Mount Apo: experience a paradise in this world full of chaos and torment

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When I was in my childhood years, I’ve always seen this Majestic mountain towering above in a far distance. I also known his reputation as the highest summit in the Philippines through lectures in history, textbooks and journals. Every afternoon, me and my little brother had this moment of going on the roof of our house just to witness sunset on Mount Apo. I always wondered what it feels like stepping on its apex and experience it’s mighty among all the mountains here in the Philippines. Back then, never in my wildest dreams would I conquered not only Mount Apo but also completed the tough/top five highest mountains here in the Philippines. During my review days (board exam preparation), I always imagining myself being at the top of the world and promised myself that, If I topped and passed the board examination, I will go to this mountain and shout to the world how thankful I am to the Lord that I passed and topped the board exam. But those were wishfully thinking coz I didn’t make it on the top, but still thankful to Him for allowing me to pass one of my crucial point in my life: BOARD EXAMINATION. Anyway, Join me and be thrilled as I venture this another milestone in my life as a mountaineer.

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A glimpse of his beauty

Every mountaineer’s dream is to summit a highest peak. Since I started this hobby, It’s in my number one of my bucket list to climb this mountain. When I had a scheduled climb on Mount Apo, it was on a brink of forest fire and I felt so disappointed and frustrated not just because of the postponed hike, but rather on the negligence and irresponsibility of the culprit of the said misfortune. Temporary closure was the immediate response done by DENR and PAMB and it was the best solution to give the mountain a time to heal. It deserves a very long rest. And so the said schedule was diverted on Mount Talomo

And now that it was reopened, plus a plunge increased in fees was a hot issue in the mountaineering community. Many were debating and exchanging opinions as to increasing the fee was a right thing to do or is just a plain business/commercialization. When I heard this news, I felt worried and excited at the same time because I can finally have the chance to climb this bucket list of mine. Worried in the sense that, I might contribute on the commercialization of the mountain – which was somehow undeniable. Well, I always reminded myself and did my best to apply LNT principle all the time. We did our best not to cause any unjust and violating action – throwing trash anywhere, making noise and disturb the mountain’s holiness, among others. It cringe me to hear or read post about stereotyping and putting stigma to people who were new in this field being labeled as facebook mountaineer, climb for the sake of boasting their accomplishment upon climbing a mountain, or whatever they may called on newbies in mountaineering as if they don’t have the right to explore the world of mountaineering. It pains me to think and mull on that matter. Why not have a spirit of camaraderie and instead, welcome them and be an instrument of stewards of nature. Encourage them and be a voice of influencing the new ones about Leave No Trace principle. Labels (hikers, mountaineers, trekkers) should not be a reason for creating a friction. Let us work hand and hand in taking good care of our environment by means of maintaining the sacredness and cleanliness of our nature.

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View of Mount Apo via Sibulan Trail

Standing at 2,954+ MASL, this famed mountain holds the title of highest mountain in the Philippines. It vastly occupies the whole Davao del Sur stretching up to North Cotabato province. It has a lot of specs that no other mountains can provide to the hikers like the famous Lake Venado and crater lake which are quite amazing because of the idea of “a lake within a mountain”. Another one is the sulfur vents which signifies that this geographic form is an active volcano. Lastly, the famous Boulder rocks which is the main highlight of this mountain and dominates the whole area. It has 4 known trails or routes declared by Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) and these are: Sibulan (Sta. Cruz), Kapatagan, Magpet and Talomo-Apo traverse. Today, only Sibulan and Magpet trail were the passable trails. Kapatagan and Mount Talomo traverse Mount Apo were indefinitely closed.

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Starting the adventure with a prayer

Starting the adventure with a prayer – a golden rule that one must not forget in every adventures they have. Prayer is not only limited when we asked something from Him, it is also a way to communicate, give thanks and lastly asked forgiveness for all the unfaithful act we committed. 🙂

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And so the adventure begins. It starts with a humongous land crops and open trail. Every morning, locals were very busy planting and maintaining their crops as part of their living. From the open trail going to the entry point of Tinikaran Campsite, it took us 2 hours of enduring the not so agonizing open trail (chill pacing) unlike my previous encounter of open trails of the mountains that I hiked. Haha!

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At the entry point going to Tinikaran Campsite
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With TEAM “Tinuod mana” HAHAHA!

We were a bit fast and arrived at the starting point of Tinikaran Campsite around 10AM. Entering the verdant and mossy forest of Mount Apo was a reliving at the same time relaxing because of it’s ambient and cool weather, so we took a quick rest and continue to hike going to campsite on a fast pacing mode – to secure a good spot for camping because we not the ones hiking at that moment.

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At Tinikaran Campsite 1

Tinikaran Campsite is the major campsite when you are taking the Sibulan (Sta. Cruz) Trail. Water sources were available nearby. Misty weather welcomes us as we arrived at the campsite and rain outpoured on us afterwards which caused us difficulty in pitching tents. At night, socials were made and initiated with a bottle of rhum to make the conversation more fond and humorous HAHA! Anyway, Day 1 of this blog wrap up our journey starting from rendezvous point up to Tinikaran Campsite.

Want some enthralling and exhilarating adventure? Join me as we continue to venture Day 2 of this adventure.

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Breakfast preparation done by Anjo and Don-don
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Ikaw? Para saan ka bumabangon? This morning is brought to you by: Nescafe 3-in-1 HAHA!

Day two starts with a morning of enjoying and appreciating the terrains, flora and fauna encompassing the trail while sipping a cup of coffee. Imagine the simplicity of life that I want right at that moment. I always want to climb mountain not just a venue of escaping the reality and toxicity life may brought or to have a good picture and post it on my social media, but also a means of knowing myself more, appreciating little things, and enjoy the life on it’s raw form.

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Your son is doing good at the forest. – A message intended to worrying mother to his stubborn son. HAHAHA!

Actually this climb was an escape climb and I considered this trip as one of my craziest things I’ve done. I left home and I didn’t have a consent and approval from my mother. She was flooding me with nagging texts when she heard that I was going to Mount Apo, and I felt a bit guilty of not asking for her approval, but I know in my heart that she will forgive me of my stubbornness. Haha kidding aside. I made a signpost just to inform my mother that I’m okay and some people saw this picture as a witty joke and I find funny on the other side though. Pawang katuwaan lang po hahaha! 

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Leaving Tinikaran Campsite
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Group selfie before facing the grueling Boulder Face. 😦

We departed from Tinikaran Campsite around 8:30 AM. The weather was fine and ready to go with us in hiking going to White sand. At that time, new rules and regulations were implemented by PAMB. Camping at the summit were prohibited because of on going healing of the damaged area of the mountain – although they allowed it to open despite of having a not so well recovered condition. As we started and resumed our adventure going to White Sand, my inner self was exhilarate to experience and step the famous sulfur vents and boulder rocks of Mount Apo. Also, I was a bit worried that unpredictable weather might come to us, which was a common experience for me ever since I started this kind of activity. One must always consider weather as a major factor in every hikes that you have.

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Mossy Forest of Tinikaran Campsite

Never did I know that Tinikaran has another campsite, but this campsite serves only as an emergency site. Tinikaran Campsite 2 were covered with moss, and has a lot of dead trees that blocks the trail and therefore, there’s a need to crawl, duck and do some acrobats, but unlike in Mount Lumot and other difficult mountains that I climbed, the obstacles in Apo is not much of a one to consider as a difficult in terms of trail. This is based on my experienced in mountaineering per se.

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Entering Sulfur vents portion of Mount Apo

An uphill and rocky terrain welcomes us as we enter the starting point of boulder face. I was enthralled and amazed that finally I was able to saw the sulfur vents live in action and also experienced stepping my own foot on the famous boulder rocks. My wildest dream was never a dream anymore. The sulfur encompassing the whole boulders is a proof that this geologic wonder is a living and active volcano.

Just a reminder: always have a cover on your nose to avoid inhaling the smell of sulfur. Too long exposure to sulfur can cause nausea and dizziness which can contribute on having a slow pacing hike.

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Selfie muna bago ma suffocate sa sulfur vents. HAHAHA

One thing that my companion whining as they arrived on the boulders was the huge rocks that requires you to scramble. Just be careful on every large rocks that you have to step. Some of them are loose and unstable, therefore extra precaution is a must. One must have a balancing and nimble skills to completely traverse the boulder. Some of the hikers took a lot of time on this trail because of its fascinating and grandeur feat and so you can’t resist on taking memento and wholesome pose. Along scrambling and hiking the boulders, strong scent of sulfur vents was suffocating us and too hard to resist that you need to hike on a faster pace so that to avoid too much exposure on the gas. Aside from the scrambling part, foggy visibility which was a combination of sulfur gas and clouds impedes us from having a faster pacing.

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Halfway through White Sand
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At White Sand Campsite

Due to underestimating the trail and being hyped by what they said that Mount Apo was a bit easier compared to D2K and Kalatungan which was partly true, my feet was trembling and heavy to move as I arrived at the white sand. This was a result of not having proper physical preparation prior to the climb. Feeling regret of having this climb on an unprepared state but that never stops me from pushing this adventure even though I was not fully prepared. I truly believed that determination and grit comes hand and hand in order for us to achieve our goals in life. Char!

Lesson learned: I always reminded on my previous post of never underestimating a mountain regardless of how difficult or easy it is, but there are times that we can’t avoid those boasting and bragging feeling just because we have experienced more difficult mountains and I hate it because I myself was tolerating this notion. See the outcome? Feeling drained and couldn’t even moved my feet. Sad 😦

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blissful scenery rejuvenates an exhausting and tiresome vibe.

Me and Don-don was the first to arrive at the White Sand. We immediately set up our tents so that we can snatch a rest while waiting for others to arrive. As we finished pitching our camps, I didn’t notice that I fell asleep brought by the draining scramble at the boulders. As the others arrived, I woke up, feeling revitalize and kinda had an amnesia that I was too exhausted before arriving at the campsite. Haha!

We scramble on the other boulders nearby the campsite for us to take a good spot for picture taking and we’re so blessed to have a clearing and fine weather. Back at my mind, I was too tempted to hike the summit at that moment of time as I can saw it nearly in my naked eyes. Me, Lerma, Pao and Humprey decided to visit the summit before sunset after we did the picture taking at the boulders.

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A journey going to the summit
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I made it!

It’s 4 in the afternoon of our 2nd day of this adventure. Me together with Lerma, Pao, Sebastian and Humprey decided to visit the almost 90 degree slope going to the summit wishful to witness a sunset just like a Boracay or Manila Bay type of view. While we were hiking at the summit, unfortunate and unexpected rain pours at us. We continue despite the misty and frigid weather. At the summit, we met other hikers having their moments at the summit. We shared some chitchats and introduced each other despite of not having a clear view of sunset and bad weather. We descend and had some sight seeing at the sulfur vents part of the white sand facing Kapatagan and Magpet Trail area. We continue sharing stories of our experiences while witnessing the rain formation visibly seen right on us. Upon the whole duration of the conversation, I barely recall few names of the hikers we met. Caps, Juan Miguel and Margot (a Swiss foreigner). At first, I was dubious to converse with Margot because of my poor English skills, but things go smoothly as we share some of our hiking experiences and what I notice on her was she was not particular at your grammar. By that, I had the firsthand to prove that foreigners don’t mind your grammar for as long as they can understand what you’re saying to them unlike Filipino who were very particular about grammar and even diction. I hate the fact that we Filipinos laugh every time we heard a wrong grammar or diction being uttered as if we’re fluent or grammatically excellent in speaking English. sigh*   38

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Such a lovely spot of this mountain — Mount Apo Crater

At the crater, some of the remnants of the forest fire occurred last March 2016 were visibly seen. 50-70% of it were replaced with newly sprouted wild berries and grasses but some were remained burned. Based on investigation done by the LGU and other governing agencies involve on that mischievous incident, it started when a butane gas was left on the campsite then exploded right after it was left exposed on the heat. The fire immediately consumed 1/4 of the whole terrain. The fire lasted for about 3 weeks. The damage has been done and many were saddened by that unfortunate event. Don don and Anjo were the ones who volunteered on providing forest lines for extinguishing purposes. They said that the damage was visibly seen especially in Kapatagan trail and that was the reason on why the said trail were closed to the public.

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Goodmorning, Mount Apo. 🙂

Day 3 of this adventure highlights our moment at the summit. After we took our breakfast at the White Sand, we immediately hike going to the summit to witness sunrise. We were unfortunate again as the rain poured again at us. We waited a bit longer enduring the cold and frigid weather wishing that the sun might rise, but again another paasa moment HAHA! The sky cleared up a bit around 6:30 AM, but we were unable to catch the sunrise. Still, panoramic views of neighboring mountain such as Kitanglad, Dulang-Dulang, Matutum, Kalatungan, Ragang, Talomo, etc was enough for us to enjoy and shared this grandest moment – Summiting the highest mountain in the Philippines. I couldn’t imagine that I was finally able to conquer Mount Apo and all those ecstatic admiration were put into reality. Aside from conquering the highest peak in the Philippines, I was also able to unlock the top five highest mountain in the Philippines and documented all of it here on my blog. I was very thankful to God for being able to provide me the resources I need to complete this adventure of mine; protection and safety throughout all the hikes I had ever since I started this activity; the time He provided and for allowing me to make all those adventure came true; for all the learning and lessons those adventures instill to me – lessons that schools or books can’t teach, but through experience and encounter with Him, nature and people; lastly, new friendship being forged was a memory worth keeping and cherished.

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New Friendship. New Memories. New Beginning.

Although the adventure didn’t met what I want to experience – saw a real monkey in the forest, sunrise/sunset views, sea of clouds, etc. But that’s okay! What I really want on this climb was to leg the summit and complete the top five highest peaks here in the Philippines. That notion was enough for me to justify those expectations I mentioned. Also, this trip reminded me about being complacent. In this trip, I was very complacent just because I had experienced more difficult climb prior to this event. Always consider every opportunity as a learning experience and new ones even though it may sound redundant and cliche on you. Remember, repetition makes things perfect. 🙂

I always asked myself what’s next after this. Then Anjo suggested me to complete the Knife Edge trilogy namely: Mount Guiting-guiting, Mount Halcon and Mount Mantalingajan. How I wished I could summit those mentioned mountains. Baka hanggang pangarap nalang ba ito? Haha! Who knows. Libre lang mangarap. 🙂

This climb made possible by my ever suki organizer, Anjo Dorado. To my new friends, Don-don, Humprey, Darlene, Cherry, Cha, Sheryl, ate Jen, Pao, Sebastian, Chingkay and Rin bu for being with me as we conquered the highest peak in Philippines. Actually majority of my companions here on this trip was a first time hiker. I really admire their determination despite the grueling feeling they had. Lastly, to our Almighty God for being my ever supportive protector and provider. There’s so many things that I want to give thanks. Words can’t fully express how much I’m grateful not just for making this childhood dream came true but for everything that He gave to me even though I didn’t deserve His grace. 🙂

See you on my next blog post. 🙂


TIPS AND INFORMATION: 

TRANSPORTATION: Depending on the trail your group took, Mount Apo has a lot of Jump-off. In our case, we took the Sibulan Trail (Sta. Cruz) in which Brgy Sibulan more specifically Sitio Colan is the major jump-off. An hour and half of motorcycle is needed to reach the said jump-off. Four wheeled vehicle is not advisable but there are some groups merged together then negotiate to get a truck (to lessen expenses).

Reminder: Road widening and construction is on-going and therefore, expect for a rough and joy-ride-type-of-trip.

Davao City is the most convenient location to ride a bus or any vehicle going to Sta. Cruz especially if you’re coming from places outside Mindanao area. Much better to negotiate and get a van if you happens to be a group and if possible, use charming ways to haggle over the price. HAHA

EXPENSES: Well, we all know that upon the re-opening of Mount Apo, there’s a price hike in terms of getting a permit, guide fee/porter, etc. Here’s the breakdown of expenses:

  • TRANSPORTATION: 
    • Davao to Digos = P80-140 (bus/van fare)
      • TRAVEL TIME: 1 hour and 30 minutes
    • Digos to Kapatagan = P100 (van)
      • TRAVEL TIME: 1 hour
    • Kapatagan to Brgy. Sibulan = P75-100/pax (motorcycle)
      • TRAVEL TIME: 1 hour
  • GUIDE FEE, PERMIT, PORTER: 
    • Permit = P1,000/pax (Sibulan trail)
    • Guide fee = P1,000/day (1 guide per 5 person ratio)
      • At tourism office, every group is required to hire an tour guide accredited by PAMB Davao del Sur
    • Porter fee = P500/day (15 kg load. additional 50/day for every 1 kg excess load)

NOTE: I intentionally not included the food expenses here for it will depend upon your preferences, itinerary and other miscellaneous fees your adventure has. Also, the prices above are subject to change without prior notice. It’s better to keep updated by means of having your own research.

CONTACT PERSONNEL: 

Anjo Dorado: visit TEAM EXPLORER page on facebook or you can directly message him at 0909-228-0108.

Banjo Syting: visit Day-off Adventours page on facebook for list of events here in Mindanao or you can directly reach him at 0910-179-9875.

Terrence Galindo: you can directly message him at his facebook account or you can contact him at 0930-380-6337.

NOTE: If you wish to have a hassle free adventure, these people offers package tour (including meal, transportation, freebies, etc.,).

SPECIAL INFORMATION: Water source is not a problem in Mount Apo. There are a lot of water sources available on this mountain. Water source is not a major factor to consider on this mountain. In terms of campsites, these are the campsites if you’re taking the Sibulan trail: Tinikaran Campsite for day 1 and White Sand for the 2nd and 3rd day of the trip (3-day itinerary). For those who visited Mount Apo for the past 3-4 years, camping at the peak/summit is restricted right now.

TIPS AND REMINDERS:

1. PREPARATION. Just like on my previous blogs, proper and well planned adventure plays a pivotal role upon the success of the climb. As much as possible, plan and gather information especially on expenses, contact personnel and the do’s and don’ts of the destination you’re about to go. Aside from the logistics side of preparation, don’t forget to prepare yourself physically, mentally and emotionally. Do some cardio related exercises and carbo load a week before the event. Avoid stressful activities days or weeks prior to climb and have some peace of mind for a better inflow of positive vibe and to facilitate mental fortitude. 🙂

2. COORDINATE WITH YOUR CONTACT PERSONNEL/TOUR ORGANIZER. If you hire a tour organizer, ask and clarify the inclusions of the package tour that they are offering to avoid any misunderstanding and future conflicts – this is applicable only for availing a package tour (depending on what is being included in the said package). If you hire a contact personnel as a guide (accredited by PAMB Davao del sur), it is best to ask for second opinion and suggestion for a better preparation – this is applicable especially for those hikers who prefers a Do-It-Yourself adventure. 🙂

3. WHAT TO BRING: Majority of the hikers wants to have a lightweight equipment/essential to lessen the load of their bags. I will categorize the essential things to bring for your guidance.

  • CLIMB GEAR: These are the things I bring on every major hikes I had. cookset, burner, personal equipment (essentials), tent or hammock (depending on the weather) but if you can negotiate your companion to bring with them his/her tent then yours is the cooking equipment, it would be more practical and save a lot of space on your bag. For first time major hikers, always be a “self-contained” hiker. It’s better to be prepared. 🙂
  • PHOTOGRAPHY GEARS: I had with me my Gopro Hero 4, cellphone and a mirrorless camera (sony a6000) with a kitlens built-in. Also, I brought tripod for a more worth capturing landscape and night photography.
  • FOOD: Always have a food/meal plan. This will guide you on what to buy/bring upon the whole duration of the hike. As much as possible, food rich in carbohydrate and food that can warm up your body are much preferable. If you had a team with your climb, you can delegate the task in terms of cooking your meal. If you wish to have a meaty meal, make sure to have it on a pre-cooked manner, then budget it according to every meal and put it on a ziplock to save space on your backpack. In terms of trail food, I usually bring jellyace, nuts, candies, raisins, etc. 

 NOTE: It’s a must to always bring emergency equipment such as: medicine kit/supplement, poncho and rain cover, extra jacket to avoid hypothermia, extra batteries and powerbank. Also bring ziplock/cellophane and garbage bags for waste materials. Leave nothing but footprints as what the LNT principle says.

4. BE ON TIME ALWAYS. Always follow your itinerary and be on time as much as possible. DO NOT PROCRASTINATE.

5. BRING ALL THE NECESSARY THINGS BEFORE EMBARKING ON YOUR ADVENTURE. Have with you your climb permit, valid ID’s, essential equipment and your brave and wandering souls before starting your adventure.

6. DELEGATE TASKS ON YOUR TEAM. This is being forgotten and taken for granted by most of the climb especially if there’s a member/s who is/are well experienced in terms of outdoor activities. We tend to shoulder to them almost all the responsibilities that must be delegated. Proper delegation of tasks helped not just for the smooth flow of the adventure, but also helped each one of us to be more responsible and adept upon the task we were assigned.

7. KEEP IN TOUCH IN EVERY MEMBERS OF THE TEAM. Never let any members of the team out of sight. As much as possible, assign a lead, middleman, and sweeper on the team. Usually, the one’s being assigned on the said role are those who have better experienced on mountaineering. If possible, have the lead and sweeper a radio for them to have updates on their whereabouts. Also, have a contact personnel at the jump-off or any ground points that will serves as the connection between your team and outside the climbing environment. This will help the team for an unexpected turn of events. If you can find any signals along the trail, update your contact ground personnel of your current location to keep them aware about the status of your team. 🙂

8. PRAY. Before starting any adventure, I always tell the team to start the climb with a prayer. This is the major contributor for the success of the adventure.

Share to us your climbing experience through comment section of this post. Feel free to ask question/s. Constructive ones are much welcome. 🙂

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4 thoughts on “Mount Apo: experience a paradise in this world full of chaos and torment

    Terrence Galinfo said:
    May 17, 2018 at 11:56 am

    Thanks kol. Nice2x

    Liked by 1 person

    Otto von Münchow said:
    June 22, 2018 at 4:34 pm

    Congratulations with getting to the top of Mount Apo. Looks like a fantastic too. And what a few from the top despite the clouds and some fog.

    Like

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