Located at an altitude of 1,541 m above sea level, Phia Pò is the highest peak in the Mau Son complex, so it is also known as the roof of Lang Son or "Everest of Lang". Folk believe that those who set foot on the top of Phia Pò mountain will have a lot of luck in life and work.
After moving from Lang Son City 30km to Loc Binh district, we stopped at Na Mo school, Mau Son commune at the foot of the mountain to warm-up. The weather in late autumn and early winter is cool, chilly with light sunshine, creating favorable conditions for the feet to start the journey of conquest.
The arduous 14km ahead takes us through different types of terrain.
Beautiful meadows like the corner of the European sky
After about the first 4 hours crossing 1 road with green pine trees and dense forest trees, we seemed to lift the curtain to open up a completely different space, overhead is the wide sky, at the foot is grass. The vast grassland reminds us of a peaceful countryside in Europe or Japan. The grass leans in the wind across the hillside, hugging every step of the pedestrians. The grass here changes color according to the season. In summer, the hills are covered with a lush green; gradually taking on a golden hue that burns in autumn and withers in the winter.
Standing on high looking down, I was fascinated by the contrasting and harmonious patches of colors intertwined. The creative hand of nature is truly marvelous. This is also an ideal camping and cloud hunting location for travel devotees.
Going to the new pasture is halfway to the top. We sat on our feet, the breeze blowing the cool cage dispelling the beads of sweat from our foreheads. The wide sky, the layered clouds, the distant mountain ranges, all paint a majestic picture that catches the eye.
Going through journeys like this, you can see how precious the few stops or a few sips of water are. We energized ourselves with a simple lunch with handfuls of sticky rice and an apple, then relaxed, watching the villages and tiny roofs that had been left behind.
Despite going through so many spectacular roads, every time I stand in front of spaces like this, I still feel overwhelmed. Seeing how small people are in front of the vast expanse of nature, and the world is full of new things inspired me to set out to explore.
At the end of the lawn before entering the trail into the forest, more stones appear. This is where people release goats, herd cows. We came across the trail, where each large slab of rock, small rock overlaps each other along with 2 gentle cliffs on both sides to create a special shape that should be called the dinosaur spine.
The higher you go, the faster the weather changes. In the blink of an eye, the clear sky suddenly turned into blindness. The thick layers of mist laid down made the surroundings become blurry, the green of the mountain was visible. At this point, we have to be really careful not to slip and fall.
Ghostly Fairy Forest
Leaving the pasture, we entered another world. The forest is my favorite destination because nature is always a therapy to heal the stress and fatigue of daily life.
In the forest, the later it is in the afternoon, the denser the dew. Another light rain appeared, making it more difficult to conquer the rocky slopes and trails. Shirts drenched in dew and rainwater, mud clinging to 2 feet inching inches in the middle of a mysterious primeval forest with many trees up to thousands of years old, stems covered with moss, fungi and lichens. The dew fell like jewels woven onto green carpets.
The highlight of this leg is probably the forest of hundreds of rhododendrons like an Eden dim in the mist. Dry stumps stretched out ghostly arms. Local porters say azaleas bloom later than the Northwest because winters are extremely cold. Around 4-5 months, if you go trekking Phia Pò, you will admire azaleas blooming brightly in many colors from white to yellow and pink.
Thought that the section of primeval forest was already the hardest, but the more you reached the top, the steeper it became. Just let your guard down are the bamboo trunks ready to whip straight in the face leaving scratches. There were even cliffs we had to swing to cross. In the final 30 minutes or so to reach the landmark, thatched grass covered the way. Both sides are abyss, so each step requires high concentration.
Finally, after about 8 hours from the foot of the mountain, I saw the 1,541 m Phia Pò landmark. The feeling of climax is always broken; Not because of the destination, but perhaps because of the many challenges overcome. Forgetting the feeling of victory for a moment, we knew the journey wasn't over and rushed back down because it was late.
Going up is hard one, going down is hard ten. That's when darkness began to descend. The temperature is lowered. Dense dew. The wind whistled in waves. Legs sagging. Hungry stomach. It all kind of combined adds dumbbells to the legs. Perhaps because the journey is only 1 day, we did not have the opportunity to camp overnight, our bodies could not regain energy after a long journey but had to go down the mountain immediately.
As the evening progressed, many people could no longer walk on foot and had to sit down and skate the grass. I saw a guy peel off both soles of his shoes, I also heard some sisters exclaim, "Stop me coming down!" and sprawled out on the grass panting. I saw my image in my first climbs.
In the faint light of our phone flashlights, we could only encourage each other, using the last bit of strength to guide each other step by step out of the mountain.
I've always thought that believing or not believing is more pleasant than ambiguity. Between believing and not believing, for the most part I choose to believe and let the facts be verified. This trip is also a "reluctant" test of whether I can overcome this unexpected challenge. At one point in the darkness of the grassy hills, I thought I couldn't get out of the mountains that night. But the minute I was chosen, I chose to believe and move on.
With the help of the porter, we finally got out of the woods at 9pm, closing an experience and bringing back unforgettable experiences of a lifetime.
With an altitude of just over 1500m, Phia Pò makes many people misunderstand the difficulty. Local porters assessed that the way to Phia Pò peak is as difficult as 1 number of peaks in the top 15 highest peaks in the Northwest. The distance is short, but the terrain is steep. Strong people who have climbed the mountain can completely conquer the 14km journey from the foot of the mountain to the top of the mountain in 1 day. However, for those who are physically poor or climbing for the first time, this is indeed a great challenge.
Therefore, the ideal journey for the trip to conquer the roof of Lang Son should last for 2 days and 1 night. This time is enough for you to have a break to recover energy in the middle of the journey, as well as feel the beauty of nature.
In addition, you need to grasp some general notes before and during Phia Pò trekking:
+ Trekking is an adventure tourism that overcomes difficult terrain over long distances. So, the prerequisite is that you need to be healthy enough. Ideally, you need real exercise 1 month before going.
+ You should prepare drinking water, bring candy, energy supplements along the way.
+ You need to have comfortable clothes, wind jackets and trekking shoes suitable for the mountainous terrain, carry luggage as compact as possible.
+ Squeezes and insects appear a lot along the way, so it is necessary to pay attention to wearing high socks, applying anti-squeeze drugs.
+ The road is very dangerous and easy to get lost, you should not go alone, but need to contact the porter or an experienced guide in advance to avoid unfortunate incidents.
Writer/Photo/Video: Le Phuong