Trek Mount Fansipan - the highest peak in Vietnam
by Bobby Nguyen
Fansipan is Vietnam's highest peak located in the far north just outside of Sapa. Fansipan a very steep mountain that gets a lot of moisture, and those looking to climb it should be in good shape and prepared for muddy wet feet. The scenery is incredible, so remember to bring a camera.
For most of Vietnam, having a rain coat is a little excessive because itís so warm. On Fansipan having a rain coat is not a bad idea, however, 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, though. 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 Ė youíll find great food at a fraction of the cost, and Hanoi beer is available in local restaurants for around 30 cents a liter. Down from the Hotel in Sapa, there is a little old man that serves plum wine and plays board games, and I suggest paying him a visit.
To get to the mountain, take a train from Hanoi to Lao Cai. From there take a mini bus into the town of Sapa. Direct transportation from Hanoi to Sapa can also be arranged 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. However, I recommend you hire a guide. By hiring a guide you will get meals, a porter, two-way transportation, accommodations in a hut,youíre your permit and entrance fees waived.
Day1: 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).
Day2: 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 want to consider another hike. From the camp it takes 2-5 hours to reach the summit. Going up is not too bad but if it rained recently the trial can be very slick. Coming down is where you want to be careful.
Day3: From the camp it takes about three hours to get down, be careful about grabbing on to the grass if the trail is slick it will tear up your hands. When you reach the bottom you will end up in a beautiful hill tribe village.
There are permit and entrance fees. Not sure what the cost is, but itís part of the package deal if you hire a guide. Donít be surprised to find trash on the trail; guides have not heard of the Leave-No-Trace Program I guess.
When to Climb
The prime time to climb the Fansipan is between October and April. During the summer it is very rainy but is still climbable if the weather holds. ( I went during the summer.)
If you have your own tent and sleeping bags you can arrange to camp on the mountain. You can also rent tents and sleeping bags from Active Travel Vietnam. If you are going to rent the gear, you might as well hire the guide because the price difference is minimal. I am good with route finding, but if I did this again, I think I would still hire a guide. There are side trails that go off everywhere. The hut on the mountain is for guests of the hired guides. If you can, I recommend you bring a sleeping bag that is rated to at least 40 degrees. It can get a bit cold at night.