Climb Carstensz Pyramid With Alpine Ascents - Heli In & Heli Out
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.
As one of the first outfitters to lead trips to Carstensz Pyramid (1994), we are excited to now offer a fly-in and fly-out itinerary for our Carstensz expeditions. Each season we adjust our trip to current circumstances, working closely with local outfitters to use transport and local support in the best combination. Our most recent seasons have experienced 100% summit success, with Paul Koubek leading, and we have had a 98% success rate since our initial 1994 climb. We look forward to Paul leading our fall 2022 climb.
Why helicopter travel? We choose to use helicopters for our current expeditions because we see this as the best chance to provide a successful expedition while meeting the logistical challenges of traveling in West Papua. Trips that trek into basecamp bear much reliance on local Dani Tribesman, and helicopter transport in general reduces the number of variables in reaching our destination. Additionally, local politics, staying healthy while trekking, and the extremely limited ability to provide emergency assistance on the trek makes helicopter use the best option.
If we attempt to define exotic, then we may begin with West Papua (formerly Irian Jaya). In the lush jungles of the Beliem Valley, we meet the Dani tribesmen, our guides, who were first introduced to westerners in the 1960’s. This is perhaps the most interesting climb Alpine Ascents offers, weaving a deeply influential 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, then take a helicopter to Base Camp. After rest and arrival, we will attempt to summit Carstensz Pyramid (Puncak Jaya). Following the climb, we return via helicopter to a local village for further transport out. Regionally, West Papua has had relatively little western influence, the ancient Dani lifestyle and rituals have been able to continue in an authentic manner. Tourism has not arrived in many of these areas, and thus we are extremely sensitive and careful about our impact on the region.
Unlike the other Seven Summits, Carstensz is a rock climb of moderate difficulty. While all short technical sections will have fixed lines, climbers should have basic rock climbing skills. Our past expeditions proved to be fantastic all-around experiences and each climb culminated with nearly 100%
summit success (45 out of 46 climbers)! See the Cybercast of our last climb to Carstensz for more.
About The Climb
At 16,023 ft. (4,884 m), Carstensz Pyramid (Puncak Jaya in Indonesian, meaning “Victory Peak”) is located in the western central highlands of West Papua and is the highest peak in Oceania, the Australiasia continent. The English name for the mountain was after Jan Carstensz, a Dutch explorer who was the first European to sight the peak. In 1962, Heinrich Harrer became the first foreigner to summit 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 of living with the Dani.
The route on Carstensz Pyramid follows a series of gullies up the north face for 500 meters 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, then 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 75 and 85 degrees F, with most evenings about 45 degrees F. 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 28° to 60° F 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
West Papua 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. West 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. West 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 temperate conditions. The mountains run east to west and rise to 16,023 ft. (4,884 m) at Carstensz Pyramid.
Politically, West Papua is the easternmost province of Indonesia. The area was initially claimed by the Dutch in the mid-1800s 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 1950s, Indonesia was exerting pressure to annex the area and, with help from the United Nations, 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 renamed Irian Jaya, “Victorious Irian” in 1973. The indigenous movement has since identified themselves as West Papuan.
Beyond the Grand Valley of the Baliem River, many other groups live 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.
This is a highly recommended shortlist and we would be happy to pass on a longer reading list for those interested. These links will bounce to Amazon.com with reviews.
Carstensz was absolutely other-worldly, a step back in time with barefoot porters and crazy muddy wet jungle trails. The mountain itself was FUN! Thanks, it was a very memorable trip.