What goes up must come down, they say. So there we were, descending 740 meters from the summit of Mt. Apo to reach the iconic Lake Venado where we would encamp for the night. A short distance for many, but a challenging one nonetheless.

The trail to Lake Venado was evidently spoiled by time and people. It was steep and muddy and slippery. But for someone who prefers downhill over uphill terrain like me, it was honestly a little fun. Had we not been carrying our backpacks, we would surely enjoy running — even sliding — on the mire like kids. But nobody dared to take photos during those two hours of balancing our feet. Our minds and eyes were focused holding on to branches/roots/grass to avoid tumbling down.

My trail buddies downhill

It was 4pm when Shiela, Karl, James, Ate Sherlyn, Shandy and I finally reached the lake. The rest of our group went ahead and had already set up camp. For us, we took a quick breather and stared at our feat. We survived the Lake Venado trail!

That dirty butt says a lot… HAHA!

Even with the gloomy late afternoon, Lake Venado remained magnificent. At 2194 masl, the weather up here was better than the summit. The water, however, was numbing cold. Their campsite was well established with working water faucets, sink areas, gender-separated toilet rooms and bathrooms. While most campers did not dare to take the shower, James, Karl and I did. And boy, we’d tell you. Lake Venado is not the only thing here that could take your breath away. Take. That. Shower.

We started the liquor ahead of our dinner to warm our insides. We had fun recalling our experiences from Day 1 to Day 2 over a long neck bottle. Shortly, the food arrived and we filled our stomachs with hot soup. [insert drunken conversations and forgotten memories here]

I doubt any of us remember what happened here.

Morning came and our eyes feasted to the beauty of Lake Venado. Reflected on its calm water is the peak of Mt. Apo creating a dreamy scene. The sun’s golden glow and the clear blue skies played its part in making it even more mesmerizing. It was definitely one of the most unforgettable views I’ve ever seen.

Waking up to this view
The weather changed in a blink of an eye so we decided to go
One final salute to Mt. Apo for the great experience

At 8am, we started breaking our camp and by 8:30am, we headed to Century Tree trail. Our guides told us that the hike would last up to 7 hours. It was 13km of easy trek through alternating uphill and downhill terrain. Thankfully, it was not as steep as the trail going up the boulders or the trail going down Lake Venado.

Happy faces
There are also guide dogs in Mt. Apo. We saw one along the trail.
Endless greens
The last assault before reaching the century tree

After 4 hours, we reached the century-old Almaciga Tree. Mt. Apo is home to many towering trees but this one stood out with its long trunk breaking through the canopy of the smaller trees around it. There were other hikers exiting through this trail so we had to wait for our turn to get up-close the tree.

The last group photo

We then continued the hike, looking forward to finally calling it a day. Soon, the long hours of walking took its toll. The weight of our backpacks became noticeable and the last descent became too exhausting. We saw the community from above but knew we were still far away. I personally did not want to walk any longer since my auntie-knees started to hurt, but I had to. Holding onto my trek poles, I hobbled forward.

Finally, we were able to catch up with the lead group at Dissander. Another hour of hike and we were back to Sitio Colan where we received our climb certificates. It was past 5pm and the weather went from fair to bad. Rain poured hard with punctuating thunder and lightning. Gladly, we didn’t have to carry our bags to our van pick-up area. We chartered motorcycles to take it instead. Two hours later, we headed to our rented apartment at Davao City. Comfortable sofa and bed, at last.

…and this concludes our 3D2N Mt. Apo climb. The two years of waiting was worth it. Would I come back? YES! I would love to see the sun rise on top of the country’s highest point. Or witness a sea of clouds if destiny permits it. Perhaps I’d be with different people by then, sharing different sets of stories along the trail. The possibilities in the mountains are endless. All we have to do is embrace it and hike. See you!

Check out these related posts:

Remembering Mt. Apo: Part 1 (A fantasy turned reality)
Remembering Mt. Apo: Part 2 (The journey to the summit of Apo Sandawa)