Peak(s):  Carstensz Pyramid - 16,024 feet
Date Posted:  09/13/2012
Date Climbed:   08/22/2012
Author:  RobertKay

 Carstensz Pyramid  

I am endeavoring to climb the Seven Summits and for me this means nine climbs. There is the ongoing dispute on how you define Australia (do you include New Guinea?) and I had a personal problem viewing Mount Elbrus as being in Europe so I climbed Mont Blanc just to be safe. Carstensz Pyramid was number 8 of 9 of the Seven Summits for me.

I left Denver on August 10 bound for New Guinea. After briefly being a tourist in Singapore and Jakarta, I found myself in Timika, New Guinea on the 14th. We then flew in a Cessna to Sugapa where we spent the balance of the day doing final packing and enjoying a very different culture. This was my first exposure to penis gourds!

The airport at Sugapa

Hanging out with the locals

I don't think we are in Kansas anymore

Our guided group of four clients, two guides, 17 official porters and 8 "hanger-onners" left on the morning of the 15th for our six day trek to the base camp of Carstensz Pyramid. We used motorcycles to cover the first four miles and then walked for only about two hours to a small village where we were made to stop while our guides sorted out some problems with the local people. Apparently a previous, unrelated group had stiffed the porters of their fees and we weren't going anywhere until we paid the bill. Fortunately I'd chosen Adventure Indonesia for this trip and they fully took care of this with no cost to me.

Negotiating the payment of a prior group's porter bill

A typical hut. I'm not sure about the side-effects of the central heating system.

The next 4 1/2 days were spent slogging through the jungles. Temperatures were surprisingly cool; we even needed warm coats in the evening, and this was a huge blessing. The trek is billed as the world's toughest trek and I saw no reason to disagree. The best way to describe it is relentless. We walked through deep mud and water for hours. The trail was forever going up or down something very steep and slippery. It seemed like you could hurt yourself on something at every step.

The trail through the jungle

Jungle trail

Mud, mud and more mud

We wore rubber boots but they were full of water and mud for most of the time. We crossed powerful rivers on slimy logs, walked on webs of tree roots 10' off the ground, and at times even partially climbed up trees as part of the trail. It would rain for hours every day and was impossible to stay clean or dry.

River crossing

On the final day we crossed New Zealand Pass at about 14,000' and dropped down to about 13,400' where we set up our base camp by a nice lake. In many ways this was the easiest day because we were walking on a rocky trail similar to what you would typically find in Colorado. We'd had small glimpses of the mountain on day four, but this was really the first time we had a decent look at our objective.

New Zealand Pass

Our first good look at Carstensz Pyramid from New Zealand Pass

The north face of Carstensz Pyramid. The traverse is at the top of the shadowed couloir on the right side.

We arose at 1 am the next morning for a 2 am alpine start and found we had the best weather of our journey. There were no clouds at all, and it was perhaps 50 degrees with no wind. We were very pleased! From base camp it is about a 45 minute walk to the start of the actual climb which has fixed lines of doubtful age and quality. We clipped in and began a 2,000'+ class 4 climb with a few low class 5 sections.

After perhaps three hours we topped out on the summit ridge just before dawn. It was quite a bit colder and also windy so we layered up and headed for the first serious bit, the tyrollean traverse. I'd seen pictures and video but had never actually done this before and I was definitely out of my comfort zone. Our guide went first, breaking the ice off the rope, followed by the four clients. I clipped into all four of the faded ropes and also put a safety line onto a steel cable and hoped for the best as I was bigger than the others.

Closeup of the tyrollean traverse

Ed preparing to cross the traverse

It ended up being less of a problem than I expected, but the thought of all that air under you is a real cause for concern. The hardest part was unclipping from the lines while standing on a near-vertical slab of rock in hiking boots.

Cason getting off the ropes after completing the traverse

Tyrollean traverse

The ridge continued for another hour or more with two more small gaps to cross. We all agreed that they were scarier than the traverse because the only rope was very loose and you had to maneuver your way across by climbing vs hanging from a rope and tugging hard. There were several very steep areas we needed to cross that only had tiny ledges to stand on - I kept telling myself to slow down as every step was important.

One of the two smaller gaps on the summit ridge

No unimportant steps

Equatorial sunrise over a glacier

We topped out at about 7:30 am, a little over five hours after we left base camp and it was amazing. We still had pretty clear skies and could see the ocean 50 miles away. The surrounding peaks and valleys were beautiful and we could also see the infamous Freeport Mine.

Proof we made it to the top

We retraced our steps down the ridge, rappelled our way down much of the north face and were back in our camp almost exactly ten hours later.

Our guide descending

Rappel lines


We put in longer days on the way out and were back in Sugapa after four very hard days of trekking.

Back in Sugapa with the two head porters

We flew out the next morning to Timika and then on to Bali where an Adventure Indonesia staffer met us at the airport, took us to our hotel and then out for a beautiful seafood dinner on the beach.

Eating on the beach in Bali

We required several showers and repeated washings of our clothing and equipment before all the stink of sweat, mud and smoke was gone. I've hiked to Everest Base Camp twice and there is no doubt in my mind that this is a more difficult ordeal. The jungle is beautiful and interesting, but wow, is it ever hard to walk through!

Our porters were nothing but good to us which is not what you typically hear from other groups. They were also amazingly tough. Most of them did the entire trip barefoot and they sleep in a smoke-filled shelter under a tarp. We had two fine guides and two amazing cooks who produced some very impressive meals.

This is where the porters slept. They kept two fires going all night to stay warm.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

09/13/2012 21:38
Pretty awesome, Robert! So happy everything worked out logistically for Carstenz. I've had several friends make the journey, spend some serious money, and not even get to the base of the mountain much less see it for a variety of reasons. Amazing adventure no doubt. Well done. You mention Carson Crane -thats so funny b/c he hiked Kosciuszko with a guided group in early August (August 7) who Kristine & I ran into on Kozzy. We chatted with Carson for awhile. He mentioned he was leaving for Carstenz soon from Sydney. Very cool.



Re: Congratulations!
09/13/2012 21:41
Hi Brandon, that is funny about Cason. What a small world. His mom is amazing - she does those huge adventure races such as running across the Sahara for days on end. They are a nice family.


09/13/2012 21:43
Jagged Mountain is so much more hardcore.
Just kidding. What an adventure!
Having never seen much about this peak, I'm beyond impressed with your trek and summit. Congrats!
BTW, is one of you ”esquared” of CoHP and


Cason, not Carson...
09/13/2012 21:44
Whoops, I added that ”r” in there. Very cool about their family, Robert. Cason is a very nice fellow for sure.


09/13/2012 21:53
”This was my first exposure to penis gourds” is certainly one way to start off a report.

Seems like every Carstenz report includes the customary bribe-the-locals-or-get-lynched ordeal. Those guys will find any excuse to demand monies.

Awesome accomplishment and good luck with the remainders! The trek actually looks pretty cool. The appeal would likely wear off fast. I wonder difficulty the notch goes at minus the sketch ropes.


09/13/2012 22:20
Looks like a splendid adventure with a great combo of mountains and forests! Congrats


09/13/2012 23:06
Just wow. Nice job. I may be shooting you some PMs in the near future.

Chicago Transplant

09/13/2012 23:12
Thanks for taking me on a journey I will probably never make, I like these kind of vicarious international TRs

Carstensz is one crazy mountain! From the logistics to the trek to the climb itself, wow. Seems the adventure off the mountain is the real ”crux” from other things I have read. Seems like your trip went pretty smooth by CP standards!


Very cool!
09/14/2012 01:38
I love the pics of the North Face. Just awesome. Congrats on such fine work on this list and good luck with the final peak!

Dave B

Very cool!
09/14/2012 14:25
Nice report!


What a trip!
09/14/2012 16:46
This is SOOOO cool. Thanks for the story and photos. I'm QUITE jealous.


Great TR!
09/14/2012 17:14
What an adventure! Thanks for sharing and congrats! So which peak is #9 on your list?


Re: Great TR!
09/14/2012 18:05
I am signed up for my second attempt on Everest next spring. I will be going with Altitude Junkies from the north side. Gotta keep my fingers crossed that I will safely top out this time! I turned back 200' above the Balcony on my first attempt. The weather was terrible.


09/14/2012 18:37
This is the stuff dreams are made of. Really cool report, thanks for sharing!


09/14/2012 19:08
Best of luck to you as you continue your endeavor. Please keep posting your adventures


09/21/2012 04:16
I have an uncle who was a missionary in New Guinea for about 40 years. I forwarded this to him. Thanks for sharing!

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