Mount Fansipan – The Highest Peak on the South East Asian Mainland
In recent years, Vietnams has had to increase its food production, which has been great for the economy, however, it’s been a disaster for the environment. In recent times local environmental and community groups have been fighting back with the aim to preserve Vietnam’s pristine rainforest.
One of these locally funded projects is centred on the Hoang Len Mountains. It’s a 100-million-year-old mountain range located in Northern Vietnam. The projects aim is pretty simple, to stop the destruction of the rainforest and therefore protect the local flora and fauna.
It’s not all for environmental reasons they are doing this, the area and to some degree, the country relies on eco-tourists and with the rainforest being depleted there is fewer reasons for tourists to visit.
The latest peak in the Mountain’s is Mount Fansipan at 3,143m (10,321 ft), it’s not just the highest peak in the Hoang Len Mountain range, it’s also the highest peak on the South East Asian Mainland. The most popular route up the mountain starts at Sapa and is reachable by road.
Along the route from Sapa, you will cross the river Muong Hoa near the village of Cat Cat, which gives the route its name. The route takes into account many different terrains and views and at the summit of Fansipan which is known as the “roof of Indochina” are some of the most breath-taking views possible, make sure you have your camera with you.
Along the route, you will hike through paddy fields near the start before you even go over the river. Once above 2,000 m the vegetation changes to arrowroot plantations and then to thick bamboo which has been used to build the base camp at 2,300m (7,550 ft). Here you received a nice warm meal cooked before reaching the summit the next day.
Once you have passed base camp, this is where it gets more difficult, the vegetation changes to more dense bamboo and giant pine trees, but once through you reach the summit and as mentioned as soon as you hit the summit the effort of the hike is forgotten as you take in some of the most stunning panoramic views not just in Vietnam but arguably the entire planet.
As mentioned above we used the Cat Cat route which seems the most popular but there was a couple of other choices, Tram Ton and Sin Chai routes up the mountain.
From our research and we didn’t do these routes but Sin Chai is the shortest of the three routes but far more adventurous and is for more experienced climbers as sometimes ropes are needed.
It is the easiest of the three and is aimed more at general and causal hikers – it’s a much more gentle route and can be done in a day.
If you are heading to the area to climb mount Fansipan and we would highly recommend it even just for the views, you must also visit the Thac Bac “silver waterfalls “ which are located just outside of Sapa.
A word of warning on Sapa – it is a tourist trap and brings out all the local sales people trying to sell you a wonderful range of products.
Best time to visit:
October – April is the best months, however, some argue April and May are the best months as these are the warmest months and the flowers are in full bloom.
June – September is the worst time to visit, with the heaviest rainfall in July and August.
Fancy a challenge:
The current record at the time of writing for scaling mount Fansipan is one hour and 35 minutes. I have to admit I wasn’t even close, but I like to take it the views and the surrounding as we climbed.
While the terrain does get a bit challenging towards the summit, especially once you have passed base camp, it is a hike that the majority of people can complete as no ropes or technical climbing knowledge is needed.
Things to consider:
Warm clothes – this is something we were advised before we travelled and it was a great piece of advice, while it can be warm the temperatures can drop below freezing pretty frequently and snow is even possible on the route.
Dangerous animals – firstly we never saw any but did see signs warning about poisonous snakes, leeches and rodents. I never saw any of these so the signs might have been a bit exaggerated but it’s worth considering.
A decent pair of clothes (if doing the Sin Chai Route) – while there is no rope work needed on the other routes, on the Sin Chai route there are sections of ladders to climb as well as a few rock scramble climbs and a decent pair of gloves with good grips will make the climb much easier.
That all said, I went in 2014 and loved it, but in 2015 a cable car opened taking you straight to the summit and therefore its likely to be flooded with tourists. That said if you fancy a hike you will still get the satisfaction feeling on the summit. It reminds me when I was young and scrambled up Snowdon mountain in Wales to just reach the top and be greeted by a man in a neck brace, dampening my spirits momentarily.
This article is part of our Wild Places series, looking at some of the must-visit places around the world.
If this isn’t enough of a reason to visit Vietnam and you are unsure if actually, Vietnam is a country you want to visit, why not check out the things you need to know about before heading to Vietnam.