POSTED ON October 12, 2015 BY
RN: What is your greatest memory of your Mt. Everest Expedition?
LO: When were climbing Mt. Everest and descending from it. First, at camp IV, I thought there were climbers already climbing and making the trail so it would be easier for us because the snow is knee deep high and I saw a bright light on the edge of the mountain. We prepared immediately and started to climb at 10 on the evening of 16 May 2006. After maybe 30 minutes of climbing we could not see any trace of climbers and we found out that the light was a star in the sky (what a good sign to start the climb).
We continued climbing up for maybe 2 hours before we saw light following us, and then we found out that the source was the Sherpas who were supposed to set up all the safety line going up (the whole team contributed for payment, equipment, and ropes for these Sherpas) and yet my Sherpa, Phemba Choti, and I were the first to break the trail for that season. The climb became slow because they were setting up ropes along the way to help guide them on the way down.
And then we arrived at Balcony (a certain point in Mt. Everest) by 7 am. It was already too late; another international expedition had reached the top. We decided to continue along anyway with other climbers hoping that we can summit before noon. The hard part is getting started, climbing up takes time because of the avalanches happening around us, but even so we were determined to go up. Then we arrived at the south summit around 8500m at 11:00 am. I was already at my 2nd oxygen bottle; I radioed the base camp telling them about where I was before crossing the narrow edge to go to the Hillary Step. I was exhausted then because I didn't have any more water with me after climbing the 40-foot wall of the Hillary Step.
I stopped to rest and let the other climbers go, one of them noticed that my mask was broken and missing a part. I lost the important part of my mask the diaphram the one that closes when you inhale and opens when you exhale. Oh my god… That’s why I was exhausted and seemed to not have enough energy, but still, I continued. The funny moments of the climb: we ran out of ropes and the Sherpa asked if anyone had a spare rope on. One volunteer said yes but it was a very thin rope, less than 1 diameter.
Everyone was surprised wondering why on earth he was bringing such a flimsy rope in the climb to Mt. Everest. Anyway, we used it and it helped though. Finally, we arrived at the summit of Mt. Everest at 3:30 in the afternoon. I was the last person to summit at that time as I was exhausted because of my broken mask—I was breathing outside air and not the air coming from my oxygen bottle.
I was so happy and grateful after we all reached the summit. There are only few who would dare to continue climbing up the mountain after having as many problems as we did and being behind the cut off time. The second best memory was going down the mountain. It’s much more difficult than going up. I tripped over the ropes and was entangled, but luckily I’d put my safety line.
I really can’t forget that. Most of the casualty in climbing Mt. Everest died on the way down and I didn’t want that to have to happen to me. Since I didn’t have oxygen or water to drink, what I did was to put fresh snow in my mouth. My Sherpa was waiting for me once I’d climbed down Hillary Step and crossed the narrow bridge to reach the south summit. I told him to go ahead and wait for me at Balcony. I was alone then since my Sherpa and I were the last to descend.
Even without oxygen I managed to get up, walk, and even slide, down in the snow. As long I was attached to the ropes I was pretty sure I was safe. I saw one Sherpa at Balcony and shouted for help because I needed oxygen and I rushed down to catch him. This Sherpa may very well have saved my life back then. He let me use his oxygen, which was almost empty, but gave to me anyway to help me regain my energy, and then he went down as quickly as he could.
At around nighttime, I finally got up, walked down the mountain and followed the safety ropes put earlier in the morning. When darkness came, I brought out my headlamp and continued the climb down and then suddenly I got lost. I could not find any trace or mark in the snow and yet I continued to go down. Sometimes I would fall into a crevasse, but I’d help myself up again and continue on. I was really lucky that the night was clear so I could see the lights at camp IV; I just followed it going down.
When I was close to the camp, I saw climbers and was surprised to find Pastor Emata and his climbing Sherpa Lhakpa. Lhakpa told me that he was so mad at my Sherpa for leaving me behind and then he gave me hot juice because I was really thirsty. Finally, I arrived at Camp IV at around 10 in the evening, only to find my Sherpa Phemba was already sleeping. Of course I needed to wake him up. Ha ha ha. At least he helped me boil water and prepare the food. I spent the night at Camp IV, 8000 meters from the summit.
That was the most memorable time in climbing Mt. Everest: summit fever and trying to be alive.
RN: How did conquering the summit of Mt. Everest change your life?
LO: First of all, we never conquer mountain, we just visit it and enjoy the tranquility and the view around it. It changed my life because I became famous in the Philippines but I’m sure nobody remembers it. Also, it gives you confidence in all things that you wanted to do.
RN: What are your most memorable experiences in coming back to the Philippines after reaching the summit of Everest, and being known as one of the first Filipinos to do it?
LO: It’s all the people who welcomed us. I was overwhelmed when we reached the Philippines. People were waiting for you shouting, and taking pictures. We became instant celebrities during that time. But not for long, people forget easily. Now, it’s almost 10 years since we’ve climbed it. We did it because we wanted to show to everybody that we can do it.
RN: You were also known to join races in the Philippines, what was your favorite out of all of them? Why?
LO: I'm an avid sportsman, that’s why I love all the sports but that doesn’t mean I don’t prepare myself for every sport I’ve done. Running, triathlon, cycling, adventure racing, and everything else, I’ve trained for. I do like adventure racing because you’re with the team, racing against yourself, using your mind, planning your strategy, and map and compass reading. Racing with different disciplines of MTB, running, swimming, bangka paddling, sailing, kayaking etc. You name it will do it. That’s what I miss!
RN. We know you enjoy adventure sports, but what other activities have you been busying yourself with over the past years?
LO: I'm joining mountain biking race here in Switzerland like the Grand Raid. I did it in 2012, 2013 and 2014; it’s 125 kilometers of going up and down the mountain here. At one point you need to carry your bike across a 2700 meter path. You can check grandraid.ch. And of course the number one thing that I am do now is Bantay Bata... Taking care of my two boys.
RN: Aside from mountaineering, you cycle, how often do you this now and where?
LO: I usually do mountain biking here in Switzerland because, here, wherever you go they have trails and mountains to climb with your bike. You can go as high as 2700 meters. Now, I don’t bike regularly because I am preparing for trail running and hoping to join UTMB this coming 2017.
RN: How is the cycling culture different in Switzerland compared to the Philippines? What do you like about it?
LO: Here in Switzerland biking or cycling is the way of life. You can bike to work, school, even the supermarket. People here don't mind how old your bike is. I can even see really old bikes that are still being used. I think it’s because of the surroundings: nature. Most of the car drivers here always give 1-2 meters of distance whenever they pass a biker. Sometimes, they slow down and wait until they have enough space to overtake. That is why I like it here.
RN: What types of bicycle do you have? What is your favorite?
LO: I have mountain bike and a road bike. I like the both.
RN: Do you still train or join competitions? When was your last or next one?
LO: Yes, I still train. I am currently preparing myself to join the ultra marathon here in Switzerland. Hoping to gain points to be able to join the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc in 2017. Now, I usually bike with my two kids in the chariot behind my bike. My last race was last year, August 2014, in the Grand Raid.
RN: Is there a Filipino biking community there? Do you have any Pinoy friends you bike with in Switzerland?
LO: Yes, there is a Filipino biking group here but they are based in Geneva. I also have a Filipino friend, but he also resides in Geneva. We biked two years ago in Zermatt where the matterhorn is and we went until 2500 meters. It’s so boring here in Valais, I’m always biking by myself, going on the trail alone. It’s too far to go to Geneva to see the Filipino cycling group.
RN: How was your lifestyle changed since moving?
LO: It’s a huge change. I left my life in the Philippines, which was centered on sports. Here it’s different, I need to study French to be able to find work, I take care of my children—it’s not the same like in the Philippines where you can hire a helper if you have enough money to pay for it. It’s really different, I can only go biking if my wife is not working or sometimes I stay at home because I’m exhausted of taking care of the children: cooking, changing diapers, going to the supermarket, and all the other household chores. My lifestyle now is now centered on my family.
RN: How do you divide your family, work and personal endeavors?
LO: First, my family. I make sure that everything is okay with them especially with my wife. Now, I work seasonal, like this coming winter I will work in a hotel. I can still train for my sports, like I said, I am preparing for the ultra marathon. So, I train and run with my children while they are in the Chariot. During weekends, I train in the mountain to run because my wife is not working. I just need to balance everything.
RN: Can you tell us about your family: your kids, and your wife?
LO: I have two children, both boys: Kalayaan Kaya who is almost 4 year old, and Tao Lakan who is 10 months old. My wife, Vanessa, is a doctor. Before she was an anesthesiologist, but she didn’t enjoy staying too long at the hospital, not seeing her children. Now she is an occupational doctor, which she really likes because she has the time for the children and me.
RN: What do you miss the most in the Philippines or your troops from the country?
LO: What I miss in the Philippines is all my friends who became part of my life in sports, mountaineering, my daughter Kit, biking with my friends in Lucban, Quezon Mharlo and Mike, team lucban and all my sponsors hahaha Oakley Philippines, Salomon, Sandugo, Mizuno Philippines. Here in Switzerland I'm on my own. My Mt. Everest team, I miss all of them.
RN: Do you have any plans on coming back in the Philippines? When and why?
LO: If the form of government changes, then yes, definitely, I will go back. I just hope that people there will learn from our past. Our history, of what we are before the Spaniards arrived on our soil, they should look back at our first government and what they fought for. Tama nga sabi ni Gen. Luna, ang pinakang malaking kalaban natin ay ang ating sarili.
RN: What do you want to be remembered for?
LO: I want to be remembered as one of the Filipinos who stood up on top of Mt. Everest, showing the world that Filipinos can!