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I Conquered Mt. Apo, the Highest Mountain Peak in the Philippines

So, after only less than a week of preparation, last April 9, 2014  I joined a trek to Mt. Apo in lined with the launching of Mt. Apo Sandawa Climb Festival in Kidapawan City and the opening of this year's climbing season.
Mt. Apo. Picture taken from the camp site in Lake Venado.
I am glad and proud to share that I have completed the climb to Mt Apo, one of my dream destinations, the country's highest peak at an elevation of 2,954 meters and considered as the "Grandfather of Philippine Mountains".

It was a very unforgettable experience, a dream come true. 

Our actual climb began morning of April 9 after tribal leaders in Brgy. Ilomavis, Kidapawan City conducted the ritual called Pamaas which is part of the launching of Mt. Apo Sandawa Climb Festival held at the jump-off point of Mandarangan Trail located in Sitio Agco.
Performed by tribal leaders, the Pamaas is a ritual to ask permissions from the Anitos of the forest and mountain spirits to conduct the activity and ask for protection of the mountaineers
Kalumad, a group of cultural performers welcomed our group and other participants with cultural dances and music
We climbed Mt. Apo via the Mandarangan Trail in Kidapawan City which is said to be the most used of all the trails in going to the country's highest peak. It has the widest trail and most mountaineers considered it as the friendlier one.
Mandarangan Trail features river crossings with boulders and huge rocks and a steep forested trail . We crossed more or less ten (10) rivers before reaching the campsite located in Lake Venado.
 Some part of the rivers that we need to cross are knee-deep high while some are up to the waist.
One exciting part of the trail was crossing the rivers using the makeshift bridges made of a log or a bamboo. If I counted it right, there were 3 or 4 bridges of this kind that we've passed just to cross the river.
And about one hour and a half after we left at the jump-off point in Sitio Agco we reached the Matiao Camp, had rest for some minutes and then continued the trekking adventure to Mt. Apo. Matiao Camp usually serves as a resting area for trekkers and sometimes a holding area for stranded mountaineers due to swelling of Marbol river.

Then about two hours later, we reached Ko-ong Campsite where we took our lunch and then proceeded with the trek. Just like in Matiao, food items are sold at Ko-ong Campsite, of course at a higher prices. There is also a water source located in the area.
Moss-covered trees surrounds Lake Venado, Mt. Apo
We left Ko-ong Campsite after we took our lunch and headed to Lake Venado where we set camp and stayed for a night. Trail from Ko-ong going to Lake Venado started to be an assault type. Rain also started to fall and trail getting more steep, making the trek more challenging. We also climbed an almost 90 degree trail going to Lake Venado, good thing there was that built wooden ladder.
90 degree assault to Lake Venado. Photo by Ayel
We arrived at Lake Venado at around 4:30 PM. That was more than three (3) hours after we left from Ko-ong. Our porters have already set up our tents when we reached the campsite and guides have started preparing foods. I took some photos of the summit as soon as we arrived, a cup of hot coffee and mingled with other participants. Then, had our dinner and slept early in preparation for the summit assault the next morning. Temperature at Lake Venado is cold but manageable.
The next morning, I woke up early and was even more amazed with the magnificent view of Lake Venado surrounded by moss-covered trees and the towering view of the peak of Mt. Apo.

We began ascent to the peak of Mt. Apo at around 8 AM. Our guide told us that it would take us more or less three (3) hours before reaching the campsite at the summit. Determined to see what the grand Mt. Apo has prepared for us at the top, our group started the climb. The first part of the trail was passing through a short forest with muddy terrain. Then we reached a grassland area where trail was even steeper and exhausting. From there you can already see the entirety of Lake Venado and the campsite. I see green wherever I point my eyes. It was a breathtaking view.

Then half-way to the summit campsite of Mt. Apo is a mini-forest. We took the much needed rest there for some minutes and then proceeded with our climb.
Added attractions along the trail are different kinds of unfamiliar plants and flowers growing freely.
Mt. Talomo as seen from Mt. Apo
There were wild berries growing abundantly near  the summit campsite too.
I really enjoyed picking and  eating berries along the trail. It eases tiredness.

A breathtaking view of Lake Venado and the wide campsite surrounded by trees. 
And finally we reached the campsite at the summit past 12 noon. There were other groups of climbers at the campsite when we arrived so we looked for a place to rest while waiting for our other companions and took our lunch when they arrived. The summit campsite was a spacious grassland surrounded by various peaks.

We ascent further to the highest peak.
The dead lake as seen from one of the peaks of Mt. Apo.
There is part in the summit that you can see huge rocks, boulders and sulfuric smokes coming from one of Mt. Apo's vent.
Some plants growing at the summit of Mt. Apo.
Wild berries are everywhere at the summit of Mt. Apo. 

Me, on top of the Philippines - 2,954 meters above sea level! Photo by Ayel

It started to rain when we reached the highest peak and became extremely cold so we just stayed for few minutes and started descent back to Lake Venado. One and a half hours later we were back at the campsite. 

..to be continued ^^ 
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