21-Jun-2008 -- We, a group of 10 people, managed to conquer 22N104E for the first time in Hoang Lien Son National Park in a heavily rainy day. The bad weather and the very dense rain forest were really challenging to people who, most of the time, live in cities.
The first vehicle departed from Hanoi very early in the morning at 5AM with 6 people, which was 5 hours earlier than the departure of the second one with 4 people. More importantly, two vehicles took two different routes to Yen Bai provinces. The road taken by the first group was very tough with full of mud and too many huge pot holes that only 4x4 was able to afford. And they had to take a very primitive ferry to cross the Red River.
While the second group had enough time for relax on the way before meeting with the first group in Yen Bai province at around midnight, on a foggy mountain pass. We spent a chilly night in a small house (Forest Management Office), which is around 7km away from the entry gate to 22N104E, in Nam Xe village. As per previous discussion and advices from foresters, it was likely that we would have to spend our second night in the forest. Therefore, we prepared food and tents and then started the journey to 22N104E at 7AM in the next morning.
The cars were left at the Forest Management Office. We had to wear rain coats, boots, and gloves because it started to rain more and more heavily. We also hired three local guides to avoid getting lost in the forest. The track through the forest was really tough and difficult to get through. We crossed about almost 10 big swift flowing streams, with threats to be swept by strong water, climbed up and down steep cliffs. It was very humid and rainy, and that made packs of terrestrial leech swarm over us. The track became continually steeper. We managed to keep up with each others through our talky walkies. The wooden tent – our tentative night shelter – finally appeared after three hours walking through the rain forest.
We had a very quick lunch at 12AM, and started to “swallow” the last 1.5km to 22N104E. The last part of the track was made of very thick layers of mud. It seemed that our foot stuck in and it took very strong efforts to pull them out. Then we had to cross Nam Mu stream. The water was strong and the stream was as large as a river. We had to hold each others’ hands to firmly walk through the stream. The water came up to the chest of the tallest members, which was about 1.5 meter deep. And 22N104E was about 1,200 meter away. At last, a small path suddenly appeared behind a dense bush. We counted down the last distance from 900m, 800m to 99m after a lot of steep slopes, and the track directly led to 22N104E. We said goodbye to our potential sleep in the forest and got out of the forest at about 8PM.
Our photos were taken in a hurry as we tried avoiding spending a night in the forest. One of our team member appears on one of the photos. We decided to submit it as is rather than trying cropping the photo.