In my head I screamed “WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING HERE?!?” to my friends on the other side of the rock I was attempting to stand on. They couldn’t hear me, of course, but I was sure from my facial expression and shivering knees that they had an idea of what’s going through my mind. This isn’t what I signed up for, I thought. Okay, fine, I did. In fact, I was one of the masterminds behind this ordeal. Anyway…
We were lucky the wind wasn’t blowing when we got to the top of the rock formation.
We were looking for a quick day trip when, coincidentally, my mountaineer friend posted a photo on his Facebook with him standing confidently on top of a rock formation aptly named the Lioness Back because of its resemblance to the animal. Because the photograph made me feel all sorts of envy and excitement I forwarded it to my friends in the office who then unanimously decided to go for it. Ginusto natin ‘tong lahat.
Little did we know what was in store for us.
How the rockies looked like from the below.
Our team of 11 arrived in Norzagaray early in the morning and it took us half an hour of walking from the jump-off point to reach the foot of Bigte’s now famous rock formation. In no time, we found ourselves scrambling on rocks and scaling stone walls whose level of difficulty started from medium to hard all the way to tangina-levels within minutes.
Kayla scaling the first part of the trail.
Local kids go here every weekend to accompany climbers. To them this rock is just a playground.
Verna holding on to boulders in order to maneuver across a gap between the rocks.
Being at the front of the pack, I was always the first one to raise my brows after seeing each vertical ascent where we have to literally hug the wall and its sharp surface to climb higher. Our guide, who was a big jerk, admitted to taking us through the harder parts of the rock formation which was not a smart idea considering most of us were beginners. However, midway through, a couple of young girls started accompanying us and they were far better guides than the one we hired. Way friendlier, too.
Each of us had to climb this 20 feet rock wall. And we were only 20 minutes in to the ascent!
Aldren trying to find his grip before pulling himself up the stone ledge.
We were gifted with blue skies and fair weather. Not too hot, not too windy.
To be honest, given the technicality needed to climb this piece of limestone rock that reminded me a lot of the cliffs found in El Nido, scaling it fired up the adrenaline inside. If I had better upper body strength I might actually consider rock-climbing. But since I have arms like a high school girl who has never lifted anything in her life, that’s out of my bucket list for the meantime.
With every calculated step my confidence grew. We had no harnesses nor safety equipments to rely on except for the capability of our own bare hands and each other’s encouragement. It was a dangerous game we were playing where a single slip could lead to some serious injuries. The higher we got, the more we became aware of how our bodies would end up when we fall. Somehow our main motivation for holding on to the sharp rocks is to prevent having broken necks when we get home.
Shella scaled the spiked rock walls like it was an ordinary hill.
Maynard looking down on the height he has already conquered.
By the time we reached the summit the sun was glaring its rays at us from high up. We took turns in climbing the back of the lioness just so we can bring home a photo that we can brag about to everyone we know. The view was a stunner but the height was a killer. It took me a minute before I could muster enough courage to stand up since our douchebag guide’s constant yelling at me didn’t help my legs to straighten up either. I wanted to show him my middle finger but was too busy repeating several ‘putangina’s’ during that moment. But with one hand on my waist and a fierce distant look in my eyes, I managed to stand strong and seize a top model moment that would make mama Tyra proud.
Verna standing tall on the head of the now famous lioness.
The amazing view of Rhino Rock and the rest of Norzagaray from the Lioness.
I climbed down and immediately posted a photo of my accomplishment on Instagram, which led to an early scolding from my sister who questioned my choices of activities in life. Can’t help it if I’m so fucking adventurous, teh. Hahahahahaha. Not really.
Aileen, Shella’s younger sister, bravely traverses through the rock surface like it’s not hundreds of feet above the ground.
Maynard contemplates about life and its meaning.
After a couple of hours we finally decided to go down and prepare for our second rock formation. The one that looks like a rhinoceros which is why people have thought of such a very creative name for it: Rhino Rock.
The only problem was getting down seemed to be more challenging than our way up. We had to sit on the edgy rocks while descending and secure our footholds first while we inch our way down. While this is all happening the couple of cute little girls who accompanied us were skipping and playing on the edge of the rocks like frogs hopping on floating on lily pads. Eh di wow. One of us even slipped a little and ended up with a deep 6-inch long cut on his thigh that also tore open his trekking pants.
Sometimes you can’t avoid seeing vandals on sites like this.
Pao fooling around while we descend from the Lioness Back
Posing during breaks in between the two rock formations.
Once we were all safe on the ground I had to reassess my energy to see if I should push forward to the Rhino Rock or not since I read online that it was technically more challenging than the Lioness. I ended up going anyway despite running low on battery. One segment I found myself crawling on knife’s edge and fearing for my life. Isang kembot lang patay na ang bakla. I was worried for everyone else, too!
Again, I found out that our guide led us through the dangerous route to the summit after finding out that my friends who decided to stay behind found an easier path as led by the two young girls, Shella and Aileen.
The rouch climb on the Rhino Rock which Aileen is doing effortlessly.
Verna and I on knife’s edge. Photo from Joice Marinay.
I was almost at the top when my instincts told me I should start my descent. Sure enough, minutes after stepping on warm soil my gout attacked and I had trouble walking again. Good call. I may have failed to ride the rhino’s spiky back but that gives me another reason to go back.
The girls posing near the top of the Rhino Rock formation.
What it must feel like to be standing on top of the world. Photo by Joice Marinay
To date, our short day trip to Norzagaray to scale the province’s rock formations is the most technically challenging thing I’ve ever done. Also the most fulfilling. Years ago I would’ve given up halfway through and used my physical weakness as an excuse. In my early twenties, I’ve skipped adventures and avoided risks. Faced with every obstacle, each step was directed sideways or backwards.
But now at 28, I’ve never felt stronger.