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Carstensz Pyramid

Summit of Oceania, 4884m

              

A mysterious place hidden in the jungle of Irian Jaya. 

Climb sharp rock while being watched by naked men wearing penisgourds!


Carstensz Pyramid open again, new expeditions, book now!


General info Height: 16,023 feet (4,884 meters) 

Location: Irian Jaya (Or Papua since 2000), Indonesia, Australia/Oceania 

Lat/Lon: 4.08S, 137.18E 

First climbed by Harrer, Temple, Kippax and Huizenga in 1962. (Heinrich Harrer is known from his '7years in Tibet'.)

This is technically the hardest of the 7 summits. Although Dick Bass climbed Kosciuszko as the last of his 7 summits quest, this is in fact the highest mountain of the oceanic continent, but the discussion is still going on. 

Many sides of the story can be found on this forum discussion as well as in this FAQ on 7summits.com

First climbed by Heinrich Harrer who wrote his book "I come from the stone age" about this period. It's a steep granite wall with sharp good climbable rock. Only a few hundred people have climbed Carstensz due to the political instability and the fact that it is hidden in dense jungle. Be prepared to climb in snow, rain, with your gloves being torn by the sharp rock, while seeing the Freeport company tearing down other nearby mountains, the last glaciers near the equator and men wearing nothing but penisgourds!

Short history Irian Jaya is Indonesia's "wild east". Much of it was still unexplored by outsiders as recently as the 1930s. The Dutch began serious exploration in about 1898. After the Indonesians defeated the Dutch in 1949 and 1950, the Dutch insisted on keeping Irian Jaya. They finally gave up the colony in 1963, under a combination of military and diplomatic pressure. 

In 1969, a UN-sponsored referendum of village elders led to Irian Jaya becoming a province of Indonesia. Since that time, more noticeably since the late 1970s, there have been separatist movements seeking to make Irian Jaya an independent country, particularly the OPM or "Organisasi Papua Merdeka" guerilla group. 

 

Under the Dutch in the 1930s, Irian Jaya or West New Guinea was a place to which many political prisoners were sent. Mohammed Hatta and Sutan Sjahrir, nationalist leader who were later major figures in the independence struggle, were sent to the Boven Digul prison camp in the southeast of the region. 

Jayapura is the main city. It was formerly called Hollandia by the Dutch. Allied (American and Australian) forces passed through here in 1944 on the way to the reconquest of the Philippines. Irian Jaya province was officially renamed Papua on December 31, 1999. (Above was taken from this website)

Approach The mountain is about 100kms from the nearest sea. It has taken a few expeditions in the 1930's to get even close to the base as the explorers had to find their way across steep walls and dense jungle. Heinrich Harrer used local tracks coming from North of the range. 

 

Old climber's route: in the old days the Freeport mine gave permission to use their road to the mine. This is a long gravel road all the way from Timika at the coast through and over the mountains. You pass Tembagapura, which is a 20,000 people town in the middle of the mountains, built especially for the miners. The road continues up the mountain, through some tunnels until it ends up at the pit. Instead of driving through the tunnels you can also use the Swiss made cable car to get from 2700m to 3500m quickly. At the east side of the the pit is a narrow muddy track where you enter the park. 

 

From the mine it is a few hours walking to the mountain. You climb up a muddy track, pass the "Zebra Wall" en continue along some small lakes in the Merenvalley until you climb up to the Basecamp valley. 

Beware that this route takes you from sea level to BC within 7 hours if you do not sleep at Zebra Wall and severe altitude problems can occur for the not acclimatized. Even when sleeping at Zebra wall (3700m) this is a serious problem. 

 

Because the miners don't like too many nosey people in this polluting place anymore the only option is to do a 5 day trekking from Ilaga through the jungle, moors and hills of Irian Jaya or take a helicopter ride to Zebra Wall In 2002 the regular trekking route has changed again as it is getting harder and harder to find a way around the bureaucracy, war zones and the powerful Freeport mine. 

 

The alternative route through Singa village is now also forbidden, so effectively the mountain is closed until further notice. UPDATE: New trips available now! (Check out the 7 summits trips pages for more detailed itineraries of previous organized trips and dates of future trips if any).

Permits You need several permits from different places (ministries, army, police etc) to travel to the island in general and climbing the mountain specifically. Permits are very hard to get, best is to team up with an organized trip as it will cost you months, even years to organize it yourself and even then the permits may not be valid when you get there... Also as happened often the last few years, the entire area can be sealed off without warning and all permits will be void if anything happens. Irian Jaya wants to be independent since 1969 and the free Papua movement (OPM) sometimes attacks Indonesians or Westerners to attract attention for their cause. Even though most actions are peaceful, like raising the Papua flag, this is enough reason fro the Indonesian army to seal the area for an indefinite period of time, which has happened last year and is still going on. Currently the Ilaga, Singa and mine routes are all closed due to the violence in the country; the only possibility for climbing Carstensz is to fly in and out the area by helicopter. But you still need a permit and these are not being issued right now. --> Check your insurance if they cover traveling here as many governments have issued a 'negative travel advice' for Irian Jaya and most insurers do NOT pay out if this is the case and something happens when you are there!
When to climb and seasons. CP can be climbed all year round as it is very close to the equator and there is bad weather all year round :-)
It is really raining a lot as the wet winds are pushed upwards from all sides. When climbing the narrow summitridge there are serious chances 
of snowstorms, so be prepared.

The advice is to grab the chance when you are able as the mountain can be closed without warning and for longer than you might like...
Where to stay? The mining area including Tembagapura is off-limits for everybody, but the Merenvalley offers a few good spots for basecamp. From there you can not only climb Carstensz, but also Ngga Pulu and other peaks.

Water can be taken from the lakes and is quite clear, but filtering mostly is a good idea, as both climbers and porters often do not see the connection between peeing in a lake close by and the resulting illnesses...
Political background Since the Dutch handed over the control of Irian Jaya to Indonesia in 1962 there have been independence struggles. Irian Jaya is the other half of the Papua new Guinea island and has no ethnical or religious connection with Indonesia. However, because of the presence of one of the biggest (gold, copper) mines in the world, Indonesia will not let Irian Jaya have self control as it brings millions of dollars of hard 
currency to Indonesia every day. 

The free Papua movement has been fighting for independence for over 30 years, this sometimes has proven lethal for travelers. Travel at your own risk!

Backgrounders:
http://www.fas.org/irp/world/para/papua.htm  
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/776911.stm  
http://www.westpapua.net/news/02/01/07.htm