Man on His Knees Conquers Mountains

Despite breaking his bones more than 150 times because of Osteogenesis Imperfecta disorder (OI), Vu Ngoc Anh’s dream of conquering and exploring every places he saw on TV still motivates him to climb mountains.

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Located at the foot of Dai Lanh Lighthouse in Phu Yen, the road in front of Ngoc Anh’s eyes clung to the mountain side with steep and rocky steps. Strapping on his knee protectors, Ngoc Anh embarked on his journey after putting his wheelchair aside. The 1km concrete road was followed by a narrow pathway approximately 500m through the woods and cliffs, causing his knees and hands to ache as tiny rocks pierced his skin.

Photo: NVCC

Photo: NVCC

The Journey of Conquering the Roads on the Knees

Ngoc Anh faced pain and hardships when he reached his destination at Mui Dien (Dien Cape), Phu Yen seven years ago. The 1.5km-long road, which may be easy for a normal person, was nearly impossible for someone who had to use their hands and knees to move forward. After the journey, Ngoc Anh had to be hospitalized for two days due to his badly injured knees.

Ngoc Anh’s road trips took a long time to complete since he had to both work for a living and travel. Prior to his trip to the West Pole, Ngoc Anh had already reached the South Pole at Ca Mau about two months earlier, which was the easiest road as it could be traversed by car and wheelchair. One year later, he embarked on a trip to the North Pole at Lung Cu flag tower in Ha Giang, and more recently, he conquered the West Pole at A Pa Chai in Dien Bien. All of this was accomplished by using his knees for climbing.

Photo: NVCC

Photo: NVCC

The hardest challenge in Ngoc Anh’s journey was conquering the Fansipan mountain peak. In 2011, he had planned to trek to the highest peak known as “The Roof of Indochina” over a duration of seven days, but he was unable to do so. Finally, in February 2016, after the cable car was built, he got the opportunity to achieve his long-standing dream.

Photo: NVCC

Photo: NVCC

Every time Ngoc Anh reached a destination, he experienced a mix of happiness and a sense of loss. He believes that this feeling is something everyone experiences when they finally achieve their purpose. In addition to the “4 Poles 1 Peak,” Ngoc Anh has traveled to over 50 provinces in Vietnam and abroad, including Korea and Singapore. He doesn’t believe that there is a single most beautiful destination as each place has its own unique beauty. He always tries to fully enjoy the trip and discover the local culture and scenery at each destination he visits.

While he mostly travels alone, sometimes his close friends accompany him on his determined treks. Ngoc Anh is aware of his physical limitations, so he rests as much as possible before taking on new challenges. His luggage only consists of a few pairs of clothes, a cell phone, and a camera to document his journey.

Photo: NVCC

Photo: NVCC

Even though he is cautious and careful about his health and safety, Ngoc Anh has experienced near leg fractures, lost control of his wheelchair, and even been robbed and subjected to mockery by drunken people. With each road trip, he gains more experience and learns how to better protect himself.

Childhood on a Wheelchair

“A person with limited mobility dreams of going places. It sounds conflicting, but the journey I took was both a challenge to myself and a way to fulfill my childhood dream,” Ngoc Anh said about the purpose of his journey.

When he was nearly one year old, Ngoc Anh broke his arm and leg while learning to walk. His bone broke in the same spot again, even though it hadn’t fully healed. Doctors told his family that it was due to a lack of calcium. They tried various methods to cure him, but his condition did not improve. A few years later, he was finally diagnosed with Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI), a genetic disorder that causes increased bone fractures and collagen defects, which was still unfamiliar to many people.

Photo: NVCC

Photo: NVCC

From his childhood until he entered school, Ngoc Anh’s brittle bones frequently broke. He vividly remembered lying on a hospital bed with his arms and legs in plaster casts, feeling like a zombie. As he grew up, he endured immense pain from his injuries. There were times when both of his legs broke, and he had to learn how to move around on his knees. However, he still needed assistance with daily activities.

In the last years of secondary school, a non-profit organization gifted him a wheelchair. However, he refused to use it due to the fear of being mocked and judged by others. He became more introverted and withdrawn. He longed to run and play like other children his age but found solace in books and television at home. The dream of traveling and exploring gradually took root within him. At the age of 18, he passed the university entrance exam but decided not to pursue higher education in Hanoi because he didn’t want his parents to accompany him and take care of him. Instead, he pursued an apprenticeship, which allowed him to pursue his passion for business and music.

Ngoc Anh recognized that he needed to become more independent and move away from home to chase his dreams. After moving to Hanoi, he found work and began his journey. Many years later, when his father asked him, “Can you do it?” he confidently replied, “I can.”

Ngoc Anh is proud of the decision he made. The journey has been meaningful to him, transforming him from a quiet and timid person to a young man who can engage in conversations with strangers for hours on end. He believes that many opportunities open up and he has achieved things he never dreamed of before. Ngoc Anh constantly wears a bright smile when reflecting on his experiences.