Lopez Holdings

 

78-year old Lopez Group chair conquers yet another mountain

Lopez Group chairman Oscar M. Lopez, a known fitness enthusiast and wellness advocate, added another feather in his cap, conquering the summit of the country's highest mountain in early May 2008.

Lopez scaled Mount Apo on May 3 at the age of 78, a fitting follow-up on his conquest of Luzon's highest peak, Mount Pulag, in 2007.

Recon climb

His party of executives and staff members were worried about the steepness, the weather, the distance, the thin air--” and whether the Lopez Group chairman should and could do it at his age, and with an eye disability that impaired depth perception and affected balance.

Lopez Group wellness czar Rafael M. Alunan, environment safety and health senior officer Rico de Manzana did a recon climb in September 2007 to prepare for Lopez's assault on the mountain. Pastor Emata of Mt. Everest fame warned them that it would be no "walk in the park." Climbing Mt. Apo would be three times harder than Mt. Pulag.

May 2-4, 2008 was chosen for the climb and the preparations moved into high gear. The Mt. Everest Team was alerted; ABS-CBN's Abner Mercado and his camera crew were contacted to join OML's historic climb; and coordination with the local government units commenced.

Go-ahead

A final meeting with OML on April 28 assessed the weather reports. After much consideration and consultation with Art Valdez, the Mt. Everest Team's expedition leader, and Dr. Ted Esguerra, the expedition doctor, the go-ahead was obtained.

The climb would be in various phases: Day 1 was departure from Manila to Davao and Kidapawan; Day 2 was jump-off point at 7 a.m. from Site G perched at 5,000 ft. to the nursery/reforestation site at 8,000 ft. and overnight; Day 3 would be from the nursery to the summit (officially at 10, 311 ft.); Day 4 would be the return trip to Site G at around 7 a.m. Post-climb activities included a dip at the Lake Agco Hot Springs Resort and a victory dinner. And Day 5 was the return trip to Manila via Davao.

When Lopez's party got to Davao, they decided to advance the climb by one day to take advantage of the weather. After a quick lunch, around 160 climbers, including porters and security personnel, set off for the nursery at approximately 2 p.m. from Site G at the southeastern corner of the facility. They got to the site 4.5 hours later with our headlamps on welcomed by a slight drizzle.

Seeing forever

The night was nice and cool at around 7 degrees Centigrade. Woolen sweaters, caps, socks and gloves were the fashion of the night, apart from thermal underwear. That was May 1. But by May 2, the weather turned ugly and the second night at the nursery was wet and very cold. The absence of sun had cooled the earth and the night had turned much colder.

One thing that favored them during the climb and at the bivouac areas were the Everest team's stories about their experiences, observations on climate change and never-ending banter. It kept the party's minds away from the trek's rigors and their aching bones.

Because of the good weather on May 1, Lopez and his party decided to climb to the summit early the next morning. They took off at 7:30 a.m. It was foggy, but the thick fog broke momentarily, giving them a view of Lake Venado. They reached the top at approximately 11:45 a.m.

For Lopez it was a dream come true.

At the summit

When they got to the summit, the heavens poured. They decided to leave as soon as they gulped down some chow. Fears that the trail would be washed out were well founded. It was disappointing because a night at the summit would have been memorable.

The trek down was very tricky; life threatening, in fact. Parts of the trail and stairways were washed away by the torrential rain. They credit to prayer that the ropes and harnesses held, keeping them steady for most of the time and their inevitable slips from the thick mud at a minimum.

Lopez's true grit and composure, despite the challenges posed by the weather and by age, demonstrated his leadership qualities and winning ways. It is leadership by example to face adversity and to conquer it. But it is also about well-being; the knowledge that one acquires from experience that the impossible is not really so; and the self-confidence that that knowledge instills to face other unknowns.

Truly, Lopez is a proven goal-setter and achiever many times over. He's at the top of his world--”and it can't get better than that.

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