Carstensz Pyramid 16,023 ft
Carstensz Pyramid is on the island of New Guinea, the world’s third largest island, in the province of Papua (formerly Irian Jaya), a remote corner of Indonesia. This is the highest peak in the Australasian continent and often the most difficult to gain access to of the seven summits. The climb itself involves fifth class rock climbing on a beautiful limestone summit ridge to gain the 16,023 foot/4,884 meter summit. Carstensz Pyramid is the highest peak in the Surinam mountain range that transects the island and sits next to the glaciated Ngapulu Jaya. The views looking over the jungle and beyond to the blue Pacific Ocean from the summit of this mysterious mountain are a rare and very special experience.
This island is one of the most exotic and fascinating places left to travel in the world. The local people belong to the Dani tribe, where the men still wear the traditional penis gourd and little else. We often have the opportunity to visit a Dani village as we make our way to the mountain.
We climb the original route up the North Face of Carstensz Pyramid, joining the summit ridge and proceeding to the summit. The climb is on beautiful, sharp limestone. Most of the climb is scrambling, but there are sections up to 5.6 in difficulty. We will fix ropes on much of the route to gain the summit ridge, which will aide us on the descent. The summit ridge is a beautiful, but exposed knife-edge ridge with really interesting climbing. You’ll need to have some rock climbing experience prior to coming to Carstensz and please plan on brushing up on those skills before the trip. The island is very rainy and you should expect to be traveling and climbing in the rain at times. If we have extra days at base camp we can climb nearby Ngapulu Jaya, which still has remnant glaciers, a strange juxtaposition on this equatorial island.
Access to Carstensz Pyramid can be very difficult and logistics are always challenging and complex. We have run 11 successful trips over the last several years, but each has provided unique access/logistical challenges. You should expect delays and last minute complications when choosing to travel to Papua, Indonesia and attempting to access this remote mountain. It is important to retain a “rigid state of flexibility” and remember that you are traveling in a true third world area and this is the biggest challenge of a Carstensz Pyramid expedition.
Helicopter vs. Trekking?
Based on our years of experience in Papua we prefer to offer helicopter accessed trips to Carstensz Pyramid, but the reliability of trekking access is improving and we are currently open to either option. Helicopter access can be challenging, but there are fewer variables out of our control than with the overland access routes. The many difficulties with trekking access including the tremendous challenge of staying healthy on a long jungle trek, and multiple levels of local politics in an unstable part of the world. Any Carstensz expedition is a journey into the unpredictable, but we have the experience to mitigate many of the factors that can otherwise stop teams in their tracks…or even before they meet in Indonesia.
If you are interested in visiting some native villages and seeing some of the amazing “Stone Age” culture that remains on this island we recommend a visit to the town of Wamena in the Papuan highlands. We would be happy to help you make arrangements for this sort of a cultural tour after the climb.
Roxanne Faike, who climbed with us in 2005, described the trip as “Way more exciting than Indiana Jones!” We’d have to agree…
The Tyrolean Traverse
Carstensz is a bit of an anomaly within the group of the Seven Summits, in that it is a technical rock climb that requires some higher degree of climbing experience than do the other six of “The Seven.” Climbers should choose climbing routes that emphasize 4th class terrain, yet should also be comfortable on steeper rock. Fixed lines make the climbing somewhat less scary, but the exposure is still intense and climbers who can ascend low 5th-class terrain will move much more efficiently than those who rely entirely on the fixed lines.
Some possible routes that we feel would give climbers a similar, albeit lower altitude, experience would be:
The Wilson – El Diente Traverse: this classic ridge climb links two 14,000’ peaks in SW Colorado and is almost entirely above 13,500’. There is a lot of 3rd and 4th class terrain, and, depending on your route selection, could require some rappels.
The West Ridge of North Twin Sister: This classic and beautiful route in NW Washington ascends a narrow ridge line via a lot of 3rd and 4th class terrain. It is a long day climb, or makes for a nice overnight route.
Follow Up Climbs
DAY 1: Meet in Timika, Papua, Indonesia. Gear check and Welcome dinner. (D)
DAY 2: Day in Timika. (B,L,D)
DAY 3: Fly to Carstensz Base Camp. We’ll get an early start for the helicopter flight to “The Lakes” base camp at about 12,900ft/ 3900 meters
DAY 4: Acclimatization hike, and practice ascending and rappelling near base camp
DAY 5: Summit Day! We get a classic pre-dawn alpine start and hope to be down before the afternoon rains. We’ll only go for the summit this day if everyone is feeling good and the weather looks promising.
DAY 6: Extra day for weather or acclimating.
DAY 7: Extra day for weather.
DAY 8: Fly back to Timika. Celebratory Dinner! (L,D)
DAY 9: Flights home. (B)
**This Itinerary is subject to change due to weather, logistical or other circumstances.
Carstensz Pyramid is essentially a one-day climb, with a many day approach. Summit day is a long one and can range from 12-25 hours. There are no good options for spending the night on the route for a number of reasons, not least of which is that the mountain can be subject to pretty intense lightning storms. Climbers must be physically and mentally prepared to spend a long day out in order to make their way up and down the mountain.
Summit day involves a lot of scrambling on generally very good limestone rock. The rock is quite sharp and provides good traction for hiking or climbing boots. The majority of exposed sections of the route are protected with fixed ropes so climbers must be adept at using ascenders as a form of self belay. The technical cruxes are three “gaps” along the summit ridge, which must be negotiated by a combination of rappelling and ascender use. These gaps are also protected by fixed ropes and might require belayed climbing as well. The level of rock climbing that participants must be comfortable on does not exceed 5.5 on the American YDS scale of difficulty.
Ascenders: Climbers must be adept at using ascenders on terrain ranging from low angle to almost vertical. You must be capable of ascending a short distance of free hanging rope (in order to surpass a 10 meter stretch of overhanging rock). You must be able to use your ascenders with thick gloves on and must be comfortable passing them around knots and anchors on less than vertical terrain.
Tyrolean Traverse: Climbers must be familiar with the process behind crossing a Tyrolean Traverse. We may set one of these up in order to bypass the aforementioned stretch of overhanging rock at the first of the three gaps. You will be attached to a rope with a pulley and must be able to move along it by pulling yourself with your hands or ascenders (this is an oversimplification). You should seriously consider seeking some professional training in this before your trip, if for no other reason than to help ease your fears as you slide across a rope stretched across a 30 meter gap, with 600 meters of exposure off each side of the ridge. Please watch a video of this on YouTube to get a sense of what this entails: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0BpMqUYK2xI
Rappelling (abseiling): The descent from the summit ridge alone requires about 16 rappels. Each of the three gaps may require a rappel as well. You must be confident at rappelling on less than vertical terrain and capable of rappelling over vertical to overhanging rock. You must be comfortable passing knots and anchors on less than vertical terrain. Much of the time spent on the route is spent on the descent. Quick and confident rappel skills can make hours of difference on summit day.
General Rope Skills: Climbers must be confident about how to clip themselves into and out of an anchor and should have a working knowledge of how to belay another climber using your rappel/belay device.
**We may have an opportunity to practice some of these techniques at Base Camp, however; it is your responsibility to arrive in Indonesia sufficiently proficient to the skill levels specified above.
Climbing to altitude in a tropical rain forest inherently requires specialized equipment. The following list should be followed closely in order for you to succeed on Carstensz. Optional items are noted as such, but the rest of the list should be regarded as required equipment. Recommended items reflect the opinions of our guides, but they may not necessarily fit you.
Call or email us with any gear questions. We want you to be as prepared as possible for your expedition.
**Note that there is a 20 Kilo weight limit for personal gear for the helicopter flight to base camp. Please weigh all of your gear and don’t bring excessive equipment.
- HIKING BOOTS: A lightweight Gore Tex boot that will keep your feet dry for hiking in to base camp. Try on a variety of boots as they all fit differently and get the one that fits well.
- GAITERS: Waterproof gaiters, such as Black Diamond GTX Frontpoint Gaiter or Outdoor Research “Crocodiles” work great although a shortie gaiter can also work well for Carstensz. The idea is to keep your feet dry, and rocks out of your shoes.
- CLIMBING BOOTS/SHOES: You can climb Carstensz in a good pair of waterproof hiking boots, but more dedicated climbing boots have distinct advantages. Features to look for include: sticky rubber
soles, and a rubber rand that extends up the side of the foot and covers the toe box. Look for a pair with a Gore-Tex liner or pair them with a waterproof sock (see below). Approach shoes are a comfortable alternative as well.
- GORE-TEX SOCKS: It can be very wet and we will be traveling in the rain. Anything to help keep your feet dry will help. Sealskin brand socks also work great. These are required if your boots/shoes are not
- WATERPROOF SHELL JACKET AND PANTS: They should be large enough to go over your pile clothing layers. It can rain a lot so this should be the highest quality gear in good condition. Look for Gore-Tex or equivalent. Guides ‘Pick: Patagonia Jetstream Jacket and Pants
- RAIN JACKET: This is in addition to the Gore-Tex Jacket. As we’ve tried to stress, it can rain buckets in Papua and Gore Tex, or any waterproof-breathable type shell, will eventually get wet. A true water
proof jacket is the only thing that works under prolonged periods of rain. Yes, this is a second shell jacket. Guides’ Pick: Patagonia Rain Shadow Jacket. This has been a proven winner in the rainy world.
- WARM PARKA AND PANTS: These are primarily for hanging around in Base Camp, and are optional, but recommended, as it can be cold and the sun sets early. They should have a waterproof shell or have synthetic fill, as they might easily get wet. Guides’ Pick: Patagonia DAS Parka and Micro-Puff Pants.
- FLEECE OR “PUFFY” JACKET: This warm layer needs to be able to stand getting a bit wet. Guides’ Pick: Patagonia MicroPuff Jacket.
- VEST**: (Optional) Fleece or Puffy vest adds warmth. Guides’ Pick: Patagonia Micro-Puff Vest
- EXPEDITION WEIGHT FLEECE: Tops(2 sets) and Bottoms(1 pair) made from 100 weight or Powerstretch fleece. A zip t-neck is good for ventilating. Guides’ Pick: Patagonia R1 Flash Top, and R1 Pants.
- STRETCH WOVEN PANTS: A “Shoeller” type material climbing pant. These will be the everyday pants for the climb, and work pretty well in wet weather. Guides’ Pick: Black Diamond Alpine Pants or Patagonia Guide Pants
- BASE LAYER: Synthetic Top and Bottoms such as Light or Mid-Weight Capilene from Patagonia. Two tops and two bottom layers will be plenty.
- T-SHIRT: Synthetic T– shirt for warmer days.
- REGULAR UNDERWEAR: One or two changes. Look for synthetics such as Patagonia Capilene.
- SOCKS: 4 sets of wool or synthetic medium/heavy weight socks. Make certain your sock s fit with your boots! ( these are in addition to your Gore Tex Socks. See the Footwear section)
- GLOVES: A glove made of Schoeller fabric with a leather palm is great for climbing and rappelling. Fleece palmed gloves will not work as they are too slippery when rappelling. Guides’ Pick: Outdoor Research
- INSULATED GLOVES: Warm, insulated gloves, water proof if possible. Black Diamond Guide Gloves have removable liners for ease of drying and have tough palms to survive the many rappels on the descent.
- WARM HAT: A fleece or wool hat that fits under your helmet comfortably is ideal.
- SUN HAT: Baseball type or wide brimmed sun hat for sunny days. You can combine a baseball hat with a bandana for good sun protection
- SUNGLASSES: Quality sunglasses with some side protection are fine for Carstensz. Super dark glacier glasses are not necessary.
- CLIMBING PACK: A day pack of about 2000-3000 cu. in. for extra clothing and gear for the climb. This should be reasonably durable, as the rock is very sharp and is tough on packs.
- A LARGE PACK: ( 5000-7000 cu. Inch ) pack for traveling between Zebra Wall and Basecamp with all of your gear. The move only takes about 2 hours, but you will be happy to have a pack to accommodate your kit. ( line your pack and your stuff sacks with plastic bags; compactor bags work great )
- PACK COVER: A rain cover for your expedition pack is a good call in a Rain Forest.
- LARGE ZIPPERED DUFFEL: A lockable bag for packing and flying gear in. A waterproof zippered duffel like the Patagonia Stellar Black Hole Bag works great.
- SLEEPING BAG: Your best choice would be a synthetic bag bated to 15 F. Down bags are not recommended, as if they get wet they are basically worthless and West Papua is mosty rainforest.
- WATERPROOF STUFF SACK: Outdoor Research makes a nice, light one. This is essential for your sleeping bag and you might also line your stuff sacks with plastic bags to ensure your important gear stays dry. Compactor bags work well for this purpose.
- SLEEPING PADS: Two pads are nice, with one being a closed cell pad such as a Ridge Rest or a Karrimat. Therm-a-Rest inflatable pads are warm and very comfortable. One pad will also suffice. Guides’ Pick: Exped Downmat 9 Regular-length paired with a full-length Ridge Rest Solar
TECHNICAL CLIMBING EQUIPMENT
- HARNESS: A comfortable, padded climbing harness with accessible gear loops. Guides’ Pick: Black Diamond Blizzard.
- CLIMBING HELMET: We will wear one for the entire climb. You need to be able to adjust your helmet to fit over a warm hat if necessary. Your headlamp needs to fit securely on your helmet as well.
- ASCENDERS (Rigged for Climbing): A pair of ascenders for the free hanging fixed line. Each needs to be rigged with a daisy chain and one should have a foot loop that will accommodate both of your feet. Make sure that these are rigged and that you have practiced using them before the trip.
- BELAY/RAPPEL DEVICE: A figure 8 works best with large diameter, stiff, fixed lines. Be familiar with the use and limitations of your climbing gear and practice using it before your trip.
- CARABINERS: Bring four locking carabiners and six regular carabiners. Mark them with colored tape for identification. DO NOT bring bent-gate carabiners. Guides’ Pick: Black Diamond Oz carabiners are very lightweight.
- DAISY CHAINS: Two of these for your ascenders and for clipping into anchors.
- TREKKING POLES: Adjustable poles work great. The three section versions pack more easily for travel.
ESSENTIAL PERSONAL ITEMS
- HEAD LAMP W/ EXTRA BATTERIES: Your headlamp will be useful around camp, and it will be important to have a bright beam for our middle of the night start on summit day. Make sure it has at least a 35 meter beam and fresh batteries for the summit attempt!!!
- WATER TREATMENT: Purification tablets, chlorine or iodine solutions all work fine.
- WATERPROOF STUFF SACKS (for your own items)
- CAMELBACK HYDRATION SYSTEM (optional)
- (2)ONE QT. WIDE MOUTH WATER BOTTLES
- LIGHTER (You can pick one up on arrival, you can’t fly w/ them anymore)
- LIP CREAM (WITH SPF)
- SUN CREAM (4+ OUNCES)
- TOILET KIT (Tooth brush & paste, floss, Handi-wipes, hand sanitizer, small roll of toilet paper… keep it small)
- PEE-BOTTLE (wide mouth collapsible Nalgene work great- they make a 96 ounce version!)
- MOSQUITO REPELLANT
- PERSONAL MEDICAL KIT Blister kit, aspirin, antacids, lozenges, ibuprofen, and any prescription meds that are recommended by your physician. These might include: common high altitude drugs, malaria prohylaxis, and anti-biotics commonly carried when traveling in third world countries. Consult your physician about bringing any of these.)
- CAMERA, with lots of film or digital and no film
- BOOK(s) for storm day reading
- JOURNAL & PENCIL
- ALTIMETER WATCH
- HAND LOTION
- FOOT POWDER
- SPARE SUN GLASSES
- PERSONAL MUSIC PLAYER
GENERAL TRAVEL ITEMS
- Bring along 3-4 changes of casual, comfortable clothes for travel in a warm environment. We will be staying in some fairly nice hotels along the way. You will want long sleeves and pants if the bugs are out, but can primarily wear shorts and short sleeves, because it will be hot and humid when we are along the coast. Bring a swim suit!
- Passport and Travel Documents in Waterproof case ( Ziplock bags will work)
- Carry photocopies of Passport and Travel Documents in another, protected place.
- Indonesian phrase book. This can add another dimension to your trip, and help you make friends.
CALL OR EMAIL US WITH YOUR EQUIPMENT QUESTIONS.