Lekima Hung

While mountaineering has a long history in other parts of the world, this sport is fairly new to Vietnam. Many people use this term to mean “backpacking”, when in fact, mountaineering is an extreme outdoor sport that requires participants to climb mountains on foot.

Dawn breaks over Mount Lung Cung

As a reward for their hard physical work, climbers discover a world in the sky. Let’s explore three of the most magnificent peaks in Northern Vietnam.

Standing on top of Mount Lung Cung

Lung Cung – adventure awaits
Standing 2,913-meters high, Mount Lung Cung was named after a remote village deep in the treacherous Nam Co of Mu Cang Chai District, Yen Bai Province. To reach the peak, we had to drive 15km by scooter along scary and slippery roads in misty and drizzly weather. The drive practically made our hearts jump out of our chests. Then came the 2,300-meters ascent on foot, which eventually revealed the heaven of all heavens. We were bathed in glorious sunshine and covered in banks of fluffy clouds. The atmosphere was a total contrast to the wet and chilly conditions at the foot of the mountain.

Lung Cung was not too hard to climb. Within a day, we covered seven kilometers and reached the top, where we spent six hours waiting for sunset, then returned to our camp for the night. The next morning, our team visited the mountain peak once again to watch dawn break in the creamy sky.

The team celebrates at the peak of Mount Lung Cun

Nhiu Co San – paradise found
With an elevation of 2,965 meters, Nhiu Co Nhan is the eighth highest mountain in Vietnam, located by the namesake village in Sang Ma Sao, Bat Xat District, Lao Cai Province. Endowed with lush vegetation and primary forests, this mountain offers diverse scenery. Trekking through the dense woods, we were enchanted by a trail covered in mossy rocks that paved our way.

Nhiu Co San is also called “the Buffalo Horn”, since there’s a nearby mountain of roughly the same height. From afar, these neighboring peaks resemble a pair of buffalo horns. When clouds overflow between these peaks, they turn into a waterfall of cotton candy.

The writer at the summit of Mount Nhiu Co San

From Sang Ma Sao, we travelled seven kilometers over rocks to reach Nhiu Co San Village, where the climbing actually started. It took us eight hours to scramble up nine kilometers and reach the actual “buffalo horn”. We spent the night in the woods and continued our quest the next day, watching the sea of clouds gleaming in the serene dawn.

Lao Than – the kingdom of clouds
At 2,860-meters high, Mount Lao Than is the rooftop of Y Ty, Phin Ho Village, Bat Xat District, Lao Cai Province. Lao Than and Nhiu Co San are the mother and father mountains that Mong people call “Hau Pong San”. Every day, this mountain is the first in Y Ty to greet the sun and the last to kiss it goodnight.

To reach the rooftop of Y Ty, we spent six hours climbing a distance of eight kilometers. Should you wish to see Mount Lao Than’s best clouds, start in the afternoon, stop to camp for the night, and wake up early the next morning to welcome the first rays of sun peeking through silvery clouds.

Lao Than Mountain

Friends for life
It was once said: “It takes two flints to make a fire.” And it takes a team with a unified purpose to achieve a worthwhile climbing journey. During our weakest moments, our team mates shared every pill, every slice of bread, or bottle of water. If someone got injured and couldn’t keep up with the rest of the team, another member would help the guide bring them back down. Words of encouragement were never scarce during hard times, especially when the rain, cold, and mud conspired against our footsteps. At those times, hardships test you, and bring sympathy and solidarity. It is only natural that these memories have become unforgettable chapters that make our lives more beautiful and meaningful.

Friends for life

An inner journey
You may have heard the saying: “Time heals all wounds”. To me, it should be: “Nature heals all wounds”. Immersed in nature, I feel an awakening sense of humility and equality toward every other living creature. After each expedition, my optimism and inspiration grow. Etched in my mind are those early mornings when we slogged uphill in biting wind and heavy fog, only to glimpse a triumphant look at the spectacular mountains and skies. And how can I forget the sleepless nights in the freezing forest? The helplessness when my exhausted body begs to go back down? The countless times I almost gave up and wanted to quit the sport altogether? Only when standing on top of the world and enjoying the view do I realize: Mountaineering is not about vanity. It allows us to discover our own wonderful inner world.

Admiring the view from the peak of Mount Lao Than

Protecting nature
During our trips, my teammates and I couldn’t help but feel sad to see litter scattered along the trails. This gives a bad name to climbers and backpackers in general, making us all seem like litterbugs. As nature-lovers, we have been trying to promote environmental efforts by implementing waste-sorting; keeping non-disposable garbage like batteries, plastic, and nylon; and giving sorting trash cans to campers on the mountainsides. We hope these first steps will lead to less rubbish left by ill-mannered travelers.

Please join us in discovering Vietnam’s heights while preserving the landscape’s pure beauty!