The highpoint of the Philippines is Mount Apo, located on Mindanao island. Naturally, it also claims the title of the island’s highest point. Globally, it ranks as the 99th most prominent mountain, boasting an altitude of 2,954 metres. There are several compelling reasons to ascend it. Apart from being an active stratovolcano, many local tribes regard it as a sacred ground. The trail, I soon discovered, was laden with intrigue, and the panoramas from the higher altitudes were simply breathtaking. We parked our vehicle roadside, changed, and embarked on our trek to the summit. Our route took us across agricultural expanses and over a dam via a steel bridge. The trail then skirted the fields, leading us to Culan’s last village. Here, we refreshed with cold beverages and registered our presence. Another two kilometers ushered us to the Tumpis settlement. After a brief hiatus by the local church, we resumed our quest towards the peak.
- Day 1. From the car park at 1140m to the campsite at 2255m in 5h20
- Day 2. From the camp at 2255m to the summit at 2954m in 3h15. Then down to the car park in 6h00 (including lunch brake).
We soon found ourselves venturing into the jungle, tackling steeper terrain. Our path led us past Camp 1 and the Timikaran Camp 2, bustling with several individuals and pitched tents. The camp’s name pays homage to the endemic Timikaran tree species found in the vicinity. After pausing for lunch and covering another half-hour of trail, we reached our designated campsite. Here, we set up our tents, allowing ample time for relaxation, considering it was just post-lunch and we had the entire afternoon ahead. Albert recommended a visit to Boulders Opening to observe active vents, an idea we readily embraced. The spot was around half a kilometer away, and we strolled to an old lava flow area. Upon arrival, the sound and sight of active vents greeted us. The air was tinged with the aroma of sulfur, accompanied by wisps of smoke—an engaging and intriguing spectacle to behold.
A multitude of individuals from Timikaran Camp 2 commence their ascent around 1 am. I can hear the strains of good music emanating from their loudspeakers as they pass by my tent at 2 am. Our day begins at 4 am, with a cup of coffee to invigorate us before we swiftly catch up with this group. To our surprise, they haven’t covered a significant distance. Indeed, when we reach the summit, we encounter only a handful of people, implying that we have overtaken several teams. Beyond Boulders Opening, we encounter numerous new vents emitting the distinct sulfur gases. Although the path isn’t glaringly obvious, its necessity is minimal. Following this, we traverse several hundred vertical meters of uncomplicated scrambling across boulder fields, eventually encountering well-defined trails leading to the sub-peaks and, ultimately, the true summit.
The summit is marked with a plaque, but on the lower summit, we find a plaque with a misleading height of about one hundred and fifty meters more than it actually is. There are a few other people on the top, Albert signs and gives us certificates. It’s a nice touch. The views around aren’t bad, but clouds are gathering, and soon the visibility isn’t as good as it was twenty minutes before.
On the way up, we also visit the slightly lower northeastern summit, then climb the highest central peak, followed by the westernmost peak, and finally on the way back, we have to climb the southern summit. So, we visit four of the highest peaks on the mountain.
On the way down, we get caught in a heavy tropical downpour and spend half an hour in the local church, waiting for the rain to stop. But the rain stops as quickly as it started, and we descend to the village of Culan, where we take a short break with a cold beer and a snack. It’s a very refreshing moment.
After reaching the car, we change and head back to Davao. An excellent start to the trip. One more ultra mountain, one more range highpoint, one more island highpoint, and finally one more country highpoint are completed. Tomorrow, before heading to Mount Matutum, we will also detour to Puting Bato, the highest point of Samal Island.