Wawa in Montalban/Rodriguez, Rizal is a well known destination for mountain bikers in Metro Manila. But this little rural village on the foothills of the Sierra Madre is also a mecca for another tribe of outdoor sports enthusiasts. Rock climbers flock to Wawa Montalban because of its limestone cliffs which offer some of the finest and most challenging climbing in the Philippines.
In my ten year on-and-off love affair with climbing, Wawa has always occupied a special spot. The first time I went there, I gazed stupefied at its cliffs. I did not know that there were walls like that so near to Manila. I’ve gone there two more times since my first visit, and it has never been boring. Just looking at the cliffs can make you dizzy with both dread and anticipation. With some crags shooting up more than a hundred feet, you need to be a real badass to try to scale them.
Last Sunday, I got to visit and climb Wawa again thanks to the “Love on the Rocks” fun climb organized by the Power Up crew. Fun trivia: Every now and then, Power Up organizes fun climbs like these to acquaint gym rats with the real thing. When it’s done in December, the fun climb is called “Jingle Bell Rocks.” When it’s in February, it’s Love on the Rocks for reasons that will not be belabored here.
Rock climbing, for those who are not familiar with the sport, involves scaling a sheer rock face using nothing but your hands and feet. Climbers wear harnesses which are tied to ropes to help protect them in case of a
fall. For more info on the basics of rock climbing, check out these excellent articles on Adrenaline Romance.
The spot we climbed was called Veranda, because well, it had a pretty good view of the surroundings. Four routes were prepared by the Power Up crew led by veteran rock dude Gax.
The easiest of the routes was around 40 to 50 feet high with plenty of hand holds. The only crux (challenging part) of the route was a slight overhang which gym-trained people could easily overcome.
A more challenging route (for perpetual noobs like me) was the one which required you to move sideways after climbing 15-20 feet high. If you don’t read the route correctly, you could end up several feet over the traverse point. This would require you to climb down, which is more difficult than climbing up.
And finally there was the route on the left-most side of the cliff which was the most difficult climb on Veranda.
A lot of people have the mistaken notion that climbing is very dangerous. While falling from a cliff is not exactly conducive to one’s health, this rarely ever happens. Climbing equipment like ropes, harnesses, quickdraws and belaying devices are generally bullet proof when used correctly.
Climbing, however, isn’t easy. You need to put in lots of time to get strong and become skilled. It’s also one of the most anaerobic activities you can do. Even just a few minutes of climbing can get you wasted, and make you feel like you just ran a marathon. Climbing ability also fades away fast when you stop climbing even for just a week.
I was mildly surprised that I wasn’t feeling wasted after doing two routes. I was actually expecting to fail since I had done only one hour of climbing this year, and that was five weeks ago. Thankfully, I still had some grip despite this.
I would have loved to climb some more, but I had to be back at work by 1pm. Yeah, it sucks when you’re having so much fun, but then you have to bail because you need to work even if it’s a Sunday.
Anyway, it felt very good to be back on the crags. The climb was even more special because proceeds from the fees would be donated to Aling Norma. Who is Aling Norma? If mountain bikers in San Mateo have Aling Tina, climbers and bikers in Montalban have Aling Norma, who runs this store in Wawa, which through the years has become the de facto watering hole for climbers and bikers who frequent Montalban’s crags.
Aling Norma had an accident which required an operation, and the climbing community was doing its share to pitch in. We all hope she gets better soon.
When you think about it, climbers in Metro Manila are quite fortunate to have a spot like Wawa, which is just an hour and a half away from the Power Up gym in Tandang Sora. This is almost like having a surf spot right in your own backyard.
For those interested in sampling rock climbing in Montalban, check out this excellent post in Climb Philippines. That website is definitely the best resource for people who are interested in sampling what climbing is all about.