Fantastic expedition. Everything one might ask for from hair raising flights to jungle bushwhacking to cliff hanging. Full-on adventure. Excellent guides. And an unforgettable experience. —-Jeff A.
If we attempt a define exotic, then we may begin with Western Papua (Formerly Irian Jaya). For in the lush jungles of the Beliem Valley we meet the Dani tribesman, our guides and friends, who were first introduced to westerners in the 1960's. This is perhaps the most interesting climb Alpine Ascents offers weaving a deeply influencing cultural experience with a challenging rock climb.
All Climbs are led by an Alpine Ascents Guide.
Located in the western central highlands, Carstensz Pyramid is the highest mountain on the Oceanic continent. We arrive by charter flight where local Dani porters welcome us into their villages and lead us through their exquisite countryside. After crossing this wild terrain we encounter Carstensz in very much the same way as the first Dutch explorers. As Western Papua has had relatively little western influence, the 'stone age' Dani lifestyle and rituals have been able to continue in a somewhat authentic manner. One representation of traditional culture is manifested in their dress as women are clothed in grass skirts and men in holims or penis gourds. Tourism has not arrived in many of these areas and thus we are extremely sensitive and careful regarding our impact on the region.
Unlike the other seven summits Carstensz is a rock climb of moderate difficulty. (5.8 for short steps but most of the climbing is scrambling). While all short technical sections will have fixed lines, climbers should possess basic rock climbing skills. Our past expeditions proved to be fantastic all-around experiences and each climb culminated with nearly 100% summit success! (34 out of 35 climbers) See the cybercast of our last climb to Carstensz for more.
About Carstensz Pyramid
At 16,023ft (4,884 m), Carstensz Pyramid, or Puncak Jaya (“Victory Peak”) as the Indonesians call it, is located in the western central highlands and is the highest peak in Oceana, Australiasia continent. The mountain was named after Jan Carstensz, a Dutch explorer who was the first European to sight the peak. In 1962, Heinrich Harrer became the first foreigner to reach the peak. His book, I Come From the Stone Age, provides excellent reading about climbing Carstensz and other peaks in the area as well as his experiences while living with the Dani.
The route on Carstensz Pyramid follows a series of gullies up the north face for 500m of solid rock before breaking out on the ridge. Riddled with notches, the summit ridge undulates for half a kilometer from this point to the top. One of the gaps is 20m deep, and we rappel this overhanging pitch and leave a rope fixed to jumar on our return. On our descent we rappel short distances and down-climb most of the way. The rock is extremely good, rarely loose, and provides good friction even in wet weather.
The rock climbing difficulty on Carstensz is up to 5.8 for short steps, but most of the climbing is scrambling. It is important that you have basic rock climbing skills and are comfortable with rappelling and jumaring. Short technical sections have fixed lines allowing you to either free climb or jumar. These fixed lines have been a crucial part of our 100% success rate.
In the highland areas, daytime temperatures should range between 75º and 85ºF, with most evenings about 45ºF. Expect warm afternoon showers which may turn cool if encountered on a mountain pass. Closer to Carstensz, snow or inclement weather may occur. Temperatures can range from 28º to 60ºF with sunshine occasionally in the mornings, then rainfall in the afternoons and evenings. Winds are variable and can be strong.
A Brief History of Papua
Irian Jaya occupies the western half of New Guinea. This island is located immediately south of the equator, and is the world’s second largest island, following Greenland. Western Papua provides a panoply of Old World tropical species. This is due to the land bridge linking Australia and New Guinea during the last ice age. Western Papua’s climate is primarily a function of topography. The low lying north and south sides of the island possess great tropical jungles, while the mountain ranges exhibit very temperate conditions. The mountains run east to west and rise to 16,023ft (4,884m) at Carstensz Pyramid.
Politically, Western Papua is the easternmost province of Indonesia. The area was initially claimed by the Dutch in the mid-1800’s as part of their Spice Island empire, but by 1940 they had still not explored further inland than the coastal plains. The Dutch wanted to prepare Irian Jaya for self-government by 1970, but from the late 1950’s the Indonesians were exerting pressure to annex the area and, with help from the UN, this was accomplished in 1963. This process was not universally accepted by native Papuans and discontent still prevails in certain areas. In 1961, the Harvard Peabody Museum sponsored a major expedition to the Grand A Valley to document the Dani’s “stone age” culture. (see Peter Matthiessen’s Under the Mountain Wall) Wamena, the site of the valley’s airstrip, has grown into a small town, but in general, the only big changes since then are that tribal fighting and cannibalism have ended. The province was in 1973 re-named Irian Jaya, “Victorious Irian.” The indigenous movement has since identified themselves as West Papuan.
Beyond the Grand Valley of the Baliem River, there are many other groups living in smaller valleys. These people were not contacted by the west, until the 1960’s and 1970’s, when missionaries began penetrating these regions. In the highlands to the east of the Baliem River, the Yali, Mek, and Kim-Yal people comprise some of the other large tribal groups. They live in spectacular mountain country & exhibit their unique cultural lifestyles and dress, wearing various selections of rattan waist hoops and penis gourds.
Climbing Skill Level
Our 6-day mountaineering course or the equivalent is recommended. Climbers should posess basic rock climbing skills.
In the best interest of personal safety, success and team compatibility, adequate training and excellent physical condition are required. Prior experience carrying a heavy pack for multiple days serves as excellent preparation for this climb. Climbers must be able to carry an average of 30lbs or more and be physically and mentally prepared to deal with strenuous situations at high altitudes. Climbers need to be in excellent physical condition for both personal enjoyment and to be an integral team member. We encourage you to contact us so that we may assist you in developing a training program that meets your particular needs. Comprehensive training information can be found here.
Alpine Ascents is deeply committed to maintaining ecosystems at home and around the world. With each expedition, trek and course, we not only attempt to leave the environment as we found it, but strive to assist the local population in protecting the land and people indigenous to that region. Alpine Ascents reaches for the highest ethical business practices at home and abroad. Each staff member is dedicated to environmentally sound alpine ascents.
At Alpine Ascents environmental stewardship remains one of our core values and we take Leave No Trace ethics and practices very seriously. The mountains are our home and we are unwilling to sacrifice their preservation for human objectives. On every one of our courses and climbs we teach and follow the environmentally appropriate Leave No Trace principals and practices.
Over the years, with the assistance of our Sherpa teams, we have stepped up efforts to clean Mt. Everest. Our Wag Bag® program made a pioneering step in human waste management for the National Park System and Forest Service in the North Cascades. On Aconcagua, we pioneered a waste removal system on our climbs, utilizing the WAG Bag® system. And we continue our on-going maintenance and minimal impact plans wherever we guide. We believe that given the proper information most people will do all they can to help protect and maintain the environment. Alpine Ascents is committed to developing safe, self-reliant and environmentally conscious mountaineers.
We regularly organize private climbs for individuals, corporate groups, families and friends. We encourage you to book these climbs early as we are often able to cater these climbs to group-specific desires. Please contact our office to further discuss the benefits of private courses.