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Climbing Mt Fansipan 8/10

Sa Pa, Vietnam


A Climbing Mt. Fansipan

Up at 2:30 am, fell asleep at 9:30 last night and I need to pack for the climb of 3400 meter Mt. Fanispan and pack up my room to store my excess gear at my hotel.

The hotel staff arranged the climb which is costing me 1,400,000 Dong inclusive of meals, guide/porter, transportation, and sleeping gear. The climb is a 2 day affair where we begin at around 1600 m and climb to.a high camp at 2800 m overnight in a steel shed then summit run early am weather permitting and back to Sa Pa.

The bus picks me up at 8 am and it is jammed with Vietnamese climbers- as the foreigner on the trip they kindly give me the shotgun seat while they pack them in like sardines behind me.

We have a short ride to the National Park that Fanispan is in, but I still almost get car sick from the way the driver throws the bus through the corners of the,winding mountain road- nice way to start a climb!

Mt. Fansipan requires a permit to climb it and it is very difficult to get permission to go without a guide, maybe impossible even, and as I leave bus I am introduced to my guide, Mr. Xing (pronounced sing). Mr Xing will carry my group gear and food and cook for me and make sure I make it in one piece out and back. As,with any climb you can't guarantee a summit since fitness and weather play a huge roll in your success.

Mr Xing is about 5' 2" and probably 100 lbs soaking wet. He carries the,gear in a woven basket with thin nylon straps to go over his shoulders. He is wearing calf length black cotton pants, a black mid sleeve synthetic t shirt and plastic shower sandals. I estimate the weight of his basket at 30 lbs easy, maybe more.

Mr Xing and I set out ahead of everyone else and of course instead of going up we begin to go down on rocks and mud to a stream. Mr Xing casually trots down a slick 30 degree rock section while I carefully watch where he puts his feet and slowly move down it. I realize I am in for a wild ride!

The trail is very wet and muddy and st times we are literally climbing up waterfalls and walking in running streambeds and it will almost surely rain some more today.It is a tree enclosed jungle we hike through with bamboo and sticker bushes on either side for some stretches. You will come to a steep scrambling section that climbs 100 meters and then hit a ridge and descend and lose 75 and that is the hlike to snack camp in a nutshell.

At snack camp I sat in a large tarp shelter that could accommodate 20- 30 climbers, because we left first I had it all to myself! Mr Xing brought a tray with sliced tomato and cucumber, two baguettes and two fried eggs for my "lunch" and while I was eating a trio of French trekers arrived and behind them a gaggle of Vietnamese climbers of assorted aged men and women.

Mr Xing and I left before the French, but they caught us on the second steep climb and went ahead. Right after they passed me a Mountain Goat walked onto the trail! He was black and grey and had curling horns like a ram should. He was fairly small, but much stockier than a billy goat and had a big chest. He eyed me for about 4 seconds and then walked off the path and back into the brush. We also found a two foot long earthworm on the trail who was a centimeter across at the middle with a pinkish-purple band around his otherwise grey body at precisely his mid point. Did not touch him, but was tempted....the only other animal encounters were dogs, puppies and a very friendly cat at the snack camp.

The climb to high camp was very steep proceeding up and over a series of progressively larger peaks with short descents between each peak. There would have been spectacular views, but we were shrouded in clouds with drizzle and occasionally raindrops as our companions.

After two hours of climbing we reached the High Camp just as the skies opened up with a torrential rain that would last all night and well into the next day.

Our high camp shelter was a metal shed with a wooden plank floor and raised platforms on either side of s central aisle.
There were lines strung over the center to hang set clothes onto and I quickly shed my raincoat and shirt.and t-shirt and hung them over my corner spot where Mr Xing had my gear.it was dark inside the shelter and the steady beat of the rain accompanied the tapping of my keyboard as I made notes. I was still feeling very cold despite changing so I asked the girl who maintained the hut if she would make me some hot tea. For 30,000 Dong she made me a glass of hot tea and promised one hot water refill as well which was good because I managed to knock the glass over when it was still half full as I took off my soaking wet socks! My boots were thoroughly drenched- sopping wet in fact. The tea warmed me up and by the second cup I had my sleeping bag pulled over my legs and my music player going and headphones on and I relaxed and watched the soaked stragglers wander into camp. Inspite of my poor condition I had beaten the majority of climbers to camp by a wide margin, so I guess they had a party on the trail and didn't invite me!

It was pitch black inside the shelter when the guides started bringing our dinners in. Each party seemed to be getting different foods with some getting fried foods and others (like me) getting sticky rice, cooked chicken and boiled greens. It was delicious as only camp food can be and the guides lit candles to provide a bit of atmosphere and light for the occasion.

Mr Xing sat with me and filled my bowl first and then I would gesture for him to fill his bowl or he would not eat; he had brought a bottle of ice tea drink that he poured into glasses for us and I was very happy because I was basically out of water (they only supply one bottle a day) and was very thirsty. Imagine my surprise when the 'tea' turned out to be rice alcohol! Mr Xing smiled and toasted and we drank it down, but all I really wanted was water! There was way too much food so I ate my fill and dinner ended with Mr Xing carting the tray out and me watching a movie on my phone before trying to sleep.

Sleep was tough to come by with 25 other people crammed in with you and my provided sleeping pad was flat and leaked- not comfortable- I tossed and turned all night sleeping maybe three hours.

As the night went on the storm only got stronger and by sunup it was a full on monsoon with wind and lashing rain. It was not ideal conditions for sumiting in fact pretty dangerous just to climb down, and I had let Mr Xing know the night before that if it was storming I would not climb up and he could take me down early. By 7 am we were ready to go and for the next four hours we made pur way down trails that were now rivers and rocky descents that were kin to waterfalls. I made use of every hand hold I could find which in many places was bamboo that would dump water on my head when I grabbed it in retaliation! Finally with muscles aching and completely and utterly soaked to the bone I made it back to the park headquarters! I thanked Mr Xing for getting me down safely and tipped him discretely since I was unsure of the cultural aspects of that. I left Mt Fansipan satisfied I had done my best and ready for a nap!


permalink written by  Mike_Veine on August 14, 2013 from Sa Pa, Vietnam
from the travel blog: Hanoi and Vietnam- Living Day to Day
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permalink written by  Randy Flor on August 16, 2013

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