Conquering PH’s highest

On a plane to Davao and until we reached the jump-off point of Mount Apo, I still could not believe I was climbing the highest mountain in the Philippines. I had just sustained a slight back injury from a bad fall a week earlier and the day before the climb I was unsure If I was going to make it. I went to a doctor to seek clearance as well as the medicine to kill the pain. On Saturday afternoon, after I filed my stories for the day, I found myself on a plane to Davao, excited about the three-day climb.

One question after our backbreaking climb was “Was it easy?” Of course not! At least for me. It is the highest mountain of the country, with an elevation of 2,954 meters above sea level. But everyone can do it with enough amount of physical preparation. Most of us were beginners, except Dexter who has been climbing mountains almost every weekend since time immemorial. For Marianne, a half-French, half-Pinay fellow journalist who was with us, Mount Apo was her third mountain. So she was literally cursing in French every ascent and descent. As for me, I had prepared for it a little. Having been doing yoga for a few months then, and doing 50 squats every other morning, I thought I could do it. But in the end, the preparations I did were not enough to make it like a walk in the park.

We took the Kapatagan-Kadapawan Trail which other mountaineers would opt to do in four days. But for some reason, we had it only for three days. Just imagine how we had to rush all the time. Some of our guides even asked us to limit the time we spend for taking pictures. My suggestion is if you are not sure of the pace of the entire group, make it four days so you’d enjoy the scenery even more. You will be there to enjoy the nature, the peace and the quiet first and foremost and not just to break your precious bones. Hah!

From the Ecoland terminal in Davao, we took a bus to Digos City. At the public market, each pair of us mounted a habal-habal, a motorbike which is one of the few means of transportation that can manage the rough hilly terrains. Our bags were strapped on both sides of the motorbike while Marianne and I had to squeeze ourselves next to the driver. We haven’t started yet and we thought our lives were already in danger as the motorbike rumbled through narrow muddy path.

We let out a sigh of relief when we reached the Mainit jump-off point.  We paid P360 each for the whole ride.
It took us two days to reach the summit. Along the way on our first day were muddy trails, steep slopes and long long never-ending trek up and down. We reached the Godi Godi /Goody Goody camp at nightfall where we set up our tents and had a our dinner.  I was really too tired to enjoy the dinner. Please remember that at this point, the weather will be so cold. Be prepared with your thermals with thick thick socks and make sure they aren’t wet.

I woke up the next day with a lot of energy. Being in the middle of the beautiful forest with old trees and moss overgrowth on the first light of day was amazing. After breakfast, we broke camp and move upward. The second day was tougher as we had to climb the boulders and occasionally breathe sulfuric gas on the way up to the summit.

By the way, I hired a personal porter apart from the group porters who carried our food and other stuff. It was too impossible for me to carry a 3-kilogram tent all the way up to the summit. It cost me P1, 800 for the three-day climb. I thought at first it was a ripoff. But I didn’t mind it that much because the porters were really of good help to us. But if you can do away with a porter, much better.
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The boulders of Mt Apo. There was a point I wasn’t sure if my knees were shaking due exhaustion or because of fear of falling.
Before reaching the summit, I thought about baby steps, one step at a time. Counting my steps also helped me focus and take my attention away from exhaustion and fear.
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Day 3 challenge: River Crossing. The night is our enemy as it would be too dangerous to cross the rivers at nighttime. I would wish for more time to enjoy the streams and the amazing views along the trail.
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If there was one point I thought I was going to die, it was going down this slope destroyed by a landslide.
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Oh, that’s me enjoying the sea of clouds at the summit.
All the pain for this climb was worth it as I basked in the sight of the the crater lake of Mt Apo near its summit, the Lake Venado and the mountain’s mossy forests. Clearly, most of the beautiful things in this world are hard to get.
 We lodged at a dorm-type room of the Green Windows Dormitel on our last night in Davao. I went ahead of the group to check if there was space for us. As the crew was getting off the elevator, I had the good laugh of my life. I saw them in their muddy clothes, their bags loaded into a hotel trolley. They walked slowly, limping like they were the characters of ‘The Walking Dead.’

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