About Carstensz Pyramid
Puncak Jaya or Carstensz Pyramid (4,884 m) is the highest summit of Mount Carstensz (/ˈkɑrstəns/) in the Sudirman Range of the western central highlands of Papua province, Indonesia (within Puncak Jaya Regency). Other summits are East Carstensz Peak (4,808 m), Sumantri (4,855 m) and Ngga Pulu (4,863). Other names include Nemangkawi in the Amungkal language, Carstensz Toppen and Gunung Sukarno.
At 4,884 metres (16,024 ft) above sea level, Puncak Jaya is the highest mountain in Indonesia, the highest on the island of New Guinea (which comprises the Indonesian West Papua region plus Papua New Guinea), the highest of Oceania (Australian continent), and the 5th highest mountain in political Southeast Asia. It is also the highest point between the Himalayas and the Andes, and the highest island peak in the world. Some sources claim Mount Wilhelm, 4,509 m (14,793 ft), as the highest mountain peak in Oceania, on account of Indonesia being part of Asia (Southeast Asia).
The highlands surrounding the peak were inhabited before European contact, and the peak was known as Nemangkawi in Amungkal. Puncak Jaya was named “Carstensz Pyramid” after Dutch explorer Jan Carstenszoon who first sighted the glaciers on the peak of the mountain on a rare clear day in 1623. The sighting went unverified for over two centuries, and Carstensz was ridiculed in Europe when he said he had seen snow near the equator. This name is still used among mountaineers. The snowfield of Puncak Jaya was reached as early as 1909 by a Dutch explorer, Hendrik Albert Lorentz with six of his indigenous Dayak Kenyah porters recruited from the Apo Kayan in Borneo. The predecessor of the Lorentz National Park, which encompasses the Carstensz Range, was established in 1919 following the report of this expedition.
In 1936 the Dutch Carstensz Expedition, unable to establish definitely which of the three summits was the highest, attempted to climb each. Anton Colijn, Jean Jacques Dozy and Frits Wissel reached both the glacier covered East Carstensz and Ngga Pulu summits on December 5, but through bad weather failed in their attempts to climb the bare Carstensz Pyramid. Because of extensive snow melt Ngga Pulu has become a 4,862 m subsidiary peak, but it has been estimated that in 1936 (when glaciers still covered 13 square km of the mountain; see map) Ngga Pulu was indeed the highest summit, reaching over 4,900 m.
The now highest Carstensz Pyramid summit was not climbed until 1962, by an expedition led by the Austrian mountaineer Heinrich Harrer (of Seven Years in Tibet fame, and climber of the Eiger North Face) with three other expedition members – Philip Temple, Russell Kippax and Albertus Huizenga. Temple, from New Zealand, had previously led an expedition into the area and pioneered the access route to the mountains.
When Indonesia took control of the province in 1963, the peak was renamed ‘Puntjak Soekarno‘ (Simplified Indonesian: Puncak Sukarno) or Sukarno Peak, after the first President of Indonesia; later this was changed to Puncak Jaya. Puncak means peak or mountain and Jaya means ‘victory’, ‘victorious’ or ‘glorious’.
Puncak Jaya is the highest point on the central range, which was created in the late Miocene Melanesian orogeny, caused by oblique collision between the Australian and Pacific plates and is made of middle Miocene limestones.
Access to the peak requires a government permit. The mountain was closed to tourists and climbers between 1995 and 2005. As of 2006, access is possible through various adventure tourism agencies.
While Puncak Jaya’s peak is free of ice, there are several glaciers on its slopes, including the Carstensz Glacier, West Northwall Firn, East Northwall Firn and the recently vanished Meren Glacier. Being equatorial, there is little variation in the mean temperature during the year (around 0.5°C) and the glaciers fluctuate on a seasonal basis only slightly. However, analysis of the extent of these rare equatorial glaciers from historical records show significant retreat since the 1850s, around the time of the Little Ice Age Maximum which primarily affected the Northern Hemisphere, indicating a regional warming of around 0.6°C per century between 1850 and 1972.
The glacier on Puncak Trikora in the Maoke Mountains disappeared completely some time between 1939 and 1962. Since the 1970s, evidence from satellite imagery indicates the Puncak Jaya glaciers have been retreating rapidly. The Meren Glacier melted away sometime between 1994 and 2000. An expedition led by paleoclimatologist Lonnie Thompson in 2010 found that the glaciers are receding at a rate of seven meters per year and will disappear in four to five years.
Puncak Jaya is one of the more demanding climbs in one version of the Seven Summits peak-bagging list. (It is replaced by Mount Kosciuszko in the other version.) It is held to have the highest technical rating, though not the greatest physical demands of that list’s ascents. The standard route is up the north face and along the summit ridge, which is all hard rock surface. Despite the large mine, the area is highly inaccessible to hikers and the general public, requiring a 100-km hike from the nearest town with an airport, Timika, to the base camp, which usually takes about four or five days each way.