Mt. Apo trails from Digos, Sta. Cruz closed during Holy Week; adventure events set in late April

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THE Mt. Apo trails from Digos City and Sta. Cruz in Davao del Sur will be closed from April 6 to 12 for campsite and trail assessment to be conducted by a multi-agency monitoring team.

These dates are marked as Holy Monday to Easter Sunday in the Catholic calendar, which is usually a peak period for travelers.

Julius R. Paner, tourism officer of Sta. Cruz, said the evaluation is necessary as the trails have been on full carrying capacity since late last year while the four other trails have been closed.

“Ngayon (Nowadays), every weekend puno ang aming trail (the trail is full),” said Mr. Paner, referring to the one in Sta. Cruz, where a maximum of 50 climbers are allowed per day.

The four other Mt. Apo trails are in Bansalan, also in Davao del Sur, and Magpet, Makilala, and Kidapawan City in Cotabato.

The Kidapawan trail was affected by the series of earthquakes in Mindanao last year, particularly those with epicenter in Cotabato.

Mr. Paner said despite the “no camping at the summit” policy imposed since the major forest fire in 2016, many still want to climb the country’s highest peak.

“Very stringent ang policy, but despite that, Mt. Apo is Mt. Apo, a bucket-list for mountaineers, kaya marami pa rin ang umaakyat (that’s why many still come),” he said.

“In tourism we have this ‘the more the merrier’ thing, but we have to consider the impact of Mt. Apo to the environment in general,” he added.

The monitoring team will be composed of representatives from the barangay and municipal government, Department of Environmental and Natural Resources, and Bureau of Fire Protection.

Two extreme adventure races will be hosted by Sta. Cruz in April, the Mt. Apo Boulder Face Challenge on the 18th, and the Mt. Apo Sky and Vertical Race as part of the town’s Pista sa Kinaiyahan (Feast for Nature) festival on the 25th.

“We have proven for 10 years that Mt. Apo is the most extreme adventure race in Asia, and now we are trying to make it a friendly race. We won’t make it too extreme this year because we would like to allow everybody to enjoy the beauty of Mt. Apo,” Mr. Paner said.

“This is a feast for mother nature and its aim is not just to do tourism activity but also this is the time to make it as a strategy of conservation and protection of the country’s highest peak Mt. Apo,” he added. — Maya M. Padillo