Expedition Leader &
I landed in Nabire in the morning. Two airlines, TRIGANA and SUSI AIR, shuttle between Biak and Nabire. Both have fleets of small planes like AN-24, double- or single-propeller aircraft.
I saw our BELL helicopters without a pilot in the airport of Nabire. Unfortunately, it is Sunday and I could not make proper contact with anybody. I expect a busy day tomorrow. If I understand that the helicopter delay is global and could not be resolved within two days, I will start booking a charter flight to Ilaga followed by a trekking expedition to the base camp, from where we could be airlifted by helicopter after a successful ascent.
We have the best hotel in Nabire – as many as 2 stars. Unfortunately, this is the best the town can offer. At least there is hot water and air conditioning in rooms.
There is real crowd at the Carstensz base camp now - Stephen with three clients hurriedly climbed the mountain two days ago. They trekked from Ilaga. They left us some of the gear, fuel and food at the base camp. Yesterday another trekking party set off from Ilaga. If everything works out with the helicopter, it is obvious we would not be at the base camp alone.
Carstensz Pyramid ascent options:
It is possible to arrange a fairly cheap charter flight from Timika and Nabire to the villages of Sugapa or Ilaga.
From Ilaga, a beaten path takes you to the base camp of Carstensz Pyramid. The service of transporting tourists along the path to the base camp has been working here since the 1980s and is fairly efficient - porters are quite professional, the route is well known. It crosses the jungle only during the first half of the first day, after which it rises to alpine highlands free from jungle, which means no malaria mosquitoes, no swamps, and the like. The path is well-beaten. A fairly large number of teams (20-30 a year) follow this route to the base camp and back. This scenario may involve only one problem - a real war may break out between tribes on this territory. When it happens the path is closed. This is an uncontrollable process that starts and ends with equal abruptness. Yet sometimes the path can be closed for lengthy periods of time up to a month or longer. This is the only major downside of this option. The trek from Ilaga to the base camp takes 6 days, with 5 hours of walking each day preferably in the morning hours, before lunch. This is due to the fact that rainfall normally starts in the afternoon, and everybody tries to set up camp on a dry soil. This is why we must rise and set off at a rather early hour - 5-6 in the morning.
As a rule, there are no commercial expeditions from Sugapa. To be precise, during the entire history of Carstensz ascents only one commercial expedition led by Alex Abramov blazed the trail from Sugapa. This was due to the fact that they originally planned to fly there by helicopter, which did not materialized eventually, while the classical path from Ilaga was closed due to armed hostilities. They had to search for some new paths. On the topographic map, Sugapa is located much closer to the base camp than Ilaga. In fact, however, the trek from Sugapa takes much more time - this is due to the fact that Sugapa has no professional porters and no such service practiced there at all. You have to negotiate onsite with the local tribal chief, and these negotiations determine the amount of time that it will take you probably reach the base camp. The trek takes about 8-10 days. The first few days the path takes you through the jungle and only later rises to alpine highlands. There is no path. You have to rely for directions on local guides, who, as experience shows, can also astray. The only advantage of this trek is that it is always open and free from armed hostilities. Yet, as an option for reaching the base camp, it should be considered only as a last resort.
The best time for ascending Carstensz Pyramid is from April to September - a period free from clearly pronounced monsoon rainfall.
In fact, there is one more way to climb Carstensz Pyramid, which nobody has so far tried in practice. It is the option of ascending the mountain on the south. The classic route starts on the northern side and follows a rather long summit ridge in its final stretch. In reality, you can fly a chartered plane to the southern side of Carstensz Pyramid all the way to a village called Sinya.
This village is a mere two days' walk from the massif. According to witnesses, after just half a day after leaving the village you can see the mountain almost entirely. From the south the slopes of Carstensz are less acclivitous than from the north, because in the monsoon season trekking over these slopes is complicated by the large quantity of snow. Still, the very route is much shorter than the path on the north and takes you directly to the summit - there is no need to scale the long summit ridge, as is the case from the north. So far there are no more details of this southern route, but everybody agrees in the opinion that this option will hardly be developed actively, since this would cause a great damage to the helicopter business of Carstensz. Indeed, why would you pay a fortune for a helicopter when you can fly an ordinary cheap charter plane almost all the way to the base camp on the southern side and ascend the mountain along a possibly easier route? It will be recalled that the route itself does not exist yet, and all information about it is unclear and vague yet - I will try to get more details onsite and if I can, take photos of the southern slopes of the mountain.