Mount Apo – Exploring the Grandfather of PH Mountains
Mount Apo – Climbing the Philippines’ Roof
Mount Apo, Mindanao, Philippines – As a travel blogger, climbing mountains is as synonymous as exploring nature beyond the confines of the suburbs. Since my first ever climb in Mount Pulag in 2015, I have only been to a handful of mountains in the Philippines as I concentrated on exploring the country’s hustle-and-bustles.
With that, Mount Apo is one of the places a traveler must visit during his / her travel career. Being the highest peak in the Philippines at 2,954 – 3,142.79 meters above sea level (9,692 – 10,311 feet above sea level) given its three summits, it is an experience I will never forget. The tiresome hike plus the countless stories we have shared along the trails will be in my core memory! With its intimidating terrain and ever-changing landscape, Mount Apo should not be missed in your travel bucket list!
Read more: Mount Pulag Travel Guide
Mount Apo – “The Grandfather of Philippine Mountains”
Being one of the most sought after mountains to climb in the island of Mindanao, Mount Apo is one sweet ride. With a minimum hiking span of around 3 days-2 nights, the mountain also offers different attractions along the way – keeping the monotony of mountain climbing irrelevant! There are portions where mossy forests exist, there are these interesting boulders near the summit that make the mountain a bit challenging, and there are mostly grasslands near the summit, reminiscent of Mount Pulag where you are just ‘a step closer’ from the sky.
The whole protected landscape covers an area of 64,053 hectares (158,278.41 acres). The mountain is located between the provinces of Davao del Sur, Region 11 (municipalities of Bansalan, Sta. Cruz, Digos City, and Davao City) and North Cotabato, Region 12 (municipalities of Magpet, Makilala, and Kidapawan City). Mount Apo is also declared as one of ASEAN’s Heritage Sites in 2003 and is also declared as a Protected Area through R.A. 9237 or the Mount Apo Protected Area Act of 2003. The first recorded summiting of Mount Apo was done by Don Joaquin Rajal in October 10, 1880, who was also a former governor of Davao.
Mountain clearing is also highly seasonal in Mount Apo and we are lucky enough to have a nice clearing at the summit at around 9:30 am on our second day. This is also an opportune time to take your “success photos” atop the summit markers, symbolizing that you have conquered the Grandfather of Philippine Mountains. Along the boulders, too, we were lucky to see the endangered Philippine Longtail Macaques playing along the trees found near the boulder trail of the mountain.
The mountain is also home to three indigenous people groups in Mindanao, namely: (1) the Manobos, (2) Bagobos, and the (3) Klatas. These groups consider Mount Apo as sacred and is the burial ground of Apo Sandawa, their great forefather.
How to get to Mount Apo
There are around 6 trails to Mount Apo, namely: (1) Sibulan (Sta. Cruz – Tinikaran Boulders) Trail – the most common trail, (2) Digos Trail, (3) Bansalan Trail, (4) Makilala Trail, (5) Kidapawan Trail, and (6) Magpet Trail.
For our climb, we traversed through Sta. Cruz and Tinikaran Boulders Circuit Trail crossing through Lake Venado. The trail was quite mossy and forest-y at the beginning, and it became flat, open, and rocky towards the summit. The trail, I have been told, has a difficulty of 7/9! I cannot imagine that I have survived such a level of difficulty given that I am a neophyte mountaineer! You can just imagine how tired I looked like when not posing for photos (hehe!) There are a number of campsites along the trail and we pitched tents into some of them to have a regular pace going to the summit. There are also areas where sulfur is abundant and is also a site to see (disregarding the smell, of course)!
Dos and Don’ts when climbing Apo
As we headed to climb Mount Apo, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) oriented us about the dos and don’ts when climbing the mountain. Here are some of the pointers they emphasized:
1) Secure a “Permit to Climb” and coordinate with the DENR office first before climbing. No permit, no climb.
2) Maximum of 50 climbers per day (per trail) are allowed to trek the protected area.
3) Hiring of professional guides and porters is mandatory.
4) Water resources found along the trails are strictly for cooking and drinking only.
5) Zero-waste policy is strictly imposed (Clean as you Go) – “No Basura, No Exit.” A fine of ₱ 2,000 will be imposed if you will not dispose of your trash properly.
6) Trekking groups must have a trowel (mini shovel) for use to bury human waste – optional.
7) In order to prevent fire, use portable stove with brand new butane. Use of firewood is strictly prohibited.
8) Campfires in camp areas are strictly prohibited.
9) Swimming in Lake Venado is not allowed.
10) Camping at the summit is prohibited as it is part of the “Strict Protection Zone” of Mount Apo.
11) Vandalism and tree-cutting is also prohibited.
12) Collecting and destroying flora and fauna; as well as collecting sulfur, rocks, and other mineral deposits is also prohibited.
13) Do not bring knives or bolos more than 3 inches in length.
14) Nudity and indecent activity is also prohibited.
Sample Itinerary to Mount Apo via Sta. Cruz Trail
|Day 0||Arrive in Davao City|
|Check-in (Rest / Prepare for Climb)|
|Day 1||Meet-up for Climb|
|Go to common meeting Place (Digos City)|
|Orient with guides and porters (℅ organizer)|
|Buy food and other essentials|
|Ride Transport to Jump-off|
|Hike from Jump-off to Sitio Colan Base Camp|
|Hike from Colan Base Camp to Tinikaran Camp 1
– Sitio Tumpis
– Big Rock E-Camp
|Pitch tent / Rest / Dinner at Tinikaran Camp 1|
|Day 2||Early morning hike to Boulder Face|
|Sunrise and breakfast at Mount Apo Boulders|
|Hike to Summit
– Gabroq E-Camp
– White Sand E-Camp
|Mount Apo Summit
– Kapatagan Summit
– Mother Summit
– Kidapawan Summit
|Descend to Lake Venado|
|Pitch tent / Rest / Dinner at Lake Venado|
|Day 3||Breakfast at Lake Venado / Prepare for Descent|
|Lunch at Century Tree|
|Return to Sitio Colan Base Camp|
|Hike from Sitio Colan Base Camp to Jump-off|
|Ride Transport to common meeting Place (Digos City)|
|Digos City and Return to Davao City|
Other Photos in Mount Apo (via Sta. Cruz Trail)
Special thanks to kuya Jep Matias and ate Arcely Ramirez for letting me be part of this climb! You can message them on their Facebook Profiles for your Mount Apo adventure and other adventures around the Philippines! For direct access to one of the guides in Mount Apo, you can contact sir Teodoro Bosio Jr. aka “Kuya Bador” at +63 977 605 5323.
We’re born to travel!