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Mount ApoMarch 15-18, 2008

Mount Apo

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.

Mt. Apo crew

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.

Mt. Apo Team

Registration Dilemma
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!

Kapatagan Trail
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.

The Peak
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.

Exit Fee
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.

Ending Thoughts
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.

--- TheLoneRider

    Mt. Apo tips:
  • 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.
*** Some pictures courtesy of Reggie, Aarone, Mcar, Ivan, Xtine, Tomas, Cloud, Slow, Ian and Jon
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P3181387 P3181394 P3181396 P3181411
P3181414 P3181424    

Google Map Davao City, Philippines

tourist attractions in Davao City tourist attractions hotels in Davao City - hotel van rental in Davao City van rental
  • Apollo Van Rental Apollo Van Rental - Davao City tour, Samal Island tour, airport transfer
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yoga in Davao City yoga | health | fitness food tour in Davao City tour food in Davao City resto | cafes in Davao City cafe autism in Davao City advocacy

Great Things Going for Davao City

  • one of the cleanest potable water in the country
  • smoking is banned from commercial establishments
  • pineapple samurais are endemic here and nowhere else in the country (pineapple vendors who cut-up whole pineapples into chunks with just a few strokes of their carving knives)
  • public utility drivers conspicuously display their IDs
  • durian Mecca of the Philippines (not to mention Marang, Mangosteen and Sweet Pomelo)
  • you want to add some more? please submit on the form below

Not So Great Things Going Against Davao City

  • the weighing scale of fruit vendors specially the durian push cart vendors are a blatant cheat - showing almost twice the actual weight

Davao Related Articles

Davao City Travel Information
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Reader Comments:

Nadine ZidaniNadine Zidani
(27 Apr 2016) My friend and I want to do trekking in the Mt Alpo around 5-6 May 2016. How can we book such trekking before coming to Davao?

(28 Apr 2016) I consulted Dennis Manonog, a climb I met during my climb and this is what he said verbatim, "...the recent fires in Mt. Apo were so bad local authorities are closing it for 5 years! Here's one blog about it."

Eunice NogaraEunice Nogara
(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!
(Nov 17, 2012)
The best way is to contact the UP Mountaineers (, 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.

Chevy Macias
(May 18, 2009) wow...impressive. LoneRider ka talaga. so tell me, exciting ba doon?

Dennis ManonogDennis Manonog
(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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