Oceana’s highest peak (and the highest peak between the Andes and the Himalaya) is the Carstensz Pyramid, which rises to over 5000 meters (16,067’) on the tropical island of New Guinea. Politically, this limestone mountain rests within Indonesia’s easternmost province of Papua (formerly called Irian Jaya).
With its pinnacle being a sharply defined, 2,500 foot rock face, Carstensz Pyramid is also noteworthy for being the tallest mountain on any island on the planet.
Despite being merely 4 degrees from the equator, the New Guinea highlands are both high and wet enough to support some small glaciers. With no roads and surrounded in part by unexplored rainforest (with sections believed to be inhabited by tribes continuing to practice headhunting and cannibalism), the area is tough to reach under the best of circumstances.
Recent guerilla activity by the OPM rebel group, seeking Papua’s independence from Indonesia, has made the situation more difficult. Sensitivity is heightened further by the enormous and secretive Grasberg gold mine situated between the mountain and the off-limits town of Tembagapura. Owned by a U.S. corporation (Freeport), the Grasberg mine has become a flashpoint in the independence struggle, with the natives maintaining that the mine is polluting and imperialist.
After years of waiting, to finally reach and climb Carstensz Pyramid in July of 2005 was by far my most exotic expedition.
[click to enlarge any photo]