A night in Nabire, West Papua. Dinner of sticky rice and deep-fried mystery meat. Beer in a brown bag in a hotel lounge. Pounding tropical rain. Scrawny kittens abandoned by a mother. Hotel room with dark green walls and airport lounge metal seats. In bed by 9pm for a 4am start. Luminescent light comes on at 3am. Is it a bad dream or a water boarding exercise? No switch in the room turns it off.
We get in a van and head off to the helipad. A few hours of hanging around and we head off to Sugapa (hm, when was this helicopter serviced last?), a small native town at 2,000m. A landing strip, the only concrete piece of land with kids rollerblading and pigs rolling in mud. We lighten up the load and head up higher to 3000m where the load get lightened again and Colin and I get dropped off in a boggy marsh. The helicopter disappears with a desert island feel in the air. One feels very small surrounded by wilderness.
The third ride arrives and drops us off at a foot of the Pyramid. We set the camp up by a tiny lagoon surrounded by magnificent gneiss rock scrubbed for thousands of years by glacial moraine.
We rest for the day.
2:30am – time to wake up but rain is pounding hard. Hm… let’s sleep for another 30 minutes. 3am rain staccato on the walls of the tent still loud … May be another half an hour. 3:30am it’s suddenly quiet. We dress, down white coffee and toasted bread, turn headlamps on and go towards the rock wall.
Climbing in the dark is special. It reduces movements to senses. You see some features but often not enough to be scared by exposure. We move with a good pace. Carstensz is climbed with a jumar – an ascender on a fixed rope. As it rains here daily, the ropes are in pretty bad shape, twisted and torn in places. That means that every 20 meters jumar needs to be taken off and reattached, a hustle but nothing compared to added security. The rock is wet and slippery and very very sharp. Gneiss is a wonderful stone to climb (in gloves) – it has many sharp thorns that provide great hold and balancing points for climbing.
On a second pitch we see the lights of the Grassberg mine shining afar. Hm… some civilisation in this wild and cut off part of West Papua.
After two hours we get to the summit ridge. It reminds me of so many beautiful routes that I have done in the Alps – exposed and magnificent with gorgeous views of the jungle covered in clouds nesting in the canopy of trees.
Here comes Tyrollean traverse over a gorge – you walk on a steel highline suspended over hundred meter drop attached to two lines. Trying not look down and squeeze a smile for a photo for posterity.
Another 30 minutes of scrambling and climbing get us to the summit. Somewhat anticlimactic a it took us just 3 hours.
Route down reminds me of the Hornli ridge on Matterhorn. Easy in darkness darn scary in day light. We manage to stay dry halfway until the downpour starts in earnest. Another half an hour and we are down in the camp. Round trip of 5.5 hours – solid timing. Happy to be back down and now the wait starts for a helicopter back in a couple of days time. Then Jakarta-Moscow connection for an Elbrus ski ascent. Stay tuned.