A potentially active volcano located in the southern part of the Philippines, climbing Mt. Apo is perhaps every Filipino climber’s dream. It’s the highest mountain in the Philippines, with an elevation of 9,692 feet above sea level.
DIY vs Organized Climb Through Travel Agency
I have friends who have done it on their own. While you can basically do the same, I find it safer and more practical to join an organized climb through a travel agency. This can be an option for you too if (1) you don’t have extensive experience in hiking and (2) you’re a solo hiker (joining a scheduled trek is safer and more practical).
Mt. Apo Adventures is one of those travel and adventure companies offering organized treks for Mt. Apo.
For a little over $100 (PhP 5,000), I was able to secure a slot for a 3-day adventure for a Mt. Apo climb via the Kapatagan-Sibulan Sta. Cruz trail in 2016.
Inclusive in the rate are the transportation fee from Davao City (where I’m from), climbing permit, climb certificate, exit fee, guide fee, food for the whole duration of the climb (breakfast, lunch, dinner), equipment rental (tent, sleeping bag, trekking pole, and mess kit), porter fee, and Mt. Apo souvenir t-shirt.
What to Prepare
A friend, who has trekked Mt. Apo in several occasions, once told me that you need to prepare yourself physically for this adventure. It’s not a day hike and definitely, not for the faint-hearted. Hence, to physically prepare yourself for this adventure, it’s best to allot at least 30 minutes each day to walk or run. Learn how to do proper stretching to prevent leg cramps as this will be hours-long trek.
To be honest, I didn’t prepare much for the trek. I just made sure to walk as much as I can in most days of the week. The walks I did are usually ‘leisurely walks’ around a nearby mall; not enough but somehow, it helped.
Clothing, First-Aid, Etc.
Aside from physical preparation, it’s also important to prepare the right clothing which includes the right footwear and thermal wear.
My friends who have tried the trek told me that it’s going to be really cold especially in the morning and night. So, it’s best to equip yourself with the right clothes to keep you warm.
This is my first ‘major’ climb so I bought and borrowed some basic hiking stuff a few days before the trek.
Here’s a summary of the things I prepared for this climb:
- Bonnet – borrowed
- Gloves – borrowed
- Thermal jacket – borrowed
- Fleece jacket
- Long-sleeve top (actually it’s a rashguard)
- Extra tops
- Water-resistant hiking pants
- Extra pants
- Good quality (and breathable) hiking shoes
- 3 pairs of socks
- Malong which serves as my extra blanket
- Camera (a basic point-and-shoot camera)
- Nokia phone (a basic text/call phone with a battery life of 2-3 days)
- 2L of bottled water
- Trail snacks (nuts, seeds, some chocolates)
- Water bottle
- Toiletries (wet wipes, deodorant, lotion, body wash, mosquito repellent)
- First-aid kit including Ibuprofen
There was a briefing session a day before the climb. Albert, the organizer of the trek facilitated the orientation. We were basically informed on what to expect before, during, and after the trek. He added that if the weather is favorable, we can witness beautiful sunrise and sunset at the peak.
It was also during this orientation that we handed our medical certificate.
Day 1 of the trek is basically a ‘warm up.’ You will be walking for hours, mostly under shaded areas. Leg cramps can be a challenge so stretch before the start of the hike.
There were 6 of us in this climb. I’m joining three people from Singapore and two from Cebu.
I met the group at around 5:30 A.M. Our tour guide Roy gave us another orientation about the hike. At about 6 A.M., we were led to a vehicle that took us to our jump-off point.
We reached Kapatagan at around 7:30 A.M. We met up with our porters and had a quick breakfast in a nearby carenderia. It’s a simple local eatery serving basic Filipino meals. There’s a store just across this eatery where you can buy snacks, bottled water, and over-the-counter medications.
The starting point of the hike is just 30-minutes away from this place. It’s a short but bumpy ride, passing several banana plantations, unpaved roads, and a small town.
The first few hours of the trek was fairly easy but exhausting. At this point, you don’t need to bring out your jacket as you’ll surely end up in sweatjust minutes after the start of the hike (unless of course if it rains).
There will be mini-breaks all throughout the duration of the hike. Part of the amount you paid is the rental fee for a trekking pole, which is very handy especially for those with ‘weak’ knees.
It’s not too long when we reached the Tinikaran Campsite (we reached it around 2 P.M.). It’s where we pitched our tent and had our lunch.
Day 2 is probably the challenging part of the hike as you’ll go through boulders. This can be the fun part too as trail is way different from the one you had in Day 1. Make sure to have your mask and cap/hat handy as the sulfuric smell can be so strong and it can get so hot (no shade for hours!).
When we woke up around 6 A.M., our guide and porters had already made our breakfast (yes, the perks of an organized tour!). After an hour or so of breakfast and preparing our things, we started our hike again.
Unlike day 1, day 2 is more challenging. It’s the part when we have to go through the boulders, deal with the strong sulfuric smell from time to time, and walk for hours without shade. However, this is one of the best parts of the hike too. It provides you a one-of-a-kind view of the mountain.
We reached our campsite at around 2 P.M.
We pitched our tent before heading to the summit to witness the beautiful sunset (tip: wear your thermal wear as it starts getting cold in the afternoon).
We had a sumptuous dinner before calling it a day.
Day 3 is the last day of the hike. They say it’s the easiest part but not for me as I endured severe knee pain for the last few hours of the hike.
Some of us woke up earlier than the usual on day 3 to capture the sunrise. This is one thing you shouldn’t miss especially if you’re blessed with a very good weather (make sure to have your camera ready!).
We started our descent a few hours after breakfast. It’s fairly easy except that I started having knee pain. It feels more painful with each step, making this day as the most challenging part of the trek for me.
Even if we need to cover the total distance we walked for 2 days in 1 day alone, day 3 seems to be more relaxed compared to the first two. It’s probably because we already know what to expect on the trails.
We finally reached our jump-off point at around 3 P.M. It was an exhausting trek (need to ask for assistance on the last part as the knee pain is unbearable with each step) but definitely fun!
Is climbing Mt. Apo worth it?
Even if you don’t consider yourself as a ‘climber’ or an outdoorsy-type of person, climbing Mt. Apo is an adventure you shouldn’t miss (if you have the opportunity).
It’s normal to feel anxious at the start but know that if others can do it, so can you! Just don’t forget to bring elastic bandage for the knee pain (just in case!) 🙂