Mt Apo – Climbing the Highest Mountain in the Philippines
Mt Apo is the highest mountain in the Philippines and is located in between Davao del Sur and Davao City. At its highest point it has an altitude of 9,692 ft and it’s actually and I’m extremely happy to be able to put it under my belt as a newbie mountaineer. It was also my first time in Davao and in Mindanao so those were added treats for me as well.
In this post I’ll be talking about the trail, the challenges, and a couple of important things to note for people who are thinking of trekking the same path that we did.
I posted our Itinerary over at my pre-climb post if you’re interested in checking that one out:
For this trek we were joined by some really cool guides headed by Bigboy (that’s really his name). We highly suggest you give them a call or send Bigboy a message if you’re thinking of going up Mt Apo and still don’t have a guide.
They’re a fun group to climb with, tawa lang kami ng tawa sa mga breaks at socials namin. Food was also really good and di kayo papakainin ng canned goods lang. We actually had sinigang, spaghetti, and spicy chicken na may sabaw (kinda like curry but not).
Solid yung group na to and we highly recommend them.
Here are BigBoy’s contact details:
Big Boy Sator
He’s also on Facebook:
Kaladkarin Freelance Mountaineers (KFM)
This is the group I climbed Mt Apo with. Most of them were also part of my last Mt Pulag Climb.
KFM was randomly created by some friends after they climbed Mt Pulag. Kaladkarin lang yung mga tao dito at ako naman sumasali-sali lang hehe.
This obviously isn’t some professional mountaineering group, so if your interested in joining one please don’t ask me if pwede ka sumali dito lol. As far as I know trip trip lang talaga to ;).
Kapatagan – Kidapawan Trail (Our Story)
Our group took the Kapatagan – Kidapawan trail because that’s what our guide suggested. I’m not sure how hard this is if compared to the other trails but it was definitely challenging for me.
On this trail it took us 2 days to reach the summit and 1 day to get down.
We all got to Davao City a day early (March 28) and then took a bus to Digos. One of our friends is a local so we stayed at her place and explored Digos City the first day. Our guides picked us up the next day and brought us to the rangers station.
Before heading out you’ll need to register and then have yourself checked (medical) so that’s what we did first. Then once we got our IDs, we were allowed to head on to the jump off point.
The first part of the Mt Apo Kapatagan – Kidapawan trail is hellish. It’s an open upward trek so you should ideally start climbing when the sun isn’t too high up yet. You’re still adjusting to the altitude at this point so that adds a lot to the difficulty level. If you’re a seasoned climber though then this shouldn’t be too much of a challenge (I wasn’t lol that’s why I think it was hellish).
Then you’ll move into the trees which is a bit easier because of the shade. If it’s really muddy that will make it a tad more difficult though. And expect to be going over and under A LOT of fallen tree trunks.
Then you’ll be trekking some mountain trails which has a pretty nice view if you’re lucky enough to climb on a day that’s not too foggy. Some areas clear up from time to time though so you’ll be able to see and take some good pictures of the flatlands when that happens.
Next is the boulders area. This is all just white boulders and the constant smell of sulfur. You’ll know when you’re already here because all you’ll see are large stones and the sulfur geyser/fountain (I don’t know the proper term for it but it kinda looks like a geyser). Make sure you have gas masks for this part because when the wind blows the gas your way you’re going to gag/cough.
Once you get through the boulders, it’s just a little bit more till you hit the summit of Mt Apo. You’ll be passing some open areas and a small “lake” before you get there though.
Then finally it’s the Mt Apo summit :). We stayed here for a I think 30 minutes to take pictures before we headed to the camp site.
The camp site is near the Mt Apo summit. It’s just around 15 or 20 minutes away. Malawak sya and there were a lot of people there when we arrived. I’m assuming there are always a good number of people here.
We arrived a bit early for sunset pictures so we set up camp first and then waited a couple of hours for the sun to go down a bit.
Since the sunset was on the other side, we walked to a different peak. There are actually a number of mini-peaks when you get up there so it’s doesn’t get overly crowded. It’s not like Pulag where you have to share just one main peak with everyone.
We got some pretty good pictures before we started heading down. It had gotten way too cold up there with the sun going down so we didn’t stay too long.
Night at the Mt Apo summit is really cold but if you’ve been to Mt Pulag then you can probably take it. Just make sure you make the same preparations to combat the cold. We feel that it’s primarily the cold winds that drop the temp in Mt Apo. It’s actually tolerable if the wind isn’t blowing.
After dinner it was “socials” time which is the mountaineer term for inuman :). Bigboy and his group joined us and laughtrip talaga sila. It was a really fun night but we turned in after 4 regular tanduay bottles and 1 longneck because we had to wake up early the next day for the sunrise.
I forgot to mention that there are sari sari stores at the camping areas along the way as well as at the summit so if you didn’t bring any alcohol, just buy some. They’ll be around 4 times the normal price though.
After a much deserved rest, we woke up to a very thick fog and really strong winds. It was almost freezing cold (even inside the tent) and non of us felt like leaving our tents. Visibility was really bad and you’ll get wet just walking through the fog.
We eventually decided to just walk to the summit of Mount Apo anyway to see if we’d get lucky and get a clearing. We didn’t :(. So parang nagpalamig lang kami sa taas for 30 minutes lol.
We went down, ate breakfast, packed up, and started our trek down. We started walking I think at around 8 AM, bye bye Mt Apo.
We went down the Kidapawan trail which is substantially easier than the other one (that’s why we were able to finish in a day). First part is your typical down the mountain open space trail. Really nice for picture taking. The fog started clearing up once we got a bit lower.
Then there’s this really steep part where you’ll see the open camping area at the bottom. It looks like it’s not too far away but it actually still is.
After taking a quick break in this area, it was back to forest trails.
It’ll get really muddy and slippery here so make sure you have the right kind of shoes. Don’t wear just your typical running/gym shoes like I did lol (sobrang noob lang talaga). There are also some really steep parts here, ones where you’ll either have to use a rope or a ladder to pass.
I wasn’t able to take pictures of the trail here because we were short on time and I honestly was just too tired. I didn’t want to keep pulling out my camera.
Then once you reach the river, it’ll be mostly flat land and you’ll be walking alongside it till you hit the final exit by the road. You’ll be crossing a total of 6 bridges and once you cross the last one, it’s around 20 to 30 minutes from the highway.
We were a little late so inabutan kami ng gabi and we had to trek in the dark. So be sure you’ve got your headlamps and flash lights ready.
Once you exit, it’s another 15 mintue walk to Agko mountain resort where you can take a bath and relax. That’s your final destination :). Most groups will have transpo waiting here to bring them back to either Digos or Davao. Our group went directly back to Davao.
And that ends our climb :).
Things to bring and remember if you’re going up Mt Apo
If you’re thinking of climbing Mt Apo, make sure that you have everything you need before you set off. Preparing for the climb is important and I can’t stress it enough. You don’t want to fly all the way to Davao (assuming you’re not from there) and not know what bring to the climb when you get there.
Make sure you create a checklist of all the things you need to bring and need to do weeks before your flight. Don’t be like my hypocritical ass and just pack your stuff the day before your flight lol. That’s very noobish ;). I have half an excuse though lol (it’s only half because I could’ve fixed everything up a week before), I joined the GK Bayani challenge and was in Laguna for 4 days. I only came back to manila the day before my flight to Davao.
Anyway, here are a couple of things I learned that you might find useful in creating your own checklist of things to do/bring.
- It’s going to be really cold up there so bring appropriate gear. The higher you go the colder it’ll be. You might not feel it while you’re trekking but the chill will definitely bite you once you stop.
- There are water sources along the trail, your guides should know where they are. So it’s not absolutely necessary to bring a lot of water. You can just refill your bottles along the way. I was carrying just 4 litters when I went up. You don’t want the extra weight.
- Ideally you should be wearing some dryfit stuff when heading up. Your clothes will get soaked with sweat so it’s going to smell and weigh you down if the cloth absorbs your sweat. I wasn’t able to do this :(.
- The right kind of shoes are important. I was wearing just my running/gym shoes lol and I had to retire them after the climb. They also didn’t provide enough protection for my toes and weren’t water proof. So go get yourself some proper climbing shoes if you’re planning to climb Mount Apo.
- The winds are really strong up there so just bringing a sweater isn’t going to be enough. Your jacket should ideally be windproof. Or you can wear your raincoat over it (this is what I did) so be sure to bring one as well.
- Please bring trash bags for your trash because the trail and the camping areas in Mt Apo are getting really dirty. If you can’t (too tired) carry your trash down the mountain, at the very least have the decency to hire a porter to do it for you.
- On the way up, you won’t really need a walking stick but you’ll wish you had one when you start going down.
- Bring sufficient trail food. Remember that you’ll be walking the whole day so you’ll want some snacks ready when you feel like you need a boost.
- Bring a couple of socks. You’ll want to keep your feet warm at night. If you’re like me, you’re gonna feel the cold on your feet first. I like to wear 3 layers before I sleep so I don’t wake up because of cold feet (literal meaning).
- Remember to bring flash lights and headlamps, those are basic.
- There’s a climbing and exit fee which should be part of the fee you paid to your guide already. But just to be sure, make sure you discuss this with them. The climbing fee you’ll pay at the rangers station when you register and the exit fee you’ll pay when you leave.
- Don’t lose your ID and remember your number because there are people at the summit who’ll be asking you for your ID numbers when you arrive.
- Unlike Mt Pulag (Ambangeg), you can actually get lost on Mount Apo’s trails so be sure to not stray too far from your guides and porters.
- Be sure to bring a mask for the boulders area where the sulfur gas is really strong. Even just the cheap medical ones that 7/11 sells or the ones at mercury drug will be ok.
- Naturally you’ll want to bring a first aid kit, and your basic meds. If you’ve got some specific ones you need, bring them too. Our group had a nurse with us so she was in charge of first aid.
- Bring sunblock, you’ll need it. You can also bring Off lotion/spray but there weren’t really that much insects/mosquitoes when we went up.
- You’ll want a cap and some arm sleeves to protect your skin from the sun.
- Be sure to bring some extra cash. There are sari-sari stores at the camping areas on the Mt Apo trail. You might also decide to just have a porter bring your bag on the way down so you’ll want some cash if you do. There are some porters along the trail who’ll offer to do it. Be sure your guides know them though because there are some instances when the porters take your stuff.
- And of course don’t forget to bring a camera :).
That ends this post. It’s rather long but I hope you found it useful.
If you’ve got any questions about Mt Apo, our climb, or anything at all just leave a comment below. If you’ve got advice for climbers and newbies like me feel free to leave them below as well :).