Scaling New Heights: Climbing the Majestic Mt. Apo

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I’ve always dreamt of scaling the majestic Mt. Apo, the highest mountain in the Philippines. The thought of setting foot on the roof of the Philippines and taking in the breathtaking view from the top has been on my mind since I started climbing mountains almost 10 years ago, but it also took a long time for me to make this dream a reality.

At first, I blamed my busy schedule. And then the COVID-19 pandemic. Then, my dogs taking over my time and finances. But if I’m being honest, I just kept making excuses because I thought, “Mt. Apo will always be there. There’s always a next time anyway.”

My fascination with Mt. Apo was also muddied by the fact that I was surrounded by so many people who have already climbed the mountain. When a certain thing becomes too common, it loses its appeal. I’m the type of person who tends to gravitate toward things and places that are exclusive or unusual. I had forgotten how small Cebu is, and that even the people I am surrounded with are just a tiny speck on the map. 

I was reminded again of this when I met two climbers from Magallanes, Cavite. Somewhere between our laughs and giggles, they mentioned that they may be the first ones in their town to climb Mt. Apo. One of them had said that climbing Apo may be a norm for adventurers from Visayas and Mindanao, but for them coming from Luzon, it’s something that’s still new and rare.

Apo may not be as tall as other mountains in the world, but it is true that only a small percentage of people are privileged to climb it.

Earlier this year, it suddenly dawned on me that there was no better time to climb Mt. Apo than now. I am at a point in life where I am not as adventurous and as spontaneous anymore. I have also reached the age where I have more commitments and responsibilities. Who knows, I might even leave this country and work in a different environment. So, while I am still not set on what I intend to do with my life, ticking off some of the things from my invisible bucket list would be good for me right now. 

I was deadset on climbing Mt. Apo since January this year, but my friends were not. That’s why I decided to find an organizer so I can just join a group. Luckily, two of my friends decided to join me. Despite my being used to going on solo trips, there’s always something special when you share your adventures with close friends.

As someone who usually plans and creates the travel itineraries for the group, I then created a spreadsheet on what to prepare as well as a schedule for our preparation climbs. Weeks before climbing Apo, I was able to go back to some of my favorite mountains – Osmena Peak which is a part of the Mantalungon mountain range, Mount Lanaya in Alegria, and Mount Talinis in Negros Oriental.

I always put emphasis on preparation. Climbing any mountain is no easy feat, and it takes a lot of preparation to make sure the journey is successful and safe. Plus, no matter how many mountains you have climbed, it doesn’t make it any easier to climb the next one. Anything can happen and the mountain will always have the last say. That is why I don’t agree when people say, “I have finally conquered this or that mountain.”. Sure, you have set foot on top of it, but you can never conquer a mountain. You, however, have conquered yourself.

I guess that’s what matters. That’s why we climb. We conquer our own mountains.


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Earlier this year, a good friend of mine told me, “Han, don’t take this the wrong way, but you need to talk to more people. Go out and just be with people.” And somehow, it hit me because I have been purposely staying away from people for quite some time. Since I moved here to Santander, I have stopped going to local events. I rarely opened my social media channels, and I stopped blogging. My close friends, which I can count with a few fingers on one hand, are all living far away now. I also don’t actively meet new people, so I am always just spending time with my dogs.

No matter how comfortable you are with just being alone with yourself, there comes a point where you truly need people around. I didn’t notice that by isolating myself, I was slowly self-sabotaging my life.

I’m glad that this adventure pushed through. Because doing so allowed me to meet new people and make some connections. It’s amazing how in the mountains, everyone becomes your friend. And in rare instances, in some of them, you feel more connected than people you have known for years.

The journey to the top

The journey up Mt. Apo is an incredible feat of exploration and discovery. As you ascend the mountain, a variety of flora and fauna can be seen. The higher altitudes are home to mossy forests and high-altitude grasslands. At lower elevations, there are farmlands and waterfalls that offer you a chance to relax in nature’s embrace.

There are several trails that you can take in order to reach the summit of Mt. Apo. I specifically chose the Bansalan Trail because it is considered one of the shortest trails to the summit. But one of the reasons why I chose this trail was because I didn’t want to go through the treacherous trail to the menacing boulder face at the peak. 

If there’s one thing I’ve stopped doing these past few years, it’s that I wouldn’t put myself in a difficult situation anymore if the situation doesn’t call for it. In Cebuano, we say, “Nganong lisod-lisoron man gyud nimo imohang kaugalingon?” Sure, the other trails have better views and more wildlife encounters, but I would rather choose a trail that I can manage within my own skill level. Besides, reaching the summit was more important to me this time.

And thank goodness I listened to myself. Navigating the Bansalan trail is no easy feat. With its steep inclines and muddy terrain, it can be a challenging climb for even the most experienced climbers.

It took us 7 hours to reach the Tinikaran Campsite. We set up our tents, changed into warmer clothing, ate, and slept.

To the summit

At around 2 AM on the second day, our guide offered us coffee and gave us our packed breakfast. We then started our journey toward the summit.


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It wasn’t an easy climb. One of my friends suddenly got sick, a mere few minutes from the campsite. This friend started showing signs of altitude sickness. We immediately slowed down our pace and stopped every few seconds. Anything can happen in the mountains and this is one of those times when you can’t take any chances. When climbing higher altitudes, it’s important to be aware of your limits. It’s not a good idea to overexert yourself. If you feel dizzy or lightheaded at any point, stop immediately and rest for several minutes before continuing on your journey. Make sure you take frequent breaks to hydrate, eat nutritious food, and enjoy the scenery around you from time to time. Listen to your body and if necessary, don’t continue to the top. Luckily, my friend got better and managed to continue to the top.

Mount Apo itself has three peaks on top – the Main Peak (Mother Peak), Kidapawan Peak, and Digos Peak. When we finally arrived at the foot of Kidapawan Peak, the sun was already up, the fog has dissipated, and the sky was now clear. It was time to go up.


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I asked one of my friends which one of the peaks is her favorite. She said she loved the feeling when she first set foot on Kidapawan Peak because it was the first time she saw the view from the top. It’s like the first sweet feeling of achievement after a long journey.


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Right after Kidapawan Peak, we descended and then climbed Mother Peak – the highest elevation of Mount Apo. We took pictures, descended, and then proceeded to Digos Peak.


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Personally, Digos Peak has the most beautiful view among all three peaks. At this peak, you can see the mouth of Mt. Apo, the boulder face, and the two other peaks, and on a good day like ours, you could see Mt. Matutum in South Cotabato from a distance. On top of that, we were rewarded with a magnificent sea of clouds in the background. 

Also read: Dancing on Cloud Nine: Witnessing Mt. Pulag’s Sea of Clouds

After taking some pictures, we started our way back to the campsite. 

Making the worst decision in Mt. Apo

We arrived at Tinikaran campsite at around lunchtime. Tinikaran is a little far from the water source and the toilet (yes, there’s a toilet in Mt. Apo!), so we broke camp and moved to Camp Reyes which was only a few meters away. Right after lunch, we had the whole day to ourselves. At around 3 PM, I went to the water source and took a bath, which was the worst decision I made in Mt. Apo. I thought, “Well, I have tried taking a bath in the ice-cold waters in Mt. Pulag, so I should be fine.” 

At around 5 PM, I had chills and started having flu-like symptoms. I forgot I am not in my 20s anymore. This marks my first time getting sick in the mountains. I have always been proud of myself for never getting sick when I go mountaineering, but this time, I was humbled before nature.

I immediately took some paracetamol and stayed in my tent to eat my dinner. By 7 PM, I was feeling better.

Or so I thought.

Day 3 in Apo

Around 8 AM, we broke camp and started our way back to the Bansalan jump-off. I took one last look at Apo. I uttered a silent personal thank you for the exhilarating experience.


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About an hour or so from the start of our descent, my fever came back and this time, my eyes were watering and my runny nose was getting worse. It got to a point where I couldn’t see anymore. I had to stop, take another pill, and rested for some time. Then, I uttered a silent prayer to the Universe.

I got up and started to walk slower than usual. Slow, sure, and steady. Eventually, we arrived at Alde House at around 12 PM, just in time for lunch. It took us another 1 hour before arriving at the Bansalan receiving area where we were congratulated by locals and fellow climbers who arrived earlier than us. Our guides and porters offered us beer as a celebratory drink. By sunset, we reached the foot of Sitio Balutakay where we got into our van. It took another 3 hours to reach Davao City. 

Dirty, tired, and hungry – but we were all smiles as we bid goodbye to our guide. Mt. Apo was indeed a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Safety Precautions for Climbing Mt. Apo

Mt. Apo may be a mountain that doesn’t require that much technical skills or mountain equipment, but you still need to prepare before embarking on this adventure. Mt. Apo stands at an impressive 2954 meters above sea level, making it the highest in the country. It’s important to plan and map out a trail that works best for your skill level. It’s important to research the trail and be aware of potential hazards such as loose rocks, steep drop-offs, or wildlife.

Choose appropriate gear such as sturdy hiking shoes with good traction, several layers of clothing that can be removed or added depending on changes in temperature and weather conditions, and a reliable backpack. Furthermore, packing snacks, water bottles, and first-aid kits are necessary items to bring along in order to stay energized and safe during the journey. 

More importantly, hire experienced guides. I personally recommend i-Trekkers PH if you are looking for a Mt. Apo tour organizer. I rarely get tour packages as I prefer going directly to local guides or tourism offices, but if you want a hassle-free climb, i-Trekkers will not disappoint. Nevertheless, do your own research and plan accordingly.

When scaling new heights, proper planning is the key, so be prepared for anything.¬†With careful preparation, you’ll be ready to take on this once-in-a-lifetime adventure!