Mont Ventoux, The Col du Galibier, The Tourmalet… The O Quy Ho. No? Not heard of that last one? Not many people have, which is what makes it all the more special.

This is a climb to rival the greats in the alps in every way – length, height, sense of scale and the majesty of the scenery. From the border town and provincial capital of Lao Cai to the the top of the pass is the best part of 40km with over 1,800m of ascent topping out at just shy of 2,000m.

We’re planning to run a dedicated climbing camp in the near future and placing the highest pass in Vietnam at the centre of it is a no-brainer. So, with the aim of piecing together the kind of climbing camp we’d want to go on, we headed up to Sapa on the night train, arriving in Lao Cai at dawn.

 

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Taking a break from the climb to look back over the rice terraces that characterise the north west of Vietnam. Photo by Matthew Thomas            

After a noodle soup breakfast we headed straight out to take on the big one. Over its entirety the climb averages 5% and for the most part it is possible to ride it fairly comfortably. There is a very deep satisfaction in climbing past the town of Sapa where most visitors to this part of the world stay and once beyond it, you won’t see many more foreign faces. After cresting the highest point a magical descent of around 25km awaits which had us grinning like a kid from ear-to-ear.

The climb back up to the O Quy Ho from Ban Xeo, Lao Cai 

Next day we headed for a loop skirting the border with China and on the descent from Sapa we came across a live python for sale on the side of the road for 1 million Vietnam Dong – US$50.

After a morning of descending we were in for a full on day of climbing with 45km of up, up, up and more up. All day it felt like we were staying one step ahead of the clouds moving in behind us. The photos below will give you a flavour of the scenery better than any more words from us will…

O Quy Ho Pass approach

The O Quy Ho is the highest pass in Vietnam. This is the less used climb up to it. Photo by Matthew Thomas  

The Cannondale Evo Hi Mod in front of the Five Finger Mountain. The light was awesome all day with sunshine breaking through clouds. The jagged peaks of the Five Fingers remind us of the Dolomites.

My mid-ride snack – BBQ bird flavoured with garlic and lemongrass. I’m not sure what bird it was as she would only call it ‘small bird’ in Vietnamese. After I spent a while trying to eat the meat off the tiny bones the gentleman in the background of the picture taught me how to do it properly… eat it whole. The lot. Bones and all. It was delicious.

These frontier area signs can be found in a number of border provinces in Vietnam, but this is the only example we know of the old and the new style side by side

These frontier area signs can be found in a number of border provinces in Vietnam, but this is the only example we know of the old and the new style side by side

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The joy of taking a new bike (albeit a second-hand one) that feels just right into scenery like this is pretty much unbeatable

 

 

We’ll do one more recon trip before announcing the dates and plan for the climbing camp special, but you can expect three days of massive gain among some of Vietnam’s very finest landscapes.