It’s truly an adventure I’d never forget and one that I’d surely go back to. Words could not explain the feeling I had after I reached the summit. I couldn’t even imagine for one second that for once in my life, I’ve stood at the highest point of the Philippines.
(Here’s the short clip for our Mt. Apo Expedition –> Mt. Apo Expedition)
So what went on during our climb?
Our first day at Davao City was all about preparing. We stayed in a dormitel, where I got to talk to a local who’s so proud and all congratulatory already that we’re climbing Mt. Apo. We bought foods for the three-day climb, water supply and some stuff that we forgot to bring (I forgot to bring a jacket and my neck pillow, ugh).
:: First day of the hike ::
When the next day came around, at 3 am, we woke up and did last minute checking of our things before checking out. The van that would take us to meet up point was waiting for us so we headed out once we’re all done. The ride to meet up point was at least two hours. I wasn’t so sure because I was asleep the whole ride.
At meet up point (which I forgot where), we had a quick breakfast and bought our lunch. Instead of a van, a truck picked us up to get to Mt. Apo proper. I was lucky enough to be sitting in the passenger seat because the road going to the mountain was not that smooth at all. Not at all. It was like an ocean with huge waves. Could you even imagine that scene in your head? I was really amazed with our driver on how could he maneuver in such a steep and rocky road.
By the time we got to the foot of the mountain, it was I think around 5 am (probably 6-ish). With last one call out, photo-ops and glance at the far view of Mt. Apo, we finally started to ascend. And to tell you, it was an assault right away. But just a short one.
When we got to Sitio Colan, we had time to take a break. From the start off point to Sitio Colan, my mind was already shouting in my head on why was I doing it again? Instead of me carrying my bag, it was like my bag was carrying me. It was hot and exhausting right away, and for one second, I asked myself, why would I do such a thing like hiking? At this point, our bags were being weighted to check if we could manage to bring it up or we needed a porter to help us out. When I put my bags on the weighing scale, I was surprised to find out that I was carrying a 10 kilogram backpack and a 3 kilogram drawstring, a total of 13 kilogram. It was around my safe weight to carry because they said that our bags should only weigh 20% of our total body weight. But it was still heavy. There was a short reminders from the registration area about the do’s and dont’s and after that, we headed on.
At Sitio Tumpis, we took photos and ate a few snacks. After this point, the real hike began. There were assaults and some parts were muddy. Yours truly had the chance to actually glide on them, and my left butt was hurt. One of our guide was kind enough to carry my drawstring.
The only difference the Apo trail had with other mountains I hiked was we’re so chill. No one’s rushing and everyone was just taking it slow. We had the time on our hands and you wouldn’t worry about being the last in the group who needed to catch up with everybody else. We got to enjoy the trail, take pictures and even share stories of our own.
We were scheduled to arrive at Tinirakan Camp 1 at 4 pm, but to our amazement, we got there at 1 pm — 3 hours early. The downside of being early? We had so much time we didn’t know what to do. We chose to camp, raked the leaves and set up tents. When everything was in place and we’re relaxing, it was then that I realized how slow the time was. I did everything, from checking my stuff, looking at some of the photos I took, taking some photos again, changing clothes… the time was still slow. I tried getting a nap but I failed because I kept on checking my watch to see if it’s dark already.
We had dinner at 7 pm, which was cooked by one of our guides. When I was done, I got out of the tent with my camera to check if there were stars. And there were! I didn’t get any shot of them though because our area were covered with leafy trees and all I could do was stare at their beauty. Most of us were already asleep but only it was around 9 pm when I decided to call it a night. Since I wasn’t so tired at all, I couldn’t get to sleep right away. I watched a movie then after it, I listened to slow music to help me with it.
:: Second day of the hike ::
We woke up at 3 am to get ready. This day was scheduled to get to summit and it’s the day to be excited. We had breakfast and lucky for us, we didn’t have to bring our heavy bags. We just needed to pack some trail food, water, some stuffs we needed and that’s it. It was hard at first because we started when it was still dark and I was like blind to darkness. At one point, I slipped and my right shoe got wet. Yikes. There were muddy trails, the easy ones and then the assault. The assault was not just any assault. We actually had to hold on to roots or rocks. I didn’t know for others but that was how I did it. But it was fun.
Since our hike was at the Boulder face, we had to hike this huge pile of big rocks to get to the other side. They were not just any huge pile of big rocks, it was a mountain of huge rocks with sulfur everywhere. At this point, I had a few moments to enjoy the sunrise. And dare I said, it was a wonderful view. It was breathtaking and still at this point, I had that view in my head. The boulder face was almost a two-hour climb. I didn’t rush to everyone who were leading because it was hard, really hard. I just took it slow, one rock at a time and enjoyed the view at the same time. I was not alone of course, I had companies that I talked to about random things.
When we reached the area where they called it White Sand, they said that the summit was near by then. It was the exciting part.
We had time to relax and regroup before we began to climb the steep trail going to the summit. The guides said that it would only take at least 30 minutes to summit. Judging by how my pace was, I think at least 45 minutes, 1 hour was the maximum.
At around 11:35 am, at 10,311 feet, we finally reached the highest point in the Philippines. The weather was good. The view was magnificent — there were sea of clouds and there were clearings for us to see the mountain ranges. I never said this to anyone else but I actually felt crying at that time. After all the mountains I reached and conquered, I never thought of getting it by far in reaching the highest mountain of my own country. It was still surreal and I would surely go back because one was not enough.
Going back to Camp 1 was a bit hard for me since we had to pass by again the boulders and the muddy trail. I was one of the last one to get back to camp but it’s okay since it’s only 4 pm and we didn’t have much time to do for the remainder of the time but to just relax, take it all in that we reached the summit and enjoy the company of others, because the next day would be the last day of our hike.
:: Third day of hike ::
We were all ready to go down at 5 am. With our bags stuffed and full, we finally made our way to descend. It was quiet and fast at first and I thought I could keep up at that pace. That was only at the beginning, because I slipped again. So I took it slow and accurate. Besides, it’s didn’t take long. Before we knew it, we were already reaching Sitio Tumpis again.
We rested and ate our food, did some deed for the others since there were no comfort rooms up in the mountain and just relax. The day had just began but we’re ending our hike on a happy and successful note.
When we got back to the foot of the mountain, we took our successful photo group. Our certificates were handed to us. And we just got together, everyone of us. When we were driven back to the meet up point, we said our thank yous and see you again to each other. The other groups and our guides were telling us that they were going to visit Mt. Pulag and telling us if we could go with them too, like a continuation of the camaraderie that we started. We said our yeses and we’d meet again.
It was the experience of a lifetime I’d surely never forget. I wouldn’t trade it for anything else. When I got the chance, I would go back again. One time was not enough. Making it twice would be amazing. And who knew? Maybe twice was still not enough.
From the highest point of the Philippines to the bottom of my heart, I thank everyone who believed in me and for giving me enough courage to do it. Maybe you’d like to join me when I come back?