Saturday, February 15, 2014

Mt. Apo | Through the Boulders, the Highest Peak

"All the elements conspired against us, the howling wind was deafening, the violent rain was piercing, and the temperature was really immobilizing. Mt. Apo became so cruel during our assault, it's as if we're battling our way to get inside a bastion full of defenders, almost or totally impossible." - excerpt from my January 2013 Mt. Apo climb. Read the full story here.
Even though it was a priceless, one of a kind experience, that Mt. Apo climb of January 2013 was a little frustrating. Somehow, I did not feel the utmost happiness a mountaineer should feel when he set foot on the country's highest peak. There was a hole in our success—no clearing at the summit.

Hence, I immediately planned a redemption climb. A comeback climb that has only one goal—experience Mt. Apo anew and hopefully gentler than the last time.


Day 1 - August 15, 2013

Came the month of August (six months after my first Mt. Apo climb), I, all by myself, went back to Davao to give the highest summit another shot. It was early morning of a Thursday when I landed and a fine weather welcomed me in Davao city. Oh it's great to be back, and do my revenge climb once and for all.

Arj, my friend slash guide for this climb, picked me up in the airport. We went first to their home to drop some of my stuff which I will use in my post-climb trip (watch out for that Camiguin Trip), had breakfast there, then headed straight to Ecoland Bus Terminal where we took a bus to Digos City.

excited as always! Bound for Digos City.
After 2 hours or so of bus travel, we alighted on a marketplace somewhere then looked for the habal-habal that will bring us to the jump-off at Sitio Paradise, Kapatagan. What happened next was the wild ride, the longest and bumpiest butt-numbing habal-habal ride I ever had.

At some point of the ride, we had to get off the habal-habal so that it will be easier to get over this muddy road. Parang nag-motocross, wild ride talaga!
We arrived at the jump-off past 12 noon. Kuya Miting, a local friend, welcomed us to their humble abode where we stayed for lunch. While eating, Kuya Miting pointed at the clouded Mt. Apo summit, which made me feel uneasy (kinabahan ako bigla na baka wala na naman makita sa summit).

oh not again please! hindi ako bumalik sa Mt. Apo para lang mag-papicture ulit ng 1x1 plain white background id picture!
After lunch, our trek commenced. Time was 01:50 PM. 

Mt. Apo via Kapatagan Trail
On a trail that runs across the fields of potatoes, carrots and cabbages, we started off the day's trek. It was just an easy, quick and hassle-free trek and I don't remember any steep parts. But the whole time we were trekking on these open fields, we were blanketed by fog.

because it was a foggy afternoon, vision was limited to a few meters only
We failed to see anything beyond a few meters as the fog gets thicker and thicker the farther we go. Anyway, there's a bright side in all this foggy start, the kid in me was able to play ninja hiding in the mist, hehe.

Hide-in-mist no Jutsu.
From the foggy open fields, we then entered Mt. Apo's verdant forest. Just like Kidapawan trail (another trail of Mt. Apo which we we used last time) there's a single obvious trail running on wet forest. Few patches of moss makes the green forest even greener. Steepness was varying and some parts were obstructed with logs and huge rocks.

Kapatagan Trail would let you experience the verdant forest of Mt. Apo. 
If ever the situation calls for emergency camping, small campsites ideal for 2-3 tents could cater the need. We encountered plenty of it along the way. Water wasn't a problem too, since we also passed by a number of streams. The biggest body of water we encountered was Baroring River. It's clear and seems drinkable.

After the river, several tiring high steeps followed, nakakahingal. Good thing, in between these challenging portions are easy flat grounds where we rested.

obstructions in Kapatagan trail are usually fallen trees. Most are moist and mossy, thus slippery
water sources weren't a problem. There were plenty streams along the way. 
However, as we get closer to Godi-Godi, I noticed something really bothering. Mound after mound of garbage emerged on the trail side. Some were even intentionally placed behind trees. Grabe talaga, nakakagigil! Here and there, clumps of garbage will be seen. Definitely, the worst I've seen among the mountains I climbed. Very depressing. I hope the LGU, DENR, or anyone concerned, will do something about this insolence.

Dusk caught up with us at Godi-Godi campsite.
At Godi-Godi Campsite with fellow hikers. 
Anyway, we reached Godi-Godi campsite by 5:45 PM, right before the sun went down. It was here that we ended the day's trek (4 hrs total) and rested for tomorrow's challenges. Oh I can't wait to see again the highest peak.

Day 2 - August 16, 2013

As soon as we finished breakfast, and our things packed up, we left Godi-Godi to continued the trek. The day's goal was to reach the campsite near the summit via the boulders, settle there and pray for a good clearing at least for tomorrow.

Again, through the mountain's green forest, we trekked. At first, the trail ran flat, petiks lang, but suddenly, a long steep assault woke up my still sleepy body. Nakakahingal, agad-agad! A good 10 minutes was spent on this challenging ascent.

steep assault to start our day
Fog remained a nuisance in day 2's trek, medyo nawalan na tuloy ako ng pag-asa na magkakaroon pa ako ng summit clearing. After we gained a significant elevation from Godi-Godi, fog started to creep through the trails and quickly obscured the views that we would've seen.

The boulders, was supposedly visible already from this part of the trail, but was unfortunately covered with layers of fog.
Trees degraded to bushes, and bushes degraded to grass as we approach Mt. Apo's volcanic face. Afterwards, big chunks of rocks emerged, scent of rotten eggs soon followed, and loud sounds from the gas vents were heard. Ah, we finally reached the boulders!

The Boulders of Mt. Apo 
Fact: Mt. Apo, our country's highest mountain, is actually a volcano. Need a proof? The boulders is the proof. 
Boulders isn't new to me. I've seen a couple of mountains having this feature (i.e. Mt. Bulusan and Mt. Kanlaon), but this boulders that Mt. Apo possesses was just really incredibly amazing and different. It left me speechless the first time I saw it. A geologic wonder talaga!

approaching the boulders of Mt. Apo.
more and more huge chunks of rocks emerged as we get closer to summ.
Unlike my previous mountain hikes which also possess this rocky feature, the boulders here in Mt. Apo were 10 times bigger. Not only that, active sulfur vents, as well as towering sulfur deposits were also found on site.

the boulders, a must see in Mt. Apo
going through the boulders wasn't an easy task. You will need the skills balance and agility. Self control too is a requirement, sa sobrang ganda kasi ng lugar mahirap pigilan ang sarili sa pagkuha ng sangkatutak na larawan.
One of the many sulfur columns present on site.
I thought trekking through the boulders would be just an easy task, but actually, challenges were still encountered. During the trek, we endured strong scent of sulfur gas, na sadyang nanunuot sa ilong. It was even suffocating when near the vents. Visibility was affected too as clouds of sulfur were all over the place.
I thought we were surrounded by fog, but those are actually sulfur clouds coming from the vents.
me at the boulders. feeling ninja ulit!
I noticed Red Simon (our porter) picking berries from a bush, and then he ate it. It captured my curiosity, of course, so I did the same. Not bad, the berry actually tastes nice, so I picked some more, and hoarded some for trail food.

the sweet tasting berries.
From the boulders, we reached the so called "Boracay" of Mt. Apo. Yup, you read it right, a spot in Mt. Apo is named after the famous island beach. Well, aside from the white but not so powdery sand of the place, nothing else link it to the real Boracay. There's a flat ground so we rested.

At 10 AM, we reached Boracay. We had 10-minute break here before continuing to the final leg of the day's trek.
While resting at the sands of Boracay, Arj told me that the summit campsite is no more than hour of away. Awesome! bigla tuloy akong ginanahan mag-trek. After a 10 minute break, we excitedly carried on with our trek.

The day's final leg was a steep ascending trail, with probably 60° to 70° inclination. Trekking through it was not that easy as the ground was full of loose, small to medium-sized rocks thus establishing a good footing was a challenge. And in some parts, we needed to scramble. This challenging final leg, which lasted for roughly 20 minutes on a gradual pace, eventually brought us to the lake. According to them, this lake is the old crater of Mt. Apo.

we passed by this lake, believed to be Mt. Apo's old volcanic crater.
the lake was just knee-deep, so ok lang mag-tampisaw-tampisaw, at mag ninja-ninjahan
When it began to drizzle, the three of us left the lake and hurriedly trekked to the campsite which by then was just a stone's throw away.

By 11 AM, familiar sightings came about. There's the grotto where we stayed last time, the bushes where we hid from the battering cold winds, the rock where I rested and shivered, Ah! Summit campsite at last! Then more memories from our hike six months past flashed back nagbalik lahat na parang kahapon lang nangyari.

the campsite once again. Parang kahapon lang nandito kami, lamig na lamig na parang mga basang sisiw.
Now that we reached the campsite, our first agenda was to find a good spot to set up our camp. But even before we get started, rain poured down. Arrggh! So we hastily walked towards the mini cave-like grotto and temporarily stayed there while the rain was wrecking again my Apo climb.

We thought the sky would cry briefly, but it lasted longer than expected. So for the mean time, we just had lunch inside our mini cave.

the cave-like grotto, our home for like an hour or so.
After the rain, fog fell down upon the whole campsite. Lalong nadudurog ang pangarap kong makakita ng clearing.

a heart-breaking scene.
Once our camp was up. The three of us, hiding from the chilling winds, just stayed inside the tent. There, we rested, cooked food, then rested again. Wala masyadong magawa.

At around 1:30 PM, we went outside to check if it's still very foggy. Surprisingly, it's not. I saw, for the first time in 2 days, a blue sky. Nabuhayan ako ng loob, looks like I'll still be able to witness the elusive Mt. Apo summit clearing.

Blue sky after 2 days of cloudy weather.. but not for long.
But happiness did not last long, after only a short 30 minutes, dark clouds once again passed by, and this time accompanied by so much heavy rain, so heavy that it almost flooded inside our tent. Waaahhh!! Mt. Apo was playing with my emotions. haha. The rain did not stop until night time.

As day 2 nears its end, I prayed for a summit clearing for the next day. Sana talaga, sana lang tlga!

Day 3 - August 17, 2013

I woke up at 5 in the morning the following day, and straight from my comforter, I went out to check my luck. To my surprise, there were stars! Clearing!!!

The Highest Summit

Thrilled and excited, I, together with Arj, marched up the summit of Mt. Apo even if the sun hasn't risen up yet. Honestly, it was one of the most exciting happenings of my life. At long last, I will finally see the most coveted summit view of Mt. Apo.

approaching the highest peak, with my friend Arj
I only prayed for a summit clearing, but the Creator gave me this, a majestic sea of clouds.
fellow mountaineers on the other side of the peak.
When we reached the peak, my jaw dropped and I've become so speechless. Certainly a hindi-ako-makapaniwala moment! I couldn't keep myself from not staring at the breath taking view. I was totally captivated. Oh, I am at the roof of the Philippines.

that's me folks! standing at the roof.
Mt. Matutum spotted
Time ran so fast that morning. I did not notice, it's already past 6 AM. And as mush as I wanted to stay there forever, I can't. I have to be back in Davao so I could prepare for my next journey. After all, I am already done with my goal, successful and with perks. Happiness was overflowing.

By 07:30 AM, soon after finishing breakfast, we started prepping up for our descent.  We will back trail to Kapatagan so the view and trail we experienced in the past 2 days is pretty much the same. And besides, I've already descended Kidapawan Trail before so I'm not too keen on doing it again this time for a traverse.

But before we went down, we had one final look at the summit.

Standing at 2,956 masl
This is how the Philippines looks like from it's roof.
The weather was way much better than what we had when we're ascending, so I was able to document again the trail, fogless and with blue sky.  

the crater lake of Mt. Apo as seen from above
Through the boulders once more. Samal Island also captured (upper left).
the mossy forest of Kapatagan Trail
the farm fields of Kapatagan, we're almost done!
we passed by this potato farmer. andaming patatas!
The speedy descent brought us back to Sitio Paradise by 12 noon, it took us a total of 4 hours to descend from the summit back to Sitio Paradise, and we're just right in time for lunch. This too, marks the end of my Mt. Apo adventure, awesomely great!

From Sitio Paradise, we traveled back to Digos City, of course on a habal-habal. It was butt-numbing, but totally enjoyable.  

Had to ride habal-habal again, and catch the bus at Digos City!

Mt. Apo via Kapatagan-Boulders, mission accomplished!


My big thanks to Arj Seron of Angtad Mountaineers for helping me out in this memorable redemption climb! I owe you this! My big thanks too to Red Simon, our porter for this climb, hardkor!

After Mt. Apo, I flew to CDO city and traveled to Camiguin Island to, again, climb mountains. Follow the story of my Camiguin Island Adventure in this link.


  1. It baffles me how you manage to shoot like pictures this with just a digicam. Cheers!

    1. that's the catch. I managed to shoot pictures like these because I'm using a digicam.. :)

  2. 4 thumbs up sir(kasama paa). hehe. What a wondeful view of Mt Apo. Bihira lang makuhanan ang Mt Apo with a clear view. Thankyou For inspiring us. Nabasa ko lahat ng Blogs mo about mountains. and i wish maakyat ko din cla soon. Sama ako minsan sa mga Akyat mo. Keep Rockin. God Bless.

  3. The experience you had and the pictures you took really moved and inspired me. Lalo na dun sa start ng day 3, nangilabot talaga ako na nakisama ang panahon and you were able to appreciate those awesome views! Awesome experience indeed, saludo!

  4. I hope our hikers and mountain climbers are taught or even required to bring back (discards and waste) what they brought in (their supplies, etc.) instead of leaving them in the mountain. Nakakagalit talaga to see Nature violated.

  5. question po.. hindi nmn po sarado ang kapatagan trail? meron po bang month na nagssara ang trail n yan? thank you


  6. pahabol na question po... anytime in August ba ok lang po n magclimb? thank you ng marami!


    1. it depends, weather nowadays is very unpredictable.. bsta ok ang weather ok umakyat sa Mt. Apo

  7. hi there just a few question pls..are you able to give me the cost of the climb pls and are you a single climber or in a group thanks

  8. hi just few question how much does it cost you for the climb if your a single climber..thanks

    1. Yes I climbed this solo, but with a guide and a porter. It costs around 7k, covered the guide, porter, and food for 3 days. It also covered the necessary fees, and transpo to and from the jump-off

  9. hi sir, do have any contact details of your guide/friend?

  10. Hi, great and informative post. Planning as well to climb solo. Do you have contact details for Arj please..thanks

    1. Hi, feel free to contact him through this number: 09123740018. Let him know you got this number from this blog. Good luck.

  11. Thumbs up for your photos.. Showing how majestic Mt. Apo is.. For those who are interested to join Mt.Apo Summer Camp 2018, you can click for more informations and explore more outdoor events.



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