01.11.2008

Nabire is in for a spell of fair weather. Helicopters keep shuttling to and from the gold mine with enviable regularity from the early morning. Our plan to trek from Ilaga to the base camp had to be postponed somewhat. The fact is that starting today and for three subsequent days a new governor of the Ilaga district will be inaugurated - all regular flights are booked out till November 2 and all charter planes are also busy serving inauguration guests.

So we are unable to send a person to Ilaga to start procuring our trekking permit any time till the day after tomorrow. Nonetheless, we are still hopeful we can arrange a trekking expedition, and there is an ongoing campaign in Timika to prepare gear for our expedition through the jungle.
Speaking of helicopters, so far everything is going according to plan. Yesterday we spoke with the captain of the BELL helicopter, who said he would be able to return from Jakarta to Nabire on November 3, but would do his best to arrive sooner than that. Yesterday night the co-pilot was expected to complete all the formalities to prolong his flying permit and, theoretically, should be leaving for Nabire today. Unfortunately, so far he is outside the mobile network coverage zone and we can't get him to confirm a precise date of his arrival in Nabire. There is still the option of the Kamov helicopter. Today we are expecting an update as to whether we will be able to use in the immediate future.

Stay tuned for new updates.

Follow-up to the October 31 report.

...power outage across Nabire...

Incidentally, in a joint effort yesterday we somehow managed to dispatch 1,200 liters of fuel to the settlement of Enarotali where the helicopter will make a refueling stop. The Enarotali district is currently controlled by the local separatists and is off limits for tourists. Nonetheless, we have planned our sortie to the base camp and will make use of Enarotali one way or another.

The first flight will take our local guide Dany (a holder of the Carstensz climbing record of 48 ascents!!!), me, Olga and Grigory to the base camp. Olga and Deny total weight is less than 100 kilos, Grigory and I - approximately 130 kilos. Since the helicopter can carry no more than 300 kg of cargo, we can also transport 70 kg of our personal and common gear. Like I said before, the base camp currently has all the requisite utensils, fuel and two tents - this would suffice for the four of us to stay there a fairly long time, even more so that a large team of German alpinists is arriving shortly. They would be able to help us out with food and fuel, if necessary.

The second team made up of Vladimir and Alexei would fly over to the base camp the day after the first team's departure, since two flights in a single day are impossible due to clouds rising over the base camp after 10 a.m., which make a safe landing impossible. If the second team does not leave due to non-flying weather, the first team would not wait for the second team, but will attempt to make the ascent after one day of acclimatization. Then they will wait for the arrival of the second team and will be transported back on the same helicopter that brought the second team. Then Deny, Vladimir, Alexei and I would remain at the base camp. Olga and Grigory will leave for Nabire and wait for us there. The second team will attempt the ascent and will leave the base camp on the third helicopter, abandoning some of the gear, if necessary (it will be removed by porters of the following trekking expedition).

In this way, instead of four helicopter flights we will use only three, thus not only saving money, but also increasing our chances of leaving and landing, since four flights require four days of fair weather, while three flights - only three.

Moreover, if weather will permit and let both teams to reach the base camp as planned - one day apart, so we will try to leave in a single pass as follows: after lifting the first team from the base camp the helicopter will make a planned refueling stop in Enarotali. After the first team debarks in Enarotali, the helicopter will return to the base camp for the second team just in time before clouds impair visibility in the base camp region. It will be easier for all of us to leave Enarotali, which is serviced by a charter plane. There is also a road leading back to Nabire, which we could take as a last resort escorted by armed security.

Greetings to everybody.

P.S.: when I was finishing this report, there was a sudden blackout across all of Nabire. It is yet unclear what happened. It might be some failure at the power station.