When George Leigh-Mallory was bombarded with questions on why he climbed mountains such as Mount Everest, the only thing he said was “Because it’s there!” Aside from stating the obvious, it does seem natural for climbing enthusiasts like him to wake up excited to conquer any mountains in their paths. We learned from our geography, Philippine history, and science classes that Mt. Apo is the highest volcano/mountain in the Philippines. The urge to go up Mount Apo was intensified when I had a chance to work in Mindanao where the volcano can be found. Luckily, my colleagues and friends felt the same way.
In July 2008, me along with my friends and colleagues left Cagayan De Oro on board a bus that took us to Kidapawan City, the capital city of North Cotabato. We arrived in Kidapawan terminal at around 6 AM, boarded a van and then, a single motor that brought us to Sitio Agko, Barangay Ilomavis, our starting point.
After lunch at Tony’s old porter’s house, we set out again at 10 minutes past 12 using one of the trails that would go around hot springs, fumaroles and Marbel River, the largest river draining Mount Apo in Cotabato. Our first stop was a bunkhouse seating amidst a forest where we planned to spend the first night.
The sun was setting fast and we wanted to reach the campsite near Lake Venado before it became too dark and make the path treacherous to trek on.
It was already getting dark after a short stop in Ko-ong campsite. We couldn’t see the trail clearly anymore so we had to use our head lamps and flash lights. One scary incident happened to me: my lamp’s batteries were draining fast such that my lamp casted faint light on my path and flickered a lot. With the sun sinking at the horizon, I couldn’t see clearly around me so I didn’t realize that I was trekking on a narrow ledge between two very steep and very deep ravines where landslides had apparently occurred in the past. My right foot slipped over one of the roots on a boulder where trees were growing out. My feet were suddenly suspended on a cliff side with my hands hanging on to tree roots! I was hanging on for a few seconds with my feet trying to find another piece of rock for footing. I found it and jumped into the trail safely. I was shaken by the incident especially after being told by Jonel, our porter, that a Caucasian climber fell down the same spot a few years back whose body was never recovered. We decided to rest for close to half an hour.
Our porter Jonel, a native of Sitio Agko lighted a bonfire for us since our hands had gone numb and our bodies shivered from the cold despite the jackets and head scarves. We waited for two other friends to arrive before we set out again. At the end of that cliff side where I almost fell was yet another level of vertical cliff of about 20 meters high that we had climb up. Tony and Jonel used the rope to help us climb the rock, which we later found out out to be a former landslide area. For the first time during the climb, I felt that I couldn’t climb anymore and had probably stopped there if it weren’t for my friends’ persistence and help.
It was a full moon on the night I almost fell down a ravine.
After eleven hours of rock climbing, trekking and crossing rivers and creeks, we arrived at our first camp site called “The Bunkhouse” which was a “nipa” with GI sheet roof seated in the middle of a forest not far from the famous lake of Mt. Apo which is Lake Venado.
This was a photo taken of me after I screamed like a banshee because a small leech clamped its suckers at my foot. I hate leech especially the ones in the forest because they can be itchy as hell. Also, I never liked the idea of a small animal sucking my blood (hence, my paranoia over mosquitoes and bed bugs). Thankfully, my friends were able to successfully get one off me. We laughed at the overreaction I made over a tiny leech.
I was imagining that a headless horseman will come out of the trees when I took the picture above. It wasn’t often that you observe trees that form tunnel-like structure with their branches.
On the way to the peak of Mount Apo:
It got too cold whenever the fog was around us. It was hard fighting off the soporific effect the fog had that we succumbed to it a few times during the climb by taking power naps on top of flat boulders.
I love these berries!! These fruits are black and sweet when ripe and they grow on rocks or thin soils and are quite abundant around Mount Apo’s peak and crater. But one has to slow when eating these as they’re high in fiber which I found out the next day. Good thing we brought a shovel with us. Haha!
To the Crater!
Geologists that we are, we absolutely needed to visit one of the craters. To access the crater, one has to climb down the Rockies, the circular sloping terrain laden with large boulders.
We had to stop every once in a while when the sulfuric gas became too thick. The smell could get too overwhelming because of sulfur – which was akin to smell of rotten egg.
We spent the third night camping near Lake Venado. It got so cold, we decided to build a camp fire making sure that it was away from dry debris. We didn’t want to cause a forest fire. Our camp fire also looked like horsemen. Creepy.
It can be quite mesmerizing to see the fog literally float towards you from the lake, I literally run for my camera so take these snapshots. Boy, Mt. Apo sure was beautiful.
Flora and Fauna in Mount Apo
I’m not a biologist but I do appreciate the exotic plants and insects I saw in Mount Apo. I took these photos in case a biologist crosses this website and help me identify some of these for me.