Excitement, anticipation, restlessness and waiting for the rain to let up a little bit kept me from sleeping until our scheduled wake-up call at 2:00 AM. Instead, I just lay down in my tent and rested as much as I could for our upcoming Summit bid. I headed to the dining tent at 2:30 AM to load on some breakfast but was disappointed that we ran out of eggs. Nothing else seemed appetizing so I just had some coffee along with spaghetti. As it kept raining hard, we made the decision to go back to our tents and wait for a weather window.
Around 5:30 AM, the rain started slowing down and night was turning into day. We quickly grabbed our backpacks and decided to go for it. We hiked for about 45 minutes from Base Camp to the base of Carstensz. Once on the massive granite slab, we put away our trekking poles, put on our harnesses, climbing helmet and gear, and clipped into the fixed lines to head up the mountain.
We started with a very tough first pitch to ascend a straight-up 90 degree wall. I didn’t help that it was raining and making the rock wall more slippery than usual. We continued using our jumars and leashes transferring from fixed line to fixed while very carefully negotiating some very technical rock climbing.
Despite the inclement weather, we were moving at a quick pace and before you know it, we reached the famous Tyrolean Traverse which consists of a few ropes stretched across a 30m/100ft gap over a 500m/1,600ft drop of empty space below. We stopped there for a 15 minute break to down a couple candy bars and get ourselves ready to cross over to the next section of the mountain.
The setting was very dramatic and surreal with rain drops turning into snow flurries and the clouds setting in to limit some of our visibility. The traverse was a lot tougher and harder than I expected: we actually pulling our entire body weight plus the the backpack upwards against gravity at high altitude. It also didn’t help that we weren’t using any pulleys and the carabiner was rubbing against the metal cable causing some massive friction. I made it through safely but my arms and biceps were as sore as I ever felt them.
After the Tyrolean, there were two large gaps remaining which appeared to be more difficult and dangerous than the traverse. The first one required a big jump across while tied into the fixed line, the second gap was larger and not for the faint of heart as I truly could not see the bottom between the gaps. I needed to rappel down to the lowest point and jump onto a ledge on the other side.
The toughest part was now behind me and I was only 50 vertical meters away from the Summit. I continued climbing and a few minutes later I was standing on the Summit of the Carstensz Pyramid at exactly 11:07 AM. Finally, I was on the roof of the Oceania/Australasia Continent.
We only spent about 10-15 minutes at the Summit to enjoy the moment, take a few pictures and call home. As the weather was getting worse and heavier snow was coming down, we decided to quickly head back down the mountain because after all, we were only half way. We made quick progress on the way back, crossing the two big gaps and once again we were at the Tyrolean Traverse. It was quite a bit easier crossing back but still quite a chore. The carabiner used for the traverse was so worn down that it wouldn’t be used again. From there we had to rappel down eight or so pitches to get back to the fixed lines.
The descent was more difficult than expected as snow turned into heavy rain and low clouds and fog was starting to limit our visibility. I was also extremely careful and not very trusting of the old rope I was using to rappel. As we lowered down, the rain intensified and before you know it, we were completely soaked. Nevertheless, we continued descending and 4 hours later, we rolled into Base Camp. The roundtrip was an efficient 9 hours.
I was so exhausted and beat up that I headed straight to my tent for some much needed rest and sleep. I skipped the afternoon snack and dinner, not wanting to get out of my tent and back in the mud and rain. It was a difficult but very satisfying day!Next Post: Mount Kosciuszko Previous Post: Carstensz Day 8: Camp 5 to Base Camp