Sunday, July 7, 2013


Location: Kidapawan, Northern Cotabato, Philippines
Entry point: Brgy. Ilomavis, Kidapawan City
Exit point: Brgy. Ilomavis, Kidapawan City
Coordinates: 7°0'30"N, 125°16'33"E
Elevation: 2956 MASL (9,698 feet)
Days required / Hours to summit:4 days / 12 hours
Specs: Major climb, Difficulty 7/9, Trail Class 3
Descriptive Summary: Mount Apo is unique for the charm of Lake Venado that it contributes to the mountain which is in an elevation of 2,280 MASL. According to my guide, our group has trailed through Mandarangan. The climb could have been shortened but our group opted to have overnight in Lake Venado on the first day; overnight on the summit - second day; overnight again in Lake Venado - third day; and fourth day was the descent to the jump-off point.

View Mt Apo in a larger map

Just one of the few river crossing we had in the Marble River

This climb was a long time dream for me considering that Mount Apo is the highest peak of the Philippines where we scaled through Mandarangan Trail where its jump-off point is more than an hour drive from Kidapawan City. We started the trek at 9:16 A.M. at Day 1. The picture above was taken when we were having our river tubing along Marble River which is still a part of Day 1.

Crossing bamboo bridge no. 5

Crossing bamboo bridge no. 6

Along the trail, we crossed a total of 6 wooden/bamboo bridges, trekked through a Sayote plantation and we regrouped in Junction-Matiaw Campsite at 11:11 A.M. We had our lunch near Ko-ong Creek at 12:04 Noon. We happened to have an ample rest in the century-old Almasiga Tree at 12:58 Noon. After that, heavy rains followed and we were soaked in water with our shoes being heard squelching as we managed to trek in a muddy and sticky trail. We arrived in Ko-ong Emergency Campsite at 2:38 P.M. The rain had stopped as we continue our trek though this time the trail was giving us an extreme difficulty as it was so stiff and made us strove with exhausting cardiac assaults.

Lake Venado at 5:00 P.M. A lake at 2,280 MASL.

Finally, we arrived in the scenic Lake Venado at 4:54 P.M. where we stayed overnight. Lake Venado is an endorheic lake located at the foot of Mount Apo in the province of North Cotabato, Mindanao, Philippines. It is the highest lake in the country, found in coordinates 7°00′8″N 125°16′10″E, with an estimated surface elevation of 7,200 feet (2,194 meters above sea level). The lake is feed by local run-off and there is no outflow from the lake. The lake usually loses two-thirds of its size during dry months due to evaporation.

The name of the lake comes from the Spanish word "venado", which means "deer," owing to the deer-like shape of the lake. However, the local people living in the area called the lake "linaw", a Cebuano term for "clear", because the water of the lake is crystal-clear reflecting the peak of Mount Apo. The lake is believed to be enchanted by spirits living in the lake, according to the local tribes people.

Lake Venado at 5:00 A.M.

Day 2 was more exciting as Lake Venado early in the morning offers such a magnificent scenery with the kind of reflection of its crystal clear waters. Then after breakfast, we ascended to the summit starting 9:32 A.M. and reached the summit at 1:48 P.M. based on my personal record. For me, it was an achievement, to reach the summit of the Philippines’ highest peak of Mount Apo at a record of 2,954 meters or 9,692 feet. The trail was even stiffer and exhausting where I needed much rest for every 20 steps I made ascending.

The rocky summit grown with wild berries and cogon

The summit campsite was spacious where our big group pitched our tents. It was so rewarding to stay for an overnight in the summit campsite as we had the chance to experience the glory of being on top of the Philippines. I was so amazed picking and eating wild berries growing abundantly near the summit campsite.

Sunrise at Davao Side Peak of Mount Apo

Mount Apo's sulphur smoke-filled crater during sunrise

Mount Apo's Peak at Davao Side

Mount Apo's Peak at Kidapawan's side

Day 3 was even more rewarding as we woke up as early as 5:00 A.M. to witness the sunrise at Peak 5 (Davao side) overlooking the Dead Lake and the crater. We stayed longer there and after an hour or two, we went back to the campsite to take our breakfast. Together with my porter Argie Amad and Sandawa-Apo Members: Arvin Languido, Jet Fritch Norbe and Renan Rebosura, we scaled Peaks 1 and 2 (Kidapawan side); Peak 3 (Magpet side) and Peak 6 (Davao-Calinan-Tamayong side). We failed to scale the other two peaks, namely: Peak 4 (Makilala side) and Peak 7 (Digos-Bansalan side). After the breakfast, we started to descend from the summit at 9:55 A.M. and reached Lake Venado at 11:21 A.M. as per my personal record. The scenery from the summit overlooking Lake Venado was superb and magnificent.

Still a part of Mount Apo's Peak at Davao-Calinan-Tamayong side

Scenery from Peak 7 in Digos-Bansalan side

Taken passed midpoint from the summit on our way to Lake Venado

Overlooking Lake Venado while our group was descending from the summit

During Day 4, we had an ample time along Lake Venado. We were not in a hurry then. We just enjoyed the cool experience of being there. We started the ascent from Lake Venado at 8:56 A.M. trekking through Mainit Trail and reached the Marble River at 10:18 A.M. for a river trekking. We reached the Junction-Matiaw Campsite at 12:14 Noon just timely for our lunch. We reached the jump-off point at 2:04 P.M. and proceed to Lake Agco for a refreshing swim on its hot spring.

Below is the suggested Itinerary for this trail:

Day 1

07:30 A.M. Take van from Kidapawan City to Brgy. Ilomavis
09:00 A.M. ETA Brgy. Ilomavis
09:30 A.M. Start trek
01:00 P.M. ETA Mainit Hot Springs
05:00 P.M. ETA Lake Venado; set-up camp
07:00 P.M. Dinner and social onwards

Day 2

05:00 A.M. Wake-up call
06:30 A.M. Breakfast
07:30 A.M. Start summit assault.
10:30 A.M. ETA summit of Mt. Apo
11:00 A.M. Set-up camp and lunch preparation
12:00 NN Lunch
01:00 P.M. Start of siesta time
05:30 P.M. Dinne preparation
07:00 P.M. Dinner and social onwards

Day 3

04:30 A.M. Wake-up call
05:00 A.M. Sunrise at Mount Apo's crater
06:30 A.M. Start of peaks hopping
08:00 A.M. Breakfast/Break camp
09:00 A.M. Start descent to Lake Venado
11:30 A.M. ETA Lake Venado/Set-up camp
12:00 NN Lunch Preparation
01:00 P.M. Lunch
02:00 P.M. Start of siesta time
05:30 P.M. Dinner preparation
07:00 P.M. Dinner/socials

Day 4

05:00 A.M. Wake-up call
05:30 A.M. Breakfast preparation
06:30 A.M. Breakfast
07:30 A.M. Break camp
08:00 A.M. Start descent to Brgy. Ilomavis
12:00 NN Lunch on trail
03:30 P.M. ETA Lake Agco Hot Spring Resort
05:00 P.M. ETD Lake Agco Resort
06:00 P.M. ETA Kidapawan City

You may also like reading a related climb by an iconic and professional climber Gideon. Click here to view his blog.


  1. a must-climb Philippine mountain of course!:) nice one sir! did you just take the kidapawan trail and spend 4 days there? such a wonderful stay and a lot of wandering moments i guess..

  2. Yes, our entry point was the Mandarangan Trail of Kidapawan. And Yes, it was a total of four days: first day, trek to lake venado and stayed overnight; second day we scaled from lake venado to the summit and stayed overnight there; third day, from the summit to lake venado and stayed there for an overnight again. fourth day, from lake venado down the way to the jump-off point. It was not strenuous since we are well rested at night. What trail did you take?

  3. SO HEAVENLY! All the places you've been into and also this blog. PILIPINAS, a seriously-must-see place to visit. Can't quite compare this site to any travel blog I've seen. Very informative and such a great tease to everybody. Keep it going! :D

  4. Thanks emlou. What an awe-inspiring comment. I will try to improve more this blog for the benefit of the viewers.

  5. Eto yung sobrang kinakainggitan ko. Kelan kaya ako makaka akyat ng bundok?

    1. Katherine, you should find time to scale Mount Apo. Remember, climbing it is significant since it is the highest peak in the Philippines.

  6. Oh ow ow so wow!!! You've conquered the highest mountain of the Philippines? Then, this can really be your bragging right as you claim it in your "About Us" section.

  7. You made it!!! You made it to the top of the Philippines!!! Thanks for the share!