Trekking Ta Chi Nhu: A rookie's climb to the summit

By Phuong Hoang   October 15, 2023 | 02:00 am PT
Conquering Ta Chi Nhu, Vietnam's 7th highest peak, demands meticulous preparation, including proper gear, the right mindset, and even well-kept toenails.

Hong Phuong, a traveler hailing from Hanoi, recently embarked on a journey to Ta Chi Nhu Peak, a towering pinnacle in the northern Yen Bai Province standing 2,979 meters above sea level. This journey challenged novice mountain climbers with a steep ascent covering over 10 kilometers and few flat sections for respite.

Phuong shares her first-hand experiences and offers advice to those aspiring to conquer mountains, all while savoring the beauty of Ta Chi Nhu's purple swertia flowers set against the refreshing backdrop of October's crisp air.

Before setting off

First and foremost, travelers should invest in a pair of climbing shoes designed for a firm grip, featuring spiked soles and slightly larger than your regular shoe size. Avoid using regular running sneakers, as Phuong says, "Choosing the right footwear is the first and most important thing. You should opt for a slightly loose fit; otherwise, walking will become difficult."

Trimming toenails before the trek is essential to prevent painful toe collisions with shoes during the descent. Neglecting this precaution can lead to mild discomfort escalating into severe injury.

Chọn một đôi giầy tốt sẽ khiến cho hành trình leo núi dễ chịu hơn. Ảnh: Hồng Phương

Hong Phuong removes soil from her shoes during a trek on Ta Chi Nhu mountain. Photo courtesy of Hong Phuong

For a two-day, one-night trek, individuals should opt for a 15-20 liter backpack equipped with shoulder straps and a waist buckle to distribute weight evenly. Alternatively, a lightweight, water-resistant 20-liter backpack is a cost-effective choice.

Carry electrolyte mineral salt tablets and energy bars to maintain energy levels during the trek, and don't forget anti-muscle strain spray or pills to combat cramps caused by steep inclines.

In the late autumn, Ta Chi Nhu experiences chilly temperatures, prompting the need for a windbreaker or a light jacket with thermal insulation to combat nighttime lows of about 13-14 degrees Celsius in the accommodation.

The cold and dry weather results in minimal mosquito presence, eliminating the need for mosquito nets or screens. Nevertheless, carrying insecticide or spray is still advisable.

When journeying as a group, it's practical for members to distribute collective items, reducing the weight of individual backpacks. For instance, in a group of 5-6 individuals, half can be responsible for toothpaste and phone chargers, while the others carry essential medications and ginger tea for shared consumption.

First-time mountain climbers should do exercises like climbing stairs and walking several kilometers daily to improve their fitness and stamina.

During the journey

Đường gần lên đỉnh chỉ có cây dại, gió to. Ảnh: Hồng Phương

Near the Ta Chi Nhu summit, the path is lined with only untamed trees and climbers can experience strong winds. Photo by Hong Phuong

Starting from the Mo Chi area in Xa Ho Commune early in the morning, the route to Ta Chi Nhu usually lasts 6-8 hours, covering 10 kilometers and about 17,000 steps.

Due to recent rain, some parts of the path became slippery. To maintain stability on steep slopes, climbers had to utilize two climbing sticks and wear thin, high-grip gloves.

Even when traveling with a group, consider hiring a local porter well-acquainted with the terrain. Hmong porters are experts who provide guidance, locate ideal photo spots, as well as emotional support during strenuous segments.

To combat cramps and muscle tension, besides using an anti-stress spray, Hong Phuong also suggests maintaining small and steady steps instead of long strides, as they can quickly fatigue your legs.

After conquering 7 kilometers of steep terrain, visitors will reach the final rest camp, located roughly 3 kilometers from the summit. Here, you can have a break before the afternoon climb. It is suggested to reapply sunscreen before embarking on the afternoon trek to avoid sunburn.

The path from the rest camp to Ta Chi Nhu Peak features wild trees and occasional purple swertia flowers. Although not overly challenging, rocky sections and strong winds on rainy days can quickly sap energy. Ensure you have a wind-resistant hat, sunglasses, and a lightweight raincoat. Local Mong porters may even provide entertainment during breaks.

The final 3-kilometer part ends at the marker "Ta Chi Nhu 2,979m" with the national flag.

After the trip

[Trên đỉnh Tà Chì Nhù.Ảnh:Hồng Phương

Climbers pose with a market on the summit of Ta Chi Nhu Peak. Photo by Hong Phuong

The Hmong porter guided the group on a different path down the mountain, where swertia flowers created a striking purple strip along the mountainside. Upon returning to the shelter, guests can purchase hot water for a VND50,000 ($2) bath and enjoy a bowl of egg noodles.

If one plans to stay overnight, be sure to bring a small flashlight due to limited power. Before sleeping, apply muscle fatigue patches to the thighs and calves to prepare for the descent the next day.

Descending the mountain takes about half the time compared to the ascent. The continuous steep slopes can strain your knees and make your feet weary.

Phuong's advice is to place the stick's tip on soft ground and turn your feet sideways to avoid pressure on your toes, preventing discomfort. Knee and ankle support can help reduce injuries. If you become overly tired, don't hesitate to ask the porters for assistance, as they can offer a helping hand on steep sections.

"Don't venture down Ta Chi Nhu mountain solo when your knees and legs are feeling weak and sore. You never know what unexpected obstacles you might encounter along the way," Phuong said.

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