Before I was a stalwart paragon of mountaineering and the epitome of leave no trace, I was a mere mortal who committed vile and horrendous crimes against nature during my early jaunts into the great outdoors.
So, in order to appease my conscience and maybe in some way pass on important knowledge, I shall recount all my sins against the very mountains I’ve grown to adore. Prepare your stomachs, because this journey into my fallible past is about to get really dirty.
Forgive me, mountains, for I have sinned. My sins are:
Mea mountain culpa #1: Vandalism
I’ll start with my most heinous and grievous crime. Way back on my first climb, I was still innocent and uninitiated with all the principles that make up mountaineering.
While waiting for the clearing up in the monolith, I mindlessly grabbed a piece of rock and scratched my initials on the ground. It was only after I did this that I realized how stupid and pointless it was. I felt very guilty and tried to rub it off , but there it was.
Vandalism is one of the gravest sins that one can commit in the mountains (and pretty much anywhere else). It violates the Leave No Trace principles and disrespects the purity of the environment. It shows how little you care about your surroundings and other people, because long after you’re gone, your stupid vandal will still be there.
I’ve carried the guilt of this sin ever since and I haven’t vandalized again. Once is too much. Fortunately, when I returned to Mt. Palay-palay the second time around, the mark of my sin was gone. So, thank you, thousands of hikers for trampling my sins away.
Stopping vandalism is as simple as imposing self-discipline and respect for others and nature. And when you see a vandal, politely remind them how much of a terrible person they are.
Mea mountain culpa #2: (Accidental) Littering
I’ve always silently judged people who litter. No matter how cool they are, or how successful they seem, when I see them leave their trash behind instead of disposing it properly, it really changes my view of them.
Before every climb, I always tell the group not to leave their trash behind. I even tell them that if they don’t want to carry their waste, I have a trash bag that they can use.
So imagine my disdain and self-loathing when, during my Maculot climb, I tripped on some rocks and my plastic water bottle flew off my bag and went careening down the rockies.
Sure, I was concerned with losing half a liter of drinking water, but I was more saddened by the fact that I had accidentally littered on the mountain! Now, whenever I look down at the view from up high, I wonder how much junk there is on the ground, just waiting for nature to digest it.
Just like vandalism, littering is another crime violating the Leave No Trace principles. It stems from the same disrespect and ignorance as the former.
Fortunately, it can easily be averted by making sure you take all your bring up the mountain down with you. All hikers should carry a trash bag for this purpose, or designate a person in the group to carry one. It’ll mostly be food packets anyway. No one likes to see skyflakes wrappers and gum packets on the trail.
Mea mountain culpa #3: Deviating from the trail
This is one mistake I’ve only learned recently. Whenever going up and down mountains, there would be a few times where I would take a different path from the group. Sometimes it would be to explore a different terrain, to overtake a person, or to find a vantage point for pictures.
Whatever the reason, I’m always rushing around the trail.
But when I was doing some self-studying about the BMC (Basic Mountaineering Course), I learned that this was not a good thing to do. They said to always stick to the trails so as to minimize the impact on the natural surroundings. This never occurred to me and I was embarrassed to realize that I have been doing this all along.
Although in my defense, there were already some semblance of a trail where I step on (the trail less chosen?), and I have never consciously decided to forge a new trail myself. But I guess the rule still stands, so I promise to minimize my impacts on the trails on my next climbs.
Following the rules in some BMC posts I’ve read, walk in a single file and as much as possible, avoid overtaking.
Mea mountain culpa #4: Portable Speakers
Another common mistake that I’ve only recently learned, playing speakers on the trail is a no-no.
While sometimes, hiking can get pretty monotonous especially on the very long trails, and music can help keep up morale and pace, it also has harmful effects on the environment.
I don’t think I’ll explain it any better, so here is pinoymountaineer’s essay on speakers and noise pollution in the mountains.
Good thing that my Ye!! portable bluetooth speaker doubles as a wonderful powerbank, so it still serves a purpose when I bring it to climbs! (shameless product placement, but I love this speaker so much. Value for money!)
So remember, In the campsites and the trail, let nature’s sounds prevail!
And those have been my boo-boos up the mountains. As someone who wants to be better, I have also found some ways to make up for my shortcomings like collecting trash I come across on the trail and putting it in my trash bag. But the best way to say sorry is to not do these things again and to spread awareness to other climbers.
These are just some mistakes I have been given awareness of. If you have climbed with me and seen something I did wrong, feel free to tell me and I shall add it to the list. If somehow you’re reading this and have also done some of these things, then I hope you find the strength to change yourself, for the benefit of you, the mountains, and other people.
Let us do our best to preserve as much of the mountains that we climb. Remember that every time we climb, we are entering territory that is not only ours, but belongs to everyone, including the flora and the fauna that inhabit the place. We are all responsible for the care-taking of these wonderful gifts of nature, so let us make as little negative impact as possible.