Overview - Heli In and 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 be offering a fly-in and fly-out option for our upcoming departure. 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 2017 climb met with 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 2019 climb.
Why helicopter travel: We choose to use helicopters for our upcoming expedition as we see this as the best chance to provide a successful expedition while meeting the logistical challenges of traveling in West Papua. Trekking trips 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 while trekking makes helicopter use the best option.
If we attempt to define exotic, then we may begin with West Papua (formerly Irian Jaya). For 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. Following the climb, we return via helicopter to local village for further transport out. Regionally, West 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 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 possess 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, or Puncak Jaya (“Victory Peak”), as the Indonesians call it, is located in the western central highlands and is the highest peak in Oceania, 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 of living with the Dani.
The route on Carstensz Pyramid follows a series of gullies up the north face for 500 m 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 20 m 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 Pyramid Frequently Asked Questions
Our Cascades 6 Day beginner mountaineering course or the equivalent is recommended. Climbers should possess basic rock climbing skills.
Climbers are expected to be in excellent physical condition.
Review the Training page of our website.
On the climb, you will be sharing expedition tents. You will share rooms on this expedition in town, but you can pay a higher fee for single rooms. Contact our office for information on single-room supplements
Please review the Gear List.
All rental gear will be mailed to the climber prior to the climb. Climbers are expected to clean all rental gear and those requesting rental gear must submit an expedition rental form with payment by fax or mail. Return rental gear to us by mail following the expedition.
While all items are required there may be times when some of the items on the Gear List may not be used (such as warm weather or changing conditions). The Gear Lists are created by the guides to assist in having climbers be prepared to summit in any conditions.
While it is impossible for us to list all brands for certain gear, we do offer a wide variety of equipment in our Gear Shop that has been hand-picked by our staff of mountaineering experts. Please feel free to call our offices with any gear questions or substitutes. Plastic boots are required for this climb.
Water is boiled or purified using a chemical treatment like iodine or a chlorine solution.
You may bring power bars, Gu, or similar high-energy foods. Alpine Ascents will provide all meals on this climb.
Not at this time. We do recommend you visit the CDC website for the most up to date information.
Detailed flight information will be sent to you upon registration.
Fares are generally less expensive when booked early. You may use our travel agent (Charles Mulvehill 1-800-727-2157) or book flights your self. Please note that flights booked online are often difficult to change. Please send us a copy of your flight schedule as early as possible as this allows us to book pick ups and hotels.
Your guide or an Alpine Ascents representative will meet you at the airport. Look for a large Alpine Ascents sign.
We are happy to make arrangements such as personalized tours, extra hotels rooms, airport pickups, and arrange for private rooms. Please indicate that you would like a private room on your application and we will contact you with information on single-room supplement costs (for hotels only).
Not at this time. We will work with you to secure a visa for Indonesia.
Regular updates are posted on our website once teams are on the mountain.
You can always call our offices and one of guides will contact you, generally about one month before your trip departure. Thirty days prior to departure, we mail a list of other team members to you.
$500 should easily cover any extra expenses and tips. Most climbers prefer to bring about $1000 and have credit cards.
Guides are permitted to accept and greatly appreciate tips. Contact our office for specific guidelines for your trip.
You may call our offices with a credit card or mail/fax an application with a check or credit card number.
We accept MasterCard, Visa, American Express, personal checks and Alpine Ascents gift certificates. To reserve a space the deposit is $5,000. Balances are due 90 days prior to departure. Unpaid balances can result in forfeiture of trip.
Note: Alpine Ascents International highly recommends trip cancellation insurance for all expeditions. Due to the nature and heavy costs of government and operator permits, Alpine Ascents International must adhere to a stringent refund policy.
Each deposit and balance payment is nonrefundable.
Note: Alpine Ascents reserves the right to waive any fees. As we offer personalized service, we will attempt to accommodate changes and cancellations when necessary, waiving certain fees when feasible.