Expedition leader to miss summit push

I spent the day drying equipment from the jungle trek as well as rehydrating myself in order to be fit for the summit push after midnight.

After lunch, our expedition leader Meldy informs us that he had also been having stomach problems since day three and would not be joining us for the summit push.

This left our team of five climbers with only one guide, Poxy, which meant that if any of us had a problem on the summit day, everyone needed to return to the base camp, which put everyone on the edge.

 

Finally at base camp

The sixth day of trekking started at 0815 and was mostly a rocky scramble in cold rain and sleet. I continued to feel sick, making the entire day pretty miserable.

As we scrambled up towards New Zealand Pass on all fours, we got completely soaked in water that was gushing down our climbing path. Fortunately, we found a small outcrop where Poxy was able to light a small fire, which wasn’t that warm, but lifted our spirits nevertheless!

Our mood began improving when we finally reached the top of New Zealand Pass and could see what would become our base camp at 4066m. We reached the camp at 1615 after eight hours.

At the camp, everyone was in agreement that due to the six-day trek, we should rest for a full 24 hours before heading for the summit.

 

Ziphromax saves the day

The fifth day of trekking started at 0830 and followed the previous day’s terrain; ridges and marshland, leading to camp 5 at 3550m around 1500.

My throat and stomach, which have been bothering me for a few days, got worse and I spent most of the day feeling sick. Luckily, Shawn had a course of Ziphromax, an antibiotic, which he gave to me.

Gear selection strategy

The fourth day of trekking started at 0815 and went through muddy ridges and marshland, leading to camp 4 at 3425m around 1515.

You can only admire the locals, trekking in their shorts or skirts and t-shirts, barefoot, while we wore water-proof clothing and boots…but not sure we would survive with their gear selection strategy ;-)

Feeling sick

To kick off the third day, we picked up our now dry clothes, which smelled of barbecue after a night in the porter’s tent.

The third day of trekking started at 0830 and went through a very steep and muddy path. We trekked most of the day with our head porter John and his two wives (also porters) and child. I guess the kid will have some very different childhood memories as he was put into a half-full potato sack carried by his mother for the day.

As a bonus, I started feeling sick, so I was happy when we finally got to camp 3 at 3240m around 1645.

 

Am I a fool for actually paying to do this?

The second day of trekking started with us waking up to gunshots, which turned out to be the porters hunting for birds i.e. breakfast.

The trekking followed a similar script as the previous one with jungle terrain and more mud, spiced up with rain showers and thoughts of “am I an idiot for actually paying to do this?”

We arrived to the camp tired and wet, but fortunately the porters offered to dry our wet clothes in their makeshift tent, which had a fire to keep them warm.

Rubber boots are optional

Fortunately, Adventure Indonesia had agreed to pay the fee demanded by the clan, but we still woke up earlier than the previous day hoping to get to the jungle before any other clans got any ideas.

The idea was great, but we still encountered two further roadblocks, but were able to negotiate our way through those with the help of the village policeman!

During the first couple of hours we passed the last inhabitation and got some beautiful views before the path took us into the thick jungle.

In terms of trekking, the first day was a bit of a wake-up call. We spent most of the day in thick jungle with shin deep mud. Funnily, our trekking company had advised that rubber boots were optional, but based on the first day, they seemed like the most important piece of gear.

After 10 hours in the jungle, we made camp at 1645.

Roadblock

After an early breakfast, our expedition team was ready to leave for a six-day, 100km trek through the jungle to Carstensz Pyramid.

Our team included five western climbers, expedition leader Meldy, head guide Poxy, assistant cook Martin and 26 porters – a mix of men and women with even two young boys as well as a baby. The baby belonged to John, the head porter, who also had selected both of his wives as porters.

Outside our “hotel”, we were met by approximately 20 motorcycles and scooters, which drove us through the village to the start of the trek, escorted by a single policeman from the village – supposedly in case trouble broke out as we crossed land belonging to the various clans.

However, before reaching the intended destination, one of the local clans blocked the road, demanding money for us to cross their land – because none of their people had been picked as porters.

The village policeman handled the negotiation with the clan who were carrying a variety of weapons ranging from rifles to large knives as well as bows and arrows.

After no agreement on an acceptable fee was found, we had to turn back and return to the house we had spent the night, while our guides called the trekking company to discuss the situation.

This left our climbing team a chance to wonder around the village and build some goodwill with the villagers.

Birds with no heads

Glenn met us at midnight to take us for yet another overnight flight – this time to Timika, a city on the island of Papua, where we met the last member of our climbing team, Bart, a university professor from Poland, as well as our expedition leader Meldy and climbing leader Poxy.

From Timika, we continued on a private charter flight to a small village of Sugapa at 2000m altitude where we were greeted by local Dani tribe, discovered only some 60 years ago.

Many of the villagers wore nothing other than a koteca, a penis guard, and carried bows and arrows.

At the village, we relaxed while our guides handled the highly political task of selecting porters for our 100km trek through the jungle to the base of Carstensz Pyramid. The tension was highlighted by a fight that broke out between the porter candidates during the selection process.

Each porter gets a fee equalling approximately three times the monthly salary of average government employee, so each clan within the tribe wanted some of the places and our guides had a difficult time to negotiate so that most clans would be happy. The negotiation was characterised by rumours suggesting that so and so clan was planning a road block for us as they were unhappy with the proposed arrangements.

As sun started to set, the porter selection was completed and we fell asleep in a house with a bizarre display of stuffed birds sitting on tree branches – most of the birds with no heads.

Meeting fellow climbers

At breakfast, we met two of our three climbing partners, Shawn, an entrepreneur from Canada, looking to complete his Seven Summits by climbing Carstensz Pyramid and Lisa, a lawyer from Boston, for whom Carstensz would be sixth of the Seven Summits.

We had a nice lunch with Shawn and Lisa at a restaurant on Kuta Beach before checking our gear and resting ahead of a midnight pick up to the airport.