Trekking up the 2,860 meter Lao Than peak in Lao Cai Province’s Y Ty Commune can be a lifetime’s experience, as reflected by local tour guide Vang A Ho.
Lao Than, also known as Hau Pong San, is situated in Phin Ho Village. It is the roof of Y Ty Commune and an appealing winter vacation destination for Vietnamese trekkers easily entranced by the surreal beauty of the clouds.
To help avid travelers conquer Lao Than peak, 25-year-old H’mong guide Vang A Ho, author of this series of photos, formed his own team of local tour guides.
This photo was taken on Jan. 1 as a sharp, frosty cold spell hit the northern mountainous region. The duo is on their way to Lao Than peak.
A trekking group poses in front of “A Ho” hut, 250 meters from Lao Than peak.
Vang A Ho said Lao Than is gaining popularity as a heaven for “cloud hunting”. Realizing its potential, A Ho together with his friends built this wooden hut for guests to stay over during their trip.
A group of 12 trekkers is usually accompanied by four indigenous “porters” that carry their luggage and act as guides. A two day, one night tour costs about VND2.5-3.5 million ($108-151) per person.
According to the itinerary, trekkers will reach the hut between 3 p.m – 4 p.m on the first day. Lao Than’s landscape with sparse steep slopes leading up to the summit is not too challenging for professional hikers, A Ho said.
Dinners are prepared by porters, using Y Ty specialties like grilled wild boar, chicken and stir-fried vegetables, accompanied by a heartening cup of rice wine. After the meal, organic and inorganic waste is separated to minimize the impact on the environment.
“The absence of cellphone signals on the mountain has some trekkers worried, but does offer them the chance to immerse themselves in their natural surroundings and enjoy the starry night sky,” A Ho said.
It is hard not to miss the explosive sunrise from Lao Than peak. At around four in the morning, after finishing a hot bowl of chicken porridge, trekkers will have to grope their way along a steep road with flashlights in hand to reach their final destination. Temperatures might hover just above zero degree Celsius.
Lao Than, the roof of Y Ty, is shrouded by an ocean of white clouds.
A duo poses atop Lao Than peak.
“Standing on the pinnacle of Lao Than with the world lying beneath your feet, you can witness the bright light of dawn and floating clouds breach the horizon. The captivating moment makes you forget about how tired you are,” the young trekkers said.
On the way back to the hut, trekkers may encounter the sight of sunlight breaking through the forest canopy.
A Ho served his guests a treat of noodles with eggs, beef and cabbage to help them complete the final two hours to the foot of the mountain.
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