Climbing Mount APO
Our Mt APO summit bid, our 2nd major climb for this year 2013, was laid out as early as December of 2012 and was organized by our outgoing Club President, Teresa. The plan was simple really, get promo fares while enduring the 6 month wait, get some activities done for the club and, well, climb all the way to the summit and get back. Have fun and memories while doing so.
Saturday, Day 1
Rain almost didn’t make it because he fell asleep while waiting for the 3AM call time. Calling him didn’t work and we were now desperate and running out of ideas. With no other option in hand, we got on a cab and set out to pick him up even without knowing where his house was. So there we were, batang 90’s noisy and all, in C. Padilla with no idea which alley to take. It helped that daylight was just about break and that people were slowly starting their day. Of course it’s a bit unusual for people to look for someone at 4AM so we were polite all the way. Ohh, and we found Rain’s place in around 20 minutes.
Arriving at Davao Airport, we were greeted by our guides, Michael and Bentoy. Davao is a bummer place to be for smokers. We had breakfast and changed clothes while waiting for the rest, Ampao, Oding, Melvin and Dyan, who would arrive at 10AM. Weather had been overcast all morning but at least it didn’t rain as it did the previous days.
With their arrival, we departed for Digos City where we would buy our provisions, have late afternoon lunch, and leave some belongings with the grandparents of Bentoy. Digos has really bright yellow colored tricycles. Kind of reminds me of home where tricycles are colored red.
From Digos it was still another 2 hour of travel, now slowly climbing up to our Kapagatan jump-off. For the fun of it, and one of the more wilder aspects of mountaineering, Lara, Rain and myself got into the top of the jeepney and enjoyed the scenery from above. Almost arriving at Kapagatan, we were stopped by a caravan of trucks who couldn’t proceed because of the bad road condition ahead. 3rd world country being 4th world. But our guides had everything figured out being the amazing guides they are, they called their habal-habal contacts who then fetched us. From there it was all habal-habal until our jump-off. Afternoon was almost over though and and we would have to forgo of Camp 1.
We spent the night at the Paradise Campsite, roughly 45 minutes away from the jump-off and right after the wild habal-habal ride. It was a frigid evening courtesy of a drizzle which coldly welcomed us. Paradise was like a ghost town with everyone nestled cozily within their homes early in the evening. Lights were out as early as 9PM. We didn’t mind. Morale was high and dinner was something to look forward to. We had pork dished out adobo style, hot noodles and perfectly cooked rice. Credit to Ampao for the main course and the rice to our ever zealous guides who never seemed to run out of enthusiasm throughout the climb.
After our meal we huddled together at their mini stage, instead of taking our tents out, which amazingly accommodated everyone. We slept rather well and a badly needed one too since some of us only had an hour or two of sleep coming from graveyard work. I hope this is not going to be a habit.
Sunday, Day 2
We woke up early but couldn’t make it in time for our 5AM break-camp. It was a little overcast but Mt. APO was visible ahead, sulfur fumes reeking and the high summit. Breakfast consisted of corned beef, noodles and coffee which was ready by the time we woke up. We ate hastily, stretched out and took pictures. A prayer was also in place. A little afterward we headed out. It was 6 in the morning and the start of a long day ahead.
A couple of minutes further Lara started complaining about her stomach which bothered her immensely forcing her to lag behind the group. She would later take it out at Mother Nature behind a bush, giggles and all, a big smile afterwards. Right after, she was back to her pacing and we were off again on our merry painful way.
We stuck to a unagreed agreement of 2-3 minute only rests and everyone obliged, except Lara who would groan before Bentoy could turn to look. She did get what she wanted at some point which we took as an opportunity to feast on our trail-snacks. I think another reason why the quick breaks work is because the longer you rested, the colder it got making you feel very uncomfortable.
The uphill climb was long but nothing too grueling. Technical at some point through felled logs, over and under them but enjoyable still the same. At times we would get a view of the summit and later lose it to the forest foliage. The nearer we got out of the forest the more streams we crossed and more of waylaid tree trunks. Thankfully everyone was on a steady pace and at around 9AM, we arrived at Upper Sabwang. Our first campsite on our original itinerary.
Continuing with our trek, we arrived at Godi-Godi camp at 12noon. Godi-Godi camp was massive in space and beautiful similar to the Aeta campsite of Tres Marias though alot wider.
They say that tribesmen make camp at Godi-Godi for weeks selling basic necessities to campers. That’s akin to having a Quickstop or Everything To Go in your neighbourhood. They weren’t there when we arrived though. We had quick lunch and started off again at the soonest since we needed to be at the boulders early. After an hour of trek we were now out of the forest trail and was now at the foothold of Mt APO. The boulders and sulphur gases in sight.
The Foothold of Mt APO
One of the amazing elements of mountaineering is coming to understand how you got from one point to another when everything seems impossible. Earlier that day we were gawking at the sight of the summit and now, 6 hours after, we were there, all overly happy and stoked at its foothold.
The sight of the boulders were both anti and climactic, at least for me. Climactic because in a few hours, we would stand at the highest point of the Philippines and done as what the other mountaineers had before us. An achievement for ourselves, for our reasons why we joined the climb, as a member of MALAKAT and as mountaineers. What we didn’t really realize at that point was that the boulders was the antithesis of everything we felt good about reaching the foothold.
The rush would eventually ebb out. The boulder ascent was very hard having to go through what our climb guides regarded as the hardcore trail. The common route takes you through the right flank of the sulphur vents while the direct assault (our trail) was via the left flank. It was all rocks for most of the time, big rocks and more bigger rocks, though at the top were dwarf trees or shrubs? and wild-berry plants. I saw a low flying bird but lost him the moment as I saw him.
Mt APO Summit & Campsite
We would all make it to camp, a couple of meters beneath the summit, at late past five. No celebration in place, not even a handshake. Weather had gone from bad to worse so shelter was the priority. Fierce wind blasted through all directions and light rain added to the biting cold.
The campsite sits at around 2850ish feet, an easy five minute descent from the summit and sheltered by tall grasses which aptly break the symphony of any strong wind. Trash is prevalent which is scattered all throughout, different from Godi-Godi where there is an unofficial official dumpsite. Our guides lamented that while there is a cleanup climb every October, spearheaded by the mountain guides themselves, there is still a lot of room for improvement with abiding the LNT principle of packing in what you pack out.
It was warm and comfortable inside our tents and everyone was oblivious to the harsh weather outside. But it was really cold. Right after dinner, the rest treated themselves to a few round of drinks. I didn’t join them for being outright lazy to get out though the persistent merriment from the other tent was genuinely inviting. The uphill climb had got the better of me and Lara was already fast asleep so as early as 8 in the evening I called it a day. Recovery for the day ahead was very important.