Thursday, February 28, 2013

Mt. Apo (Part 2)

Witnessing Its Grandeur

The BACKPACKERS Conquered
Mt. APO
By Heinz Lopez Alvarez, Jr.


The plants they call “Everyday”, blooming with beautiful peach flowers, continued to usher us until we were more than halfway through the trail, which specifically connects camps Godi-godi and Boracay. Along with those fascinating wild plants and untouched giant trees in that thick forest, Everyday seemed to keep our excitement alive as we tried to complete this part of the course leading to Mt. Apo’s incomparable grandeurs– the boulders, camp Boracay, the crater, its summit, and the Lake Venado.



"Everyday" is widely visible particularly in the Kapatagan side of Mt. Apo.


The Boulders

We knew that we were nearing the boulders when we noticed that it was continuous ascends already. The excitement even grew when we came out of that rich forest and started seeing wild black berries along the trail. Then the rocks in different sizes started to show up. Those rocks reminded me of my Facebook friends, who are mountaineers as well and who had also climb this Philippine’s tallest. I remembered how envious I felt whenever I saw their profile and cover pictures taken with the boulders and sulfuric smoke in the background. Literally standing in Mt. Apo that day, I said to myself, “My turn.”


The famous Boulders.

That higher part of the mountain, which seems to gate the crater and the summit on that side facing Davao, is called “Boulders” obviously because of the boulder rocks that cover the area.


The Group, ready for the Boulder challenge.
Navigating the boulders took more than an hour for the Group. It is primarily because of these two reasons: one, we needed to be extra careful that we literally watched every step we made as some rocks were not stable; and two, we stopped several times for take-fives.


BP Lead Ivan
BP Secretary Liz
BP PRO Heinz
BP Clue (Writer-Photographer)
BP April
BP Tin
Guests sweethearts (now engaged) Shyne and Louie
Guest Ms. Weng a.k.a. Byaheng Jologs
(http://byahengjologslakwatsera.blogspot.com/)
Guest (soon-to-be BP) Wilson
Whenever we paused the climb for a short break, we would face the direction where we came from to see how far we have gone in this journey and to witness the breathtaking views seen from the boulders. As expected, our mates who brought their SLR’s and digital cameras did not waste the opportunity to capture not only the panoramic sights, but also every one’s experience in Mt. Apo’s famous boulders. And at that point, the air had started to smell differently so we readied our face masks.

Mt. Apo is a potentially-active volcano. The sulfuric smoke it exudes, nonstop, is a wonderful sight and for me, it is an indicator that it is “breathing”. It is indeed a special blessing for us, mountaineers, who are able to come closer and to see how the Grandfather does that activity.


Mt. Apo's regular activity.
With our face masks on, we continued climbing that 100 percent rocky part of the mountain, definitely conscious that we were just a few meters away from the smoke vents. It was certainly a different experience one could never have in any other mountains, at least in the country. Personally, it was a memorable undertaking for me.


Rock Sulfur
I was an asthmatic person. “Was” because the last time I had an acute attack was long time ago and it has been more than three years now since I stopped inhaling daily anti-asthma spray. It was an unfortunate case that my asthma was triggered when the sulfuric smoke hit me. It was actually BP Tin who coughed first, me next. Then I felt I was choking, I kept on coughing, and the labored breathing started. Good thing there was a huge rock where I stopped. That rock somehow blocked the smoke that was supposed to cover us and would have made my situation worse. And I was lucky that Wilson, a soon-to-be BP and our first aider, was right behind me while we were in the boulders. He realized that I could no longer breathe normally because my respiratory got irritated by the sulfuric smoke. He then provided me with a damped cloth and had me breathed on it. It was a great reliever that I was able to breathe normally again and I was able to quickly move and run towards where it was safer for me.
 
Mt. Apo’s vents releasing smoke to our left, white rocks covering that specific area from left to right, and a mountain range underneath the blue sky with fluffy clouds in center view. That was how magnificent it looked from where we had our final stop in the boulders. “Thank you, Lord, for the perfect weather today.”



Camp Boracay

Our rocky trail adventure continued from the massive boulders until we reached Boracay. It was totally enjoyable and we noticed that the temperature was getting colder and colder as we were getting closer to the camp that was named after one of the world’s best beaches. In BP April’s case, she enjoyed picking and eating ripe wild black berries throughout the rocky trail.

Our question as to why it is called “Boracay” was answered soon as we hit the camp. It is called such mainly because of the sand that covers its flooring. And, yes, the whole camp looks mesmerizing in broad daylight.


Camp Boracay Up-Close
While our guides and porters were preparing the Group’s lunch, the rest went with their own little activities. Some preferred dozing off while some went eating their remaining trail food. BPs Liz and Clue explored the camp and looked for spots from where they could get perfect frames with Mt. Apo views for photographs.


The BACKPACKERS
Camp Boracay is perhaps the best spot from where one can capture detailed panoramic shot of an incomparable grandeur- green fields and mountain ranges underneath a sea of clouds, and that as a backdrop of Mt. Apo’s glistering white boulders.


Camp Boracay in semi-bird's eye view

What we had for breakfast back in Camp Godi-godi earlier was already consumed by our systems. Because of that, the rice and adobo that we had in Camp Boracay for lunch were knocked out! That situation made us appreciate our guides and porters who unselfishly gave their part and ate bread and noodles instead, knowing they carried our heavy backpacks.


Kuya Omel (a.k.a. Damian) and his alert team
It rained right after we finished lunch so we all squeezed in under the tent that Kuya Omel, head of our guides and porters, built earlier. Good thing it poured for a short time only and when it was over, our journey resumed.


The Crater


The Grandfather's basin
Personally, I was looking forward to see Mt. Apo’s crater. And I wished it had water on it. I saw how enchanting Mt. Bulusan (Sorsogon) and Mt. Hibok-hibok’s (Camiguin) craters were, at least when I was blessed to see them up close; so the thought that I would be witnessing Mt. Apo’s crater made me feel extremely excited.

It started to drizzle soon as we commenced the actual assault to the highest point of Mt. Apo. The trail at this part of the Grandfather mountain is very steep and the challenge continues up to the crater and ultimately, to the summit.

We knew that we have already reached the crater when we noticed that the wind blow had become stronger. A few more step up and we emerged right by the crater. It had water; and for me, though it was foggy and drizzling that we could only see the crater intermittently, it was equally enchanting like those craters I saw in the past.


BPs Ivan, Liz, April, and Heinz by the crater
We spent at least ten minutes trying to explore the crater. And because BPs Clue and Liz were so eager to take a picture of it, I would shout whenever the fog lessened so they could do some clicks with their SLRs. When I thought that it was time to proceed to the summit, I looked for Ivan, the BP Lead, so I could say “Let’s go,” only to find out that he already went ahead of the group. I just smiled and in my mind I said “Fulfilling a dream…” I then told everybody to follow the lead and invade the summit.


The Summit

The final trail to the summit, starting from the crater, could have been more manageable if not because of the strong winds carrying raindrops. We needed to duck walk to keep our balance and would stop behind huge rocks avoiding the strong icy breeze. Was that unfavorable weather the final challenge to test how determined we were in reaching the summit? Perhaps. But, we were almost there and turning back was out of our vocabulary. A few more step up and we saw ourselves standing, 2, 954 meters above sea level, in the highest point of the Philippine archipelago- the summit of Mt. Apo.


Fighting  the killer temperature as a group at the summit of Mt. Apo.
We could have been literally overlooking Davao City to the northeast, Digos City to the southeast, and Kidapawan City to the west if the weather was absolutely perfect. But for us, nothing can beat the fact that we have reach the dream summit of every Pinoy mountaineer. 

The summit was not exclusive for the group when we reached it. There we met a Filipino-German mountaineer and his climb buddy. And, as it was extremely cold at the summit that day, and on that specific time, we decided not to stay long and started the initial descent down to Lake Venado.



A Camp by the Romantic Lake Called Venado

With utmost precaution, we started the initial descent via a trail that was leading to the west. It was The BACKPACKERS' Mt. Apo Kapatagan-Kidapawan Traverse 2013.



Along the trail leading to Lake Venado
The trail was relatively easy for all of us. But, it was the weather that gave us the challenge to survive. The rain continued and everybody was already trembling. But, happiness and contentment were overflowing that in everyone's mind was a single goal- to reach the campsite before the sun completely goes down. And, the majority, led by Kuya Omel and the the BP Lead Ivan, was able to do it!



However, unnoticed by others, Tin's knees got injured in the boulders and their exposure to the icy cold temperature made her situation worse. But despite the pain, she managed to walk and finished almost halfway of the trail, which connects the summit and the camp by the Lake Venado. All throughout this unfortunate condition, Wilson and James (one of our kind porters) were there to support. Wilson applied the first aid while James took and carried my backpack so I could support Tin as she attempted to move and step her feet very slowly. Until she stopped trying because of the unbearable pain she felt. I did try carrying her but we stumbled after just a few minutes, which we thought was very dangerous because we were in a steep slope trying to go down. Good thing Kuya Omel checked on us so we were able to request for a rescue, and Ivan went backtracking looking for his pouch with valuables so he was able to see Tin's situation. But because the rain was almost nonstop, we had no choice but to continue moving, otherwise, the hypothermia. It was certainly a great relief for Tin when we saw two men coming to her rescue. Jhun carried her all the way down to our camp by the Lake Venado.


The challenge brought by the bad weather went on. We went inside our tents after dinner and tried to sleep despite the fact that everything around us was wet and cold. We purposely compressed inside our respective tents but our body heat failed to combat the exacting temperature. For most of us, it seemed there was no more tomorrow. Lucky were those in Wilson's tent though- Wilson, Ms. Weng, Liz and April. Now it's funny! :P



Inside Wilson's tent
There would always be sunrise, of course, and we were blessed with a brand new day! A brand new day and perhaps, the most romantic day for sweethearts Shyne and Louie.

Right after breakfast and before we break the camp, the group, except for me and Shyne, went to the lake. The two of us who were left in the camp chatted about anything under the sun while I kept on checking for Ivan's go signal. When it was time, I asked Shyne to go out of the tent and told her that it was time for a group picture by the lake. She followed. And when we had reached the group, the girls started to walk through an imaginary aisle. Shyne did not know the real thing that was happening and just went modelling through the aisle as well when it was her turn. And, when she reached the end of the aisle, Louie approached her, knelt in front of her and Louie started crying. Shyne could not fully decipher what was going on, until Louie handed her a false rose that was actually containing a precious thing. He asked shyne to open it and as she did, Louie asked the big question. Shyne answered "YES!" and everybody, in one way or another, felt moved to see Shyne and Louie drowning (not in Lake Venado, but) in love.




Watch the video and witness LOVE by clicking on their names below.


Videography by Ivan Ignacio
Shyne and Louie with the girls
Shyne and Louie with the boys

After that romantic scene, when the sun started to come out behind those grey clouds, Lake Venado turned into a more beautiful haven.


The beautiful and romantic Lake Venado


Photos by Liz Honrade and Clue Fajardo
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Continue reading...



The BACKPACKERS Conquered
Mt. APO (Part 3)
By Heinz Lopez Alvarez, Jr.


Have a glance at...


The BACKPACKERS Conquered
MT. APO (Part 1)
By Ivan Laurence Ignacio

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