The peak of Mount Nhiu Co San from Lao Than

Climbing Lao Than Mountain

Lao Than Mountain is located in Y Ty Commune, Bat Xat, Lao Cai. The mountain is over 2,800m above sea level. I had read a few articles about the high mountains in the area and got plans for climbing them some time later, but I didn't plan to climb Lao Than on this trip which was meant to have been for a relaxing holiday in the cool climate of Y Ty. I was trying to escape the heat in Hanoi which increased from 20-25 Degrees Celsius to over 40 Degrees Celsius in a couple of days!!!

The sudden rain woke me up early in the morning or maybe I had had enough sleep by then. I had gone to bed early after a wonderful day in Y Ty anyway. It had been a breezy day with clear and blue sky and I was lost amid the landscape of Heaven and Earth. There was nothing to worry about the rain as I had no plan for the day...

I went back to sleep and woke up again when it was daylight already. The sun shone brightly up on the The Pa Valley, the breezes were gentle and the sky was just blue. I was about to go out for a walk when the hostess was going to prepare breakfast for me. I thanked her and said I'd be around here only. While having breakfast the lady suggested to me to climb the Lao Than Mountain and said I could come back within the day for sure. It was a good idea really, but coming back within a day was like a rush for me and I'm not good at rushing on my holidays. I mulled over it while finishing breakfast thinking that it was good also to ride around the area for more photos of the mountains, valleys and rice terraces...

The The Pa Valley at Y Ty
The The Pa Valley at Y Ty

 But the day was so beautiful that I felt it would be a waste not to climb the mountain really. I could come back to the village always and the weather was not often that wonderful for mountain climbing. I'd better go for it then. I told the lady that I'd leave on the day for a trek to Lao Than Mountain and then I'd take the new road back to Lao Cai which was much more convenient than going back to the village. I thanked her and said I'd see her again later in the year then.

Bidding farewell to the hostess, I proceeded to A Ho (a local guide) and asked him for the arrangements. He was surprised at my sudden change of mind but was willing to get things ready for the trip. He sent A Ma (his younger brother) to take me on the adventure since he got something to do at home on the day. All was done and ready in some thirty minutes and we set off at around 08:30 in the morning.

A Ha Nhi Village on a mountain slope
A Ha Nhi Village on a mountain slope

First, we'd have to ride on a very bumpy road to Phin Ho Village where the motorbikes would be left at a Hmong family and we could start our journey.

At 0900 A.M we began our trek to Lao Than. We at first hiked along a pasture with low plants. It was fresh air and I felt a bit warm given that there was no breeze. Everyone was at work somewhere that we were the only souls taking the path into the forest.

Road from Y Ty to Phin Ho Village where the trek starts
Road from Y Ty to Phin Ho Village where the trek starts

 

Mountains around Phin Ho Village
Mountains around Phin Ho Village

 Then the gradient got steeper and the forest was dense with trees and undergrowth. It was warm and sunny but we were in the shade most of the time and it wasn't that bad. We met three Ha Nhi folk on the way to their farm somewhere in the mountains; they were having a break. Their trip to the farm was no easy a job.

Starting the hike
Starting the hike

 

A Ma, a Hmong local guide
A Ma, a Hmong local guide

 

Vegetation along the hiking path
Vegetation along the hiking path

 

Some wild flowers
Some wild flowers

 

A Ma with his ever present smile
A Ma with his ever present smile

 A Ma, my Hmong guide, was really a happy chap who kept smiling all the way even with a load of food and camping gear on his bamboo backpack. We got out of the forest and had a clear view of the mountains to the west. Mount Nhiu Co San (2964m) was just like teasing me. I'd come back for another adventure to that peak then.

The gradients became steeper when we entered a thin forest
The gradients became steeper when we entered a thin forest

 

As the forest got denser, the gradients were steeper
As the forest got denser, the gradients were steeper

 

Nhiu Co San, another mountain peak of nearly 3,000m, was so close on the trek
Nhiu Co San, another mountain peak of nearly 3,000m, was so close on the trek

It was very breezy when we got past a mountain gorge. Then the path traversed through thick bushes of ferns and low growing shrubs. The ferns sometimes were head-high. I felt comfortable with the winds, but the sun was quite strong for a while. And we had a rest on a boulder with magnificent view of the surrounding nature. I could see the valley straddling from Muong Hum through Sang Ma Sao and Den Sang and the family of mountain peaks to the south.

I was thirsty all the time and consumed the whole bottle of 1.5 litter of water. A Ho got the bottle filled up from an underground source at half way. Other than this source, I could see no others on the hiking path. It would be a disaster trekking without enough water then. Carrying a load of water along wouldn't be that convenient either.

Then came the fern bushes all the way to the campsite
Then came the fern bushes all the way to the campsite

 

Scenic mountains on the trek
Scenic mountains on the trek

 

Breathtaking view of mountains and valley at Bat Xat
Breathtaking view of mountains and valley at Bat Xat

 We arrived at the campsite at 12:15 P.M. hungry and tired. A Ma went around to fetch the cookers that he had hidden somewhere. Then he proceeded to a stream for cleaning them and for getting water. I was so tired but wanted to help him as it was quite a job for one person. The tiny path went down through bushes to a little wood with so dense the trees and vines that sunlight did not travel through them. The stream proved to be a bit more than trickling only and we had a chat to wait for the water container filled up. Cleaning the cookers took quite a while, too.

A Ma was going to fetch water from a little stream
A Ma was going to fetch water from a little stream

 

There was so little water that we had to wait for quite a while to get the container filled up
There was so little water that we had to wait for quite a while to get the container filled up

 

The water source was  covered with trees that it was very cool inside
The water source was  covered with trees that it was very cool inside

 Then I brought the cookers back first while A Ma carried the water afterwards. He had to get some firewood for fuel also. I waited for ages when A Ma arrived back with a heavy load of water and firewood. We both were exhausted but happy seeing the fire on cooking steamed rice. So tired was I that I laid down the sleeping mat and lay down for a rest. It was lovely really and the winds were strong, the air was fresh and cool. It was 42 Degrees Celsius in Hanoi at the moment!

We were tired but managed to get a fire for cooking
We were tired but managed to get a fire for cooking

I was starving so badly and was so desperate for food when A Ma informed that lunch was ready. That was 2:00P.M! It was a feast with rice, steamed chicken and steamed Chinese beans amid the wilderness. And the a meal was so memorable that I'd probably remember it for my whole life! After lunch we packed carefully the cookers in which remained the food for our dinner and got a some siesta. My sleep was off and on due to the chilly air and strong winds, and A Ma slept just like a rock!

The chicken looked to be cooked alright
The chicken looked to be cooked alright

When it was 3:30 P.M I hurried A Ma to get up for scaling the summit. The weather was unpredictable and it's better to do it while it was sunny. The peak looked like a huge boulder from our campsite was not the summit of Lao Than really. Once you were where you had thought the peak of the mountain then there was another peak! The tiny path to the top was about enough for putting your foot on at a time and it was nearly vertically steep. I didn't look back much though the scenery was stunning because it was dizzying gazing at the landscape that right at your feet the mountain slope plunged straight down for some hundred or thousand meters! It was a bit half past four when we got to the top of Lao Than and the scenery was unbelievable. The view was 360 Degrees and the valleys just below us looked lovely. I could see the blur straight line of the Red River dividing Vietnam and China and I could see the mountain peaks I want to climb in the close distance...

The ascent to the summit was on a very steep path
The ascent to the summit was on a very steep path

 

The peak looked close....
The peak looked close....

 

There was nothing to cling to on the way to the top, to the right it was vertical mountain slope
There was nothing to cling to on the way to the top, to the right it was vertical mountain slope

 

Once on the top, the view was stunning
Once on the top, the view was stunning

 

A flag was planted some time ago
A flag was planted some time ago

 

Nhiu Co San was so close!
Nhiu Co San was so close!

It was over five in the afternoon and sunlight was getting weaker, the air was cooler and I asked A Ma to go down. It wasn't that difficult as I had thought when going up and we managed to arrive back at the campsite in some thirty minutes.

While A Ma prepared dinner I wandered around adoring the magical twilight. It was quiet all around and the moon got clearer and clearer as the glowing lights behind the mountain peaks in the horizon got weaker. It was full moon tonight...

Time to descend to the campsite and got it the tent ready
Time to descend to the campsite and got the tent ready

 

The Sun has set leaving glowing lights on the mountain peaks
The Sun has set leaving glowing lights on the mountain peaks

 

It was a beautiful moonlit night, the temperature was dropping quickly
It was a beautiful moonlit night, the temperature was dropping quickly

 It was bright daylight at 5:30 A.M and both A Ma and I wanted to descend the mountain early. We packed up, had an early breakfast and was on our way at 06:30 A.M. The trip back was mostly going down and we passed a lot of Ha Nhi and Hmong folk going to work. At 08:30 A.M we arrived back and the Hmong family. It was great meeting the little security guards to take care of our motorbikes while we were in the mountains. Their parents had gone to work and the big brother took care of his little sister and brother. The two little ones looked so happy in the care of their big brother!

Arriving back at the family where we left our motorbikes
Arriving back at the family where we left our motorbikes