This hill was on my list ever since I read it was the highest mountain in Vietnam.
I was even more pleased to find out it is the highest mountain in Indochina, though I am not certain of its boundaries.
It’s not quite as: well known, high, busy or maintained as Kinabalu, and like all hills it has its own challenges.
It is possible to do the walk in one day. It as I am a bit of a dawdler, too many photos to take, I opted for the two day option. There are pros and cons to each.
Being April and Asia it was hot at the start and I again, seriously doubted the necessity of all my cold weather kit, but with the experience of Kinabalu behind me, not to mention Great Carrs last August I refrained from pulling out my down jacket and fleece leggings.
We traipsed happily along a fairly dry river bed for some kilometres before starting to climb up through scrub and trees more Mediterranean than tropical.
Summit in sunshine
I was pleased to see some big trees remain and that the label National Park had some meaning. That meaning did not encompass litter. Vietnam has scant regard for the environment and it was apparent all along the trail. Plastic bottles, food wrappers, gloves, discarded plastic ponchos and even shoes. Even the guide threw his plastic bottle into the bushes when it was empty. When I spoke about it to one of the Vietnamese hikers she said that the majority of Vietnamese just don’t have the knowledge to care about the environment. I tried complaining to the park office at the end but I was just met with a blank stare. I’d rather have a clean park than a token medal for completing the hike.
So, rant over. The route climbs up out of the tree line and becomes a long curling ridge round to Fansipan. Not a gentle incline, height is gained by a series of ups and downs likes spines along a dragons back. Each up gaining a little more than the frustrating downs.
Camp area. sleeping hut on Right
Overnight accommodation was one of the down sides of opting for the ‘soft’ two day timetable. It was at just this height that the wind increased to biting and with suddenly stopping all those packed thermals were quickly pulled out, not to be removed for some time.
The hut had lights, it had wash basins, there was even a generator, but the mains electric was not connected and there was no fuel for the generator. As most people had headtorches it was not a problem but the power supplied was candles with half a plastic bottle for a stand. At least it was recycling. Beds were not bunks, merely a raised wooden platform with matting akin to, but not carry mats thrown over. Then some very basic, thin sleeping bags added. At least they were clean and the one platform for six people meant we did keep each other warm. A new kind of bunk house as far as I was concerned but the Vietnamese in our group thought it quite normal. Somehow a filling meal of rice, omelette and a variety of meats was produced along with rice wine so at least we were warm fro the inside.
After less than a good nights sleep breakfast was at 4am and we set off in the dark to the summit. More scrambling and ladders then mud!
The top of Fansipan is still covered in bamboo forest which rattled like thousands of beautiful wind chimes. Not so beautiful, Sodden peat covered the ground underneath and those with less than decent boots, of which there were quite a few, soon had soaking feet. I can see why the rainy season makes it Impossible to climb.
With the mist, mud and wind I felt quite at home and I have yet another foggy summit photo with no view to add to my collection. At least this has a sign saying Fansipan rather than yet another pile of stones.