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Carstensz pyramid

Organized trips and expeditions: routes & gear

The original Heinrich Harrer (normal) route


Type: Scramble with technical Rock climbing in parts

Difficulty: 5.10 & scrambling 

Time Required: A long day 

Summit Elevation: 4884m or 16023 ft 

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



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. (Check out the 7 summits trips pages for more detailed itineraries of previous organized trips and dates of future trips if any).

The climb

Starting from Basecamp you walk up and down the ridge separating the BC valley from the valley at the bottom of Carstensz 

Traverse the valley until the 'sandy' spot at the bottom of the cliff (see image below). There are (old) fixed ropes up the first part which is already quite steep (75degrees) after this part there is a long stretch of scrambling with every now and then a steeper move. Can be done with or without ropes depending on your skills and nerves. 

Two/thirds up the mountain you will climb onto a flatter, scree, part. Follow the obvious line to the right and scramble all the way up to the western part of the summit ridge. You can see the mine from here and look down the Southern side for the first time. 


On the (narrow and sharp!) summit ridge you will encounter a few cracks: the first one is only a few feet wide and a few meters deep. Too wide to jump safely though, so abseil down and climb up again. Continue along the ridge until you reach the biggest gap. 

Abseil down and don't forget to leave the rope for the retreat! It's quite difficult getting up again otherwise. Here you have two choices: climb up right away or traverse for another 100meters and climb up then (easier). 


When you climbed up you will soon encounter another gap: again not to wide (a few meters) but very deep! Enjoy the vertigo... There might be some old ropes crossing this gap, make sure these are ok before you use them, because every mistake is fatal here. 


Continue along the even sharper ridge and cross the last of the gaps: same story as the last one: narrow but deep and lethal... Scramble up an over the ridge and continue on the south side of it. You can now see the summit for the first time, continue towards it and scramble all the way to the summit over loose (!) scree. You have made it to the summit of one of the 7 summits!

Close up of the normal route through the North face of Carstensz Pyramid.


The route starts at the sandy spot (you can see the track). 


Then it follows the crack system up until it reaches the flatter (lighter colored) scree part, where you gain the ridge by following the easy slopes to the right.


Here you continue to the left along the summitridge, crossing the gaps until you reach the summit.

Essential Gear for climbing Carstensz Pyramid:

- Full rock climbing gear, depending on skills! 

- So including plenty of rope, including some to leave at the gaps. 

- An ascender/jumar is very handy for climbing up again when you are tired or not skillful enough. 

- The climbing can be done on mountaineering boots; you can bring rock climbing shoes for other routes, but beware of frostbite and falling off the ridge! 

- Also bring warm and rainproof clothes, it is not uncommon to encounter rain or snow. 

- The weather is quite nasty up there. The rock is extremely sharp, so cheap leather working gloves are perfect to protect your hands (and your expensive gloves...).