Located on the island of Papua, Carstensz is the lowest of the 7 summits. It was also Richard’s final peak in his collection of the 7 summits (highest mountain on each of the 7 continents). We booked our climb with Adventure Indonesia. There were 14 climbers, 5 guides and about 30 porters who brought their wives and children along for the 12 day expedition. It was quite the sight. The 6 day approach to the climb was through incredibly dense jungle. The ‘trail’ took us along rivers, over fallen trees, overgrown bush and muddy swamps. Much of the trek was dozens of feet off the ground as we walked along fallen logs that were on layers and layers of other fallen logs. When we could walk on the ground, it was either muddy, spongy or covered with slippery roots. Almost every day began with negotiations between our guides and the porters. Day after day the porters demanded more money, but the guides were used to this and planned for it. The negotiations came to a head on day 6 when the porters pulled out machetes and demanded an exorbitant fee to continue. A few hours later a settlement was made, and later that day to everyone’s relief, we reached base camp.
The next day was summit day. We started at 3 am with a trek to the base of the climb. From here we used fixed ropes and ascenders for a few hours until we reached the Tyrolean Traverse. One of our guides, Poxi, was instrumental in getting all of us across the gap. He went across the traverse cable first and then as we individually pulled ourselves along the cable, high above the ground, he pulled on a rope attached to our harness thus providing a lot of assistance. From there, the route to the summit follows an easy ridge hike and in half an hour we were on the the summit. We had our celebratory pictures on top before retracing our route back to base camp.
The trek back to Suguapa (our starting town) was no less harrowing than it was on the way out. In fact, some of the downhill sections were much more scary and potentially injury causing than going up. We all made it back to town safely and collectively decided not to tip our porters. Hopefully they learned that a tip is earned and not given at knife point.