Puncak Jaya, May 2, 2019
Puncak Jaya, also known as Carstensz Pyramid, is located on the island of Papua and the highest mountain on the Oceanic Continent. Famously known as one of the Seven Summits. Due to its remote location and the fact that it is the most technical of all Seven Summits, it is not widely summited. While Kilimanjaro has over 40,000 visits a year, Carstensz Pyramid has approximately 100.
Being so close to this notable, majestic summit; loving mountains and the feats they incite; and living in close proximity; I couldn’t wait to get out there and connect with this icon myself. With a lot of help and an eager soul, I was introduced to Adventure Carstensz. They are a tour company based in Timika that takes climbers from around the world to summit Carstensz, among other places of interest in Papua. They have a professional and experienced team that is knowledgable about this region, the mountains, climbing and the local people. I spent a few days in Timika a month prior to our climb doing some ropes training with Michael Korwa, the lead guide, and knew I was in good hands.
Across the limestone fields, between the steep mountain peaks, with rain lightly falling, we followed the rocky path to Yellow Valley where our Base Camp was already set up and waiting for us. I walked out with Wens our cook, and Jacko our porter. Our two guides had hiked out the day before to get everything ready. When we arrived the other two climbers were already there, having come by helicopter earlier that morning. Wang and Zhao, two accomplished Chinese men who flew in from Beijing. We spent the afternoon getting acquainted, sharing stories of past adventures and generally getting a feel for how experienced each of us were. I went to sleep that night after staring at what I could see through the rain of the tough and weathered north face.
We woke early the next morning. Cold, dark and still raining, we eagerly prepared for our climb. Geared up and ready to leave Base Camp at 4am, the five of us started the short walk to the first pitch. Wearing a harness, using a combination of carabineers, ascenders and a figure 8 descender the whole way, our safety was always the first concern of our guides. Carstensz isn’t the most physically challenging of the Seven Summits, but it is the most technical. After a couple hours of scaling the easy, class-5 rock walls, the sun rose and we were able to have a better look at where we were. The steel grey rocks glistened in the rain, sleek and cold. The summit was out of sight, but even still, we could feel it looming above us. Before us was the “Sky Bridge” tyrollean crossing and two small chasms that require a little more bravado. Sleet started to fall as we crossed the summit ridge, luckily it never turned to ice.
We summited sometime after 9am, over 5 hours after leaving Yellow Valley. It felt triumphant. We were all proud of our efforts and riding an endorphin high. Everyone was full of energy and excitement. Grinning ear to ear we all took the requisite photos and shared snacks before heading back down shortly before 11am, knowing the journey ahead would take time.
Our descent took over 4 hours, almost as long as it took to go up. We were coming down through pouring rain and the further we went, the bigger the cascading waterfalls grew. With water plummeting us from above, it was impossible to stay dry. It came through the tops of our jackets, drenching us all the way down through our boots as we rappelled down one pitch at a time. Waiting for each person to tie in and out of their figure 8 at each rope length was challenging. I wanted to get down and dry off, but the feel of that strong mountain under my feet gave me the power to slow down and appreciate where I was.
We gleefully arrived back at Base Camp before 3pm, after 9 hours of climbing and an hour of time spent on the summit. We were greeted with hot tea and a big lunch, thanks to our cook, Wens. After a few more “we made it home” photos, we all retired to our tents to dry off and warm up. I spent Thursday night at Base Camp and hiked back out of Yellow Valley on Friday. Happy for a shower and a warm, soft bed, but still buzzing from the energy permeating from the mountain.
The whole experience was so much fun, the feeling of accomplishment satisfactory and I’m sure the memories will be enduring. I want to do it again when it’s (hopefully) sunny! I can’t recommend Adventure Carstensz and their qualified team enough. Get out there and climb!