CLIMBING MT. FANSIPAN IN SAPA

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“I’m gonna fall to death if I slip”.

That was the thought at the back of my head each time I had to ascend or descend a steep slope. Oh wait, VERY STEEP I’d say. Much, much steeper than I had imagined.

It’s kinda funny how just a month before this trip I was frolicking on the beaches of Boracay and then there I was, climbing a mountain at 3, 143 metres. WHAT A CONTRAST. Dubbed the “Roof of Indochina”, Mt. Fansipan is the highest mountain in Indochina – comprising Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

For the first time, reaching the peak was the agenda when it has always been either sightseeing or stuffing myself silly with food for all my past trips. Sleeping on a sleeper bus was another first and it was pretty cool. A departure from the usual’s good – stepping out of my comfort zone, trying out something new and being a different kind of traveler. I love challenges 🙂 And inexplicably it makes me happy knowing I’m becoming less risk-averse and more embracing of dangers.

6 hours on the sleeper bus and a 10 minutes cab ride later, we reached Sapa Town!

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DSC00700Pretty, quaint little town 🙂

We climbed Fansipan in Winter (December to February are the winter months in Sapa) and took the 2 days 1 night route with the homestay. The homestay for our tour is simply a wooden house with several rooms – each room holds an wooden platform that can fit around 10 people. One sleeping bag per person, that’s it.

1937119_10153842359423221_1816606977240742453_nThis was where we stayed. I was wrapped up in four layers – one heat-tech + two long sleeves + one winter jacket – but I was still FREEZING. We barely slept throughout the night because of the cold. C R A Z Y COLD. No heater.

1937120_10153842359363221_640486654892662925_nThese were the food cooked by the locals. This is also the wooden platform we slept on.

We slept before 6 p.m. and got up at around 4 a.m. to continue the climb up to the peak.

Climbing in winter means not having to bear the heat but the views would have been way more spectacular during non-winter periods. Most of the times we were greeted and surrounded by shrouds of fog and mist. But we still managed to catch some lush greenery along the way!

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On to the climbing process and some tips here and there:

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#1. Some parts are REALLY, REALLY STEEP. You’ll need to exert quite a lot of arm strength to push yourself up. And securing your footing is important if you wanna stay alive (LOL).

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#2. What’s worse than #1? STEEP + SLIPPERY. “Sliding” down on your butt (like the girl in blue beanie below) might be the safest option in this case if you’re an amateur climber like me who’s afraid of toppling over downhill like an egg. Make intelligent judgments though as not every part allows you to slide your way down without incurring holes in your pants or bruises on your butt.

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#3. There were moments I went on all fours. Period. HAHA.

#4. My lifeline throughout the climb? THE WALKING STICK. I used it to increase stability, break falls, lessen the impact on my knees when descending etc. SO DAMN ESSENTIAL. Grab a stick at the base point or you’ll REGRET.

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#5. EXPECT RAIN + MUD especially if you plan to climb in winter. Invest in a good pair of trekking shoes. It’ll help your feet brave through the muddy, wet and rough terrains. Good = sturdy, slip-resistant, waterproof and fits perfectly. (Army boots are fine!)

#6. Gloves might be useful for some of you – they keep your hands warm and allow you to better grab branches for support without scraping your skin.

#7. The fitter you are, the higher the chances you’ll enjoy the experience. 🙂

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IMG_44018th Jan – 9th Jan 2016; FINALLY WE SAW THE TRIANGLE.

All foggy and FROZEN at the summit. Mega appreciate these four squadmates for doing this with me.

Felt really blessed to meet so many angels along the way – this Vietnamese guy who kept asking if I was okay and offered his hand multiple times, another Vietnamese who saw that I was dog-tired and he told me to hold onto the stick he was holding and pulled me up those seemingly never-ending nightmarish flights of stairs, and another local duo who gave us so much drinks and food and their gloves.

How would I forget our extremely patient tour guide who was with us the entire journey. It takes one with an EXTRAORDINARY level of patience to follow our group and I SALUTE him for bearing with our speed all the way till the end. There was this point it started raining quite heavily and he gave me his raincoat :’)

Incredibly touched by the niceness, kindness, friendliness and helpfulness of the locals. Documenting these moments in such detail because moments like these make me feel like humanity can be such a beautiful thing. 

I also wish I could pen down certain parts of the climb exactly the way I experienced it and as vivid as how they still are in my memory, yet there’s often a limit to what words can encapsulate. Thank you for all the hands – help takes on another level of meaning when you’re out there in unfriendly terrains feeling quite vulnerable and perceiving fear as real. Thankful for everyone’s safety and so glad we all made it 🙂

First post written with the strongest dose of personal touch thus far – done after a century of procrastination, FINALLY.

(P.S. I should have taken a photo of my backpack. It looked like it came back from a war HAHA.)

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