Sunday, May 26, 2013

Mt. Apo : Ascent to Philippines' Highest Peak

Reaching the summits of Mt. Pulag and Mt. Kanlaon last year, I’ve been looking forward to climb Mt. Apo, to complete the trilogy of Luzon-Visayas-Mindanao highest peaks. This plan had finally commenced last month with 6 members of AKAC team.

We stayed overnight in Davao City first, had watched the Tribu Mindanawan where we also had our dinner, before leaving to Kidapawan the following day. We left the Green Windows Dormitel while its still dark, then rode the van to Kidapawan at Php 150 fare/person. Below is the view of Mt. Apo from the southwest road that leads to Digos City.

After completing the registration in Kidapawan City’s tourism office, we’ve had our cheap breakfast in the nearby eateries. Then half of the group bought food and other supplies in the market, with our guide Amboy. Around 11 am, our rented jeepney (cost: P 1,000/trip) brought us to the jump off point of Mandarangan trail.

Less than 10 minutes along the trail, we passed through a hot spring area of Mt. Apo, a clear evidence that the mountain is still an active volcano. The white steam has traces of sulfur, hence the stench that made us leave the place after quick photo shoots.

From a hot sunny noon, the weather quickly changed and strong rains lashed on the mountain. Good thing that there is a hut there where we’ve had our lunch while waiting for the rain to subside. 

The rain may have cooled the surroundings, but it made the trail muddy which slowed us a bit. This trail requires 6 or 7 crossings of the mighty Marbel River, which has some challenging portions that may cause slips & fall, if we were not careful.

The river is wide with many boulders. I can just imagine the very strong current that runs on it during heavy rains. That is why a pair of our climbing team wasted no time during our 3rd day (the rest of the team used Magpet trail on their descent), as rains have started to fall during their descent.

As it was getting dark, we camped on the second site, known as Ko-ong campsite. With its elevation more than 1,000 MASL, it was also cold when night came despite the summer season. Dinner was native tinolang manok  (native chicken in ginger soup), with sayote fruits harvested along the trail that afternoon.

The following morning after breakfast, we continued our ascent and reached the 87 degree and 90 degree parts after 2 hours. By 11:00 am, we have reached Lake Venado, while half of the team arrived about an hour later. Now seeing the summit of Mt. Apo from the wide expanse of the lake made me stop, and just stare at the mountain for many times on the area.

Only those makeshift stores destroy the natural landscape of the lake. During summer season, the lake’s area recedes to the deeper parts. Big trees with mosses encircle the lake.

Sampinits (wild berries) are plenty here, just like in Cordillera. The difference is that the sampinits in Mt. Apo are bigger, sweeter, but with bitter aftertaste. 

After lunch, we continued our ascent to the peak of Mt. Apo, this time I opted to be on the second group. We took our time, trekking only when clouds cover the sun, while laughter and stories dominated our very relaxed pace. 

So the supposed 3-hour ascent to the campsite exceeded 4 hours. At almost 6:00 pm and 2,700+ MASL, temperature started to drop at 12 C. Below is Lake Venado as seen halfway on our ascent.

Mt. Apo’s summit as viewed during our ascent. With a full pack, its still a challenging cold hike to the campsite. A member of our first group is pointed by the arrow.

Dinner at the campsite is a welcoming chicken tinola soup again. The temperature dropped to less than 10 C, so most of us just stayed inside our respective tents after dinner. We braved the equally chilly dawn to catch the sunrise at the south side, facing the boulders and Samal island.

The fumaroles below the boulders’ side look like a big matchstick that started to burn. The sulfur-emitting smoke emits a unique glow when sun’s rays hit it.

Neighboring Mt. Talomo on the eastern side, partially hidden by Mt. Apo’s old crater.

Mt. Apo’s old crater as seen from its summit. Note the stone arrangements made by other hikers.

Other mountaineers on the south and western points.

As I climbed the summit of Mt. Apo, here is a shot of my fellow AKAC members as they descend from our first viewing peak.

Upper left of the last photo is Mt. Matutum in South Cotabato, our next hiking destination on March 2014. Lake Maag sits on the lower right portion. This is one of my favorite shots from the summit, which I use now as my wallpaper.

Next post will be a narrative of our descent via Magpet trail.

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