Carstensz Pyramid Mar ’17 (6th ‘7summit’)
Carstensz is near the Equator so there is no ‘season’ to climb it. “There’s bad weather all year around” or as I approached it, you can attempt to
climb it anytime! And because organising an expedition to the mountain is a logistical nightmare, you really are in the hands of the weather gods to even have a chance to fly into its’ base camp in the Yellow Valley.
At 16,023 ft. (4,884m), 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, Australasia continent. The mountain was named after Jan Carstensz, a Dutch explorer who was the first European to sight the peak.
3pm Thursday 16th of March: after a short 22 hour flight I landed at Denpasar in Bali where I was greeted by the local company’s tour organiser
Caroliena. We drove to the hotel but I couldn’t enjoy the facilities (mainly the bed) for too long because in 4 hours time we had to be ready, we were
flying to Timika in Papua that night. A quick introduction to the team; 3 guys from China and 2 from Poland. I’m the only woman in the team, but it’s not the
7am Saturday 18th of March: eagerly waiting for our helicopter in the tiny airport of Timika. We’ve checked our bags in which basically meant weighting it (the 458th time) and handing it over to a guy who seemed like he knew what he was doing. I kept my summit rucksack with the gopro, my camera and some water. The weight restriction for the heli ride is crazy strict. Our group was split into two; me and the two polish guys were taking the first helicopter. We were about ¾ of the way when heavy dark clouds started to closing in so we turned around. Back to the bungalow in Timika and take 2 tomorrow!
6.30am Sunday 19th of March: it’s finally happening! We knew the drill; returning to the airport (bags stayed there..somewhere.. overnight), waiting and people watching. A lady in uniform comes over and asks me to go with her. Brilliant, what have I done now? Oooh she just wants a selfie. And someone else comes over. Next thing I know I’m posing with the entire airport staff who can’t stop giggling. The two helicopter pilots greet us in their crisp white shirt and with huge smile. Would love to spend more time with the locals but it’s time to fly!
The 45minute flight out of Timika, over the giant rainforest and mine villages was incredible. My head didn’t want to explode either from the pressure like the day before, always a bonus!
8am same day: as per the expedition itinerary we were a day behind schedule because we couldn’t fly into Base Camp the day before. Should rest on Sunday and maybe summit on Monday if the weather is good. Extra day on Tuesday planned in so no worries. Except.. we’re going to the summit. Now.
The climb: I remember three parts. The dry, the wet and the miserable cold & wet After a couple of hundred meters scrambling we began rock climbing on fixed ropes. And if that wasn’t fun enough for Alex, I was allowed to go ahead and climb in my own rhythm. The rock felt good but climbing in B3 shoes was a mistake (did keep me warm though!). Getting up to the summit ridge was perhaps the most enjoyable part, now the weather turned it and started raining which made balancing on the ridge with massive drops on both sides just a bit more challenging. Not to mention negotiating the Tyrolean Traverse. I can tell you if you have fear of heights, this is the place to overcome it! 😉 I’ve seen videos of climbers pulling themselves across this 20odd meter cable so I was prepared for that, walking over like a Cirque du Soleil performer was not in the contract! Well, too late to turn back now so with the help of our guide I was attached to the dangling cables, took a deep breath and walked across looking only ahead.
Probably the scariest part was (every step) when I lifted the back foot wich meant the cable started moving under my body weight whilst I balanced on one foot. The best part? I had to do it all over again on the way back 😀
2pm The summit 4,884m: There were a few more eerie mments jumping from rock to rock but I carried on marching, climbing ahead. We’re here now, screw the rain and the fact that we didn’t acclimatise (or rested, or ate). Just before I reached the summit I grabbed my phone from my pocket, it was now soaking wet so a little bit of snow wouldn’t do any damage and having no one in front of my or at the top, I captured an empty summit where only praying flags and signs were dancing in the wind.
Getting to the top was a fantastic feeling. 6 of the seven summits. Only one more to go. Holy moly!
The descent: to celebrate on the summit, I waited for the rest of my team who at this point I hadn’t quite gelled with but we were a team and I couldn’t have turned around without greeting and hugging them on the top. Sadly the longer I waited the colder I got and with the rain I was now completely soaking wet. Both my climbing gloves were soaked throughout and we still had a long way to go down. By now, a mountain river formed in the cracks where the fixed ropes were waiting for us, which meant rappelling down in a power shower or skidding down on my ass with water pouring into my neck under my jacket, into my climbing pants cooling down my back directly into the boots. How could this situation get worse? It got dark and I had no head torch.
We were never meant to take this long to climb up and down, mind you expeditions don’t leave at 8, 8.30am in the morning. We did and we ummitted and all got back to the dining tent ok, 12 hours later.
I had nothing to wear bar my waterproof over trousers (that were conveniently in my tent the whole time) and a used merino base layer so I sheepishly crawled back to group tent asking for a jacket from one of our guides (the one who stayed at BC). The bad weather continued the following day so after breakfast we were told that it’s not likely the heli would make it into the valley so we should go back to our tents.
How did I spend that extra day on the mountain?
Listening to music (a cracking playlist and a powerbank is a must) and laying out my wet clothes when the sun came out only to bring it back in less than 5 minutes, and repeat this about a hundred times. We woke up Tuesday morning on a clear sunny day and our guides hurried us to pack our bags, we were flying out!
It may not have been the longest climb, the toughest expedition or the coldest place but nevertheless it was a great experience and gave me a huge confidence to climb on rock in the future.
Even though I could feel the division in our team during the expedition, we started coming together as a proper team towards the end, forming friendships and enjoying one more day in Bali together.
A big thanks to my team mates Janusz Mieczyslaw Kochanski (Poland) , Kamil Jerzy Suchanski (Poland), Zhang Liang (China) , Zhang Tingxi (China), He Zhu (China) our expedition leade Jeni Dainga (Poxi) 67 Summits and two guides Mr. Yoshua Noya (Yosh) 35 Summits and Mr. Meydi Pesak (Meds) 19 Summits.
Last but not least, I’d like to thank Nick Holmes at Robert Holmes & Company Wimbledon Village, Chris Hopkins at Park Accounts Wimbledon, Aniko Posztos at iQor Hungary and Karpati Jeno at the Magyarszeki Sport Club for helping funding the expedition, their kind words and support.
© copyright 2021 by Alexandra Nemeth
© copyright 2021 by Alexandra Nemeth