Monday, April 6, 2015

North Cotabato | Cold Mornings In Lake Venado

NORTH COTABATO | Cold Mornings In Lake Venado
The Enchanted 2nd Highest Lake In The Philippines

Kim and I were actually taking each other's photo, marveling at the clear reflection we have in the lake. Joanne is trying to warm up with a little walk. The saturated greens and blues of the photo were no exaggeration; I don't over enhance my photographs.

Enchanted and Beautiful, this Endorheic Lake near the summit of Mt Apo is the Philippines 2nd Highest Lake in elevation. It's not surprising since Mt Apo dubbed as "The Grandfather of Philippine Mountains" is the country's roof top. We camped here after a daylong of trekking the forested Boholanon trail of Magpet, and here's an account of what happened when we arrived and waking up near a sublime body of water with the facade of Mt Apo's many summits looming before it.

With my trek buddies, I was first to arrive and feel the sandy banks of Lake Venado. Our guides and porters went ahead setting up camp so I waited for the first ones to arrive in this clearing, sure enough Joanne was the first to round the bend, my camera flash greeted her arrival.

Our Way To Lake Venado
It had been a long day, trekking in Magpet early morning from Camp Anos to Bob'Bong Camp site for our quick lunch. Magpet trail was amazing as it is right smack in the Mt Apo Natural Park; it was the place for ultimate forest adventure a hiker could wish for. It's the end of November, dry season is about to start in this equatorial  tropics, though we came ready for the rain and wet trek, it didn't pour down on us, the only lucky souls who dared trek Mt Apo at this time of year. We had Magpet trail to ourselves, even the Kidapawan trail where we traverse as we trek down Mt Apo, I haven't seen another soul aside from my fellow hikers all seven of us, our two guides and two porters. If you had the whole day of walking along forested trail, it can get into your nerves, I have made a lot of self introspection which made me a stronger hiker.
Lake Venado was my inspiration for the whole day; I wanted to see for myself and photograph the night sky over Mt Apo and to experience its enchantment and magic in the wee morning hours. The long hours of trekking, what with our easy pace took a toll on most of my buddies. I felt a sudden rush of elation as I pushed aside the last of cogon grasses that obtructed my view, and there I behold Mt Apo in the shadows, its Kidapawan and Digos peaks are a stark contrast and easy reminder that we still have to take on that sheer height and elevation.

As our guides and our humble porters have predicted, it will be a very cold night. We were confident, as we mostly had experienced the freezing cold of Mt Pulag in the Cordillera's, but as I sat there waiting for everyone to gather, my dri fit clothes that had been wet all day seemed inappropriate as minutes pass by. Cold air breezes pass us and as much as I would just like to lay down in the sand and imprint into memory the landscape of Mt Apo before me, we have to move. I learned to move faster and become a lot more determined as I grew tired and weary. I had been selfish thinking only about myself, it was a numbing realization as one of my buddies started crying for no reason at all while waiting and resting in the sandy banks of Lake Venado. A whole day of trekking was a lot to take in but for now, this scenic place enveloped in darkness with numbing cold temperature and sheer looming shadow will be our home for the night. Lake Venado is undoubtedly beautiful at night, makes me eager to experience its cold mornings when the blades of the grasses are laden with dews and the sublime body of water reflects the blue sky.

 This landscape greeted me as I crept out of the tent. The saturated greens and yellows, the low banks of Lake Venado reflecting the morning sky like a mirror.

I found Dona, seated on big firewood wrapped up in her jacket and sleeping bad.

The pre requisite portrait before the landscape, I didn't know what to pose really, in this I was getting ready for a jump shot when Kim pushed the button.

Before Trekking The Summit
How fast time flies when you are recuperating. I was well rested within the tent, but the cold we all felt is a reminder that we are finally near the summit of Mt Apo. The plan to trekk at 3 or 4AM to see the Sunrise in the peak was discarded much to our relief. We were too cold to move anyway. Light crept, and as it lighted even the inside of the tent, it has become difficult to ignore. We had to prepare breakfast and ourselves for a trek to the summit.

We arrived yesterday early evening, though the night sky has a scattering of stars. We were too cold to explore the surroundings. I am weak against cold, thankfully everyone felt the same way hence we had an early lights out. As I take in the view of Lake Venado in the morning, our excitement is palpable. We were thinking of swimming in the Lake but decided against it for safety reasons, a hiker died from drowning in this lake in 2007. We dare not under estimate the cold water of the Lake, and the mystical guardians that the locals say claim lordship over this place.

These next set of photos features the lake and our assault to the summits of Mt Apo.

A morning walk around Lake Venado, Time to explore the area as our guides and porters prepare the breakfast.

On rainy days, when the lake is overflowing, this make shift bridge is sub-merge. Hikers will be forced to skirt the wide expanse of the lake.

Because this is an Endorheic Lake, water is stagnant, cold and clean. Though we can't tell what is in the bottom, according to reports, the water is 20 feet deep while our guides say that it is deeper than that as it has deep crevices that you can find in most volcanoes.

After crossing the make shift bridge, is the wide expanse of hard sandy flatlands. With wild flowers, thick forest and the rock boulders and grassland before the rocky summits of Digos and Kidapawan peaks, the latter are the 2 highest points in Mt Apo.

We scrambled through slippery mud and water sources along the forest area, and beyond that is the steep slope. I looked back and behold as I can see before me the majestic Apo-Talomo Mountain Range, Lake Venado is a sight to behold from this vantage point along with the Mt Apo Natural Park.

A wide expanse of open grassland, here I took a selfie while waiting for my buddies to catch up. It's cold with occasional wind gust, explains the purpose for my thermal jacket. It's become hard to breathe as oxygen at this elevation is thin; I'm already above cloud levels.

A summit like no other, thanks to our guide Arde Vien Francis for this photo. That humbling feeling of being minuscule realizing how big this world is, but at the same time, it was one of my proudest moment being in the roof top of the Philippines Mt Apo.

As a promise dare to a departed friend, I should have a photo of being topless in the summits of high altitude mountains. Mission accomplished my dear Khendi, I included the vantage view of Lake Venado in this.

Back in the banks of Lake Venado, these wild flowers were all over the place.

With Joanne and Mye, we raced back to the camp. The feeling of accomplishment is all over us; we can't help but feel the hard ground Lake Venado's sandy banks.

Break camp at Sunset. The only Sunset photo I have in Lake Venado. It was beautiful, the entire area is lighted with different hues, I could only wish for more time but we were already late. We will be night trekking to Kidapawan. Kim with his heavy pack, tent and tripod is just a few paces before me.

This is just one part of mt Mt Apo Adventures.

Planning on trekking Mt Apo?

Please contact our young and fun guide.
Arde Vien Francis Pogosa
SMART: 0920577553
GLOBE: 09365342628
SUN: 09334819114

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Francis Balgos is a Call Center Agent, Weekend Travel Warrior, Amateur Spelunker, Sometime Surfer, Newbie Mountain Climber, Photography Enthusiast, Certified Beach Bum, A first born son, Faithful lover, True Explorer...

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