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Climbing the World to End Alzheimer's
Oct 092011

If that title and picture didn’t get your attention, I don’t know will! :-D. I leave for the next climb of the 7 Summits Climb for Alzheimer’s: Memories are Everything in mid October. This will be the 7th climb, but to be precise, I will actually climb one more, Kosciuszko in Australia immediately after Carstensz; why? Check out this post to see why I am climbing all 8 of the 7 Summits!

OK, so what’s up with the leeches?

Carstensz is located in Indonesia’s New Guinea in the province of Papua formally named Irian Jaya. New Guinea is the world’s second largest island and being only 280 miles from the equator is overrun with thick rain forests … and leeches. And, the local tribes of Kimial and Damal are the guys who wear nothing but their traditional penis gourd. While “interesting” with the nod to their past; the tribes have adapted to the modern times and regularly stop expeditions going to Carstensz and ask for a toll to pass. They usually get it seeing as they are holding sharp spears and seem to have no issue with using them.

Given all this, and that it takes six days to cross the hot, humid, wet and muddy (oh, and did I mention leech infested?)  jungle to reach the base camp for Carstensz; many climbers try to hire a helicopter thus cutting the time to one day; with the added benefit of avoiding inconveniences. Some guide companies market their Carstensz climb as only real if you go through the jungle, I’ll defer my view until I return.

I am climbing this time with Mountain Trip. This will be their 12th or so climb of Carstensz thus they know the territory and traditions well. They have arranged for a helicopter to get us in and out of base camp but there is no guarantee (complicated by politics and helicopter dynamics plus short weather windows) so I may be peeling leeches off my ankles in late October!

Once there, Carstensz is the most technical climb of the 7 Summits. By technical, I mean we will be rock climbing using ropes, rappelling gear and other technical equipment. There will be little snow if any on the summit but can still be cold at 16,023 feet or 4884 meters. Similar to Kilimanjaro, which is also very close to the equator, the high mountains of New Guinea still have glaciers.

Of interest is the need to use a crossing technique called the Tyrolean Traverse. This is when a rope is strung across a high gap in the mountains, this time on the summit ridge. The climber attaches their waste harness to the rope and hooking their arms and legs around the rope, pull themselves across. If the tribes don’t get you, the crossing might!

Here is a video from Mountain Trip that is supposed to encourage people to join them!

Once across, the climbing involves levels up to 5.6 in rock climbing parlance which simply means, don’t fall or you will have a bad hair day. More precisely, any route rated over 5 is “considered true rock climbing, predominantly on vertical or near vertical rock, and requires skill and a rope to proceed safely. Un-roped falls would result in severe injury or death.” according to the Yosemite Decimal System (YDS); the authority for US rock climbing. Yikes!

In all seriousness, I am looking forward to this climb. I have the experience and skills to do the climb, that is not a worry for me. But those cannibals and leeches … no experience there!

Look for dispatches and SPOT tracking to start around October 15th.

Climb On!


Memories are Everything

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  4 Responses to “The Leeches of Carstensz Pyramid”


    Stay safe, and have a great climb! This one seems very unique in its challenges. I look forward to reading more.


    That traverse looks like so much fun – sorry that I won’t be joining you on this one 🙂
    But seriously, this climb sounds a great adventure (even with leeches). I know you’re ready and able. Looking forward to the daily reports, too!


    Wow Alan, sounds like getting to and from the mountain may be the crux of the climb! The tyrolean traverse should be fun. It’s kind of like getting put out on the clothes line to dry. Rock climbing 5.6 shouldn’t be too hard as long as the pack isn’t too heavy. Hope you cruise it without any trouble and add it to your tick list.

    All the best,


    Sounds like an epic trip – cannibals, leaches, a helicopter and climbing. All the best and look forward to your updates. Climb on!