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Australasia, Irian Jaya, Carstenz Pyramid, Various Ascents

Carstensz Pyramid, Various Ascents. The main aim was to climb Carstensz and by a new route if possible. After a six-day approach, we arrived at basecamp. On May 10, Tom Callaghan, Chris Brown, Mark Bowen and myself left for Carstenz East. We scrambled up the west side to a gully. Tom led out at 5.9 for a few moves, then onto a rib, where we had a taste of the wonderful Carstensz limestone. The friction was so good it was prickly. Gloves or tape on the hands are a must. We moved up quickly on 5.5 and some 5.6 and were at the top by 10:30. After a rain/rest day, we climbed Carstenz via the North Wall in rock shoes and at the start alongside a fixed rope of polypropylene for 300 feet, which wasn’t needed and wasn't used. At 11 a.m., we were all on the summit — a very fine mountain route, not unlike some alpine AD rock climbs. I was congratulated on this being my “seventh summit.”

On May 13, we climbed a new route on the north face of Carstensz. We set off at 7 a.m. I took a line to the left of the 1973 Isherwood route. The first six pitches were about 5.8/5.9 on superb rock with the occasional peg belay, but usually protection was wires and Friends wedged in between the spiky flutings. At mid-day the bad weather came in and we raced on up, moving together over 5.5/5.6 ground and eventually reaching the summit ridge (actually the east ridge, first climbed by Reinhold Messner). We stopped about 70 feet below the summit as it was now raining. We downclimbed and abseiled down to camp just before dark. It was a good route, about TD or Grade V and steep on delectable high mountain limestone. There are now six, possibly seven, new routes on the north face, but there is ample scope for many more. Access will always be a problem. If it were possible to come in through Freeport, procedures would be simplified and it would certainly make more time available for climbing.

Doug Scott, Alpine Climbing Group