Carstensz Pyramid or as the locals call it, Puncak Jaya, is one of the most intriguing mountains of all the 7 summits. Situated in the west of the central highland Jayawijaya in West Papua, it attracts only the most curious alpinists. Since geographically Puncak Jaya is part of Oceania, many people consider it as the highest peak of Australia and Oceania. However, the disputes still take place whether Australia is a separate from Oceania continent. This is why some people include Mount Kosciuszko as a part of Australian 7 summits (2 228 m/ 7310 ft). They are not entirely wrong. If we look into facts, Mount Kosciusko is the highest point of Australian mainland, however Carstensz Pyramid is the highest mountain in Australian continent.
Where did the name come from?
The mountain has several names - the most well-known ones are Puncak Jaya (ind.) and Carstensz Pyramid (europ). The mountain was discovered in 1623 by a Dutch explorer Jan Carstenszoon who first sighted the glaciers on the peak of the mountain at a rare for the region clear day. After he returned to Europe and told everyone about his discovery, most of the people didn’t believe him which resulted in series of jokes on this matter. The name Carstensz Pyramid the mountain got because of its discoverer. Jan Carstensz. As for the indonesian name, Puncak Jaya, it was given to the mountain by indonesian communists. It literally means “the summit of victory”.
First documented climb was committed by another Dutch explorer Heinrich Harrer in 1937, who described his eventful journey in a book “I come from the stone age”.
Climate on Cartsensz Pyramid
The climate on Carstensz Pyramid and its nearest surroundings are quite diverse. During the day the temperature rises from 12°C up to 37°C; at night the temperature near the Base Camp decreases t0 -8°C. On the summit the temperature might even decrease ti -10°C or below. Usually it rains for several hours during the day. Surprisingly, the equatorial climate of Indonesia's Papua Province makes climbing Puncak Jaya extremely arduous. The weather is constantly changing and at any time of the year one can expect to be frequently washed with bad rainstorms, then burnt with the sun, and on the final ridge, one might be bombarded with snow storms.
Carstensz Pyramid is notable for being one of the few tropical or equatorial mountains in the world with glaciers. Though, since 1936 Puncak Jaya has lost over 80% of its ice and 2/3 of that since 1972/73. All this is because of the Global warming and significant climate changes. There are several glaciers on the slopes of Puncak Jaya, including the West Northwall Firn, Carstensz Glacier, and the East Northwall Firn. Unfortunately the Meren Glacier in Puncak Jaya's Meren Valley vanished in recent years due to global warming. In 2010, an expedition led by paleoclimatologist Lonnie Thompson found that the glaciers are disappearing at a rate of seven metres thickness per year. Sadly, in 2018 they were predicted to vanish in the 2020s.
Climbing conditions and seasons
The best time to climb Carstensz Pyramid is from April to November. Reaching the base of the mountain is a major challenge itself, as climbers have to make their way through the tropical jungle of West Papua. Due to its remoteness, combined with government red tape, nearly constant tribal wars and political instability in the region, it is one of the less frequented Seven Summits.
Technically it is one of the most difficult climb of all the 7 summits. Even though you will cover most of Carstensz’s height by helicopter (fly to Yellow Valley Base Camp/ 4300 m), you will still need to climb a very complicated part of the route and believe me it will not be easy. To finish this climb you will need to be mentally and physically prepared.
Routes on Puncak Jaya
The mountain has seven faces, and climbers can take a number of routes to summit Carstensz Pyramid. Harrer or Normal Route is the usual route up the mountain. Its ascent and descent usually takes 12 to 15 hours, so climbers have to start out early. The other two routes are the East Ridge, a long scrambling route, and the American Direct, which is a long steep climb directly up the North Face.
Why are there only helicopter climbs on Puncak Jaya?
At the time, there were very serious conflicts and riots in Sugapa between clans and tribes due to regional election. Current situation on Carstensz is only reliable (safe, secure, smooth & success) with Helicopter Expedition. Some accidents that happened on trekking Expedition, triggered by unstable situation & bad management.
If you want to climb Cartsensz safely with a reliable guide, check our landing page.