Mount Apo sea of clouds

Mount Apo 101

Boulder Face

Mount Apo, for the longest time, has always been just a piece of trivia to me. An easy check mark in Civics class when asked the question from “One Country, One People”: What is the tallest mountain in the Philippines?

Climbing it never crossed the mind.

When Cebu Pacific‘s fare promo got us a cheap flight to Davao, the idea of actually climbing Apo’s peak suddenly came. Friends were pm’ed to get them on board until it became a party of ten (10) mostly newbie climbers. How to go about the climb was not yet part of the discussion.

The sense of adventure and excitement was quite high months before the climb scheduled in February 25-27. Some research about trekking Mount Apo introduced doubt whether we could actually reach the peak. Having reserved and initially paid for the tour, though, meant no turning back.

(1) I guess the first step is to overcome the fear of scaling the country’s king mountain. The shortcut to getting rid of the fear would be to dish out some cash for your tour. Lisod iwaldas ang kwarta.

The next would be to:

(2) Prepare physically.

When your mountain climbing portfolio only includes the Osmeña Peak as your “major” climb, it is strongly recommended to make the adequate preparation when targeting Mount Apo as your next adventure. Exercises, walking, jogging, using the stairs, climbing some hill or minor mountain to make yourself ready to the physically-draining climb. For me, it was jogging for around 30 mins to 1 hour daily two weeks immediately prior to the trek; jogging and walking from time to time for a month or more, and walking towards Tops in Busay.

Mount Apo
The initial assault and reality check.

Our tour followed the Kapatagan trail which was said to be the easiest and most fit for beginners. The initial climb became a reality check. At 9AM, with the sun fully awake and no trees for shade, the sudden ascent knocks out much of our breath. I was winded and got a bit dizzy –Learned why climbing tall peaks is deemed difficult even by pros. We successfully covered some few meters though after catching up on our breath. (On my mind all the time: should have exercised longer. Damn.)

A lot more walking and ascents later, we reached the “Entrance” by noon.

bags

(3) Pack lightly. 

Your backpack will bear down on you as you begin to tire and as you trek further. I kept my bag to weigh a little more than 5 kilos which is around the same weight I carry daily to work (laptop included). There is an option though to hire a porter to carry some or all of your stuff. Our group hired one to carry a combined load of 12-15 kilos at P2,000.

Mount Apo
Rest if you must. It’s not a competition.

(4) Take rests, munch some food, drink some water.

There is always the seeming pressure to just keep on walking lest you get left behind. However, there is no need to overexert. You usually get more rest when you are ahead of the pack but always listen to your body to avoid straining your body or injuring yourself. Make sure to catch your breath, enjoy the scenery, and probably take some photos of the scenery and/or selfies.

Mount Apo
Finally, rest after a long day of walking and climbing. Campsite is surrounded by several trees.
Mount Apo
First stop from the campsite, Tinikaran.

(5) Go on, amazing views ahead.

Best way to hurdle a challenge such as Mount Apo is to continue moving forward. Along different points of the trek, the thought of being too tired to go on always surfaces. Always assure yourself that one less-prepared hiker was able to do it all the way. The Kapatagan trail going to Mount Apo offers varying sights of grassy terrain, vegetation, boulders, and cliffs.

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Mount Apo
Photo op in the woods.

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Mount Apo
Before we realized that we were hungry and very tired. At our back is where Mount Apo spews some sulfur into the air. Thus, some of the rocks looked yellow.
Mount Apo boulders
The sight of just rocks all over the place can be daunting. The trail is no longer obvious so you have to look for trail signs to move further. These boulders remind us of what Mount Apo was (or still is) –a fiery volcano. Btw, this is the point where you need to wear “shocking” colors so you are visible to the camera.
Mount Apo
Wearing not so “shocking” clothes.

(6) Bring thermal clothes (lots of it) and good shoes + socks

Mount Apo
Cold summit of Mount Apo

Aside from the long hike, the very cold temperature is quite a challenge. Mount Apo’s 2,954m elevation will bring you the chill especially at night. Our guides informed us that the coolest temperature ranges 1 to 10 degrees Celsius at night. Make sure to bring at least 3 layers of thermal clothes and don’t forget to wear thick gloves, socks, and head wear. The cold is most felt by your extremities. Carrying more load for clothes which helps battling the chill is a fair trade-off. I regretted just bringing ordinary gloves. A few seconds of exposure to the cold will last for minutes.

A good set of shoes and socks is also handy. Helps you a lot in your walking.

Mount Apo
The chill of the sunrise at the top of Mount Apo
Mount Apo
In a matter of seconds, fog quickly envelops the surroundings. Temperature drops suddenly. We are almost at the summit.

(7) Have enough sleep

Sleep allows you to recover for another day’s walk. Make sure to have lots of it. By 6pm, everything is almost dark in the trail. The cold is your number one enemy aside from the hard surface.

Wake up call is at 4:30am so everyone can have a good meal for the trek which starts by 8am.

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(8) Bring enough water

If you have sensitive stomach, make sure that you carry plenty of drinking water. There are two water sources in the trail. The first one, a spring, is not the type which just flows freely into a stream –looks like standing water. If you are lucky, you’ll get a clear bottle of water. If you are too hasty, expect getting some particulates in the mix. You can request your guides to boil water for you though.

Mount Apo
Victory pose at one of the minor summits of Mount Apo

(9) Enjoy the top

The top of Mount Apo has a number of summits (5 or 7?) each with different kind of feel and view. After two days of hiking, finally, you reach the highest peak in the country. By this time, your body and legs have become accustomed to so much walking so you don’t get to feel the pain. Going up and down to the different summits seemed routine. I guess the euphoria of achieving a feat such as Mount Apo takes over the pain chemicals.

At this point, the most important thing is to make sure that you have lots of battery left on your phone or camera because the views are just spectacular. And you know, photos or it didn’t happen. We didn’t get the chance to catch the sunset because of the thick clouds. The sunrise was just beautiful.

Mount Apo sea of clouds
Enjoying the sea of clouds at Mount Apo.
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Mr. Sun says hello trekkers!
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Achievement Unlocked.
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At one of the summits.

(10) Endure the return trail.

After successfully reaching the peak of Mount Apo, the trail back was quite tough. Body aches started to show. Going downhill looked scary to afford a fall. Moreover, two days worth of distance covered to reach the top is crammed into a one-day trek downhill. Rain poured the night before, so the trail was quite slippery.

Mount Apo
Rest time.
Mount Apo crater
Below is what was once the crater of Mount Apo. Not a good idea to make haste. Serious injury imminent should you fall.

Midway through the down trail, I realized belatedly that the new socks I used were just not fit for the long walk. Too thin. Ended up with huge blisters. So I decided later on to walk barefoot as the pain at each step with the shoes on was unbearable.

Bought and drank Coke when we passed by a store almost to the finish line.

Finally…

 

Mount Apo
Completed the trail with limbs still intact.

Side notes:

1. Like many of the Philippines’ popular destinations, Mount Apo needs to be properly regulated and maintained by authorities. Garbage just littered around near our camp at the peak. Please be mindful of your trash especially used tissues. Bury them.

2. Answering to nature’s call is quite tricky especially with a deposit transaction. Find a secluded spot with soft soil to bury what needs to be buried. Be careful of your steps, you might get in contact with stuff you wouldn’t want sticking on your shoes.

3. Expenses:

Round trip airfare: P1,300.00

Tour package cost: 5,500.00 each for a group of 10

1 night accommodation (dorm-type): around 200.00

Breakfast and lunch prior to the trail: 150.00

Tour package by Mount Apo Adventure Tours were as follows:
1. Permit to climb and exit fee
2. Climb certificate
3. Guide fee
4. Transportation from Davao City to jump-off area and back
5. Equipment rentals for tent, sleeping bag, trekking pole, mess kit and stove with fuel
6. Meals for the duration of the climb (dinner on the 1st day until lunch on the 3rd day)
7. Porter fee for the food and staff in the package
8. One-night hotel accommodation in Davao

 

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