Vietnam’s fourth highest mountain peak, Bach Moc Luong Tu

Towering mountain peaks appeared before me as I held tightly onto rocky aiguilles before taking my next step. Bach Moc Luong Tu is a perfect venture for adventurers.

Finally, after a difficult trek and heaps of effort I reached the top of Bach Moc Luong Tu, gripping the peak with my bare hands. For the first time in my life, I was drained of energy from a mountain climb but also faced with a sublime panoramic view of the Vietnamese border.

Bach Moc Luong Tu, 3,046 m high, is Vietnam's fourth highest mountain peak, after Fansipan, Putaleng and Pusilung, all in northern Vietnam. The mountain, locally called Ky Quan San after the ethnic village at its base, lies between the northwestern provinces of Lai Chau and Lao Cai.

There are two ways to conquer Bach Moc Luong Tu. The first route departs from Sang Ma Sao Ward of Bat Xat District in Lao Cai Province whilst the second starts at Sin Sui Ho Ward of Phong Tho District in Lai Chau Province.

The former is recommended and preferred since the route via Lai Chau Province passes by Chinese territory and requires a special border pass. When visiting Bach Moc Luong Tu, most hikers opt for the first trail from Sang Ma Sao Ward to avoid the additional paperwork.

Our sherpa during the hike was A Tru, a H'mong local from Sang Ma Sao Village. A Tru has over seven years of experience and knowledge in guiding travelers to northern mountains like Bach Moc Luong Tu, Nhiu Co San, Cu Nhu San, Pa Vi, Lao Than, Ta Lien Son, Putaleng, and Ngu Chi Son. Therefore, he knew his way around Bach Moc Luong Tu like the back of his hand.

That morning I woke up early in Y Ty Commune then walked to Sang Ma Sao Village in Muong Hum Commune. The route was fairly easy. At 8 a.m., I arrived at A Tru’s house and waited for the rest of my crew to arrive.

At 10 a.m., we began our journey to Bach Moc Luong Tu. Already, the first steps seemed steep and hard. From Ky Quan San Village, we made our way up the winding and rocky slope, which proved very tricky to climb. As we neared to the top, we encountered an emerald staircase of rice terraces draped over surrounding hills, dotted with H'mong clay houses basking in smoke. The dreamy view seemed to compensate for the laborious climb.

There were eight of us, plus two porters who carried our gear. One led the crew and the other monitored our progress from the rear. Engaged, I followed in leader A De’s footsteps.

As we continued the journey up the mountain, our view was no longer of rice fields but of fresh cardamom gardens. Since cardamom was in season, locals were busy picking cardamom pods wherever we looked. Not only is it a northern specialty used in many dishes, but also a key ingredient in curing a stomachache or other illnesses.

Under the blazing sun, we moved towards a majestic forest that gradually loomed larger. The forest was wild and dense with bushy vines strung between trees. The wind swept through narrow spaces in between trees, making a rustling sound reminiscent of some kind of a monster lurking in the shadows. At that moment, I was scared. The dark and thick forest made me feel like it held the power to hypnotize and disorient me if I were found alone.

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