Sunday, February 1, 2009

Conquer Fansipan Mountain, Vietnam - The roof of Indochina

Mount Fansipan is Vietnam’s highest peak located in the far north just outside of Sapa.

Mt. Fansipan is a very steep mountain that gets a lot of moisture. Those looking to climb it should be in good shape and prepared to to have muddy wet feet The scenery is incredible remember to bring a camera. For most of Vietnam having a rain coat is a little excessive because it is so warm. On the mountain having a rain coat is not a bad idea especially at night. The trails around Sapa are a lot of fun.

You will get the chance to go through some minority villages if you have the time to explore. The people in Sapa are extremely nice. Be aware of the children on the street, before you know it you will have hats and bracelets and rugs all over you. Explore the restaurants that are not on the main strip, you will get great food at a fraction of the cost. Hanoi beer is available in local restaurants for around 30 cents a liter. Down from Hotel in Sapa there is a little old man that serves plum wine and plays board games, I suggest paying him a visit. The food there is great!


To get to the mountain you need to take a train from Hanoi to Lao Cai. From there you will take a mini bus up in to the town of Sapa. Transportation from Hanoi to Sapa can be arrange for a reasonable price. I think you might also be able to take a bus but I know it takes much longer. When you get into town, to make reservations for transportation go to the Hotel in Sapa - 2-way transportation can be hired, but I recommend you hire a guide. By hiring a guide (English speaking?) you will get meals, a porter, 2-way transportation, accommodations in a hut, and waived permit and entrance fees.


Day 1: You start going through several different valleys with a lot of lush jungle. The first day entails 2-4 hours of hiking. There is typically a lot of mud so come prepared. You might have the option of moving up to a high camp but the camp right by the river is beautiful. Enjoy the river to clean off ( it is a bit nippy)

Day 2: From the camp, you pretty much go straight up the mountain side. It is a mixture of light 3rd class rock, root and tree climbing. The trail can be very slick and there are a lot of spots where the trail drops off. If you have trouble with heights you might not want to consider this hike. From the camp it takes 2-5 hours to reach the summit. Going up is not to bad but if it rained recently the trial can be very slick. Coming down is where you want to be careful.

Day 3: From the camp it takes about 3 hours to get down, be careful about grabbing on to the grass if the trail is slick it will tear up you hands. When you reach the bottom you will end up in a beautiful hill tribe village.


There are permit and entrance fees, provided by local authority. Part of the package deal if you hire a guide. Don’t be surprised to find trash on the trail, guides have not heard of the Leave No Trace Program I guess.


The prime time to climb the mountain is between October and April. During the summer it is very rainy but is still climbable if the weather holds.


If you have your own tent and sleeping bags, you can arrange to camp on the mountain. Tents and sleeping bags can be hired from Active Travel Vietnam. If you can I recomend you bring a sleeping bag that is rated to at least 40 degrees. It can get a bit cold at night.