OG Advice: Mountaineer Carina Dayondon on conquering the Seven Summits

OG Advice: Mountaineer Carina Dayondon on conquering the Seven Summits

“There is no pot of gold or monetary prize for doing this. The only consolation we will be getting is to wave the Philippine flag on top; a symbol of our unsinkable spirit.”

Header by Paola Santos

 

A couple days before Christmas 2019, we came across a tweet by outdoor photographer (and YS Portfolio subject) Gab Mejia. In all caps, he recounted how he just heard via satellite phone that a Filipino woman had just reached the peak of Mount Vinson Massif in Antarctica. By doing so, this woman became the first Filipina to climb all the seven highest summits of the world.

Gab’s enthusiasm wasn’t unfounded, as the woman in question achieved a feat that even the bravest don’t dare tackle. That woman is Carina Dayondon, a Lieutenant General at the Philippine Coast Guard and a member of the National Sport Climbing Team.

Carina’s Seven Summits journey began in 2007. Fresh from her successful ascent with the other all-Female team to the summit of Mt. Everest, she went on to climb Mount Elbrus in Europe (2013), Mount Kosciuszko in Australia (2014), Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa (2015), and Mount Aconcagua in South America (2018) before finishing in Antarctica.  

Hailing from a not-so-well-off family of 14 based in Mindanao, Carina serves as an inspiration to anyone who’s passionate about a dream, no matter how big or small it may be.

Over email, we talked to the mountaineer about her favorite climbs, how she trains for expeditions, and her advice for conquering hurdles (both literally and figuratively).

 

Answers have been condensed and edited for clarity.

Did you always dream of becoming a mountaineer?
When I was young I just enjoyed staying active in the outdoors. My dream [was] to finish studying and have a college diploma, get work, and give back by helping my parents and younger siblings. I never dreamt of becoming a mountaineer. It happened by chance during my college days [when] I joined a school base mountaineering club.

 

What made you decide that you wanted to climb all Seven Summits?
As a Filipino, I am not the most expert mountaineer, [nor did I] pioneer this dream of climbing the Seven Summits. I thought of doing it because there were opportunities and I wanted to maximize them. My thoughts entertained the Seven Summits project after climbing Mt. Everest last May 16, 2007 but priorities and [my] schedule did not make it happen. It was in 2013 that I had the chance of continuing it, inspired by my late sister Haidi Dayondon who got sick with breast cancer.

 

We mountaineers have this reverence for Mother Nature — we are not there to challenge and conquer the mountain. Instead we are there to conquer and overcome our self-doubts and limitations.

 

While people know that a lot of preparation goes into your expeditions, we don’t know exactly how hard it can be. Can you give us an idea of what a typical period of training is like for you?
Logistical and physical preparation is harder than climbing the real mountains. I work full time in the Philippine Coast Guard, I have to juggle work and training and finding resources for my climb. It was very, very hard but i was able to manage, I don’t want you to get intimidated. Nothing can stop you from chasing your dreams. Just believe it is possible, put hard work and pray a lot and then you will achieve it.  Most of the Seven Summits were high and alpine mountains so we needed to go out of the Philippines to train. Most of the gear and equipment used were expensive and I had to buy them abroad.

 

I read that there were times you’d have to do several attempts before reaching some of the summits. How did you endure?
I did two attempts on Mt. Aconcagua and it cost me a lot of money. Yes it is not a promise that once you are in the mountain it will be a sure summit, it might be because of our physical handicap or weather factor. As the famous saying of Ed Viesturs goes, getting to the summit is optional but going down is mandatory. So we mountaineers have this reverence for Mother Nature — we are not there to challenge and conquer the mountain. Instead we are there to conquer and overcome our self-doubts and limitations. Summit or no summit, what is important is we bring with us lessons learned on how to be better for the next attempts or climbs.

 

Out of all your expeditions, which ones are your favorites/least favorites?
All climbs were very unique in experience, I love everything I’ve learned from all those climbed. Maybe I will just say, hardest and least hard. The hardest was Mt. Denali — the highest in North America — because we had no guide and no outfitter, we did it on our own, an all-Filipino team.  The least hard was Mt. Kosciuszko — the highest in Australia.

 

What advice would you give to young Filipinos who want to go on the Seven Summits quest?
You must love what you are doing, and have a passion. Because if somewhere along the journey, when you’re thrown with challenges and difficulties you will not just easily give up but instead you will draw strength from it. If you want to do the Seven Summits, prepare physically, mentally and emotionally. We must be willing to pay the price of what we dream of achieving. Seven Summits take a lot of courage, sacrifice, hard work, determination, faith in one’s self and faith in God. And remember that there is no pot of gold or monetary prize for doing this. The only consolation we will be getting is to wave the Philippine flag on top; a symbol of our unsinkable spirit. Kaya ng Pinoy!

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