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Fanxipan
 
 
Surrounding Sapa are the Hoang Lien Mountains , nicknamed the Tonkinese Alps by the French. These mountains include Fansipan, which at 3143m is Vietnam's highest peak. The summit towers above Sapa, although it is often obscured by clouds and is occasionally dusted with snow. The peak is accessible all year to those in good shape and properly equipped, but don't underestimate the chal-lenge. It is very wet, and can be perilously slippery and generally cold, so you must be prepared. Do not attempt an ascent if the weather is terrible in Sapa, as limited visibility on Fansipan could be treacherous.

The summit of Fansipan is 19km from Sapa and can be reached only on foot. The terrain is rough and adverse weather is frequent. Despite the short distance, the round trip usually takes three days; some very fit and experienced hikers do it in two days, but this is rare. After the first morning you won't see any villages: just the forest, striking mountain vistas and perhaps some local wildlife such as monkeys, mountain goats and birds. No ropes or technical climbing skills are needed, just endurance. There are no mountain huts or other facilities along the way (yet), so you need to be self-sufficient. This means taking a sleeping bag, waterproof lent, food, stove, raincoat or poncho, compass and other miscellaneous survival gear. Hiring a reputable guide is vital and, unless you arc a seriously experienced mountaineer, find ing porters who will carry your gear is also strongly recommended. Weather-wise the best time for making the ascent is from mid-October to mid-December, and again in March, when wildflowers are in bloom.
 

 

 
 
 

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