Hang A Po (30 years old, Sa Pa, Lao Cai) won the race to conquer Fansipan Peak in 2012 with 3 hours and 20 minutes. In which, the time calculated from the starting point to Fansipan peak Mr. Po was only needed 1 hour 35 minutes.
Named as “Roof of Indochina” so conquering Fansipan peak is the passion and desire of all those who love adventure trips. It is not just a journey to conquer the highest mountain in Vietnam but also a journey to overcome physical and mental fatigue.
During the trip to conquer Fansipan, our team was accompanied with Hang A Po – who is in the role of a porter to lead the way. Although we met Mr. Po in Sa Pa town, it wasn’t until Tram Troi (Hoang Lien Son National Park gate) that we had a chance to talk with him.
Not only is a native person leading the way, Mr. Po also takes care of the safety, meals and drinks of the group during the 2 days to conquer Fansipan. With his tanned face and austere build, not many people can realize the temperament of an athlete who has won the race to conquer Fansipan twice and still holds the record for this race.
At this Hoang Lien jungle, Mr. Po knows each stop station, each high-level, each branch and meander on the road. More than a dozen times in a month, he regularly leads groups to conquer the “Roof of Indochina” in their eagerness to reach the summit and then takes them back safely where he welcomes new guests to begin the challenging journey. Mr. Po shared “The time staying at home with my wife and children is not much; sometimes only a few nights at home in a month. At home, my wife takes good care of the children.”Like other porters, Mr. Po frequently travels to Fansipan peak in particular as well as other high mountains in Vietnam. His livelihood is in the jungle here where he is based; it is like his second home.
We are a group of people, including women, who are climbing on a mountain for the first time, so we started from Tram Ton station at an altitude of 1.800m. This road has a length of about 16km, with a 2-day-1-night trip and is usually for amateur climbers and tourists.
The road from Tram Ton Station is the nearest route for us to go. Alternatively, to set our foot on the peak of Fansipan, we can go by two other roads. In which, the longest road is about 37km of mountain road, starting from Cat Cat village of Sapa at an altitude of 1,200m. And the slowest road starts from Sin Chai village at an altitude of 1,260m.
Before our group starts, we were briefed by Mr. Po about safe climbing skills and checking baggage. His “humorous” face brought a lot of sympathy, making us laugh all the time. After that cheerful laugh, we followed Mr. Po’s footsteps to the path. And, officially started conquering the “Roof of Indochina”.
Due to the dangers of climbing the mountain, it will be very difficult, so our belongings must be restricted to carry and focus only on essential stuffs. Only Mr. Po carried a heavier load, more than 30kg, because he has to take care of meals, drinks and sleeping places for our group.
As a true leader, his footsteps as a lighting through every cliff and tree before the exhaustion of all members in the group. Every short distance Mr. Po turned back to look at us and smiled. Just seeing that, we knew he was waiting for us. Catching up to him, we talked and asked him about how hard was the Fansipan climbing road. He just smiled and said very gently: “The road is also so difficult, but many parts are easy to go.”
After more than 4 hours of moving on the mountain road, we officially took a lunch break at an altitude of 2,200m. Mr. Po went ahead and prepared food for our group. “For lunch time, we have sticky rice and bread. Eating and resting, we will continue about 1 more hour “- Mr. Po reminded the whole group.
From the altitude of 2.200m we had to spend the whole afternoon to move up to the altitude of 2,800m. Here, we can see the kitchen skills of Mr. Po. A full tray of variety dishes made by himself amazed us. Stir-fried cabbage, egg soup, tofu with tomato sauce, stir-fried pork, fried spring rolls, and stir-fried water spinach. More than enough for our hungry stomachs. “Everyone try to eat more, today I see everyone trekking so slowly. Tomorrow must trek faster than that, need to have good health”- Mr. Po smiled and encouraged us.
Mr. Po did not eat with us, he ate with many locals as porters like him. They focused on eating right at the kitchen and speaking stories in H’Mong language.
Night came down, the cold in the jungle seemed to penetrate into the skin. Stooping, Mr. Po called out and gave us warm blankets. Each person gets a blanket to “overcome” the cold night here. As he said that we will have to go trekking a lot tomorrow, so our group snuggled under the blanket and determined to go to sleep.
At 5am, his whispered call made the whole group wake up. We didn’t know when he got up to cook but while we still not fully awake Mr. Po brought breakfast for us. Each person has a bowl of egg noodles with beef and vegetables.
After having breakfast, we continued to follow him to conquer the last stage. Cold and thinner air with less oxygen makes us tired, while our legs have not recovered yet after the previous day climbing the mountain. We had to climb up to the altitude of 2,900m and then down to 2,800m and then climb up again. Unlike the road parts below, at the high altitude we must overcome the tottery cliffs and high, slippery streams, sometimes we felt exhausted … then, we suddenly reached the “Roof of Indochina” in happiness.
According to Mr. Po, in each trip he only gets 300,000 – 500,000 VND, depending on the number of guests. His income in a month for his guide work is about 5 – 7 million VND. But every step he took on the Hoang Lien Son Range would raise a dream for his two sons to study to become successful people, so that they would not have to live as hard as their father in future. It was his desire when talk about his family story.
Our trip was safe in the guidance and care of Mr. Po. He was the porter who led the way for the three of us who were fortunate enough to have been on that trip. To offer glory for footsteps on this trip, perhaps, firstly will spend for people like him.