Po Ma Lung in Lai Chau Province, one of Vietnam’s top 10 highest mountains, attracts scores of climbers with its challenging route.
Ascending 2,967 m high Po Ma Lung in Lang Village, Phong Tho District in Vietnam’s northern mountainous region is infamous for its length and roughness, the first pitstop only accessible after an 8-9 hour trek. Bearing this in mind, our group stayed over in Lai Chau Town before setting out the next morning, when we were joined by fellow adventurers from Hanoi.
Two 16-seaters from Lai Chau Town dropped us in Lang Village at 8 a.m following a two-hour drive. After registering with border police as the peak is near the border with China, our group of 24 passed our luggage to local porters and commenced our journey.
The first step is the deepest.
From Lang Village, we walked approximately 5 km along the hillside before reaching the foot of Po Ma Lung, from which we would climb 20 km before descending. This leg of our journey provided stunning jungle greenery and magical terraced fields, a few small houses dotting the valley below.
The road hugged local irrigation channels before skirting a mighty waterfall which caught me, as someone with tons of experience trekking around Vietnam, by complete surprise. Leaving the roar behind we passed round Mo Qua Mountain.
Top of Mo Qua Mountain.
After three hours of trekking, due in part to the inexperience of some group members, we failed to reach our scheduled lunch stop in Na Doong Village, 10 km from Lang Village, the usual stopover ahead of Ba Gio Slope. To save time and preserve energy we lunched where we were.
The slope, angled at a constant 45-60 degree, cut through beautiful forests filled with bamboos, oaks, and blooming rhododendron. It took us another 4-5 hours to reach Ba Gio peak and enjoy the sunset before descending to camp.
After a long trek, some of us had to be assisted by a porter. With no mobile signal, we used transceivers to keep in touch. Our leader, Nguyen Trung Kien, constantly reminded us to “Be careful. To get lost in the forest at night is very dangerous, as it gets very cold, and mountain climbers tend to wear few clothes due to the heat generated by climbing”.
After an hour, we made camp, situated at 2,200 m on the less windy side of a small valley very close to a stream. This camp was the cleanest and most beautiful I have stayed in thus far.
A camp at 2,200 m above the sea level.
For the sake of decency, all the men took a dip in the stream with the women bathing in hot water provided by porters, who also provided us a tasty meal consisting of vegetables and different sources of protein.
Our tummies full, the soothing forest sounds quickly lulled us to sleep.
The following morning, after a breakfast cooked by porters, we started off at 7 a.m, carrying only water and some light snacks.
The weather proved favorable with no rain. However, at high altitude, the humid air made the going slippery. Streams and large moss-covered rocks brought many of us to our knees. Luckily, most cases involved nothing more than a few light scratches.
The second-day route, passing through a fairy-like mountain forest, was the most beautiful of the journey. After three hours of trekking along with a scattering of small streams, we reached the border area. From here it would be an additional one hour and a half to the top.
Near the peak, making our way through the dense forest cost us a great deal of time. In addition, winds kept us on our heels.
The peak of Po Ma Lung at 2,967 m high.
Eventually, our efforts paid off, the group scaling the peak at 11:30 a.m after a 4-5 hour climb.
At the top, as the adrenaline wore out, low temperatures, high humidity, and strong winds had us shivering. Our porters, seeing our desperate faces, quickly built a fire and cooked lunch. Our hunger sated, the first group started its descent at 12:30 p.m.
At noon, the road was much clearer and less time-consuming to navigate. Even though we spent a great deal of time taking pictures on our way, it only took us approximately three hours and a half to descend.
After a solid night’s rest, we broke up camp at 12 p.m, deeply impressed by nature’s spectacular and humbling beauty.
Photos by Duc Hung