03:04 pm EST Jul 12, 2005 Last year, ExWeb ran a big article on Carstensz
Pyramid, 16,023ft (4,884 m), located in Irian Jaya and the highest
Peak of Oceania, therefore one of the Seven Summits. The Indonesian
government had stopped issuing permits claiming it was due to
security reasons, though it was believed that the real reason was
because of the bad press climbers were bringing upon the Freeport
Mine, located at the base of the mountain, reportedly causing
serious environmental damage.
Word spread and soon all
permits for CP were canceled
But one climber, Byron
Smith sneaked under the radar in the fall of 2003. With the help of
locals, he was smuggled across military checkpoints, held up in safe
houses for days, and disguised as a soldier or photographer.
Afterwards, he happily detailed his ‘Indiana Jones’ adventure on the
Internet. All of the Army guys and the guide who helped him were
easily recognized from the article, according to the locals. Word
spread and soon all permits for CP were canceled, leaving a number
of very angry people - and climbers.
71 year old climber
One of them was Ramon Blanco, who at 71
years of age was the oldest climber to do the 7 summits
Kosciuszko-version. He wrote in an open letter to Byron Smith;
Everything went well until we reached Timika … my fears materialized
the day before we were scheduled to leave for the Carstensz
Pyramid’s Base Camp. An authority showed up with your story (all 18
pages of it!) where you describe your “war and espionage movie”.
Ramon was denied access to the mountain.
The first legal
foreign expedition since 2002
Now, Ramon might get a
second chance: Safe, legal and successful - an American team,
facilitated by Franky Kowass of Manado Adventures, re-opened
Indonesia's Carstensz Pyramid to foreign climbers with successful
summits on Friday, July 8th.
Believed to be the first legal
foreign expedition since 2002, American climbers James Clarke, Pat
Hickey and Randy Peeters teamed with Indonesian Franky Kowass and
overcame significant legal and logistical challenges to gain access
to the remote 5000 meter peak, located in the highlands of
Indonesia's Papua province.
No overland access was
For Clarke and Peeters - both already among the
world's first 100 Seven Summiters via Australia's Kosciusko - the
climb represents their 8th peak of the circuit and moves them into a
more select group.
After several weeks of planning, Kowass
secured the "Surat Jalan" - travel permit(s) - from federal
officials in Jakarta. Once the Americans arrived in Indonesia's
easternmost province, Kowass then negotiated a series of provincial
and district police approvals across Papua. The team acclimatized in
Enarotali for several days while Kowass and Clarke worked through
significant complications to coordinate the necessary helicopter
transport to the remote mountain. No overland access was granted by
the authorities out of ongoing concern over political unrest in the
Support team and supplies never arrived
After a series of frustrating setbacks, on Wednesday, July
6th the team deployed in a chartered helicopter to Zebra Wall (just
outside of Freeport Mine territory) and trekked up to Lakes Valley
base camp later that day. Increasing clouds followed by a storm
prevented a planned second chopper load, so a support team and
supplies never arrived. Fearing that the rare opportunity to climb
Carstensz might not present itself again, the climbers seized the
first break in heavy rains and began their push just after midnight
on Thursday 7 July.
After a hour's approach hike the team
had some difficulty identifying the start of the route in the dark.
Randy Peeters then took the lead at the base of the steep 500 meter
coarse limestone face.
Fog limited visibility at
Bringing years of big-wall experience, Peeters
inspected the fixed lines and anchors and moved everyone efficiently
up to the 'halfway terrace'. Owing to the length and nature of some
of the pitches, communication was frequently difficult. Clarke
succeeded in locating the route above the terrace and led to the
long summit ridge, reaching it just at dawn.
At this point,
the team moved in two pairs, and negotiated a series of very airy
pinnacles, notches, and catwalks, employing rapells and jumaring as
necessary. While the rain held off, fog limited visibility at times.
Although there was no appreciable ice, the climbers did encounter
some snow patches.
Franky Kowass the man
Peeters and Clarke reached the summit just before 9 am with
Kowass and Hickey approximately one hour later. Heavy rains caught
all four climbers on the descent. Nevertheless, everyone was elated
to have achieved the summit of Carstensz. The Americans departed
Timika on Sunday and are returning to the United States. A European
team, also facilitated by Kowass, arrived on the mountain that
All the climbers agreed that accessing this peak --
the most technical of the seven summits -- will continue to pose
considerable obstacles. One very bright spot was the friendliness
and support of all of the Indonesian people and officials
encountered along the way. Before departing, the Americans again
expressed their gratitude to Franky Kowass for his critical and
untiring efforts to make the climb possible.
Pyramid, 16,023ft (4,884 m), is located in the western central
highlands of Irian Jaya and is the highest peak in Oceania,
Australasian continent, making it one of the 7 summits. In order
to climb Carstensz one must secure the proper permits. This region,
however, has had “limited and frustrating access throughout its
history”, said Gordon Janow, Director of Programs for Alpine Ascents
Harry Kikstra of 7summits.com said he was the
last one to receive an official permit (for 6 Norwegians in Dec
2002) and got another permit that was canceled at the last moment
due to security reasons.
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