IMG Carstensz Pyramid 2017 Expedition
by IMG guide Jonathan Schrock
My boot settles carefully onto another ice covered hold in the featured limestone runnels leading up the north side of Carstensz Pyramid's west ridge. I carefully shift my weight over, stand up and adjust the ascender, glancing up at the ridge line now just above us. The fixed lines and rock have been covered in snow and ice for the last 500 feet, requiring careful attention to our ascenders to ensure they engage each time we push them upward. It's an added challenge and keeps things exciting, but is a manageable risk for which the team is well prepared.
We've now been on the move for a over two hours, and the sky is beginning to lighten. After all the twists and turns of getting successfully to this point, the summit is getting very, very close and the team can feel it. It's not in the bag yet, but the sky is clear and the forecast is as good as it gets. All of the hard work, training, planning, and logistical challenges are about to pay off.
This is now my third successful expedition to Carstensz Pyramid, and it hasn't lost any of it's challenge or beauty. Easily the most unique climb among the Seven Summits, Carstensz continues to provide that sense of adventure into the unknown that so many of us seek in the mountain ranges of the world.
The Tyrolean Traverse (aka the Monkey Hammock) on Carstensz Pyramid with base camp tents just visible far below (photo: care of Jonathan Schrock)
As is pretty typical for any expedition here, there were some adjustments and "curveballs" along the way that kept everyone on their toes. That's part of the fun. Our expedition bases out of Timika, a city just a few miles from the base of the spine-like ridgeline of the massif in the center of Papua.
We spend a few days in a holding pattern at our hotel as we wait for a weather window good enough to make the helicopter flight into camp. It's always challenging waiting for the flight; everyone is anxious to get their boots on the ground. But eventually the weather will turn, and when it does, things begin to happen quickly. One minute you're sipping coffee next to the hotel pool, and the next thing you know, we've left the lowland jungles and been transported into the high and remote alpine. It's a dramatic change to say the least.
In the end, this year we summited and descended in the best conditions I've ever seen on the mountain even despite the heavier than normal ice and snow. A beautiful view across the jungles to the coastline in the distance through mostly clear skies, and (amazingly) dry conditions all the way back down to camp.
We finished the day feeling almost guilty for ending up with such perfect weather. Almost.
It's not every day you sneak one in like that. But on Carstensz you know that regardless of your summit day, you'll get a full challenge as well as one of the wildest adventures you can find anywhere. And isn't that the whole point?