Trekking Mt. Apo through Sta. Cruz-Kidapawan Trail

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Overlooking Sea of Clouds from the summit

It was once my dream to climb the Philippines’ highest mountain until I decided to wake up and realize that dream. It was my first 2,954 meters (asl) climb and the feeling was enormously grueling. However, as there is no easy road to the peak, the reward is absolute priceless once you reach the summit.

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Reach the summit

Brief Overview 

Dubbed as the king of all mountains in the Philippines, Mt. Apo is a huge potentially active stratovolcano located between Davao City, Davao Del Sur province and Cotabato province in the island of Mindanao. It is considered as one of UNESCO World Heritage Site; habitat to numerous species of flora and fauna.

With a huge coverage of forest, sulfuric boulder and fair acre of a white sand landscape, it is divided into more than a couple of guided trails. And this time, we trekked the Sta. Cruz – Kidapawan trail.

Mount Apo

Beautiful landscape from Lake Venado

Basic Requirement

Secure a permit from Tourism Department or DENR offices before the climb. It can be taken from nearby offices where there are guided trails like Digos, Santa Cruz or Kidapawan.

Trail Guide or porter is required to accompany during the climb. You may book from a legitimate tour agency or registered mountaineers in town where there are guided trails.

Recently, a large part of Mt. Apo was affected by the forest fire, please check with the local government agency in advance prior to the journey as a limited mountaineer is only allowed to climb, perhaps, a zero-climb rule until fully recovered.

Fee (as of March 2016)

  • Entrance Fee P1,000/person (Santa Cruz) price varies depending on trail site
  • Exit Fee P1,500/person (Kidapawan) price varies depending on trail site
  • Porter P500/day
  • Transport to jump off site P250/person (Digos to Sta. Cruz)

Basic Gear

  • Mountaineering Backpack (50 liters or up)
  • Mountaineering boots / shoes
  • Windproof pants and jackets (outerwear)
  • Fleece / wool hat (for cold nights)
  • Fleece pants / dry-fit shirts (innerwear needed during night)
  • Liner socks
  • Light / midweight underwear
  • Water bottles (at least 5 liters)
  • Sleeping bag (at least 10 degrees Celsius capability)
  • Windproof & Waterproof tent
  • Headlamp
  • Trekking pole (optional)
  • Mug, bowl, and utensils
  • Knife / Multi-tool
  • First aid kit
  • Snacks / Foods (dried & packed foods recommended)
  • Toiletries / Personal kit

Level of Difficulty: 8/10(moderate to difficult)

Fitness Requirement: At least a month of training ahead of the climb like cardio or core strength exercises.

Mountaineer’s Creed: “Take nothing but pictures. Leave nothing but footprints. Kill nothing but time. Bring nothing but memories.”

Best Time to Climb: March to April (summer months)

The Climb

Basically, the journey begins by taking a 2-hour ride from Digos City to Sta. Cruz jump off site where a local porter is waiting. After a short orientation, start to ascend into an 80 degrees elevation hill going to the small barangay (village) of Tumpis. A barangay officer will check the permit prior to the climb. Although the summit is just 10.07 kilometers away from Sitio Tumpis, it takes a tedious 4-hour traverse going to Tinikaran Campsite 1 without even reaching half way to the summit. If you don’t like night trek, stay at Tinikaran Campsite 1 for a night rest.

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From the Tinikaran Campsite 1, the challenge begin as the elevation becomes steeper.  It takes 6 hours to the peak passing Tinikaran Campsite 2, dry river, bamboo bushes, sulfuric boulder face and white sand landscape before reaching the crater. Grab your camera as the 360 degrees view from the crater is absolutely stunning. Head your way up to the summit before going down to the campsite (which is just a few meters away). Have fun watching the sunrise and the sunset over the sea of clouds while noticing the gust of cold wind moving in faster velocity.

The following morning, descend through Kidapawan trail going to the mysterious lake Venado. It takes a maximum of 4 hours trek passing a mossy forest, thick bushes, and thorny wild berries. It is in Lake Venado campsite where you can capture the best view of the mountain – so don’t forget to save an extra battery kept in a warm bag as the cold weather will totally drain the power. If you’re up for mystery, take a night stay in Lake Venado campsite, wake up at 3 AM  and witness the fantasy when the mountain is hugged by thick clouds in its magnificent circular formation. During the early morning, observe the surrounding when grasses are covered by thin ice fogs which slowly melts as the sun rises.

From Lake Venado campsite, another 6 to 7 hours of tiring descend to the proper town of Agco, so get ready to prepare your legs from a numerous 90 degrees elevation. Correct! You read it right – 90 degrees. Silently praise heaven as you cross the waterfalls, huge trees, flowing rivers, noisy geothermal plant, hanging bamboo bridges, local farmlands and slippery pandan leaves scattered everywhere. Then exit along a curvy highway where a government local unit officer is waiting to collect the exit fee and garbage. Stay a night in one of the hot spring resort in town and soak yourself into the hot pool (courtesy of nature’s hot spring) – it gives relief to the muscle pain.

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Better yet, visit some other attractions nearby to wrap up your adventure.

Tell me how did you fare your climb so far?

Happy adventure!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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