Something you have to try at least once in your life. Photo from Atimonan Rock Climbing
After taking home an amazing, almost transcendental experience from rock climbing and enduring life lessons to go with it, I have become a convert. No, I do not plan to regularly come face to face with those towering and intimidating – though in a good way – rocks, but I now believe that rock climbing should be on everyone’s bucket list. And since I had my memorable first at Tinandog Wall in Atimonan, Quezon, I give my reasons why you should try it there, first-time or veteran climber that you are.
1) Tinandog Wall has varied routes for both the beginner and expert. With over 35 established climbing routes and others waiting to be discovered and explored, rock climbers can climb Tinandog Wall again and again and will have a different experience each time. The routes have a difficulty ranging from 5.2 to 5.13 (beginners, look up basics on rock climbing and difficulty levels here), making the rock face perfect for first-timers and experts alike. You can definitely choose your own adventure at Tinandog. And, for an organized day climb with a group, you can climb at least two routes.
The Grotto route, with its numerous handholds and footholds, is perfect for beginners.
One of the more difficult routes, with a 5.13 difficulty rating. Photo from Atimonan Rock Climbing
2) The views are breathtaking. The rock wall is in itself a beauty, and the surrounding landscapes of fields and hills are also dessert for the eyes. But when you go up the rocks and look down, the scenery is something else. And no, I don’t have a picture, lest I damage my camera should my body slam against the rocks. The view from up there is something you have to see for yourself.
The view from below is already a treat. Photo from Atimonan Rock Climbing
3) Everything is taken care of, and for a reasonable price. For beginners like me, it was a relief to find out that our climbing fee of Php850 already includes climbing gear (even shoes!), guide fee, maintenance fee for Tinandog Wall, use of facilities like shower, and a hearty home-cooked lunch with ice water to go with it. All I needed to do was show up, and rock climb organizer and Quezon local Noel Suministrado, even ensured that I and my climbing companions got there with no hassles. (2019 note: Now, organizations scheduling climbs usually charge less than P2,000 including transportation)
(Left) Unlimited chalk to help you grasp the rocks and avoid slipping (Right) Our delicious lunch courtesy of Barangay Tinandog locals
4) Beginners need not fret – you will be guided every step of the way. And I do mean every step of the way. If you are stumped on finding the next handhold or foothold, your guide will tell you what to do. Our guide Pastor Noel, who was not just a climbing guide but also a leader at his local church, was especially helpful and even climbed close to me when I was having a hard time going further.
5) You help in the preservation of Tinandog Wall. Over a decade ago, Tinandog Wall was almost blown apart by a quarrying firm, if not for the efforts of Pastor Noel. He first discovered the limestone cliff in 1996, and wrote a letter of appeal to the then governor to save the cliff. Since then, he and other climbers have been scaling Tinandog Wall.
Also, Tinandog Wall is not just for climbers as its limestone deposits is the water source for locals’ wells. The rock is also a habitat for different endemic plants and animals. And, it acts as a natural barrier against typhoons.
When you climb Tinandog Wall, a portion of your climbing fee goes to its maintenance. Activities at Tinandog like climbing may also help deter quarrying firms in the future.
6) You support the locals’ livelihood. Locals like Kagawad Billy Vila, the caretaker of Tinandog Wall, and his wife Gina Vila, our cook for our buffet lunch, benefit when you go climbing at Tinandog.
So prepare your day pack – and lots of guts – then head over to Tinandog. Here are some tips to help you on your trip planning:
How to get to Tinandog Wall from Manila: Ride a Lucena-bound bus (many bus lines in Cubao, Buendia and Alabang have trips to Lucena) and get off at Lucena Grand Terminal. Fare is usually Php200. From the terminal, ride a jeep or bus passing by Atimonan, and get off at Barangay Tinandog. Fare is usually Php50 or up. With Tinandog Wall at 165 kilometers away from Manila, total travel time is usually four hours on the average.
For day climbers, it is best to leave Manila around 2 or 3 am to get an early start in climbing. You can also spend the night near Tinandog Wall, as there is a hut there that can accommodate groups. You just need to bring a mat, sleeping bag or hammock.
How to prepare: Rock climbing can be a physically demanding activity even for mountaineers. Make sure you do some wall climbing as preparation before you scale Tinandog. Running or other cardiovascular exercises also helps for endurance.
What to wear: Light, comfortable clothes. Wear clothes that fit well and not loose ones, as the fabric might get caught in the rocks. To avoid possible cuts and bruises on your legs, wear pants. For the ladies, leggings are also a good choice.
What to bring: Lots of water as the climb can be dehydrating. You can also bring food for snacks. Bring a hat or scarf to cover your head especially when it’s hot. There is around a ten-minute trek to the rock wall, and most of the trail is unshaded.
You can also bring a change of clothes and toiletries as there are shower facilities nearby.
(UPDATED 2019) Who to contact: Message Power Up Climbing Gyms or Climb Central Manila for possible rock climbing schedules in Atimonan. Cost may vary, but you can usually get a package below P2,000 which includes transportation, meals, climbing equipment, and of course the belayers. We did ours DIY but with a guide.
This is Part 2 of my rock climbing series. You can read Part 1 here.