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Walking above the clouds

Walking above the clouds

Germany-based Filipina expat Undine Homena-Lasater is an avid mountaineer, who has no plans of climbing Mont Blanc nor the Mt. Everest.

“I wouldn’t call myself a mountaineer. I am an outdoors person who likes adventure”

Undine Homena-Lasater discovered her love for the outdoors in college. She did her first traverse, that is, going across a mountain range, on Mount Madja-as with the Iloilo Mountaineering club, staying on the mountain for about four days. Later on, she joined the UP Outdoor Recreational Group.  

Describing herself as someone who is very curious, Undine doesn´t climb mountains for the sheer challenge of it. But she likes to see what’s in there and enjoy the amazing view that’s up there. Not to mention the camaraderie she finds among the people she climbs with.

Undine climbs whenever work and family life permit. She shares her fondness of the outdoors with her favorite climbing partner, her husband, Kevin. It was challenging to go climbing/mountaineering when their kids were small, she says, but now they’re older, they’re able to join them on easy hikes.

When she doesn’t climb, and to keep herself always fit to climb, Undine either hikes in the woods at the back of their house, or goes on a run, or goes to a climbing gym.

From Philippine peaks to European summits

What’s great about being in Europe is that outdoor recreation isn’t limited to climbing, hiking and traversing so Undine took advantage of that accessibility. Now based in Vilseck, Germany, she has learned rock climbing.

Undine and her husband regularly rock climb Frankenjura, one of the largest and popular climbing areas in northern Bavaria, going there almost every month, save for winter. Undine describes Frankenjura, the Mecca of rock climbers all over the word.

The ease of travelling in Europe gave Undine and her husband opportunities to do lots of outdoor activities in other countries. Undine waxes poetic about the Monte Baldo and Cima Capi in Italy, Cairngorms in Scotland and some hikes in Czech Republic and Greece too. Since the pandemic hit, however, Undine has just gotten to four mountains.  

Recently, Undine has volunteered for the Spouses Club in the US Military Base in Germany, to lead their hiking group, look for places to climb and organize the trip. Volunteering here gives her a group to hike with when her husband can’t go with her.

Undine climbs whatever mountains catches her fancy.

“If I find something interesting, then I go. Partly for the challenge, especially now that I am in my 40’s…can I still do this?”  

The highest mountain she has climbed here in Germany is the Watzmann where  she climbed  with American soldiers. “We’re talking about guys in their 20s and I, 47 but I don’t care. I’m going to enjoy this climb. I’m here to see what’s there.” 

One of her scariest climbs was on Geiselstein, a mountain in Bavaria, going down the mountain with Kevin. “The mountains here are, I think, are only ideal for goats. Going down from the peak, if you make one wrong step you can really get hurt or you can die. It was ridiculously steep and I wasn’t really used to rappelling down the mountain.”

Geiselstein is not really high. It’s not the height of the mountain that makes it difficult, it’s the technicality of the mountain. Undine was praying that she’d get home in one piece. They survived. They had to rappel down.

“When we were there, when you can see clouds below you, and you are climbing at the time when the sun is starting to rise…it makes you think the sun is actually below you as it rises. That was pretty amazing.”

Filipina mountaineer Undine Homena-Lasater on climbing Geiselstein, Germany.

Seeing the sun below as it rises

When asked about her favourite climbs both in the Philippines and Europe, Undine tries to recall with a hint of nostalgia. “My favorite climb in the Philippines is really Mt. Madja-as mountain range. Once you’re there, you can see birds that you typically see in pet shops. You can see wild orchids as you travel. Climbing in Mt. Madja-as also gives hikers the opportunity to see how the communities in the mountain live and interact with them as well,” says Undine.

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Undine finds it hard to pick her favorite climbs in Germany. But eventually mentions Watzmann and Geiselstein as the climbs she really enjoyed. “It’s hard because every mountain has its own special thing. It might not be technical but the climb itself offers something different.”

The Watzmann was an experience because Undine had never stayed in a mountain hut before, and the climb was typically cut into two days.

“When we were there, when you can see clouds below you, and you are climbing at the time when the sun is starting to rise…it makes you think the sun is actually below you as it rises. That was pretty amazing.”

Her Geiselstein climb, however, was the unforgettable adventure – a mix of both hiking and alpine climbing – and the scariest. “But I would do it again,’ declares Undine.

“I think climbing Mt. Everest will take away the enjoyable parts of climbing.”

More peaks to scale, more heights to conquer

Undine’s climbing bucket list includes the Zugspitze, which is the highest peak in the Germany, Cinque Torri in Italy with its impressive natural towers, and Mt. Olympus, home of the Greek gods and the highest mountain in Greece. At the moment, she has no interest in climbing Mt. Everest and Mont Blanc.

The sense of the accomplishment, the exultant surprise of finding out what you can achieve, and the rush of reaching the top of the mountain when others quit mid-way is a big part of what Undine enjoys about climbing mountains. It’s the curiosity that drives her to climb, especially now as she’s close to hitting 50.

“Never let age stop you from having that adventure.”

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