Climbing the highest peak in the Philippines has been a dream for me. On the first weekend of 2019, I achieved this dream.
But to be honest, I’m not much of a mountain person. I wanted to climb it just to test my limits. It always feels gratifying to discover how I’m actually capable of enduring and exceeding my perceived limits when it comes to my physical aptitude. When I succeed in doing so, it motivates me to do well in other aspects of life. It makes me think, if I’m able to beat my fears and perceived limits by pushing myself to go further, I can probably perform the same in other aspects of life, e.g. in my studies or work.
With my younger brother Keith and law school classmate Zil, I conquered The Mt. Apo. Our 3-day grueling journey began from January 3 to January 5, 2019.
The Stories Behind
4:00 am – Departure from Davao City
7:00 am – Arrival at Bansalan Market, Bansalan, North Cotabato
7:30 am – Habal habal (motorcycle) ride to Sitio Balitakay
8:00 am – Arrival at Sitio Balutakay / Gathered the (3) porters and divided our things among them
9:30 am – Start of Trek (From Sitio Balutakay to Camp Ubo – with lots of rest in between!)
12nn – Lunch / Rest / Nap in a hut
1 pm – Start of Trek (From a hut to Camp Ubo)
3 pm – Arrival at Camp Ubo; Pitched tent; Prepared for dinner
7 pm – Sleeping Time
4 am – Wake Up Call / Porters and guides preparing our breakfast / Pack up
6:30 am – Start of the trek (Lake Ma’ag Camp)
11:00 am – Stop over at Lake Jordan (The Peak is getting nearer yet still so far).
12nn – Arrival at DENR bunkhouse near Lake Ma’ag /Settled for the rest of the night / Roamed around the area / Played games / Porters and guides prepared our dinner
7 pm – Sleeping Time
12 am – Wake Up Call
12:30 am – Start of the trek (to the peak!)
5 am – We reached the peak of Mt. Apo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
6:10 am – Transfer to the other peak
6:30 am – Arrival to the other peak (overlooking Lake )
7 am – Rested on the ground of the peaks / Breakfast. It took us long to leave the area because I lost my drone. We had to search for it for hours but to no avail.
10 am – Descend
12nn – Back in the Lake Ma’ag camp for lunch and nap
2 pm – Start of trek going back to Bansalan
3:30 pm – Stopover at Camp Bubo
6 pm – Arrival on the ground
After a series of inquiry about the climb, we were connected with Glench Rabino, a certified guide and climber in Mt. Apo. We immediately booked a climb with him and set the date on January 3-5, 2019.
Despite my finals exams in December, I regularly worked out and enrolled in a spinning class to build endurance. I seriously recommend this so as not to shock the body during the climb and to also make the climb enjoyable for being less exhausting.
Mt. Apo has seven trails. We took the Bansalan Trail.
IT’S THE CLIMB
Our very supportive dad drove us all the way from Davao to Bansalan, Davao del Sur. We left at 4 am and arrived at Bansalan Market at 6:30 am.
There were two groups, each composed of three ‘tourists,’ one guide, and 1 porter who will carry our belongings at a maximum of 15 kg including the food and cooking materials our guide brought. But we added another porter shared by the two teams since each of our porters cannot carry all our belongings. (Another 600 per day for an additional porter)
We began with trekking past 9 am. It lasted until lunch time when we reached a hut where we ate lunch and had a half an hour nap. Note that there is no cellular signal during the entire climb.
We trekked again a little after 1 pm and reached our first camp, Camp Ubo.
We set up our tents for the night while our guide and porters prepared a legit sumptuous dinner.
We were surprised to have served with home-cooked meals, including a steaming tinolang manok!, since we were only expecting canned goods and cupped noodles. Haha.
While we enjoyed the dinner, it dawned upon us that there wasn’t any toilet around. Geared only with our headlamps, we had to look for an area we deemed safe for peeing / pooping. Since it was almost night time and in anticipation of the cooler temperature, I controlled my water intake to survive the entire night without needing to search for ‘the ground’ in the middle of the forest in pitch darkness. With layers of clothes with a fleece jacket, gloves, bonnet, eye mask, and sleeping bag, I survived the night. But despite my layers of clothing, it was still so cold. And I blame it on our cheap tent without insulation. Lesson learned, definitely invest a good tent with insulation.
Our guide served us with another extraordinary (in the context of what I expected to eat in mountains) meal for breakfast. 😄
After cleaning up the area, we brought all our trashes with us and placed them in a black garbage bag carried by one of the porters. Apparently, it is a policy imposed on the porters and guides to bring and present the trashes to the community on the ground after the climb. Thus, a trash bag is a must-bring.
You might wonder where we sourced our water. We get them fresh from natural springs!
There was one which was only a few meters away from the camp. Before we began our trail, my brother and I filled our 5 water bottles (1 liter, ½ liter, and three Gatorades) good for the day’s trek. We had to wisely consume them enough to sustain us during the arduous trek and maybe for the rest of the day.
We only trekked half day on the 2nd day.
We passed by Lake Jordan and got a clearer and closer view of the peak.
With our guide, kuya Glench.
By lunchtime, we arrived in DENR’s bunkhouse which is few meters away from Lake Ma’ag.
The bunkhouse was empty and so we used it than pitching tents. It has three rooms – the two rooms have a double deck bed frame. It also has a kitchen area.
We were rewarded with pork chop, chicken wings, and soup for lunch!
We spent the rest of the day roaming around the area.
We visited Late Ma’ag and had sunset viewing in an area overlooking the peak of the mountain and Lake Jordan. It was so recharging.
The bunkhouse has a toilet a few meters from it. But for bathing, there’s “poso.” And speaking of bathing, I had no bathe during the entire climb. Haha. I didn’t want to because the water was as cold as the temperature, I might not recover from the freezing. Lol.
Our guides and porters prepared kaldereta and sinigang, just what we needed to prepare for the last battle. Ha ha.
We slept as early as 6 pm and woke up at 12 midnight to catch the sunrise view from the summit.
We began trekking at 1:30 am, geared with headlights, food, water, cameras, and emergency kit. We left the rest of our stuff in the bunkhouse guarded by two porters.
I wore 4 layers of clothes. Two socks; heat-tech leggings, gym leggings, and thick pajamas; heat-tech long sleeves, heat-tech turtle neck long sleeves, long sleeves, and fleece jacket.
One of the hardest parts for me in this climb was when we were at the peak already. But yay we made it!
We reached the peak a little past 5 am, right in time for the sunrise. It was extremely windy that I felt like anything I carry would fly, including myself!
Alas, it was all worth it! The view was as majestic as how I expected. Thank you, God, for the safe ascend and for the opportunity to let me witness your awestruck creations.
We stayed in the summit for an hour. We trekked to the other peak for 30 minutes.
The peak is overlooking the boulders of Mt. Apo and the crater of sulfur deposits and vents.
When we got there, I was surprised to have seen a number of climbers because all along, we didn’t encounter any climbers during our ascend.
After spending 30 minutes in that peak, we descended to the ground in between the two peaks. Other climbers rested and had breakfast in that area too. While our breakfast was being prepared by kuya Glench, we explored the area.
I flew my drone here after our breakfast. Tragically, my drone was blown away by the heavy winds. We looked for it in the area for more than an hour but to no avail.
During our descent going back to the bunkhouse, we followed its location from my phone’s dji gps and discovered that it’s been thrown in a rocky area, which obviously requires rock climbing. It was such a hassle for the team because there’s this part where kuya Glench, the porter, and I climb to the location while the rest of the team waited for us below. I was left in the middle of the climb because it was getting steeper and scarier to climb.
For over an hour, I went back to the ground and the team decided to continue descending without kuya Glench and the porter.
Back at the bunkhouse, we prepared our stuff and had lunch. Right in time when we were about to leave the bunkhouse at 2 pm, kuya Glench and the porter arrived…without the drone. But I was honestly not worried about the drone. I was only worried about kuya Glench and the porter. I couldn’t imagine how the hunt for my drone will cost their safety.
After a very long and tiring descend, we reached the ground a little past 6 pm. My dad and my tita Vivian were already waiting to fetch us. *Sobs* Their moral support was so overwhelming. <3
THINGS TO BRING:
- Eye mask
- Inner clothes
- Arms sleeves!!!
- Face towel
- Towel to cover face against the sunlight because the cap was not enough. Haha.
- Tent (highly recommends an insulated one)
- Sleeping bag
- Trash bag
- Energy bars / Snickers. My brother and I had 3 snickers each(once a day). It was so helpful to my brother during our last ascent.
- Gatorade. We brought three bottles of Gatorade and consumed one every day. I think
- Kitchen utensils (insulated cup for coffee; water bottle; spoon and fork; food storage)
- Hygiene kit
1,000 per head – registration fee
4,500 (1,500 per day) per group – guide fee
1,800 (600 per day) per group – porter (15 kg max)
1,800 per group – additional porter fee since we hired another porter (we divided this expense with the other group)
4,000 (per group) – food for three days; good for the team
1,000 – tip for the guide and our porter