March 15-18, 2008
Towering at 2,954 meters (9,692 ft) above sea level, Mt. Apo is the Philippines' highest stratovolcano. It's last eruption is unknown, and sulfuric craters spewing toxic fumes can be found on the boulders section, on the way to the peak. Mt. Apo is home to 270 bird species, 100 of them endemic. It is also home to the world's largest eagle, the Philippine Eagle - it exists nowhere else in the world. As one of the highest land-based biological diversity in terms of flora and fauna per unit area, it's marked for the UNESCO Tentative World Heritage List.
I was backpacking alone from Iloilo City, and subsequently hooked up with the climbing team upon reaching Davao City. Altogether, we were 11, forming 2 groups, including 1 guide and a (mandatory) porter. A lot of the ground work was already done tirelessly by Reggie who ensured lodging, transportion, guides, etc. were factored in. Prior, there was a lot of email exchanges within the group on food planning, gear and logistical needs. As I was still backpacking then, I had no input, and simply tagged along for the climb.
The thick layer of bureaucracy that accompanied the registration process was frustratingly stupid. To register, they require the following: a letter of intent, an application form, 1x1 picture, medical certificate, waiver, briefing, certificate of briefing, etc. The papers go through the following offices: OCEEM, the city mayor, and the CTO. When I asked the officer if this registration-information is available online or on any government offices, he said it's not. So, how the heck are we supposed to know that we need a picture, a medical certificate, a letter of intent, etc? Ah....when comedy was king!
There are a few options on what route to take. We chose the Kapatagan trail to summit. It was a 2-day trek that took us along diverse ecosystems - grassy knolls, mossy forest and boulders. Temperature ranged from scorching heat to chilling cold. We trekked over and under fallen logs, on river crossings, thick brush and sulfuric vents.
Before the peak, we had to hurdle the 87 degree boulder climb. At the outset, it was the scariest thing to look at, but the actual climb was not as daunting, although still formidable. The summit has 3 peaks with a 500m crater lake saddle. The panoramic view of all of Mindanao was simply gorgeous.
Santa Cruz - Colan Trail
The original plan was to go down via Kidapawan Trail but that would mean going against rush hour traffic. That day was the start of the climbing frenzy and hundreds would be taking the Kidapawan Trail on the way up. With mostly single-tracks, it was a looming nightmare. We decided to traverse the mountain and upon reaching the base on the other side, to make our way back by cutting through the mountain's foothills - the Santa Cruz/Colan Trail. This trail was longer but pretty level. We wound through thick mossy forest, Lake Venado, and came upon the giant Almasiga tress - it takes 6 grown ups hand-in-hand to wrap around it.
One thing annoying about climbing Mt. Apo is apart from paying the already exhorbitant entry fee of P500/person, you pay another exit fee if you exit at another point. We tried to skirt this by going where there's no checkpoint. In the process however, we got lost (yes, even with guides) and lost daylight before reaching the nearest village. From there, we boarded a utility truck back to Digos, then headed back to Davao City.
I asked a few of my teammates why they climb. The answers were varied - for fun, to get away from it all, for flora and if you're lucky, for fauna, etc. I can't say I do it for fun although I feel a great sense of accomplishment summiting a mountain and making it back down in one piece. If I want fun, I'll do technical single-track riding on my mountain bike. I guess I climb to get to know myself a little better. Because you can't quit in mid-stream, and you don't want to be the weakest link in the chain, you take that extra step forward and upward...with all that heat, with all that load and with all the obstacles in front of you. At the end of the day, after loading my crap in some thick brush, after making the laundry line, preparing and cooking food, keeping the tent dry in the driving rain, breaking bread with my team, and getting to know my climbing buddies through their passing anecdotes, I get my sense of bearing on how I fit within this bigger whole. Moreover, knowing myself better, instead of being critical, I get to appreciate my imperfections like scratches on genuine leather. Climbing does that. Yeah, tomorrow's gonna be a great day.
*** Some pictures courtesy of Reggie, Aarone, Mcar, Ivan, Xtine, Tomas, Cloud, Slow, Ian and Jon
- Bring with you an ID picture, a letter of intent and a medical certificate. The registration guys will give you a hard time if you don't have these.
- Homitori Dormitel - P180/night, a/c with breakfast, gym, TV area, wifi! www.homitori.com
- Green Windows - P188/night, a/c, TV area, wifi! www.greenwindowsdormitel.com
- Blue Velvet - P180/night, a/c, wifi at lobby; firstname.lastname@example.org
- Frances Inn - P700 - P1800, (082)301.8549, email@example.com, francesinn.webs.com, contact: Jojo Bolseco
- My Hotel - P1237 - P2770, (082)222.2021, firstname.lastname@example.org, myhoteldavao.com, contact: Sam Uy
- CourtView Inn - P1787 - P2588, (082)295.7537, email@example.com, contact: Jo-an
- Casa Leticia Business Inn - P1400 - P2800, (082)296.0501, 0917.700.4105, firstname.lastname@example.org, casaleticia.com, contact: Raymond dela Paz
- Grand Men Seng Hotel - P1800 - P2800, (082)221.9040, 0917.702.2988, email@example.com, grandmenseng.com, contact: George Lim
- Park Square Inn - P522 - P788, (082)295.1594, contact: Raul Breva
- Pearl Farm Beach Resort - P5350 - P28,000, (082)285.0876, firstname.lastname@example.org, pearlfarmresort.com
"Paano ba mag paregister para makapag mountain climb?" -- Ecinue Nogara
(Nov 17, 2012) The best way is to contact the UP Mountaineers (https://www.facebook.com/upmountaineers), but this is Manila-based. I don't know the mountaineering organizations in Mindanao, although I'm sure there are a lot. Sorry, I have no idea about the drive from Ulas to Mt. Apo. Thank you for your interest, Eunice.
(Nov 15, 2012) Salamat sa pag pose. Na feel ko na exciting pala ang mountain activities. Paano ba mag paregister para makapag mountain climb?
Passion kasi ng boyfriend ko mag mountain climbing and gusto nyang may makilalang mga mountaineers pag nandito na siya sa Mindanao. Gusto ko ding mag join. I think that's exciting. How long does it take to drive from Ulas, Davao going there to Mount Apo? Thanks!
(May 18, 2009) wow...impressive. LoneRider ka talaga. so tell me, exciting ba doon?
(27 Apr 2008) Thanks for the link-up. Your site rocks! Too bad we didn't get to know each other well while on the trail. We should meet again...somewhere remote in the Philippines. Sagada's not as remote anymore as it used to be, yeah?
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