Digos City, Davao Del Sur: The Apex Of Mount Apo
Mount Apo – to summit this colossus is a pinnacle in every local mountaineer’s dream. Standing at a staggering 2,954 meters, Mount Apo ranks as the country’s highest peak. This mountain is a giant that towers over the Philippine islands; the solitary sentinel that dominates the vast landscapes of three provinces. The sheer size of this dormant volcano can easily awe and intimidate at the same time.
Climbing the grandfather of all mountains is a highly-prized benchmark in the local climbing scene but there is more to Mount Apo than its astounding size alone. From beneath its thick cloak of dense forest to the spectacular craggy slopes lay the marvels of Apo that truly makes it a promising hiking experience.
The starting point of this climb was the farm-fertile highlands of Kapatagan in Digos City – thus being referred to as the Kapatagan Trail. From the 1,213-meter high jump-off is a three-day effort to reach the 2,954-meter Mother Peak and back to Sitio Mainit in Kapatagan. Each day having an average of 7-hour hikes in moderate pace and under perfect hiking conditions.
The trek from jump-off point to Paradise cuts across clusters of houses surrounded by wide parcels of farmlands – an hour’s hike to get you warmed up. The trail then narrows and the climate slightly drops. Mist envelopes the atmosphere in a dull grey curtain robbing the trees of its lush colors. The crisp and piercing scent of mountain dew grows even stronger. At this elevation, a mild shift in climate can be explicitly felt. Rain can also be a constant companion. It can be either a friend or foe – perhaps both.
A huge segment of the climb runs deep into Mount Apo’s lush rainforest. Here, dense canopies of ancient trees constrict sunlight from touching the forest floors. Everywhere is cold and damp. Dew-drenched moss wraps rocks and logs and tree trunks like a green tapestry sprawled out in a chaotically organized array. This age-old forest are Mount Apo’s lungs that breathes life to one of the most diverse ecosystems in Philippines. It proves vital to a wide range of species, many of them endemic, that considers Apo its home – including humans.
Drastic changes in trail environment grow more visible at higher altitudes and the bizarrely beautiful boulders of Mount Apo is utterly brazen about it. Mount Apo’s iconic segment features huge slabs of rock and earth piled on the slopes of the dormant volcano. These debris are remnants from the ruptures that shaped this mountain to a geological marvel that it is today. Mount Apo’s magnificent boulders is simply an other-worldly sight to behold and it’s one of the last few obstacles that stands between you and the prized peak.
Godi-Godi and Summit Campsites
Our three-day Kapatagan-Kapatagan itinerary sets camp on two astonishing locations that have relatively distinct environments from the other – Godi-Godi Campsite and Summit Campsite.
Tucked deep at the core of Mount Apo’s mossy forest lies Godi-Godi Campsite. This campground is sheltered by a foliage, thick enough to constrict a hefty amount of light and heat from coming in – therefore, making the camp dim, cool, and humid most of the time. The dense woodlands that confine the area protects tents against gusty winds the ram Mount Apo on a regular basis. Godi-Godi campsite occupies a wide space, sufficient to accommodate a bunch of resting climb parties on a weekend hike.
Unlike Godi-Godi, the Summit Campsite leaves campers exposed to harsh elements such as the heat, colds, winds, rain, and just about anything nature comes up with to throw at you. In addition, the forces of nature could get pretty intense at this overwhelming altitude.
Ironically, enduring all these handsomely rewards those who set camp on this vast expanse of grassland. First, being situated a few hundred meters to the summit provides ample time to reach the Mother Peak, your front row seat to a stunning sunrise or a blazing sunset – that is weather forbids. Second, you could get as close as possible to the sky and revel into a one-of-a-kind star light spectacle you don’t see everyday. Third, savor the moment that you’re spending the night above everyone else on this country – literally. That, in itself, is an experience.
Reaching the apex of the Philippines highest mountain brings about a transcendent thrill after two days of enduring a beating. Standing on its crest with the clouds hovering below your feet makes you feel like kings and queens and conquerors of sorts. But the moment you get a sense of immensity of this mighty giant; the second you realize how much a minuscule of the tiniest fraction you are that made up the entire planet, the mountain takes away ones pride and humbles you right to the gut. If there’s one thing that needs conquering, it’s none other than ourselves – and it was Luzon’s highest peak that taught me the lesson.
That cold windy morning on top of Mount Apo, I sat down and watched the smoldering sphere of light emerge from the horizon. The sun’s burning glare flashed me back, about a year earlier, to the day I awed at the phenomenal sunrise and sea of clouds of Mount Pulag – it was my first major climb (and first climb after several years). That certain climb taught me to overcome my doubts for doubts will hold me back from going way beyond my limits. I learned that day that there is more to you than who or what you think you are. There’s no place too far, and no mountain too high if you know your limits, believe in it, and go beyond it.
Since then, I took the philosophy to everywhere I went. Now here I am watching a marvelous sunrise from the highest point in the country, Mount Apo, and ready to take on new and greater challenges. It has been a good year for climbing, an awesome year for adventure, and there will be a lot more to come.
Happy New Year and happy travels everyone.
1.This climb was organized by Basekamp Market Market together with the local support of Kapatagan crew. Maraming salamat.
2. Our climbing party consists of 12 hikers. Budget for each climber costs around P3,800 including the transportation from airport, transportation to Kapatagan jump-off point, climb permits, DENR fees, exit fees, guides, porters, food supply for 3 days, climb shirt, and bag tags.
3. A medical certificate is strictly required.
4. We climb via Kapatagan-Kapatagan trail. Our itinerary was to reach Godi-Godi Campsite on Day 1, climb to and camp at summit on Day 2, and hike from summit to Kapatagan jump-off point on Day 3.
5. Lots of water source in the mountain. There are water sources near Godi-Godi Campsite and Summit Campsite.
6. Rainfall is consistent all-year round so waterproof your bags and bring a poncho to make sure you and your stuff stay dry.
7. It gets really cold even from Kapatagan jump-off point and way cold up Godi-Godi and Summit campsites.
8. It’s a 3-day hike. Highly advisable to be at your best condition. Prepare physically and mentally. (Well, I suppose that goes out in any climb. Always good to be prepared. Never underestimate any climb)
9. Wear hiking shoes that can withstand a 3-day hike on soft trail, mud, solid ground, and rocks.
10. Take it slow, enjoy the views, enjoy the trail.
11. More about Davao Del Sur.
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15. Happy hiking and be safe.