When I started climbing, I never really envisioned myself climbing Mt. Apo. Young as I was back then, in no way had I imagined having the financial means and the physical strength needed to surmount it.
But during the course of my climbing history, the call of Mt. Apo resonated clearly on every mountain top I stepped on. hence, touching the highest point in the Philippines inevitably became a dream for me.
And now, the time had come to prove my young mind wrong. At last, my Mt. Apo fantasy could now be a reality.
The first day of the climb was quite hectic. After all the arrangements, preparations and buying of supplies, we were 2 hours late of our scheduled start. But still, our excitement did not fade.
Even at the onset of the climb at about 2:00 PM, we were already treated with rolling hills and open fields reminiscent of Gulugod Baboy, only much steeper.
This early in the trek, we could have seen the alluring sight of Mt. Apo’s summit if not only for the clouds blanketing the peak as if in tease.
As the trail got steeper, the environment started to change. After an hour of hiking, we finally entered the mossy forest.
The vegetation became dense; tree logs were scattered around and the ground we were stepping on got softer and softer by the minute.
Mt. Apo’s might surfaced out and began to test our strength. The steeper the trail got, the muddier the ground became. Battered and bruised, we eagerly accepted the challenge.
3 hours into the hike, we had to abort the plan to reach Godi-godi campsite before nightfall for in that particular place on earth, the sun decided to start setting at 5 in the afternoon. We therefore opted on spending the night at Upper Sabwang campsite.
We pitched our shelters, ate dinner and prepared for a much earlier start of our strenuous second day trek.
At the break of the day, we were all up and about. At around 5:00 AM, we folded our tents and readied our breakfast; we braced ourselves for what lied ahead of us.
7:00 AM came, we finally set off for Godi-godi campsite. Our guide, Kuya Onel, estimated that we would reach it at around 3 hours but fortunately, we were able to do it in 2.
Comfortably resting at the said campsite at 9:00 AM, we could not help but notice the littered garbage. But before we could sigh our dismay, Kuya Onel assured us that a clean-up was being regularly conducted every year to dispose the garbage off Mt. Apo campsites.
Before 10:00 AM, we already started the trek to the scenic boulder trails.
Thirty minutes after which, every one of us stopped and indulged our eyes with the astonishing view of the boulders.
With feet numbed and eyes tantalized by the intimidating sight, we finally had our encounter with the uniqueness that made Mount Apo a set apart from any other mountain.
After savouring the view, we were now set to take the challenge of the boulder trail.
As we were starting to scale the boulders, the clouds started its torment. The downpour halted our group. At this high altitude, the wind-chill factor and the rain added to the numbness that our bodies were already feeling.
After an hour covered by our handy tarpaulin, we decided to fight the storm and continue with the trek.
It was exhausting. The steep trails and loose boulders were already challenging enough, but the cold rain and the gusts of wind, as I have stated before, were something else.
We were shivering from the cold but as we were starting to feel down and out, the heavens opened up and gave us a glimpse of how beautiful Mt. Apo’s summit can be. It was breathtaking.
We again grinded to a halt and relished the view.
After a few minutes, our momentary fantasy was again covered by the thick clouds. Fortunately, the sudden glimpse of the heavens gave us enough encouragement to push through confidently.
The higher the gain, the steeper the path became. We were now scaling the so-called “90-degree trail” to the crater, the last hurdle to the summit.
For about 30 minutes of scrambling and climbing, we finally got a glimpse of Mt. Apo’s Crater Lake.
From the crater, it took us another 30 minutes to get to the summit campsite. We were exhausted. The whole day was a high. From the steep trails, to the muddy ground, the landslides, the loose boulders and the torrential downpour, this became one of the most intense days of my life.
I thought the torment was over but as the night began, the rain got stronger and stronger. Thunders erupted for a minimum of 4 seconds and the downpour became typhoon-like.
The temperature started at 14 degrees, then down to 12, to 9, and peaked at a cold 7 degrees. As I was about to close my eyes to sleep, it dawned on me that seeing the majestic sunrise of Mindanao was now impossible. Well, I was okay with it. I just wanted to survive the chilly night.
It was tough. I thought the stopping of the downpour was temporary but as I finally got out of our tent, I was overly surprised. At 04:00 AM in the morning, stars from up above were now clear and the threat of rain was nowhere to be seen. It was like a test of endurance or a test of courage. We now passed the ordeal and our reward can now be claimed.
At 05:30 AM, we were atop the highest point in the Philippines.
It was the best view I had ever seen. The dramatic sensation of witnessing the sun pass the sky as I stood at the highest point in our country was phenomenal.
It brought to perfection the fact that the dream of stepping on our country’s highest mountain peak turned real. It was an emotional time not only for me, but also for everybody.
We took pictures, relished the awe-inspiring view staring at the clouds down below.
Deeply moved by the spectacular scenery, we firmly sat still on top of the Philippines.
After an hour, we went back to the campsite, prepared breakfast and started to break camp.
The friendly sun rays became helpful in drying some of our soaked gears. It took us about 2 hours, but at least, we were all dried up and ready to go.
The trek down to Kidapawan was equally challenging as the boulder trails. The super steep path and the knee-deep mud left by last night’s downpour took another toll on our bodies.
Notwithstanding Tyron’s knee injury that slowed all of us down, I, for one, also got injured descending the steep almost 80-degree trail.
It took us a total of 8 hours of scrambling and negotiating the steep trails of Kidapawan to reach the jump off down below.
And after the exhilarating experience we had at the summit, we were now ready to head on to our Samal island adventure.
This Mt. Apo trip became one of, if not the most, unforgettable mountain experiences I had. The diverse nature of the place gives every bit of what you expect in climbing.
Every part of the trail gives a unique challenge and every change in the scenery gives a different perspective.
From the open fields, mossy forest to the steep boulder trail, it is really a mountaineer’s dream. It never lets you down on any of your expectations.
Not only are you scaling the highest mountain in our country, you are also climbing one of the most diverse and unique places in the Philippines.
Being the highest mountain I scaled, the hardest trek I climbed and having the most beautiful sceneries I saw, Mt. Apo is indeed this mountaineer’s fantasy that came true.
04:10 - departure from Manila to Davao
05:50 - arrival at Davao
06:30 - drop-off our gears for Samal Island
07:30 - arrival at Ecoland Terminal
08:30 - arrival at Digos, breakfast
09:30 - departure from Digos to Kapatagan
11:00 - arrival at Kapatagan, buy supplies, register
12:00 - departure from Kapatagan market to jump-off
13:00 - arrival at jump-off, lunch
13:40 - start trek
14:30 - arrival at Paradise campsite
15:00 - arrival at Mossy forest
17:00 - arrival at Upper Sabwang Campsite, arrange camp
18:00 - prepare dinner, dinner, socials
20:00 - lights out
05:00 - wake up call, prepare breakfast
05:30 - breakfast, break camp
07:00 - continue trek to Godi-godi campsite
08:00 - arrival at Baroring river, fill canteens
09:00 - arrival at Godi-godi campsite, long rest
09:40 - continue trek to Boulders
11:30 - lunch at boulders
12:30 - continue trek to Boracay viewpoint
14:30 - arrival at Boracay viewpoint
15:00 - arrival at Crater, take pictures
16:00 - arrival at campsite
17:00 - arrange camp, prepare food
18:00 - dinner, socials
19:00 - lights out
04:30 - wake up,
05:00 - start peak exploration
05:30 - sunrise viewing
06:30 - back to camp, prepare breakfast
07:00 - breakfast
09:00 - start descent to Lake Venado
10:40 - arrival at Lake Venado
11:00 - start trek down to Marbel River
12:30 - lunch at trail
13:30 - continue trek to Marbel river
16:00 - arrival at Marbel river, start river crossing
17:00 - arrival at last river crossing, tidy up
17:40 - walk to jump-off
18:00 - take Habal habal to Kidapawan city
19:00 - arrival Kidapawan city, take van to Davao
23:00 - arrival at SM city Davao
How to get to Mt. Apo
From Davao Ecoland Terminal, ride a North Cotabato bound bus and alight at Digos Terminal. From Digos, either take a van to Kapatagan market or take Habal habal directly.
From Kapatagan Market take habal habal to jump-off point of Kapatagan trail
*we would like to thank Agnes Navales for some of the Photos in this article, and for organizing the whole southern Mindanao trip