5th “Peak Bagging” Experience (April 6, 2012)
A simple ads on Facebook did the trick on me when a group of climbers posted an itinerary of a climbing event towards the peak of Mt Apo, the highest mountain peak in the country with an elevation of 2,956+ meters above sea level which was scheduled during the Holy Week. After a phone call and coordination with a friend in Davao City, I decided to try an approach towards the peak of the mountain which is new and not-so popular among mountain climbers. Reservations had been made with regards to my accommodation and transportation needs and everything was a GO!
Bansalan Trail (Bansalan, Davao Del Sur) Climb To The Peak of Mt Apo is a yearly activity (this is the 2nd year) being organized by the Tourism Office of the municipality in cooperation with mountaineering groups in the Davao Provinces. The itinerary of the climbing event spans for 4 days! The event started on the early morning of Holy Thursday with the participation of 300+ climbers and marshals. I was among the registered climbers but I opted to start the trek the following day, Good Friday! I was thinking that I can “run-peak bag-run” the mountain!
Although I left Davao City very early in the morning of Friday, I was delayed with so many “snags” once I arrived at the Bansalan Municipal Hall—the Tourism Office was closed; the Tourism Officer was called in their house to attend to me and receive my registration fee; it was Good Friday and there was only one eatery opened to serve food; the food order & service at the eatery was very slow. Finally, we were on our way to the trailhead which is another 20+-kilometer ride from the municipal hall.
With 6 kilometers more to go before reaching the trailhead, our vehicle just stopped and had a mechanical trouble! I had to ride on those motorcycle “habal-habal” just to be able to reach the trailhead which they call “Pluto”. I realized later that all the sitios and populated areas within the trailhead are named after the planets and stars of the galaxy.
I got the services of a guide who happens to be a “former” driver and worker in Manila for about 10 years and married to a lady from Pangasinan. Our trek started at 11:00 AM and we traveled fast and light! But the first kilometer was so steep that it took us 45 minutes to cover it! It was a sign that the trek will be a difficult one! The first mountain that we trekked was full of vegetable gardens just like those mountains in the Cordilleras where they are planted with carrots, cabbage, and radish. But after the first mountain, we entered to a place where you have tall grasses, reeds and later forest!
As compared with the trails in Luzon, the trail in Bansalan towards Mt Apo is a “beast”! It has all the combination of challenges and hardships, moreso, when it started to rain when we reached the forested area. They are foot trails/single-track and muddy which was brought about by the 300+ climbers that passed ahead of me. There are big trees that fell down due to natural causes and we have to do some detour from the established foot trail. The grasses along the sides of the trail had grown so tall that they completely cover the trails. In short, these trails are not maintained and they are usually used by the locals in the area. The Bansalan Trail is not a “tourist-friendly” trail and it is best for the “hardcore trail runners/trekkers” who are looking for challenges and risky adventures! And I guess, I consider myself as a “hardcore”!
After 4 hours of trekking (this is my first time not to be able to jog or run in any point/location towards a mountain peak), my guide and I were able to catch up with the tail of the climbers. One of the climbers recognized me and he was surprised to see me! We had some short conversation and some photo-ops. I had to pass their group and was able to reach the middle part of the group as we reached what they call “Lake Jordan”.
At this point, I had been trekking for the past 5 hours and I could see the full view of Mt Apo’s Peak. I told my guide that we have to rest and assess our chances of reaching the peak of the mountain on that day. We ate our energy bars and took some pictures while resting. I still have enough water in my Camelbak and enery bars to last for another 5 hours.
The next target to be reached by the climbers is Camp Reyes where they will spend the night and try to reach the peak of the mountain on the following day, Saturday. I was informed that I could reach Camp Reyes through power hiking in 1 hour but I would still have 2-3 hours to reach the peak. So, I made the decision to make my turn-around at this point. I was not fully equipped for the colder temperature (no tent, lack of food and water in going back to the trailhead for me and guide, and thicker jacket) as we went higher in elevation. It became colder as it rained in the mountains!
At Lake Jordan, the distance we have trekked covered 7.1 kilometers from the Pluto Trailhead and my GF305 registered an elevation of 2,428 meters above sea level. We still have another 530+ meters of elevation to trek for as to be able reach the peak of the mountain. It was a good decision to turn-around at this point. There will always be next time for Mt. Apo!
Our trek back to the Pluto Trailhead was more challenging as it rained some more and the thick mud kept on sticking to my trail shoes which made it heavier. Before we reached the last mountain from the trailhead, it was already becoming darker and it was already nighttime. With my headlight and hand-held flashlight, the guide and I were able to reach the trailhead with a slower pace making sure that we don’t slide or trip on those slippery descent and fallen trees which we have to walk on.
If my counting is right, I fell five (5) times on my butt on those slippery descents and bumped my head on fallent trees’ trunks & branches for three (3) times but I got no injuries or sprain on my body. Well, those are just part of the adventure and experience.
Finally, I reached my ride at the trailhead at 9:30 PM and reached Davao City before midnight. What a day to spend the Good Friday! This could be the longest day in my “peak bagging” feats so far!
This is my first “DNP” but it is worth the risk and adventure! I will make sure that I will be more prepared and smarter next time! This could be my first “DMB” (Did My Best) “peak bagging” so far!
Mt Apo, I’ll be back!