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02/11/14 Mountain Man Romi Garduce

Through expeditions made between 2002 and 2012, Romi Garduce became the first Filipino to climb the world’s highest peaks. Scaling the seven summits—definitely not a bad 10-year plan, a feat the mountaineer chronicles in his travel memoir, Akyat!

While few get to reach such heights, Garduce freely and lucidly shares his experiences on his blog, covering everything from Nepalese treks to tips on relieving oneself in higher altitudes. NOUS talks to the I.T. professional, search and rescue organizer, and general man on the edge about surmounting difficulties—whether in expedition or existence—and getting down with a drink or two.

What’s the first thought that popped into your head this morning?

Damn this headache! Had a hangover from a Beatles Night.

For someone who’s scaled the seven summits, the obvious question would be ‘What now?’ Does the impossible dream often eat at you?

I’m enjoying “relaxation mode” right now. The next simple goal is to organize a team this October for Filipinos who want to experience the Himalayas, or future alpinists and advanced mountaineers who want to climb a 7,000-meter peak. This will be in Nepal and I’ll make this an open climb for anyone.  This supports my advocacy to establish a ‘structure of continuity,’ so the sport will not die when my likes retire—retire meaning death or incapacitation, not age-based.

You’ve been promoting your travel memoir, Akyat! Any favorite passages from it?

First thought I have out of the many is the line that says, “Adventure is not about freezing a moment, we have to enjoy the experience, then move to the next.”  It’s a good constant reminder for myself.

Did you take a lot of crazy risks when you were younger—maybe venturing where no kid should be?

I was a lovely, nice, good kid, at least according to my mom. Not much risk or adventure, if I can recall. Teenage days were also typical. Joining the COCC (Cadet Office Candidate Course) would probably be ranked “most adventurous” at that time.  I guess I was a late bloomer. I don’t think I have daredevil urges. I could be a gung-ho at times, but I do risk management properly. Well, I hope most of the time. It’s more part of endless self-discovery and a self-enriching process, I would say.

What is the closest call you’ve had since you started climbing mountains? And your most memorable expeditions?

By closest call to mean near-death—not that I felt it but I would say the sudden whiteout storm on Denali’s summit, Alaska. For memorable expeditions, there’s Everest – no explanation needed. Cho Oyu – at that time, my highest ascent and longest expedition.  Travel over Tibet added flavor. Carstensz in Papua – very remote, very “primitive” and the rock wall climb was my longest vertical climb ever.

What goes through your head on climbs? Does music help?

Depends on the current task. Danger sense, for example, will automatically trigger more focused thinking versus a long, boring trek which invites varied thoughts, dirty or otherwise. Never needed music.  No music is a test of one’s patience. Listening to the natural sound, both audible and “non-audible” connects one with the natural and spiritual world.

What are some recurring difficulties you’ve had on expeditions?

In the physical – thin air or a lack of oxygen makes me sick quickly.  That’s just life, I just have to recover fast.

Look around you. What are some immediate things you appreciate?  

I’m at the 20th floor of my office building and I just saw the sun’s reflection. It seems to carry a simple but powerful message that says, “Life, go live it,” which may be loosely translated as “Patapos na araw, time to gimmick!”

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