After our (Elizabeth Tertil's and Gordon Hopper's) failed attempt at
8,400m on Everest this spring because of a rescue we had to instigate
and organise and the early arrival of the Monsoon within hours of the
rescue, we decided to tackle the only summit left on our list of the
Seven Summits, namely Carstensz Pyramid in West Papua or Irian Jaya,
There is controversy as to what is the Seventh Summit.
Some say that the Continent of Australia is all that should be
considered, others say that the Island of Papua is on the same
Continental Shelf as Australia. Mount Koscuiszko at 2228m and
apparently accessible to the summit by Landrover before it became a
park, is hardly worthy of the status and I think the majority of
climbers would agree on Carstensz being the true seventh summit as well
as the most technically demanding of all the Seven Summits.
took eight flights from Calgary to reach base camp on this remote, most
southerly island of Indonesia. You must have the necessary government
permits before even seeing the mountain otherwise you will be turned
away. Therfore it is essential to go with a reputable outfit. After
waiting a few days in the town of Nabire for suitable weather, we took
the 75 minute flight by helicopter from sea level to the base camp at
4200m. You can also walk through the jungle for six days but this is
fraught with major problems with the local tribes people demanding
extortionate increases in payments for portering and crossing their
areas of jungle half way through the trip. It must be remembered that
they were canibals in the not too distant past and they insist on
portering your kit across their lands. There are also the problems with
drug resistant Malaria as well as the gambit of other nasty tropical
diseases and daily temperatures of 30 to 40 degrees Celcius with 100%
After the thrilling helicopter flight over the jungle and
a giant open pit copper and gold mine, flown by the only helicopter
pilot willing to fly this route, we set up our camp, ate and rested to
prepare for our 3am wakeup call as an early start is best to avoid the
usual daily afternoon tropical deluge.
After breakfast, our group of
six and local guide left in the dark for the base of the 600m rock
wall, of up to 80 degrees, which led on to the summit ridge of the
mountain. The ascent entailed rock climbing with the assistance of an
ascender on fixed ropes. Soon after attaining the ridge, we came upon
our first major obstacle, a 30m Tyrolean traverse on ropes over a very
deep gash on the ridge with a 600m drop off on each side. This caused
lots of entertainment as well as major adrenalin release. It was rather
strenuous on the forearms pulling uphill against the friction of a
loaded karabiner and I have to admit to having my eyes closed for half
of the traverse. We then proceeded along the ridge and came upon two
unanticipated surprises which consisted of two very exposed gaps.
However, after reassurance from our guide we, one by one, took the
plunge and crossed these obstacles. Fortunately the rock had a very
rough surface and provided excellent grip. It was then an uneventful
last fifty meters to the summit.
We had lots to celebrate as, for
one of our members, it was the final of the Seven Summits, for four it
was number six and for one it was the fifth. There was lots of sun and
thin cloud around the summit with almost no wind which is most unusual
for this mountain.
After about an hour of celebration and picture
taking, we started our descent. We again negociated the three adrenalin
releasing crossings and reached the 60m, 80 degree rappel down the
first rock wall. Soon after commencing our descent on this wall, the
afternoon rains startd along with thunder. Fortunately, the thunder did
not come too close as we had lots of metal hardwear attached to our
harnesses. Following an uneventful but rain drenching descent, we
reached base camp where we changed into dry clothes and disappeared
into our sleeping bags for the evening and night, dehydrated but no
longer suffering altitude related headaches.
Due to cloudy
weather, we were not able to fly out of base camp until two days later.
This gave us extra time to explore the interresting surroundings.
a safe return to civilisation, we spent a few days with our guide in
his home town of Manado in Northern Sulawesi, where we white water
rafted, climbed a smoking volcano with a bubbling lake in its crater
and visited a local market which amongst other things was selling dead
rats, bats, snakes and dogs for meat.
This expedition left us with only one more summit to conquer.