With an elevation of 9,692 feet above sea level, reaching the peak of the highest mountain in the Philippines, the Mt. Apo, is an achievement in itself.
If you’re planning to trek Mt. Apo, this guide is for you.
Where is Mt. Apo located?
Mt. Apo is located in the southern island of the Philippines (Mindanao). It is located between the Davao region (Region XI) and Cotabato region (Region XII).
How far is Mt. Apo from Davao City?
From Davao City, it would take about 2-3 hours to reach the jumpoff point for Mt. Apo.
How long does it take to climb Mt. Apo?
This actually depends on your trail and fitness level.
When we trek Mt. Apo in 2016, taking the Kapatagan-Sibulan Sta. Cruz trail, it took us a day and a half to reach the peak and then a half-day to get back to our jump-off point.
However, I’ve learned that time that it’s very much possible to do it in 1 day especially if you’re in good shape/fitness level. In fact, when we were heading back, we saw a man who is also on his way back to the jumpoff point. We learned from his guide that he was able to reach the peak earlier.
What do you need to climb Mt. Apo?
At a minimum, you would need a medical certificate, a permit to climb Mt. Apo, and a guide.
There has been confusing information with regards to the requirements needed to trek this majestic mountain. If you’re thinking of doing it the D.I.Y. way, this article from Summit Post may help.
D.I.Y vs. Travel Agency
As it was my first time to trek Mt. Apo and doing solo, I decided to sign up for a package from a travel agency. It may cost a little bit more than doing it the D.I.Y way but the added cost is worth it, considering I only have to secure my medical certificate and prepare my personal stuff (clothes and snacks).
Plus, the travel agency I signed up with have guides who are well-experienced in handling group treks for Mt. Apo.
For a little over $100, I was able to trek Mt. Apo with less worries. The fee includes the guide and porter fee, transportation from Davao City and back, meals for the whole duration of the trek, and the use of tent, sleeping bag, and trekking pole. I basically just showed up and prepared myself for it.
What is it like to climb Mt. Apo?
The organizer met us to collect our medical certificate and orient us about the trek – what to expect during the entire duration of it and safety precautions especially during drastic weather changes.
It was also a good opportunity to meet the people who you will be trekking with.
We were 6 at that time – 3 from Singapore, 1 from the U.S., 1 from Cebu, and 1 from Davao (that’s me).
We had an early call time at 5:30 AM, at the same place where we had our orientation.
After having a quick coffee, the group (hikers plus the guide) hopped into the rented van to get into the jump-off point. It took us about 2 hours to get there.
We stopped by this small town where we’re able to sit down for breakfast and get the chance to get more food and supplies (there’s a pharmacy there if you need to get some over-the-counter medications).
We met with our porters (we have 2 for our group) and hopped into another vehicle where we had another 20-something minute ride.
The start of the trek was a bit challenging as it’s warm and humid and my body is still getting used to the hike (it feels like we’re climbing on slopes 60 percent of the time).
We get to have breaks though from time to time to catch our breaths and take a sip of water.
Day 1 ended around 2 PM. We set up our tents at Tinikaran Campsite, had our lunch, and an early dinner before calling it a night.
This is an exciting day for all of us as we’re heading for the peak of Mt. Apo.
After having a quick but filling breakfast and refilling our water bottles, we put our tents away and started our hike.
Compared to day 1, we started this day a little bit more relaxed (at least for the first few hours).
The abundance of foliage was amazing! It’s one of those things that made this hike truly worthwhile.
After going through the mossy, vegetative part of the trail for a few hours, we were told that we’re about to take one of the most exciting parts of the trail – the boulders!
Important tip: As you’re heading closer to the boulders, have your face mask ready (a very important tool for this hike). Sulfuric craters can be found at the boulders that spew a distinct-smelling fume (smells like rotten eggs).
The boulders look intimidating but it’s actually more fun than it looks. You just have to be careful though where you step as there are loose rocks along the way.
After an hour or so in the boulders, we got to this part of the trail that we need to climb. This wore me out especially my knees but it’s all WORTH IT!
We have reached the peak before 3 PM that day and was fortunate to have a beautiful weather to witness the sunset.
Another important tip: Bring a camera capable of capturing clusters of stars from a distance.
If the sky’s clear, you’ll be witnessing a very surreal night sky. I’ve never seen a night sky as beautiful as that.
It’s clear, beautiful, studded with stars; it just felt too dreamy (have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming!). Unfortunately, I didn’t have a good quality camera that time to capture it.
No matter how tired you are, please set your alarm at an early time so you can witness the beautiful sunrise.
Some people in our group woke up really early to create a time lapse video of it. I didn’t wake up that early but still didn’t miss the sunrise!
A cup of coffee in one hand while looking at the sun rise (at Mt. Apo) – priceless!
We’d love to spend more time there but we didn’t want to be on the trail by night time. So by around 8 AM, we started our descent.
The descent wasn’t really that hard except that my knees are already screaming. I ended up limping on the last hour or so but still made it!
We were back to our jumpoff point by around 4 PM.
Mt. Apo Tips for Beginners
Prepare yourself physically.
Mt. Apo is a doable hike even for complete beginners. However, you need to prepare yourself for it.
If you’re lightly active like I was, start going for daily walks at least 2 weeks before the hike. You’ll thank yourself for doing it!
Bring/wear appropriate clothing.
You don’t really have to buy everything especially if you’re on a budget.
For this trek, I only spend less than $70 for clothing (I got myself a pair of hiking shoes and lightweight hiking pants). I just made use of what I have and borrowed the rest from a friend.
Simple Checklist on What to Bring
In case you’re wondering, here’s a list of things I prepared for this climb:
- Bonnet – borrowed
- Gloves – borrowed
- Thermal jacket – borrowed
- Fleece jacket
- Long-sleeve top
- Extra tops
- Water-resistant hiking pants – one of the items I bought
- Extra pants
- Good quality (and breathable) hiking shoes – I have large and wide feet so I have to buy a pair for this trip.
- 3 pairs of socks
- Malong which serves as my extra blanket
- Camera (a basic point-and-shoot camera) – borrowed
- Nokia phone (a basic text/call phone with a battery life of 2-3 days)
- 2L of bottled water
- Trail snacks (nuts, seeds, some chocolates)
- Water bottle
- Toiletries (wet wipes, deodorant, lotion, body wash, mosquito repellent)
- First-aid kit including Ibuprofen
Don’t hesitate to ask for questions/help.
Before this trek, I haven’t used a sleeping bag. So when I found it in my tent, I thought it works like a regular padded mat and just laid on it. That night, I didn’t get enough sleep because I was freezing! I have to wear multiple layers of clothes and have to put my feet in my backpack for extra warmth.
Too embarrassed to ask the following day, I ended up compromising my sleep for 1 more night (*sad*).
So, PLEASE, please don’t be like me! Ask questions even if it’s not about sleeping bags, okay?
Trekking Mt. Apo is one of the best adventures I did. I was a little scared because of my fitness level that time but I did it (and so can you!).
I hope this post helps you in prepping for the Mt. Apo trek. If you have any question, feel free to drop them in the comment section below!
Have a safe trek!