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Conquering a wild mountain peak in northern Vietnam

By Duc Hung, Linh Nguyen    May 31, 2019 | 05:32 am PT
Standing at 3,049 m, Putaleng is Vietnam's third highest peak after Fansipan in Lao Cai and Pusilung in Lai Chau.

Putaleng is in the Hoang Lien Son mountain range in Ta Leng Commune, Lai Chau Province's Tam Duong District. Its height is third to Fansipan (3,143 meters) in the neighboring province of Lao Cai and Pusilung (3,080 meters) in Lai Chau.

The slopes leading to the Putaleng top are covered with green forests with various types of vegetation ranging from 100-year-old trees to dense bamboo forests. The mountain also has lots of waterfalls and streams for trekkers to take a dip.

The trip can be done in three days or two depending on one’s fitness and stamina. Trekkers can take a night bus from Hanoi to arrive in Ho Thau Commune and make an early morning start.

Our trek in mid April to the top started in Ho Thau Commune and ended in Ta Leng.

A group of tourists and porters who are also guides.

A group of tourists and porters who are also guides.

Day 1

We started early in the morning and trekked up paths along springs.

Locals say trekkers might feel tired after the first hour or so and then the body gets used to the effort. One should not rest for too long as the body can become stiff.

After about an hour of trekking you will reach a beautiful forest, one of the few rare primary forests left in Vietnam. Take some time here to observe the diverse vegetation.

Continue along small streams toward Thau Spring. There are many large rocks along Thau Spring, creating small ponds with refreshingly cool water, perfect for refreshment.

Rest by the spring for lunch, eat some food or take a nap to recharge since the next part of the trek will be arduous.

The rest of the way to the camp site is up steep slopes that require trekkers to be extremely careful. People often have to hold on to tree branches for support or crawl on all four.

A camp site on the way to Putaleng.

A camp site on the way to Putaleng.

The total distance covered on the first day is around 10 km in seven and a half hours or more, including an hour’s lunch break.

The camp site for the night, around 2,400 m above sea level, is next to a big stream.

Day 2

The total distance to the top of the mountain and back is around 25 km. The path from the camp site to the top is through green bamboo forests.

It might take around three hours to get to the top of the mountain. The summit is covered with trees and so you might have to climb on them for better views and photos. The surrounding mountain tops look like islands floating in a sea of white clouds.

The mountain tops look like islands floating in a sea of white clouds.

The mountain tops look like islands floating in a sea of white clouds.

The way down is long but beautiful, with tall ancient trees covered in moss and majestic mountains as the backdrop. There are many places along the way where trekkers can stop for rest.


The journey will probably end at Ta Leng Commune around late afternoon. From there, take a taxi to Lai Chau Town, the capital of Lai Chau Province, and then a bus to Hanoi.

This is best suited for experienced trekkers as Putaleng is rated hard on the difficulty level with many steep slopes.

Do not trek on rainy days since the path could be slippery and the chances of flash floods are high from May to September.

Hire local guides and porters to go with you since the place is still wild, has a lot of snakes and one can easily get lost. You can also ask the guide or porter to prepare food for you. The fee for a porter is around VND300,000 ($13) per day.

You will need to obtain a permit before climbing the mountain. Remember to ask the tour operator or your local guides for more information.

Putaleng peak at the height of 3,049 m.

Putaleng peak at the height of 3,049 m.

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