One of the mountaineers mantra and dream is to finally scale the roof of ones country.
Fear crumpled in on my first ascend. I vividly remembered we were still about two kilometers from the jump-off point of mount Apo and I was already asking many questions ( ha ha ha! the perks of a “newbie” ) .
What can I say?
It is friendship that brings us closer to our goals.
There are many trails that lead to one summit. Currently, there are six trails that lead to the peak of mount Apo.
1. Santa Cruz trail
2. Bansalan trail
3. Kidapawan trail
4. Magpit Bongulanon trail
5. Digos, Kapatagan trail
6. Makilala, South Cotabato trail
Mount Apo is an active stratovolcano in south central Mindanao, just 20 miles west of Davao City.
It is the highest point in the Philippines, rising to 2, 954 meters above sea level.
It is part of the Cordillera Central, it is covered by a forest of tall, tropical hardwoods; two subsidiary peaks nearly match its height.
(According to encyclopedia Britannica)
There are three major trails on our way to this mountain summit. First, is the vegetation trail. Since, the mountain offers the most fertile land, it is the home of rich fauna and flora.
I did witnessed a rich vegetation of carrots, lettuces, among others. This mountain is considered sacred especially to the native Bagobo tribe.
Second is the forest trail. It was my first time to have a close encounter with a rain forest trail and shall I say it was one of the many fulfilling and awe-inspired moments of my journey. I saw huge ferns, orchids, mossy and a dense forest.
In the heart of the forest trail, we were able to pitched our tents in the well known “Tinikaran campsite”. There is a stable ground to pitch our tents and off course to proceed with “the socials”. We were able to cook our sumptuous lunch and dinner. Thanks to our approachable and friendly porter and guides. Thank you also to our chef team member who loves to cook meals for us. It is the best feeling in the world.
We retired early on our tents that day so as to catch a lovely view of sunrise for the next day.
We arose early at four in the morning, drank our coffee and had our preparations for the summit. We prepared our minds to be tough, our bodies, well rested and sound and our soul and spirit we offered a fervent prayer for our Creator and Almighty.
I could vividly remember a two kilometer trudge towards the forest and the already dried riverbeds. We walked past the ‘monkey trail’ and passed under the huge logs of trees. I remembered beaming to myself, “Is this a mountain trek or a well thought of obstacle course” (laughed out loud) Well, despite all the odds, we were able to overcome and as a matter of fact, still enjoyed the climb.
Not long enough, we came across the sign that says “The Boulder Face”. (It is called so because there are massive boulder rocks that could literally mashed your face under a wrong move along the boulders.
One of the many challenges to take note of in the world of mountaineering are hypogycemia (low sugar levels or energy gap), hypokalemia (low potassium level in the blood) and hypothermia (low body temperature levels), and hyponatremia (a condition of low body salt supply). That is why it is important to replenish ourselves every now and then. I had personally experienced hypoglycemia. I just have to munch on a source of immediate energy or sugar. Good thing I had some carbohydrate gel (nutrition) along with me. A few minutes later, my energy level went high back again and renewed.
It was still very dark when we ascended the steep slopes of the boulders plus the wind was getting extra cold. It was getting around 6AM when the sun managed to have a lovely peak over the horizon. It was the sweet sunrise that somehow re energized me. We slowly climbed and assaulted the boulders. It was around four kilometers of assault in the boulders till we reached the summit. One of our guides assisted me using a rope technique to help me to ascend faster.
But the sight of the boulder is just overwhelming. I can remember the scene over the movie “The Lord of the Rings”. Such a uniue sight to hold. I knew then that was the moment I started to fell in love with the great outdoors. I knew then… It is just the beginning.
Another relief for me was when I meet a few mountaineers along the way, then they cheered me up saying “You are almost there”.
I managed to catch a rest in the “white sand campsite”. There I found myself pleasing me with the goodness of mountain wild berries. We waited for the rest of our team and pack before we summit. I was getting so excited that I wanted to go almost immediately towards the crater and finally to the summit.
But….good thing I waited…
Because the next few steps were the most crucial…
The way to the crater, I remember was the hardest part. At first it seemed easy just following the path that leads… But one of our guides reckoned me that I went through the crucial path/trail. And so, I was like I almost cried because for me it was the hardest part re adjusting your pacing and direction. Yet, I had to trust our guides. I had to learn and relearn some things. Not quite long I managed to have those deep breathes and finally entered a kind of a transforming trance. I was slowly getting by…
But it didn’t stop there…
I came to a point of 87 degree incline that I found it hard to step up. I didn’t have enough trust in me then. I froze for five minutes. I thought to myself I wouldn’t be able to make it further to the summit. Yet, one of our guides (Sir DK) managed to grasp my arm as I managed to took deep breathes. (Yes, indeed deep breathing are very essential). Indeed, I was able to step up closer and closer. I was able to step up with the help of a hand. I wouldn’t forget that moment. I was just a few inches off a cliff. I was also a few inches to giving up…
But one thing’s great about mountaineering…
It strengthens your willpower, your calmness and your character, and friendships.
I will never forget that moment…
The moment that you feel almost giving up should have been the moment you have held tighter.
That will be your defining moment…
That became my first major summit.
And as I look back…
It is the journey that is beautiful…all along…
Thank you for joining me.