Fansipan is Vietnam's highest peak located in the far north just outside of Sapa. Fansipan a very steep mountain that gets a lot of moisture. Those looking to climb it should be in good shape and prepared to to have muddy wet feet The scenery is incredible remember to bring a camera. For most of Vietnam having a rain coat is a little excessive because it is so warm. On the mountain having a rain coat is not a bad idea especially at night. The trails around Sapa are a lot of fun. You will get the chance to go through some minority vilages if you have the time to explore. The people in Sapa are extremely nice. Be aware of the children on the street, before you know it you will have hats and bracelets and rugs all over you. Explore the restraunts that are not on the main strip, you will get great food at a fraction of the cost. Hanoi beer is available in local restraunts for around 30 cents a liter. Down from the Royal Hotel there is a little old man that serves plum wine and plays board games, I suggest paying him a visit. The food there is great!
To get to the mountain you need to take a train from Hanoi to Lao Cai. From there you will take a mini bus up in to the town of Sapa. Transportation from Hanoi to Sappa can be arrange for a reasonable price. I think you might also be able to take a bus but I know it takes much longer. When you get into town, to make reservations for transprotation go to the Royal Hotel (www.royalhotelsapa.com) 2-way transportation can be hired, but I recomend you hire a guide. By hiriing a guide (english speaking?) you will get meals, a porter, 2-way transprotation, accomedations in a hut, and waived permit and entrance fees. All of this will cost around $35 US. Believe me it is worth it! For trail finding purposes alone.
Day1: You start going through several different valleys with a lot of lush jungle. The first day entails 2-4 hours of hiking. There is typically a lot of mud so come prepared. You might have the option of moving up to a high camp but the camp right by the river is beautiful. Enjoy the river to clean off( it is a btit nippy)
Day2: From the camp you pretty much go straight up the mountain side. It is a mixture of light 3rd class rock, root and tree climbing. The trail can be very slick and there are a lot of spots where the trail drops off. If you have trouble with heights you might not want to consider this hike.From the camp it takes 2-5 hours to reach the summit. Going up is not to bad but if it rained recently the trial can be very slick. Coming down is whre you want to be careful.
Day3: From the camp it takes about 3 hours to get down, bec areful about grabbing on to the grass if the trail is slick it will tear up you hands. When you reach the bottom you will end up in a beautiful hill tribe village.
There are permit and entrance fees. Not sure what the cost is. Part of the package deal if you hire a guide. Dont be suprised to find trash on the trail, Guides have not heard of the Leave No Trace Program I guess.
The prime time to climb the mountain is between October and April. During the summer it is very rainy but is still climbable if the weather holds. ( I went during the summer)
If you have your own tent and sleeping bags you can arrange to camp on the mountain. Tents and Sleeping bags can be hired for the Royal Hotel. If you are going to rent the gear you might as well hire the guide because the price difference is minimal. I am a very adventurous person and I am good with route finding but if I did this again I think I would still hire a guide because there are trails that go off everywhere. The hut on the mountain is for guests of the hired guides. If you can I recomend you bring a sleeping bag that is rated to at least 40 degrees. It can get a bit cold at night.
The Royal Hotel in Sapa is the best place to go to find information. The website is www.royalhotelsapa.com. unless you speak Vietnamese ther is not a lot of since calling. You might want to give it a shot though the # is (020)871313 or 871123
Fax# (020) 871783