I was not as prepared as I should have been for the climb of Mt. Apo that I undertook on 14th to the 16th September 2018. I did a little training at home but not nearly enough. It was entirely my fault because for some reason I didn’t imagine that it would be as difficult for me as it was. I have to admit to being a novice at mountain climbing but this was no problem for the Discover Mt. Apo Team.
I have also to add that at 63 years old I am perhaps a little older than many who might attempt this climb so please don’t be put off by what I am about to say. It was hard! As well as trekking past fields and villages up the steep paths on the slopes of the fabled mountain, we splashed across streams and climbed up through the jungle undergrowth, over and under fallen trees, at times clinging onto roots and branches to stay upright as we slipped on the peaty paths. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, we ventured up through the sulphurous air and clambered and crawled over the boulders, the volcanic debris left after Mt. Apo’s most recent eruption, maybe balancing precariously while desperately feeling for decent footholds on the gritty and oftentimes slippery trail or leaping across the gaps between the huge lumps of inconveniently shaped rock that seem as if they have thrown there by an unhappy giant.
Keeping on all the time upwards, ever upwards on the steep slopes! It really was a monster workout! I think I lost several pounds in weight over the three days and ended up with a much leaner and fitter figure!
On the way we heard cicadas (the Mt. Apo variety makes the weirdest sound I have ever heard!), saw wild monkeys, met up close and personal with a mantis (it came in the night to inspect our tent), saw numerous butterflies and plants and heard many, many different insect creatures. Most memorable of all though, were the views. At every stage we could stop, turn and look back at the most incredible views and vistas I think I have ever seen. The jungle covered slopes and the fields of the valleys sweeping away for miles and miles towards distant hills and mountains gave fabulous detail to the vast landscape. In one direction it seemed the whole of Davao was laid out before us (if a little hazy with its smoke and dust!), and the island of Samal a dark smudge over the sun shining gold on the waters of the Davao Gulf.
After all that effort, and all those distractions, I was very pleased to finally reach the top. There are few words to describe the summit. It was awesome. When the mists briefly cleared we found we were surrounded by a magical sea of clouds, the sunlight picking out the other, softer, peaks quietly drifting past us as we celebrated.
I have to say, though, that I wouldn’t have reached the top, or succeeded in my mission, or ticked off the box and managed to fulfil a dream, or had this wonderful experience at all if it wasn’t for the Discover Mt. Apo team. They were fantastic! Utterly professional, they were patient, dedicated, and always by our sides. They guided and helped us both up and down (the descent being a lot slower and more laborious for us – me especially – than the ascent), and carried our bags which were extremely heavy. They were attentive to our every need. When I grazed my shin, Elvis, our guide, carefully cleaned the wound with Iodine as patiently as any nurse. When I suffered from slight dehydration, they sent an extra porter to fetch more water and carry my rucksack and there was a hot, salty drink waiting for me back at camp.
When first we reached the campsite they set up our tent quickly and efficiently, leaving us to rest and relax. They then set up their own tent and set about cooking a meal for us. The food, despite being cooked on a camping stove, was really excellent, tasty and filling and there was plenty of it and each meal brought a different menu to our hungry mouths. But not only were the team helpful and supportive in every way, they were great fun too. There was a lot of good natured banter with the other members of the other teams climbing alongside ours and a great deal of laughter. All in all, as the memory of the pain fades away, I shall remember my trip as being a very enjoyable and worthwhile experience made special by a very special team, Team Discover Mt. Apo.