MT. APO 2011: The Kidapawan Trail Climb Treat

Over lunch, Sir Louie heard about me being a hiker. Thus began our conversation about Mapua, being an alumnus himself, and the existence of a mountaineering organization in our beloved school. He asked when the organization was founded, and I told him in November 1990. Now in his early 50's, Sir Louie told me, they were supposed to create a mountaineering organization during his time as a student in Mapua. That was in early 1980's. I could only imagine if they were able to create the organization back then, Mapua mountaineering club would be a decade older.

He shared about his Mt. Kinabalu climb (highest in southeast asia) in 2009 and their plans to climb Mt. Apo early this year (2011). I shared a few bits of my Mt. Apo climb as he enthusiastically listened. The conversation got to a point, where he was inviting me already to join them on the climb. Who would say No? It was settled then.

Over the next few weeks, we planned the details of the climb, and registered with the Department of Tourism for our climb in January 6-9, 2011 via Kidapawan Trail. So I would be joining my second climb in Mt. Apo with my (sort of) boss, and his two colleagues (both foreign). Did I mention the climb is all expense paid? ^_^

Mt. Apo once again... all expenses paid yey!!

I met with my climb sponsors at the airport on January 6, 2011.  Discussed over coffee and snacks our final  itinerary. We took the afternoon flight and we arrived in Davao City at 6:00PM. They've arranged our private transportation throughout the duration of the climb, so we were fetched at the airport and we went straight to the supermarket to do our last minute shopping. 

Baggage Check!

I've got a great meal planned for the entire climb. In the grocery however, some of the ingredients I need were nowhere  to be found so we have to improvise using what was available. Grocery choices in provinces are quite limited  (we were in  Davao, imagine other remote areas). After dinner, we boarded our service vehicle for the two and a half-hour trip to Kidapawan City.

We stayed in AJ Hi-times Hotel situated at corner Plaridel and Laurel Street, a short distance from the town plaza and the tourism office. We arrived a little past 10, quite tired from our long trip. We were supposed to meet tourism officer-Ms. Maria Fe Pame for registration and to settle our fees. Cancelled the meeting to early next day. We went to our assigned rooms to take our much awaited sleep. I stayed a bit late to pack my things. 
Photo from

Absent-mindedly got out of bed at 5:30AM. I took a not so warm shower which gave my mind and body the kick it needed to jumpstart.  Following our cancellation of our meeting with Ms. Pame the night before, we invited her to have breakfast with us at the hotel at 6AM. It was a short briefing and meeting because she will be leaving for Davao City. Ms Pame and I went to her office to pick-up our climb permit, climb ID's and paid 500 each person for climb registration. There were some last minute reminders and reiteration of rules and regulations for a safe climb. We left for the jump-off at Barangay Ilomavis around 7:30AM.

At exactly 9:10AM where this "Before" group photo was taken, we started our ascent to Mt. Apo via Kidapawan - Coong Trail. 

Our "Before" Photo - Left to Right: Louie, Me, Robert and Ian

It is expected that we will be crossing at least 13 river tributaries. I don't mind taking my shoes off to cross the river, but it certainly became daunting after the 13th crossing. An hour after the start of trek marked the end of the river trail and we got to the forest line. 

Along the trail, we found ourselves a good spot to rest and eat our lunch. For lunch is Tuna Paella in can by Century Tuna and San Marino. I bought two of each brand for a taste test. Alas, due to my hunger, I could no longer tell how Century Tuna is different from San Marino and vise versa. But it served its purpose, light, ready to eat, and filling, so its a thumbs up for me already. 

We resumed trek immediately after lunch. We have no time to lose because we are aiming  to reach Lake Venado before 3:00PM. If we get there on time, we will decide whether we would push a summit camp. 

Back in 2004 when I climbed Mt. Apo via Kapatagan Trail, I got fond of an orange flower that thrives at one part of the trail. Along the trail of Kidapawan particularly Co-ong, I found myself surrounded by the same orange flower (and a white and pink variety too) throughout the trek after crossing the last river. The trail literally is bounded by this flower to the left and right. 

Add caption

Much to my delight, and the reason perhaps that these lovely sight of flowers thrives is this "No Picking of Flowers" signage. 

Take nothing but pictures...

My excitement soon faded when I stumbled on the sight of garbage collected along the trail. I asked the guides why the mess along the trail. One of the guide said that they were collecting rubbish during off-peak season.  Before the start of the climbing season, they will have a clean-up and bring down the trash. So It wasn't random garbage on trail, this site is a temporary dump site. 

Leave nothing but footprints...

I am very disappointed and ashamed to be a climber knowing that climbers did this to the mountain. Others might say that it was the responsibility of the park management to see to it that things like this don't happen, because well, we paid them a not so cheap fee right. But it is still supposed to be every climber's responsibility to take out and bring down his/her trash, whether fees are paid for or not. It's climbing ethics and responsibility.

A few meters from the garbage site, was a campfire. It was used by locals who frequent the mountain to hunt and gather food. This is one of the contradictions of climbing to actually living in the woods. Whilst campfire for us climbers is a definite No-no (unless otherwise needed for survival), campfires for the locals are a way of life.

To campfire or not...

Trail became interesting with the presence of wood ladders which is used to climb at least 15 feet of steep wall. We got to the first ladder around 1:20PM. I got to the second (and 3rd) ladder to climb at least a 20feet wall an hour later.

Second wooden ladder

The last ladder portion is at least 30 minutes away from Lake Venado. Caught a glimpse of the summit still shrouded with cloud. I was on the lead, and arrived at exactly 3:44PM. My companions arrived a little before 4:00PM.  

A glimpse of the summit

When everyone was accounted for, we gathered and talked about our plans for the summit camp. We gave ourselves till 3:00PM to get to the lake so we could proceed to the summit.  Unsuccessful at that, we decided to stay in Lake Venado and camp for the night.

Lake camping at its best.

With the assistance of our reliable guides, I prepared our Chicken Adobo dinner. I said prepared not cooked because I had it cooked for us back at the hotel. So there's not much I have to do really. @_@  

Classic adobo for dinner

After dinner, we had a brief socials, where we talked about our decision to stay in Lake Venado and abort summit camp.  Staying for the night in Lake Venado means we have to get up as early as 4:00AM if we want to reach the summit before the sunrise at 5:52AM. 

All set for the cold night.

Since it was already decided, and we pretty much don't have a choice at that point in time, being slumped inside our sleeping bags, we enjoyed our Tanduay Rhum 15 years to warm us from the inside. A slight drizzle scared us to the comfort of our tent. Lights were out at 8:00PM.


My alarm snoozed at 3:00AM but I did not budge until one of the guide called me out for the lighter. I heard Robert and Ian prepping themselves for the assault. I had second thoughts about climbing to the summit again, since it was my second time in Mt. Apo, especially because Sir Louie bailed out on the assault. He had been cramping since yesterday after lunch and the night through. It must have been the wet and cold conditions because I had those cramps too. 

I drank my coffee and thought I have to decide, fast. Went inside my tent, and changed to my hike clothes. Speedily packed breakfast, trail water, camera, and cellphone (no signal at the lake). Found myself navigating the moss-carpeted grounds of the lake banks for a dry trail, and so I am on my way to the summit. 

We started with a good pace, but two hours later, we slowed a bit. Sunrise caught us on trail, and the warm sun provided some comfort on my numb skin.

I looked back at the campsite and saw the beautiful Lake Venado glisten under the sun. 

A view of Lake Venado on our way to the summit.

Took time to appreciate these wild berries halfway to the summit. Yes, its edible but it wasn't ripe to taste during the climb.

Edible wild berries

The summit assault climb took us about 3 hours to get to the crater to finally have this photo of my penguin companion taken. 

Penguini posing at the Mt. Apo crater 

Ian took this photo of me and penguini with the Boulder trail and Sulfur Vents on the background.

Active sulfur vents of the Kapatagan Trail side.

Took our time to explore the peaks of Mt. Apo for at least an hour. And it took us at least an hour and a half to get back to the campsite. When we got there, a hearty breakfast and lunch altogether of dried pusit, spanish sardines in olive oil, spam, egg, rice, and bread was already served prepared for us by those left at the camp. Had our fill of our meal and we packed our bags and start descent at 11:00AM.

Kuya Ondoy, the head of the Porter's Association was the sweeper during the descent. I was behind the pack this time, and had a very interesting conversation with Kuya Ondoy. He gave me so much insight regarding the mountain which helped me recall so much of my first apo climb. He updated me on the Century old tree which we encountered via Mainit Trail seven years ago. Apparently, the towering Almaciga tree bowed down to nature after a landslide ruined the ground it stands on. That same landslide claimed the life of seven locals (a child including) on their way to the mountain to gather food. This catastrophic event led to the closure of the Mainit Trail indefinitely. 

Made our way through the same ascent route, and across the 13 tributaries. The water level of the river rose higher from when we crossed it the day before. Our guides did their job well and anticipates the need to give assistance to us especially during the river crossings. Very well done!

Around 5:00PM, we were back to where we started the day before and so we took our "After" group photo to mark the end of the climb.

Our "After" group photo.

Paid our dues to our reliable guides and just like that, we were back on the road for Davao. It rained hard immediately as we got on the vehicle. Arrived in Davao around 8:00PM and checked in at Grand Regal hotel. Had dinner at the Champagne Bar of the hotel (where only one champagne is available) and ordered the same dish I ate on that hotel a few months back - Travelers Meal. Had fun recollecting the events that took hold of us in the past two days. 

I bid Ian and Robert farewell the next morning when we arrived in Manila around 1:00PM and wished them a safe trip Mt. Kilimanjaro climb in the summer. That was another climb down the memory lane.


  1. Let me know what you think.. Please leave your comments.. ^_^

  2. great adventure.

  3. Maganda! Neat blog, too. I enjoyed yung entry kasi pupunta ako sa Mt. Apo sa July... you tell the story very well.

    If you don't mind, pwede bang mag-tanong? Safe to go mag-isa, or is a group better kasi NPA? Hindi na bale kung hindi mo alam... walang problema... keep up the good writing!

    Mr. X

  4. The Kidapawan route via Coong Trail is very safe. But generally, climbing solo without a local guide is not recommended. Make sure to register at the Kidapawan Tourism Office.


  5. Thanks James! very much welcome!

  6. I am pleasantly surprised that Mapua has made a giant leap from the "Engineering spokening here" image to a truly entertaining narrative weaver and a Geology grad, i presume. Excellent piece of work. Hope to see you along the trails - from an "old" ChE alumnus.

  7. Haha! gotta break the Mapuan tradition somehow!


    See you along the trails..

  8. Ooohneh, sorry to bug you... :-) I've asked on another forum and heard crickets lang... do you know how much is common/good to tip the guides and porters?

    Salamat if you have time to respond... kung hidi, no worries. Ingat!

  9. Nde nman compulsory ung tips.. We had 1 guide and two porter/guides. We paid the fees according to rates.. but we gave one of the porter-guide PhP200 more (secretly) because he was the one na masipag tlga.. We provided also their meals throughout the duration of the climb, and left them most of our leftover food supplies, as well as butanes.. Siguro mga Php500 worth din un..

    when in doubt, stick to the recommended rates ng DOT, no more, no less.. :D

  10. Maraming salamat, Ooohneh! I will do as you suggest. Salamat uli,



I'd love to hear from you.. Please share your experiences too.. ^_^

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