Climb a mountain can be used to signify a lot in life when you are looking to do something challenging.
However, on this occasion, it meant just that!
The highest mountain in the whole of Indochina, at a height of 10,000 ft it is a pretty special place to visit.
I have been wanting to climb it since 2016 when I first heard about it and discovered my passion for Asia.
Achieving a first
It is also the first of many things I had set my sights on doing whilst traveling.
These include a few more mountains, a Buddhist retreat. Visiting a volcano and getting a tattoo by a monk who chooses what he believes is best for you. Also re-learning french and the guitar again.
Since 2016 the idea of trekking the mountain on a 2d1n climb is getting less and less. Due in part because of a cable car which now takes you up to the summit in around 20 minutes.
Finding a guide, group (expensive if you opt for the solo trek) and a day when the weather will be good enough is pretty hard these days.
They don’t always take groups every day and this means you need to plan your trip well.
I was lucky, but then I seem to find my luck here in Asia to be better than in the UK.
Having tried to find a local guide or a way I could arrange to climb. I chose to visit the tour company camped in a little cabin opposite the main church in the town of Sapa.
For $75 I was able to join a group of Vietnamese friends from Ho Chi Minh City who were doing the climb the following day.
Together with a guide called Sun, who I remembered from TripAdvisor as one of the best, I knew we were going to have a good few days.
With my new friends, we started around 10 am in the morning a little late than planned but soon made good progress as the first part was good terrain and not too hard.
We had lunch around 13.00 and enjoyed the brief rest as we were all starting to get tired.
The next stage became harder but the views we saw made up for everything. Halfway up the mountain we suddenly found ourselves with our heads in the clouds.
After trekking for many hours we finally reach our camp for the night, around 5.30 pm. It seemed like we had been walking all day, but the hours were less than we thought (perhaps our feet would disagree)
The night was very cold and we had to shelter in our accommodation around a roaring wood fire. Whilst we waited for our guides to prepare and cook our food.
After eating we retired to bed and huddled in our clothes. Eventually, we climbed into our sleeping bags and at 8.30 pm went to sleep.
Early morning rise
Alarms started to wake us up around 3.30 am which meant it was still dark and very cold. We quickly got up and dressed with more layers to keep us warm, headed to the hut for breakfast and coffee.
We departed around 5.00 pm a little later than planned. But during the evening many groups had arrived and we had to wait a while for breakfast.
The climb was slow especially because of the dark, our group keeping together to reach the summit at the same time.
Our guide informed us that during the night a strong wind had come across the mountain.
It meant reaching the summit to view a beautiful sunrise would not be possible as everything was too cloudy.
We decided to take a slower climb to the summit. A little after 7 am saw the top of the 600 steps we had to climb in order to reach the pinnacle.
We finally made it and the relief of the last 24 hours was worth it. What a shame that after all the time spent working together and keeping each other’s morale going we couldn’t really see the beautiful sites that await you when you reach the top.
The views from what I saw trekking up the mountain are quite spectacular and are hard to put into words.
I think I will definitely visit again.
Hopefully, the weather is good and break another first and travel in the cable car to experience the view.
But regardless of that, the memory I have of the 2 days with new friends and the trek will live with me for a long time.
Life is for living
I really have to say that having worked my whole life to live reasonably well. You put aside your dreams and goals of what you wish, so it’s nice to be selfish for once.
Doing things like this is very important in life. Meeting people who you would never meet under normal circumstances is amazing and I cannot stress this enough.
Break free from what you think about life and how it should be. Be brave enough to experience things, step out of your comfort zone and push yourself.