Of the many mountains that I trekked here and out of the country, Mt. Apo is one that had been on my list for a looooong time. There were several opportunities before to climb it with some of my good friends but it just simply did not happen. Not until a good friend and a PSA runner Jules invited us to join her for the second time on doing a skyrun on the mountain, without hesitation I said yes, but of course it did not come with ease. I had to find ways how I'd be able to join the trip without having to spend that much, making every necessary ways to save as much as I can. After several thoughts, I decided to use my long been saved mabuhay mileage, that saved me a lot.
my flight via PAL
But the airline that I choose to fly with had a crew strike few days before my flight and my very schedule got affected, I got moved to the earliest next schedule but still on the day of my departure my flight is still delayed. With this, I had to travel alone from Davao City to Kidapawan, hoping to catch up with the rest of the group there, I thank Jay's schedule includes hearing a mass first, I may be traveling alone to unfamiliar place again but at least I got a chance to hear mass as well, something I haven't been doing for several sundays now, my past sundays were just full of outdoor schedules (I know this is not a good excuse.). After hearing a mass, we drop by the nearest grocery store to buy some last minute supply and off we go to our jump off, the barrio of Agco in Kidapawan, North Cotabato. It's a 45 minute habal-habal (motorcycle) ride. And because it had a heavy down pour of rain few hours earlier, the travel is cold, and scary, it's rough uphill road without street lights. I am just holding my breath as it goes to a curve and it goes to another long ascend. We settled at Lake Agco Resort, eat dinner, meet our guide, discuss final details of the run and rest.
We are legal runners via Koong Trail
2:30am of Oct 2, 2011, the team that comprises of 3 runners and 1 guide meet at the eating area of the resort, had some light breakfast, I packed 1 pc chicken and rice, had some stretching and of we go. At 2:45am we started with a short rough road trek , this served as our warm up. It's still dark and cold but the sky is full of bright stars, a good sign of a beautiful day ahead.
Crossing Marbol River is a challenge
After several minutes of trek we went down to the cross Marbol River, the very first of the 6 river crossings that we will have on our way up and another six on our way down. And because it had been raining every evening for several days now, the river is just really high and current is strong, though I do not have any idea how really big the river is, it's still dark, but I can feel the current. Thank goodness our guide lead us in every step that we will take in the river, making sure that the 3 of us can pass the river safe. But this is also the start of our challenge of running/trekking on a wet shoes as early as the very first part of this adventure.
The trail after the river crossing is just an unending long uphill trek at times using both hands on some technical walls. It's slippery and muddy due to the rain the past days, on some flat areas it's a trail full of mud and swamp, my not so favorite, I really tried to avoid it but as Jules said I just have to let go for I'll encounter more of it along the long trail, and true enough there were more swamp muddy areas especially after Lake Venado on our way to the summit. I just hate the squeeze sound of it. But reaching the Lake Venado is just a sweet surprise for me. Walking in the swamp side approaching the lake surrounded by tall trees with the light of the sunrise on the other end is just really amazing view for me. Seeing this just ease all the pain that I am starting to feel in my legs. What a beautiful place, it reminds me of Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania. But because we are on a tight schedule, of course we cannot stay and explore the place, we just pass by, passing some campers and off we go to the summit approach.
the most awaited summit
At around 7:00am, there is still no view of the summit, it's cloudy, foggy and windy, making our summit assault really cold. I do not have any idea how far or how tall the summit is but our guide said that will take us another 2 hours. The trail to the summit starts with more swampy parts until slippery and muddy. With our feet soak in the cold socks, shoes muddy, every step going up is really getting heavier, my legs starts to get sore. As we move higher, the elevation goes higher the air gets thinner, we are already catching our breath. Jules had been encouraging us, upon reaching the rock life will be easier. Upon reaching the rock, it's still foggy and windy, but at least we are almost there.
at the sulfur vent
Surprisingly, the sun come out, the sky cleared and the jagged summit and it's surrounding places now visible. We just have to move up, still struggling there is no way but going up. I just imagine those images that I saw in my friends pictures of this place, I know I will see it too, that served as my inspiration to just go on trekking. On the saddle in between the peaks we met some climbers from the crater. Seeing the crater, the boulder trail, the sulfur vent, the view of Kapatagan is just so rewarding. It eases all the pain. After taking pictures on the several peaks of the mountain, we settled on one side of the peak that is covered from the gusty wind blowing from the other side of the mountain, eat our brunch and just enjoy the view.
having lunch at the summit
After almost an hour, we proceed down. Going down is another story, it's another challenge. I always love this part of the any trek, going down, at least I will not struggle myself to push upwards but rather go with the gravity of going downhill. But because the trail is slippery, I had to make sure I will not slide on every step that I will make which in effect is also a struggle. Reaching Lake Venado is another relief, we had a chance to wash our muddy shoes, take some pebbles inside the shoes and time to rest a bit. After that off we go our long descend, it was really long. I tried not to think about how far we will still go but I can't help but ask Wowie how far the river will be. On my mind, the river will be a sign that even if we will be crossing it again for six times, at least we are almost to the trail end. But this did not happen soon, we still have to pass by several technical descend, some slippery and muddy trail going down. Seeing Marbol River on broad day light is very much different crossing it earlier while it was still dark. The river is ragging and is at it's full force. But I have no choice but to cross it with concern visible on my face.
Passing by the very last part of the river before going to the community is really a great reward for me. The Ko-ong Trail of the Kidapawan side is suppose to be a 3 day climb, we did it in 12 hours, with 1,758MASL elevation gain. This is a 25 kilometer trail from the jump off to the summit and back to the jump off. We did it, we may be tired and our body may be aching and sore from the long run but it was all worth it. I thank once again to PSA, to Jules and Jay for once again making my dream a reality. Never in my wildest dream will I ever thought that I'd be able to conquer the highest peak in the country on a skyrun on 12 hours. How ironic it is, several months ago I was looking for somebody who can accompany and guide me in this mountain and it's neighboring peak, Mt. Talomo on a 3 day traverse , but no one believe that it can be done until Jules did it.
Again, for the so many times I thank Philippine Skyrunning for introducing me to the sports, I have so much fun doing what I love to do without having to sacrifice so much of my time up in the mountain. The sports is also a test of my endurance and how far I can push myself physically. I maybe bringing the very least load that I can but the speed of accomplishing the entire trail is much more of a challenge.
It was another successful training for us, high altitude, cold weather, gusty winds, packaged in one on this mountain. Til the next adventure.
Total expenses for this trip including airfare: PhP4,257.90
Our itinerary of the run via Kidapawan side, Ko-ong Trail
2:45am - start of run, Lake Agco Resort
3:20am - ETA at Marbol River
5:30am - Junction, First Compression Stop
6:30am - Lake Venado
8:30am - Summit of Mt. Apo
9:00am - Lunch on the Summit
9:30am - Start of Descend
10:40am - Lake Venado
1:10pm- First part of Marbol River
3:00pm - Lake Agco Resort, end of run