaineer was describing to me how they do their climb - leisurely with ample time for wine and cheese with loads of horsing around in between. This is totally up my alley. From my camping background where we stay at the camp site for days playing cards, doing BBQ, enjoying a leisurely trek and bonding by a campfire, hearing this caused an excitment of "I found it". However, as soon as I got excited, I realized the crucial role the UPM was playing in the mountaineering community.

The Big Picture
All this critical thinking brought together little pieces of the zigsaw puzzle revealing the big picture. At least one organization had to remain hard-core and tough where pushing the boundaries is the norm. UPM's militant, rigid, measured and no-nonsense approach to climbing could only provide the best training that can come handy when things don't go right. Mountaineering is not only physically taxing, it's also dangerous - that's a fact. Its history is marred by casualties.

Carrying a 30-lb backpack for hours on end while trekking up a steep mountain in torrential rain is one mean feat. No one wants bonking/getting injured/getting lost on a climb, or not knowing what to do in an emergency situation. Now I can understand why the timed runs and BMC courses are mandatory and progressive. Any half-measured training approach simply is not good enough. In Aikido, they have a saying: cry in the dojo, laugh in the battlefield.

It's not at all surprising that in search-and-rescue/retrieval operations (e.g. - a helicopter crash in the hinterland), they are called upon even by the private sector for their expertise. They take on the job, but more importantly, they deliver.

True, by staying on the hardline, some potentially good applicants will lay on the wayside through no fault of their own. Sickness, fortuitous events, acts of God...who knows when that happens? There are no guarantees. Inevitably, those casualties will form part of the landscape and it's a loss to the applicant and to the org as well. But perhaps that is the price to pay to stay lean and cutting-edge. Nothing comes free.

If I'm looking for a fun climb, there's plenty of outdoor orgs that provide that. However, if I want to stay sharp and hard-core, there's the UPM...and I'm grateful there's one.

--- TheLoneRider

August 15, 2005

Reader Comments:

Bernice Varona
(Aug 22, 2005) I really like your website. I can't imagine how much fun you had constructing the milestones of your life... hmm makes me want to take pictures already of myself - as I'm not really a picture addict.

Dennis A. Lopez
(Wed, 17 Aug 2005) Don't worry, you'll have plenty of opportunities now for leisure climbs, now that you passed the half-way mark of the application process. UPM is not just about hard-core, I also learned that last year. I don't think you can really call it hardcore when every member strives for gourmet cooking at the campsite (trying to one-up the other groups with a more exotic dish or dessert).

Training is really hard, and time consuming. But the lessons I learned during my application is still proving itself valuable until now. By moving a little quicker in some chores you get more time for the important stuff, like exploring and enjoying the scenery (of course, this is during the non-training climbs with or outside UPM).

Anyway, you know all of this already. Congratulations to your batch, so far. Still a long way to go, though, so just keep up the pace.


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