The altitude may not be the biggest challenge, but Carstensz was one of the mountains that I felt most worried about. From a climbing point of view, Carstensz can offer a great deal of resistance, even if these days there are fixed ropes all the way up to the top. But what made me most nervous, which I realized early in the project, was that I would have to deal with a major organizer to be able to carry out my expedition. Without having any contacts of my own and not having time to spend weeks applying for permits and finding local organizers myself, I decided to join a commercial expedition. In one way, this would facilitate things a lot, but at the same time I would be the hands of others with no possibilities to influence the journey myself. This was a new experience for me, and, in a way, an interesting one. Besides, these days most organizers are using helicopters to fly expeditions to and from the mountain. Trekking has become increasingly risky as riots happen all the time in the villages along the route, and the local guides as well as climbers prefer to avoid becoming involved in these heated situations. This is why my route to Carstensz was as follows:
23 October Flying from Jayapura to Enarotoli via Nabire
24 October Helicopter from Enarotoli to Nasidome
25 Nasidome – altitude acclimatization day
26 Trekking to Base Camp in the Yellow Valley over the New Zealand Pass
27 Summit day
28 Flying out from Base Camp to Enarotali and from there to Jayapura
I was in a group of 7 climbers, 2 western guides plus a couple of local guides and loads of carriers. Nasidome at 3,600 metres and the first stage to Base Camp was almost the same as on the lower slopes of Kilimanjaro, humid rainforests and wet and muddy ground; even the flora looked very much like the one found in parts of Kilimanjaro.
Once we arrived at Base Camp at 4,200 metres, we put up our tents, had a meal and then some rest, before making the attempt to reach the summit during the night.
We left the camp around 3am and walked some 20 minutes to the instep using our headlights. There was a light drizzle. The major advantage of Carstensz is that you can climb also in wet conditions. The steep limestone rock gives incredible friction. If the Sudirman mountains, to which Carstensz belong, had been situated in Europe, for example, they would have been a veritable Mecca for climbers. The night was not very cold but the climbing was a bit slow. This is a drawback in large groups, everything takes longer. However, things went well and after sunrise the weather was quite comfortable and a better day for a summit experience you could hardly wish for. Part of the climbing was great fun, and I realized how much I had missed climbing and tried to challenge myself by climbing as if there were no fixed ropes. Also our way down went very well with several good abseiling sites. After less than 48 hours on Carstensz we were ready to fly out again.
Once in the helicopter leaving the mountain I was filled with mixed feelings. I was partly relieved when I thought of the stories about other climbers who had had their permits withdrawn, got mixed up in riots, and not even had a chance to make an attempt to the top. For me, the logistic had functioned very well and I had reached the fifth of my seven summits! On the other hand, I felt a bit sad having travelled to the other end of the world and spending so little time on this very special mountain. Once again – from a climbing point of view there are endless possibilities, and there is something about Carstensz Pyramid which I like very much.