Several companies have begun guiding climbers up 16,023-foot Carstensz Pyramid in Indonesia, one of the Seven Summits, three years after the mountain was closed to climbing. The Indonesian government stopped issuing permits to climb the peak in 2002, citing security problems in this remote area of Irian Jaya. The best land approach to the peak passes through an enormous gold and copper mine, and climbers trying to climb the peak illegally resorted to disguising themselves as mine workers and sneaking across the property or bribing soldiers and guards, further antagonizing government officials. Most would-be Seven Summiteers contented themselves with climbing 7,310-foot Kosciusko, considered by some to “count” as a continental high point because it’s the tallest peak in Australia.
In July, however, guiding services began making a legal approach to Carstensz base camp via helicopter. U.S.-based Mountain Trip took four clients to the top in mid-August, and Alpine Ascents, Mountain Madness, International Mountain Guides and other companies also are booking trips for this fall as peakbaggers rush to climb Indonesia’s highest before the rules can change again. Carstensz is an enormous block of limestone, and the standard route involves rock climbing up to 5.8. The climb doesn’t come cheap: Quoted prices for a guided climb with helicopter access range from $12,500 to $18,500 for the 14- to 20-day expedition, not including travel costs to Indonesia.