Darkest And Coldest Before Dawn

This goes back to 2008, when together with a group of 5 friends, we attempted to scale Mt. Fansipan in northern Vietnam. Mt. Fansipan is nicknamed “the roof of IndoChina”, standing at 3,143 meters tall, it is highest peak for Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. We bought a 3 day 2 night package for our climb which included a guide and a few porters to assist us.

Porters and their straw baskets. They were not out porters though

Porters, but not ours. Salute for their straw baskets

inside the basket...

inside the basket…

Everyone including myself was in high spirits when we started the climb carrying our full load. For myself, I looked forward to this trip and saved up my entire year of NSF allowance to afford it. I was delighted that it is finally happening. This is dubbed as “my trip of the year” as Mt. Fansipan was the furthest I have ever travelled for hiking and the highest summit which I am about to attempt.

The climb started out well, a few up and down slopes which was okay but just a little tired and out of breath. We break for lunch and subsequently continued our climb towards the campsite, in the usual up and down fashion. Why is that so? Mt. Fansipan’s peak is surrounded by a few mountain ranges. This means that we need to climb up and over these “smaller mountains” in order to get to the main peak. I was feeling increasingly tired as the climb progresses on. When news broke that we are reaching the campsite, I was so happy to know that I was done climbing for the day.

our guide cutting bamboo for us as makeshift trekking pole

our guide cutting bamboo to make us a trekking pole

the trail... i was still feeling ok here

the trail… feeling ok still

rest time = favourite time

rest time = favourite time

my tired face...

my tired face…

It was extremely cold that night. Luckily, I managed to get some rest. The next morning, some of my friends shared that they did not sleep well due to the cold.

The second day started beautifully but with me limping out of the tent due to my body aches. We are summiting Mt. Fansipan today. The climb was horrible for me. I felt the fatigue right from the start. The trail was steep, bringing you up and down countless times. This makes the climb mentally challenging as it toys around your feelings of “reaching the peak” only to have the trail leading to a downward hike once again. I was so physically and mentally exhausted. My legs were weak and they felt like jelly. My muscles hurt with every step due to the aches and fatigue. My body was protesting from taking another step forward. I was certainly not prepared or expecting such a difficult climb and pondered about my poor decision of not doing prior training. I constantly wondered if we were there yet, and when will this ever end?

second day morning...

second day morning…

the hike continues...

the hike continues…

going up and up...

a false sense of reaching summit

only to go down and down...

only to go back hiking down

I was so exhausted. Every step forward required tremendous effort. When we reached yet another (i lost count already) false summit only to be told: “we are not there yet”, my heart sank. I looked around the view surrounding me. It was beautiful, beautiful enough for me to just stay put here and enjoy the view. I was so exhausted, weak and unmotivated to carry on. The climb had been very strenuous, and all I wanted was to have the pain and agony to stop. At this point, I decided that I wanted to give up, quit the climb right there at this moment.

Perhaps my feelings were all written on my face. When I was about to vocalise my thoughts, my friends gave me no other choice. They pushed me, motivated me and encouraged me to continue on which I did so very reluctantly. Step by step, one at a time, in heavy breathing and the pace of a tortoise, we finally managed to reach the summit within the next twenty minutes.

the smiley faces are all fake

the smiley faces are all fake

this is more like how we looked

this is more like how we looked

i really thought i have reached the summit but nope, not yet!

i really thought i have reached the summit but nope, not yet!

oh my god, this is really really tiring..

oh my god, this is really really tiring..


thoughts of giving up running through my head at this moment

everyone equally tired

we are extremely exhausted. only left with strength to crawl

finally at the summit.

finally at the summit.


The view between the summit or my “quitting point” isn’t much of a significant difference. However, if I have given up on the climb, what I will have lost will be my burst of happiness and satisfaction for completing the climb. Looking back, this experience clearly demonstrated that life is such that,

“it is always the darkest and coldest before dawn.”

And I honestly believe this is how the universe works. That the universe will test you for your determination and will before rewarding you.

Hence, be it for life or hiking, the toughest and darkest moments are experienced just before you find success. When the going get tough, just hang on a little bit more. Success is just around the corner.


Posted in Hiking Stories, Hiking Thoughts.


  1. Congratulations on completing your hike! A job well done! When the going gets tough, the tough get going!

  2. Pingback: How to Train For A Hike | Hikers For Life Blog | Stairs Training Hiking

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