Climbing Mt. Fansipan — Northern Vietnam

April 1, 2015 - 7 minutes read

Climbing Mount Fansipan in one day — unguided.

So you want to hike Mt. Fansipan? and you want to do it unguided? Great, then you’ve come to the right place.

The Prep:

Make sure before you set off you have done some preplanning and have a little bit of know how from getting to and from Fansipan. You’ll want to make sure you have enough food and water to last you throughout the hike. As a reference you should be consuming roughly 200 calories for every hour of hiking. It took me 11 hours to do this hike so thats 2,200 total calories, but I might recommend a bit more. My group and I each packed, 3 liters of water, 2 snickers bars, a small bag of peanuts, a can of tuna, and 2 servings of fried rice we picked up the night before.

Getting There:

Mt. Fansipan is roughly 15km outside of SaPa and the trailhead is right over the Trom Ton pass. Its a beautiful ride of there but most of the reviews don’t say how to get there. Follow the road out of SaPa away from Lao Cai towards the Silver Waterfall. Once you see the signs for Love Waterfall and the large gate on the left you have reached the entry point for the trail head. You can either hire a cab to get there or find your own mode of transportation. My group took rental motorcycles.

The Hike:

Once you arrive it should be early enough that the gate is still locked and they aren’t open for business yet. Thats perfect because you need all the daylight you can get. You are required to obtain a permit and hike with a guide but lets be honest, you’re up for the challenge and were  going to forget all that business, if you really want you can pay for the permit on the way down.

Lets get going. The hike begins at 1800 meters and you will head towards the train and see signs for Fansipan. immediately to your left there will be a large staircase going up, avoid that and head straight. The initial miles or so will be a gradual decent into the forest before it begins to climb. After about 30 minutes, at a solid pace, you will reach the first stream, keep ahead and the trail will begin to climb. The first 1.5 hours of the hike are quite easy and any decently in shape person should have no problem with this section. After another 40 minutes or so you should reach the Base Camp. You will see some green corrugated bungalow style huts, just keep walking and continue on the tail. The base camp is at about 2200 meters. You have not yet begun to climb.

After about 30 more minutes of climbing you will exit the forest and walk along the ridge of the mountain for quite some time. Be sure to stop and enjoy the spectacular views and fresh mountain air, from the ridge you can see where the trail continues up high on the mountain towards the High Camp. From this point the trail begins to climb more and more following the ridge higher and higher through the beautiful bamboo forest and rocky steep terrain. An interesting point that I didn’t find in my research was how much scrambling there was on this trail. There are many points on the trail where you have to actually climb up the rocks or on a steel ladder placed on sections of the trail. After exiting the ridge you are about 3 hours from the summit and about 1 hour from the High Camp. Its gets pretty hairy before the 2800 meter High Camp so hold on to your shorts. Once you reach the Camp you will be delighted to see how trashed this mountain is. The camp is very makeshift and dilapidated with trash everywhere, its not as dirty on the actual trail as you will read online but it gets quite bad once you past the High Camp. after the second camp you will do a steep decent down a sandy crag and continue up again to what many people confuse for the actual summit do not be mistaken. The trail drops about 200 meters through some pretty fancy footwork of a trail before it begins to climb again. Once you climb up the last set of ladders you will begin the final push to the summit.

Many people describe the trail as being wet and muddy. I didn’t experience this until the final push. We did the climb in early April so it was still nice and dry, but the last push was like climbing a staircase made of mud. Its so windy and there was minimal visibility I thought we’d never actually make it. Trekking up huge mud stairs one step at a time we pushed on until finally we climbed up and to the right, the silver pyramid summit marker of the tallest mountain in Indochina.

With a goal of summiting at 12:00 we reached the summit at exactly 11:59. it took 6 long hours and a 10,000ft total climb but we made it to the 3,143 meter summit. Be careful of the 60+ mph winds they might blow you right off the top.

Take a couple photos, maybe have a snack or some water but get going soon because you have at least a 4 hour hike back to the carpark.

If you have questions about this hike or if you think I was unclear about something please let me know.

This is a very difficult hike to complete in 1 day, but I think it is certainly in the reach of any hiker enthusiast.

Best of Luck & Godspeed.

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