Join the Norwegian guys in World Wide Vikings on an expedition to Puncak Jaya, the highest peak in Indonesia, also known as Carstensz Pyramid. The expedition took place in December 2002 / January 2003. Carstensz Pyramid is the lowest peak of the Seven Summits (the highest mountains on seven continents), but not necessarily the easiest to climb. The mountain is located in the Indonesian part of New Guinea, and is not easily accessible.

The summit ridge
The summit ridge, Gisle and Erik stopped their ascent here. © 2002 World Wide Vikings

To climb the mountain you will first need a permit from the authorities. This can be a challenge to obtain, and in best case involves a long wait. Several expeditions have experienced this. If you are lucky and granted a permission, you will face a five day walk through dense jungle, and that is before you start climbing. In addition Carstensz is the technically most challenging mountain to climb of the Seven Summits.

Some facts:
Name: Carstensz Pyramid
Height: 4.884 m / 16.023 ft
Coordinates: 4° 05′ S, 137° 11′ E
Nation: Indonesia
Nearest airport: Timika (TIM)
Start of the normal route: Singha Village/Ilaga
Normal time: about 2 weeks
First to the top: Heinrich Harrer, Austria 1962

The trip was arranged by “7 Summits”, who have a long experience in organization of expeditions to Carstensz Pyramid. A local guide from Indonesia will join the group during the whole trip. Participants are 6 Norwegians; Petter and Torbjorn from WWV, Ivar, Eirik, Gisle and Arnt Joar. The number of participants is limited to 6, so unfortunately Vidar could not join this time.

The expedition is already delayed once due to problems with the permit. Originally the group should depart on 23rd of November, but because of fear of violence during a special celebration in the area Indonesian authorities denied access for all foreigners. The new departure day is 12th of December, so now we only hope there will be no more problems to get the permit.

7 Summits have made the following itinerary for the expedition starting in Jakarta, Indonesia. If all goes according to the plan the group will be on the top 26th or 27th of December.

Day nbr Date Program
1 16.12.02 Arrival Jakarta
2 17.12.02 Flight Jakarta – Timika
3 18.12.02 Helicopter Timika – Singha Village
4-8 19-23.12.02 5 days of walking Singha Village – Carstensz Base Camp
9-12 24-27.12.02 Acclimatization and climbing of the peak
13-17 12.02-01.01.03 Walk through the jungle back to Singha Village
18 02.01.03 Return to Timika with helicopter
19 03.01.03 Return to Jakarta with plane

Reports sent back to Norway during the Carstensz pyramid expedition 2002/2003:

11.12.2002 – Ivar, Gisle and Arnt Joar have finally departed
Thick fog on Oslo Airport, Gardermoen, put a scare in the boys who where about to leave today. Fortunately the flights went as normal, and the plane to Jakarta was not delayed much. 4 pm they were airborne, and will arrive Jakarta tomorrow at 5.30 pm local time, or 11.30 am Norwegian time, after an intermediate stop in Amsterdam.

11.12.2002 – Received confirmation from Jakarta
Petter, who is in charge of the expedition, received today a confirmation from Indonesia; everything is according to plans. There has been some uncertainty since the first departure was cancelled just a few days in advance. But now everything looks like it’s in perfect order. Petter and Torbjorn leaves from Gardermoen tomorrow at 4 pm, Ivar, Gisle and Arnt Joar leaves today, and Erik on Sunday.

12.12.2002 – 4 pm – Petter and Torbjorn on their way to Jakarta
Thick fog today as well, but the Jakarta flight via Amsterdam was fortunately only 45 minutes late, and 5 pm they were in the air. Some stress is normal on a day like this, but a forgotten VISA-card and luggage excess weight was soon fixed and forgotten. A report from Ivar confirms that he, Arnt Joar and Gisle have all arrived safely in Jakarta, and are already well installed on Hard Rock Café.

12.12.2002 – 7.30 pm – Report from Amsterdam
Torbjorn reports from Amsterdam that Petter has been the first to become “Viggo” on this expedition (“Viggo” is a card-game which is WWV’s regular pastime during transport). Torbjorn may not be trusted in this matter, but he certainly wants a revenge from being “Super-Viggo” during the trip to Antarctica last year. The flight from Amsterdam to Jakarta seems to be on schedule and supposed to be in the air 8.25 pm. They will arrive in Jakarta tomorrow 5.30 local time, 11.30 am Norwegian time.

13.12.2002 – 1.40 pm – Report from Jakarta
Petter calls from the hotel in Jakarta. Everything has gone well on the flight down, and all five who is in Jakarta now is in good shape. They were met by the guide, Defi, at the airport in Jakarta, and he speaks fluent English. The temperature in Jakarta is about 30 degrees and the humidity high, a big contrast to the minus 18 degrees on Gardermoen, Oslo. Erik leaves Gardermoen on Sunday and will join the rest of the group on Monday. Early Tuesday morning all six will fly from Jakarta to Timika.

14.12.2002 – Facts
Indonesia have more than 200 million inhabitants, and about 250 different languages. There are more than 14.000 islands, and when you take into consideration that there are more than 300 ethnical groups here, we understand that this is one of the most complex nations in the world. The capital, Jakarta, has a population of about 12 million, and one of the highest population growths in the world. Note that most of the atlases and encyclopedias say that the highest mountain is 5.030 m and called Puncak Jaya. Today most of the climbers call it Carstensz Pyramid after Jan Carstensz who discovered the mountain in the 1623. Recent surveys have already established that the height is 4.884 m.

15.12.2002 – Facts Irian Jaya and Timika
Irian Jaya is the easternmost province of Indonesia, and the western part of the second largest island in the world, New Guinea. The province is the largest in Indonesia with 420.000 sq. km, a great deal larger than Norway! It has a population of about two million. Irian Jaya is south of equator, and 3/4 of the area are covered with tropical rainforest. It can rain more than 5.000 mm per year! The Pegunungan Maoke mountain ridge splits the region in a southern and a northern part. Here we find several mountains above 4.500 m, where Carstensz Pyramid (4.884 m) is the highest.

Timika is a town with a population of just above 100.000, which is a large growth from 1.000 in the 1950’s. The reason for this is the timber and mining industry. The town is located close to the southern coast. From Timika there is a helicopter flight to Singha Village, and from there a more than 100 km long walk through dense rain forest to the foot of Carstensz Pyramid. Here you can find more information:

16.12.2002 – 10.30 am – Brief report from Jakarta
The five already in Jakarta is now waiting for Erik who is the last member of the group to arrive. He will come from Amsterdam in a few hours. Tonight 11 pm Norwegian time, or 5 am Tuesday morning local time they will continue with plane to Timika on Irian Jaya.

A represantative for the local Dani tribe.
A represantative for the local Dani tribe. © 2002 World Wide Vikings

17.12.2002 – 2.30 am (11.30 pm local time) – Report from Irian Jaya!
Torbjorn called via satellite phone from the rainforest on Irian Jaya, meaning that they have already come a great deal longer than planned. To sum it up, Erik joined the group yesterday when he arrived in Jakarta. Early morning, 5 am Jakarta time, they left with the plane to Timika on Irian Jaya. The guys had already asked if it was possible to move on from Timika the same day they arrived, and their guide to the mountain, Nova, proved to be of great assistance. They have arrived at the start of the walk, Singha Village, and already moved some distance into the rainforest. It has been a long and exhausting day, but the tents are up. Everybody is in high spirit, and seems eager to continue at the same speed tomorrow. The weather conditions are brilliant with a clear, cool evening. Since it’s the rainy season there had been some rain during the day, but much less than they feared. Let’s hope it will continue like this.

All the way to the Base Camp at the foot of the mountain they have a team of 10 “porters”, who carry the luggage, food and equipment, and 2 armed guards. The walk is then considerably easier for them. It may sound like slavery to use locals to carry the luggage, but in fact this is a very popular and well paid work down there.

The north wall of Puncak Jaya seen from basecamp.
The north wall of Puncak Jaya seen from basecamp. © 2002 World Wide Vikings

There is not much available information, and barely a map of the area where they are, but I have managed to find some info. There is dense rainforest between Singha Village and the mountain, and the distance is about 100 km. There is not much uphill before they are close to the mountain, but then it will be a steep walk up to Base Camp at about 3.900 m. They will arrive at the mountain from the north side, through a pass that strangely enough is called the New Zealand pass.

18.12.2002 – 12 noon (8 pm local time) – New report from the jungle
A report from Torbjorn on a bad connection, but I could make out that everything was fine. Petter and Gisle had some stomach problems, but the rest of the group was in top condition. They had started the day very early in the morning and walked until dark. How far they have come, and how far they have left to the mountain, I could not make out, but they have at least 2, maybe 3 days before they arrive in Base Camp.

Mountain climbers often use the definition “crux” which means the most difficult point during a climb. If you manage to go behind this point you will have the target in sight. For Carstensz Pyramid there are many who believe that crux is when you receive the permit to climb. Most expeditions must give up already here, even before the climbing has started. It is then good to know that our group has passed this point and can reach their goal.

Let us hope that the Norwegian food they brought along will make all stomach problems go away, and that they are quick and healthy when they have to start the climbing,

19.12.2002 – 2 am (10 pm local time) – The boys are quickly approaching BC
Petter reports on a long transport leg today, and everyone is in good shape again. If everything goes according to plan they will reach Base Camp (BC) early tomorrow morning! The plan is then to do a stunt and try to reach the top directly, after a few hours of rest in BC. They choose this tactic to escape the acclimatization period, and to complete the climbing of the summit before the body are too affected by the thin air. This is quite similar to Mont Blanc, except there you don’t need to walk through a rainforest for several days before climbing the mountain. It is anyway impressing how far they have come.

20.12.2002 – 11.45 am (7.45 local time) – Base Camp Carstensz Pyramid

A gathering below base camp.
A gathering below base camp. © 2002 World Wide Vikings

A brief report from Petter. They have arrived at Base Camp, and will go for the top tonight and tomorrow if the weather permits. Now it is raining, but usually this will stop later in the evening and night. Yesterday night was clear with moonshine, so we will hope for similar conditions this coming night. Everyone feels relatively ok, even if they have ascended to 3.900 m. We cross our fingers and hope they will keep bad weather and headaches on a distance.

It is 2 hours from Base Camp before they reach the parts where they have to start climbing. There are fixed lines in technical sections, which makes the job a lot easier. Normal time from BC to the top is 10 hours during good weather conditions, and then about 6 hours back to Base Camp again.

Finally we can add that this is probably the first top attempt on Carstensz since August.

Facts Carstensz Pyramid / Puncak Jaya
Most of the atlases and encyclopedias use Puncak Jaya as the name of the highest peak in Indonesia. Climbers use the name Carstensz Pyramid or Carstensz Peak
. The Dutch explorer Jan Carstensz was the first European who discovered this mountain in 1623. Some have the opinion that Puncak Jaya is the name of a mountain close to Carstensz Pyramid, while others think it’s the same mountain. Puncak Jaya means “Victory Peak”. The height of 5.030 m in most of the guides is however wrong, correct elevation is 4.884 m

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. First man known to reach the top was the Austrian adventurer Heinrich Harrer as late as 1962. He has written a book as well, “I Come From the Stone Age”, which is recommended reading for those who want to know more about the mountain.

20.12.2002 – 5.15 pm (21.12 – 01.15 am local time) – The boys are going for the top
If they use 10 hours to the top, which is quite normal, they will be there at about 3 am Norwegian time. The weather is not as fantastic as yesterday, but not at all bad. I will make an update when I hear from them again, and latest tomorrow morning. I expect them to call from the top. Let’s cross our fingers and hope they make it and that the weather will stay good.

20.12.2002 – 11.45 pm (21.12 – 07.45 am local time) – Top in sight
This looks like a success! All six are in good shape, the weather is fine and they have reached 4.765 m. That leaves a vertical distance of 100 m to the top. Now they have a short rest before they start on the most technically difficult part of the climbing, a vertical with overhang. After that they will reach a top, then they will have to climb 20 m straight down and finally up to the highest point. They calculate about 2-3 hours on this last part before they are “victorious”, but all now feel certain that they will make it.

On the top of Carstensz Pyramid. From left Ivar, Torbjorn, Arnt Joar and Petter on the top of Carstensz Pyramid.
On the top of Carstensz Pyramid. From left Ivar, Torbjorn, Arnt Joar and Petter on the top of Carstensz Pyramid. © 2002 World Wide Vikings

21.12.2002 – 03.30 am (21.12 . 11.30 am local time) – Petter, Torbjorn, Ivar and Arnt Joar on the top!
The last part was though. Actually so though that two of the guys, Gisle and Eirik, choose to stop before they reached the top. According to Petter they spent almost 4 hours on the last elevation meters. But now everyone are happy and relieved and send their greetings to us back home. After a physically and mentally discharge like this it may be extra though to start a new challenge, the climb down again. Normal time for the return is 6 hours. We will hear from them again when they are safely back in Base Camp.

Finally I have to congratulate those four who made it to the top. My thoughts are also with Eirik and Gisle who had to give up. I know how it feels to have to turn around during a top attempt.

21.12.2002 – 09.30 am (5.30 pm local time) – Everyone safely down in Base Camp
Eirik turned around because he felt he had not enough climbing experience. Gisle says it was the smart ones who turned around. Petter also had a feeling that this was on the limit of what he could do. Even Torbjorn, Ivar and Arnt Joar, who have most climbing experience, felt that this was though and difficult. Everyone sends their greetings to Hvitserk (especially Sjur) who let them borrow the satellite phone which made it possible to report directly from the mountain.

The main target with all expeditions is to get everyone safely down from the mountain again, the summit must be second priority. Eirik and Gisle listened to their common sense and did not take any chances, which demands great respect. We have to congratulate everybody with an excellent expedition!

All six stayed healthy, and didn’t notice much of any height sickness. They became dizzy on the way up, but that was because of the steep 1.000m high cliffs. Now they will take a rest until tomorrow morning and then start on the long walk back through the Indonesian jungle.

23.12.2002 – 10.00 pm (6 am local time) – Half way back
Finally a report from the rainforest. The have now walked for two long days, and expect to be in Timika the day after tomorrow. Still everybody is in good shape. They don’t make any report on “Viggo” results, which only means that they are too tired to play. That explains how though this experience has been, the mood is still very good, but I guess they will miss Christmas dinner tomorrow.

31.12.2002 – 11.30 am (5.30 pm local time) – Flight back 02.01.03
The guys have now arrived in Jakarta. They’ve had a trip full of events, also after they came back to Timika. The last days have been spent traveling on Irian Jaya. First a flight to Jayapura, the provincial capital. Then they paid a visit to the Dani-people, who live off the nature and wear no other clothing than a “penis gourd” (I guess they are talking about the men).

Now they have arrived in Jakarta directly from Jayapura, and booked a flight to Oslo via Amsterdam. They will land on the morning 2nd of February. I will get back with the exact time when I have checked this.

01.01.2003 – On the way back
The flight, KLM route KL 0838, departed from Jakarta 7.30 pm local time (1.30 pm Norwegian time). They will land in Amsterdam 05.50 tomorrow morning. The flight from Sciphol departs 07.55 am and will land on Oslo, Gardermoen, 09.45 am.

I can also add that a friendly gentleman in Adventure Indonesia said that Puncak Jaya is not the same mountain as Carstensz Pyramid. Puncak Jaya is close, but a separate mountain with a height of 4.862 m, 22 m lower than Carstensz. According to him Puncak Jaya is called Ngga Pulu by the locals.

The article is posted with permission from
Translation by Bjørn Grøtting

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Bjørn Grøtting

Photographer based in Norway. See a collection of my best photos in the portfolio. Licensing of images is done through Photoshelter or alamy.
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