Trail: Kidapawan City Trail, North Cotabato
Entry point: Brgy. Ilomavis, Kidapawan City
LLA: 7°0′30″N, 125°16′33″E
Trail Class: 3
Specs: Major Climb
Days Required: 2 – 3 days
Hours to Summit: 10-11 hours
Mt. Apo is the highest Mountain in the Philippines that every Filipino Mountaineer dreams to climb at least once in their lives. A national park which possesses a wide array of landscapes, from craggy boulders to virgin forests; from swamps to volcanic features and it is the home of the majestic Philippine Eagles, known as one of the biggest eagles in the world, the source of the 2nd cleanest water in the world that is naturally purified and filtered from the molten rocks from the past volcanic eruptions of Mt. Apo. Without a doubt, Mt. Apo holds a wide range of ecosystem and provides an experience that mountaineers will never forget.I first climbed Mt. Apo when I was 15 years old. Without any of those fancy climbing gear. I only had an old daypack that I borrowed from a family friend, a blanket instead of a sleeping bag and an old pair of sneakers instead of a pair of climbing shoes (I strongly suggest that you don’t use any of these) my pack was way too heavy with stuff I wasn’t supposed to bring. Those were the days when I didn’t know much about mountain climbing. All that I was thinking that time was to climb a mountain and have fun.
From Davao to Kidapawan:We left Davao early in the morning on board a bus to Kidapawan. We had a short stop in Kidapawan for our registration and lunch, and then proceeded to the first base camp at Lake Agko. In the afternoon we decided to take a dip in the hot spring pool. Actually it’s more of like a big barrel with hot water coming straight from the hot spring mixed with the cool water of a natural spring. That dip was relaxing and soothing. We covered our bodies with mud from the hot spring because somebody from the group told us that it is good for the skin (till this day I still don’t know whether it’s true or not). After having dinner and listening to the final instructions, we prepared to sleep early for us to be ready for our climb the following day. The night was so cold and I realized that my blanket was not good enough.
Day 1:At 5 o’clock in the morning we were on our way up the mountain. On the way we had to cross Marbel River several times that I lost count, walking through fallen logs without anything to hold for support! Sometimes we had to cling on to rocks or just anything that we could hold on to. The strong flow of the water would make anyone think of a threat of sudden flashflood.After hours of river crossing, we reached the first campsite, the Mainit Hot Springs. We had a very quick lunch because we had to head for the next campsite – Lake Venado which is about 5-6 hours away. Between the two campsites is a thick forest with very tall trees rising to the sky, which we had to go through. Here, you’ll find two ‘killer trails’: the ’87-degree’ and the 90-degree’ trail. These trails are known to have taken their toll on climbers, where you’ll find your knees reaching your chin while climbing, a reminder to every hiker that it’s not an ordinary mountain.Lake Venado was our next stop. The serenity, coolness and the beauty of the place was a welcome surprise after that very difficult climb we had on the way up. The area is very ideal for camping. The water of the lake was crystal clear. I was almost tempted to swim but I knew then that it would not be the best idea, unless I wanted to turn into a frozen delight.
Day 2: The following day from Lake Venado, we ascended for about 3 hours. The environment changed from cogon grassland to a rocky landscape, with sweet wild berries. Then, we reached the summit. We feasted our eyes on the beauty in front of us. Words are not enough to describe what we’ve seen and how we felt. The experience was beyond description. For a moment we bathe in the rays of the morning sun then after a few minutes we were engulfed by a thick fog. It was so surreal. When the fog let up, we had our pictures taken, stayed for awhile then we walked around the crater. More pictures were taken and finally it was time to go down.Like most mountains, going down was faster but a lot more dangerous. Maintaining balance was next to impossible. That’s when I understood the importance of studying Physics (too late). My knees were almost giving up. At one time I rolled down and I was just lucky enough to hit a big tree that saved me from falling down a ravine. Crossing Marbel River for the second time was not as fun as it was the first time.Back to our campsite at Lake Agko, we were nursing our bruises, wounds and sore muscles. We didn’t have to be told to sleep. The following day, after distributing some gifts to the locals who became our friends, we packed our things and headed back home.The climb has given me a better understanding and respect for nature. I fell in love with the Mountain and vowed that, “I shall return”.
The next year after my high school graduation, I climbed Mt. Apo again. I thought that I would have enough of it. I was wrong, I fell more and deeply in love with the mountain. Someday, I would love to go back there again.
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