Have you ever tried camping atop a mountain underneath the stars? Just imagine prepping up a simple but delicious meal, spooking each other with ghost stories, resting inside your tent, and more. There is nothing better than spending a weekend outdoors — far away from the bustling, noisy city.
But if you realize this sort of adventure is not enough for you and that you want to up your camping game a bit more, how about camping hundreds of feet off the ground on a cliff? How about sleeping in a small slit that is just wide enough to accommodate a small number of people?
The only thing protecting you from falling into the abyss? Your harness and a few safety lines.
If this is something right up your alley, you can experience this in Bukidnon. Called a vertical bivouac (pronounced bi-voo-ak), it’s first of its kind in the Philippines.
Vertical Bivouac: What Is It
Before you pack your bags and answer the call of adrenaline, you need to understand what you’ll be getting yourself into. In the past, professional Western mountaineers and rock climbers climb up vertical cliffs, and at times, the attempt takes days to complete. As such, they are forced to spend nights on those exposed rock faces. Camping this way meant they had to establish a vertical bivouac.
In the 1950s, people attempted the first ascents of the huge rock formations of Yosemite National Park in the US. Since the proper bivouac shelters and equipment weren’t invented at that time, they took shelter on tiny ledges, depressions, and cavities in the walls. They wrapped themselves in sleeping bags for protection from nature’s elements. To keep them from falling while they were asleep, they wore harnesses and fastened themselves to protective gear.
It was only a few decades later when climbers created and brought collapsible cots and hammocks with them. It took a few more years of technological advances for the Portaledge to be introduced to the market. A Portaledge is a collapsible tent system that can be assembled, fastened, and hung on cliffs.
We Have Our Own VB Adventure
Now that you know what a vertical bivouac is, it’s time for you to take on the adventure! You don’t have to leave the Philippines and spend a whole lot of money for the experience! No need to travel to Himalayas, the United States, or any other country! You can try bivouacing in Kiokong White Rock Wall in Quezon, Bukidnon.
Adventure Technology Outfitters, a Bukidnon-based outfitter, is the sole qualified operator of the vertical bivouac adventure. This is the first activity of its kind in the country.
How Do You Make the Climb
A day before the activity, while you tour the city of Valencia, the guides get to work, rigging three or four lines on the Kiokong White Rock Wall. When the guides take you to the venue the next day, you will be stunned at the immensity of this huge limestone cliff; it dominates the entire landscape when viewed from the Pulangi Bridge just right across it.
The guides will then equip you with safety equipment such as harnesses, gloves, and safety lines. They will also teach you how to use sophisticated hardware such as the ascender and the Croll which you need to ascend the wall. It is virtually impossible — and utterly dangerous — to climb the cliff without these gears. Before climbing, you will be given a thorough briefing that covers safety protocols, climbing techniques, assurances, and more.
Most likely, you will start the climb at around 3 to 4 PM because the wall will be in the shade. The late ascent adds to the thrill! Since you will be climbing for around 4 to 5 hours, night time will certainly overtake you. With only the lights on your headlamp as your source of illumination, you will be suspended in a pitch-black abyss
Push the ascender up the rope, and step down on the stirrup to climb. A little bit of pulling may be needed. But don’t worry, you can rest midway to catch your breath. The ascender and the Croll grips the rope tightly as you put your weight on them, so you can rest without gripping the rope. This technique is called SRT, or single rope technique. It is used by rescuers, climbers, and special forces all over the world.
Your final objective is to reach a narrow ledge around 500 feet off the ground. But each rope has a maximum length of 100 feet. What to do? Well, you need to stop at designated re-belay stations. A re-belay station is a small ledge where you can stop and attach yourself to another rope to continue your ascent. You can also take a short break on the ledges where you can catch your breath, take a drink, take a nibble of your energy bar, or shoot photos.
Are you doing everything right? Are you panicking at thought of falling from an extreme height? Equipment failure? Well, no worries. Your guide will be climbing with you on another line to constantly check on your progress, guide you on the process, and motivate you to give it your best. Feeling lonely? Two of your friends may simultaneously climb with you on the other rope lines.
After a couple of hours, you will finally reach the bivouac ledge. Your guide will teach you how to stay tethered to the safety line at all times. Now, it’s time to reward yourself for a job well done! Enjoy your packed meal, chat about the best moments of the climb, revel at the beauty of the night sky, or simply tuck into your sleeping bag for a well-deserved rest. You can also upload your photos on Facebook and Instagram, or chat with your family via PMs, as the bivouac area has a strong network signal from Globe, Smart, and Sun.
Going Down the Fun Way
Open your eyes, and welcome a brand new day from more than 500 feet off the ground. You can enjoy our coffee and have a filling breakfast while silently enjoying the blue mountains, checkered farms, and the rushing Pulangi River right before your eyes. This will definitely beat any breakfast scenery!
Then it’s time to go back on solid ground before the sun hits the cliff. To do that, you need to abseil or rappel down the cliff using a piece of equipment called a descender. This is the opposite of what you did the day before. Can you imagine Batman, Agent Ethan Hunt, or James Bond going rapidly down a single rope? You will be doing just that! It is going to be a amazing experience. Once your feet touches solid ground, you will know that you have done one of the best and craziest adventures the country has to offer.
Be among the first few clients of the Philippine’s first vertical bivouac adventure. Put your fear aside, discover how strong you are, and put yourself into high gear for an adventure of a lifetime!
Contact Mark P. Battung or his wife Donna of Adventure Technology Outfitters if you want to experience this vertical bivouac adventure. You can use the contact details below:
+63 930 613 19 99 Smart
+63 942 633 96 42 Sun
+63 917 804 60 09 Globe
Facebook: Adventure Technology Outfitters
Advanced booking is required.
Consult with your physician first to know if you are fit enough to take on this activity. Although anyone who has reasonably good health can do it, remember that you’ll be ascending a rope. This requires some physical effort and stamina.