Ascent of Fan Si Pan on 2019-08-23

Climber: Eric Gilbertson

Date:Friday, August 23, 2019
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Fan Si Pan
    Elevation:10308 ft / 3141 m

Ascent Trip Report

Eric and Katie

Aug 23, 2019

Katie and I left Hanoi on Friday morning at 7am on the Sapa Express bus. We had considered the other main method of getting to Sapa, an overnight sleeper train, but decided we'd get a much better sleep staying at a hotel in Hanoi.

The bus was very comfortable and we arrived in Sapa around 1230pm in a light rain. 

Prior to Feb 2016 climbing Fansipan involved a 20mile round trip hike from Sapa, but in 2016 the company Fansipan Legend constructed a cable car almost all the way to the summit. The cable car actually has the world record for greatest height difference for a 3-cable cable car, gaining over 4,000ft. 

It would definitely be more honorable to hike to the top, but our goal was just to get to the top with highest probability of success. So we decided to take the cable car, then do some other hiking afterwards. 

The cable car operates 730am to 530pm 7 days per week rain or shine and is extremely popular. Despite the rain we decided to go up that afternoon. It was the rainy season anyway so we weren't expecting good weather. Maybe we'd get lucky, I thought, and it might even deter the crowds. 

The Sapa express receptionist sent a guy over on a motorcycle to buy tickets for us, though we later learned it would have been just as easy to buy them ourselves at the entrance. 

We ate a quick lunch of pho then walked to the Sapa station around 130pm. We were travelling light so didnt need to drop off any gear at our hotel. From there we took a short train ride ($2 round trip per person) up hill to another station then got on the cable car ($30 per person round trip). 

It was a spectacular ride over the rice paddies and forest then up into the clouds. After about 20 minutes we reached the top station walked out. It was now cold enough to put on my long pants and jacket. Unfortunately it was not cold enough for snow but I've heard it does snow all the way down to Sapa in the winter. 

We walked outside and started up the steps. Soon we came upon another train up the last 300ft to the summit that was supposed to be for the elderly only though most people we saw getting on didn't appear to qualify. 

We continued up the steps and reached the top after 0.5 miles and 300ft gain. I was a bit concerned that we'd have trouble touching the true highest rock. Fellow highpointer Lee Humphries wrote that in 2017 there was a small fence around the true summit rock with a guard, and he had to wait for the guard to be distracted to jump over and tag the summit. 

I was also concerned about needing to fight our way through dense crowds. Luckily, though, the rain appeared to have scared away the crowds, and there was no guard. The true summit rock was still surrounded by a waist high wooden fence, with a sign saying "Respect sacred land, do not cross" but the fence was close enough to the true summit rock that it was easy to reach over and tag it. 

We each tagged the true highest point on the summit rock and got a lot of pictures. We asked a girl standing nearby to take a picture of us both but she angrily refused. I've never had someone refuse a picture like that so was pretty surprised. 

We took a selfie and some other pictures and hung out for 20 minutes hoping for a view, but remained socked in the clouds. 

There was a coffee shop just below the summit that we stopped in before walking back down to the cable car. We arrived back in Sapa at 430pm and headed to our hotel.

The next morning I hiked up Ham Rung, a hill near town, before taking the 4pm Sapa express bus back to Hanoi. 

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