Mt. Apo: at the rooftop of the Philippines (last of 2 parts)

Mt Apo trek - Lake Venado

Part 1 of the series here.

Aside from taking the mandatory jumpshots, there are so many things you can do at the top of Mt. Apo. You could explore its old crater lake or hop from one peak to the the other. But best of all, you would be treated to a visual smorgasbord of various mountains and islands in Mindanao.

The nearest that can be seen are Mt. Talomo and Lake Venado. The Davao Gulf and Samal Island is on the southeast portion while South Cotabato’s Mt. Matutum is on the southwest. Bukidnon’s Kitanglad mountain range is also faintly recognizable on the northwest horizon.

Mt Apo trek - at the peak

Mt Apo trek - breakfast at the peak

Mt Apo trek - crowded campsite

I must say that it was an exhilarating feeling to experience all these one Saturday a few years back. The long walk we did the previous day was worth the view at the top. But we still have miles to go before we sleep and many, many miles at that indeed. We have to hike our way back to the real world via the Kidapawan trail. Our next stop would be Lake Venado, which looked so near but it was surprisingly not.

 

Day 3 – Change of trail

We started our descent at around 10:00 AM and reached the lake almost 4 hours later. The trail going down was very muddy due to the yesterday’s downpour. Each of us had to be extra careful lest we slip with just one miscalculated step.

Mt Apo trek - descent via Sibulan

Trickles of rain also began to fall when we were halfway down which made some portions of the trail look like my favorite moist chocolate cake. On the brighter side, the sun was not scorching hot which would probably present a different challenge as well.

When our group assembled at Venado, our master trail guide Jezer Paro, presented to us another option: the longer Sibulan trail. He was then worried if we could beat the cut-off times along Kidapawan and make it in time too for our respective return flights on Sunday.

Mt Apo trek - at Lake Venado
courtesy of T. Abrenica.

We learned that the wooden ladders at Agko were removed days earlier which meant the hikers would have to go around those points. The steep trail was said to be more difficult than what we just went through in going down Venado. Our group unanimously decided that at this point, we would not risk our safety for that kind of adventure.

By 3:00 PM, we started our descent via the Sibulan trail. The trail has manageable descents and for the most part, we walked on level ground. It was also a very pleasant detour since the forests at Sibulan were very pristine. We saw lichens, mushrooms and wild orchids along the trail.

There have been reported sightings of the Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga Jefferyi) in the area, but we saw none of the magnificent bird that time. We also passed by the towering Almaciga Century Tree which seemingly extends to the heavens since we could not see its top from where we were standing.

Mt Apo trek - along Sibulan trail

We also had to cross over a long log in two occasions, so as we could reach the other side of a river. In the absence of logs, we crossed many rivers by foot starting from Sitio Garok to Sitio Colan and finally to Sitio Baroring. Unfortunately, we forgot to take pictures of all these wonderful sights and stops. It was also raining when we were in the rain forest so it would be idiotic for us to take out our non-waterproof cameras under that condition. I guess we were also in a hurry to make it at the earliest time possible to our pick-up point at Barangay Sta. Cruz.

 

Day 4 – Exhaustion began to set in

Darkness set in sooner than we expected. But this was compensated by the symphonies of the forest – rushing river, nighttime bird calls and buzzing crickets. The rain stopped and it was quite poetic to see the stars amidst the treetop silhouettes.

Mt Apo trek - along Sibulan
courtesy of C. Lopez

Since I could only see what was illuminated in front by my headlamp, I lost count of the times that I slipped and fell on my sides, on my back and upfront. However, I did master the technique of ‘gliding’ through slippery trails. In some cases though, we just chose to slid down which brought us faster at the bottom.

Mt Apo trek - exhaustion along the trail
courtesy of T. Abrenica.

But we could only enjoy ourselves too much. It was already around 2:00 AM when we reached Sitio Colan. By this time too, much of our strength were already spent after more than 12 hours of walking. But I reminded myself that I must not sustain any leg or ankle sprain, as injuries of this kind would be an inconvenience not only for me but for the group as well. After one tired yet careful step after the other, the forest landscape slowly gave way to abaca plantations and finally to the familiar farmlands of Sitio Baroring.

Mt Apo trek - back at our multicab
courtesy of T. Abrenica.

It was around 4:30 AM when we made it to our 4×4 multicab. All I could remember next was stopping by a holding area to get our climb certificates and to sign 2 logbooks. By the time we woke up, we were already at Jezer’s residence. After washing up and taking a sumptuous breakfast, we finally said goodbyes to our small party, to the Climp Apo crew, and to the mountain as well.

 

Our Mt. Apo adventures may have already ended but we brought with us soiled clothes and shoes, 4 GB worth of pictures and an experience we could never forget. The Philippine’s highest mountain did not only surprise me in our ascent or challenge the durability of our Merrells or North Faces along the way. It also tested the capability of our hearts to embrace surprises and then endure each until the very end.

 

Our previous Climp Apo operator is no longer in business. However, there are many outfitters who can provide all-in packages – tent, meals, fees and even airport transfers.

Digos is an hour or so away from Francisco Bangoy/Davao International Airport (IATA: Davao).

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