Climbing the mountain of many names
Arguably the most exotic of the Seven Summits, the Carstensz Pyramid is located in the Indonesian province of Papua on the western half of the island of New Guinea. While my hope had been to trek through the jungle to get to base camp, due to recent unrest in area I was advised against this by our local Indonesian guide and logistics provider. Instead, we were to fly the last 40 miles by helicopter, landing at base camp (4,200m). We would spend a few days acclimatising to the altitude before undertaking the climb itself.
The weather, however, and as the pilots only operate under VFR (visual flight rules) conditions, meant the helicopter couldn’t fly due to rain and cloudy conditions. As a result, we spent nine days sitting in the town of Timika waiting for the weather to clear. Mentally, this was perhaps the toughest part of the whole trip – having trained and traveled so far to get there, and being able to see the mountain, but not being able to actually climb it.
Eventually, the weather did clear enough for us to be able to fly in. Because of the enforced wait, we opted to climb immediately rather than to wait and risk further weather delay.
The climb itself is almost 2,000ft (600m) of steep, rough limestone, with a few scrambling ‘steps’ between the steeper sections. During the climb, it was either snowing or raining most of the time, which was fine, but unfortunately our view of the surrounding area was not great as a result. Every now and then, when the clouds cleared for a moment, it was incredible to see remnants of a nearby glacier. Not much of the glacier is left, but it was still remarkable to see a snowfield so close to the equator. After ascending the main face, we reached the jagged and exposed summit ridge and traversed from there to the true summit. After years of dreaming about this climb, it felt incredible to stand on the highest point of Oceania and complete my sixth of the Seven Summits!
The descent was interesting. After all the precipitation we’d had, there were sheets of water running down the face of the mountain. At times it felt like we were climbing down a waterfall!
After a couple of days back in base camp, the helicopter was able to fly in and collect us and I started my long journey back home – arriving just in time for the kids’ first day at their new schools in Colorado, USA.