Saturday, March 9, 2013

New Blog Site!

Hi Everyone,

I'm very excited to announce that from now on, all blog posts will be featured on the main Rainbow Summits website at I look forward to connecting with you there!


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Carstensz Pyramid in Pictures...

So upon reflection I've decided that the most effective way to recap Carstensz Pyramid is to do a very picture-heavy blog post. This is what I've come up with. Hopefully you'll get a good sense of what our adventure was like from these stunning photographs taken primarily by my mother and myself.

Flying into the jungle was a fascinating experience. The day before we flew in, local militants had blocked the runway, threatening to shoot any planes that tried to land. When we arrived, however, everyone seemed happy, nice, and welcoming.

Unloading our gear from the small Cessna that flew us into Sugapa, a village connected to the outside world solely by this small airstrip.

Walking by the locals gathered to watch the day's entertainment: the new batch of foreigners here to climb Jaya Wijaya (the Indonesia name for Carstensz Pyramid). 
A local woman selling cigarettes and a local form of lipstick that she was modeling herself.

The main drag of Sugapa, a town comprised of five different Papua tribes, each with its own language.  
Archery is a favorite local sport, pastime, and hunting tool. 

This guy is a pretty badass archer. 
And yes, penis gourds. These are the traditional attire and so are primarily worn by older men.

A cute local kid.
The local huts...notice the huge fire inside. That's the local method of preventing mosquitoes, leeches, and cold.
Some local kids standing outside one of the local stores.
A fierce looking local...
Local women selling wares along the main road of Sugapa.

And the jungle trek begins...

An auspicious start to our trek... 
Complete with (wet) log crossings over raging rapids. Talk about dangerous... 

And tons of rain, and deep, deep mud...

A typical campsite during the latter stages of the jungle trek.

Ed striking a model pose.

My mother extracting herself from a deep mud pit. Picture this x 1,000,000 and that was our jungle trek experience.

A couple of days the terrain changed and it got more barren and rocky. Still muddy, but this time there was rock climbing which always makes life more interesting...
Resting after a long day of jungle hiking.
Stuck in the mud...check out how deeply my right foot is planted into the swamp.

You never know when you might need to climb up a root system suspended 10 ft above the ground...

Almost to Base Camp! We were so close we could almost taste it.

And the summit push begins...

Reaching the summit ridge just before the sun came up.
My mother pulling herself across the Tyrolean Traverse along the summit ridge.
An unbelievable view from the top...apparently the best summit weather our guides had ever seen. You can actually see the ocean in this picture...

Don't look down...huge two-thousand foot drops on either side...just keep walking, one careful step at a time.
My amazing mother atop the highest peak in Australasia.

WAHOO!!!! Another summit down!

The whole group atop the summit of Carstensz Pyramid on a beautiful August morning!

Me (in center wearing light blue) pulling myself across the Tyrolean Traverse on our descent of the summit ridge of Carstensz after reaching the top.

Returning to Sugapa from the mountain with Carstensz Pyramid in the background.

More river crossings...did I mention how dangerous these things were? And how the log was wet and slippery?

Such beautiful, strong people. 

You just could never get rid of those damn bugs...
Back in Sugapa buying a Fanta from the local grocery store.

And we're back in Bali...yay!

Hope you enjoyed that picture summary of our Carstensz Pyramid expedition. It was truly incredible!

Sugapa to Timika to Bali (a.k.a. Civilization!)

And we're back in civilization!! We got up early (around 5am) to be at the airstrip in case our plane arrived early to Sugapa. Since we were all eager to get out of the jungle, no one complained. We actually ended up waiting several hours, but around 9am our plane arrived and we hopped on. The flight back to Timika was quick and easy and we went straight to the other terminal to arrange our connecting flights to Bali. The agents were helpful and allowed us to change our flights to the flight that was departing in an hour. We purchased some local goods (primarily penis gourds) and then boarded our flight. Now we've landed in Bali and are in a form of culture shock after the past two weeks in the primitive jungles of Papua. It's nice to have a shower and a toilet again! Now we have a couple days of R&R in Bali before heading back Stateside. I think we're all going to take advantage of it!

Eating a delicious seafood meal back in Bali!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Day 12: Camp II to Sugapa

True to form, the expedition ended on a difficult and stressful note. Ed and I, eager to drink a soda, hurried on with Poxy and made good progress towards Sugapa. We were attempting to make it through our initial first two days in one. We made it to lunch in the village of suangama in a speedy 3:45. We were each served a plate of the local yams and a spinach-esqe plant along with a stick of sugar cane. It was surprisingly good! I ran out of water though, which wasn't a big deal because we were only an hour and a half hike to the motorcycle pickup site.

After completing this section in just over an hour, Ed and I celebrated the completion of our trek and sat down to wait for a motorbike. We waited about 10 mins before our companion--one of the cooks--motioned down the road to Sugapa and said the motorbikes were that way. Disappointed by the prospect of continuing our 'completed' trek, we marched on nonetheless knowing the Sugapa was close.

After a half hour of walking we still hadn't seen any motorbikes and were starting to get frustrated. When we finally reached the supposed motorcycle meetup point, we were again disappointed: no motorbikes.

We sat down there to wait for them. And we proceeded to wait, in the rain, for the better part of the hour. Eventually I asked our cook, "Where are the motorcycles?" and he responded, "Sugapa."

Not exactly the response I was hoping for. After confirming that we would indeed have to walk all the way to Sugapa, we began the final couple hours in a sour mood. Ed went on ahead and I walked up in the middle, with the cook bringing up the rear. The hike turned out to be a 2.5hr slog almost entirely uphill. It honestly felt harder than anything we'd done the entire trip. I had to stop every fifth feet to catch my breath and rest. On top of that, I had long since run out of water and was massively dehydrated in the 90+ degree temperatures.

I reached a fork in the road. Not remembering this point, I randomly selected the left side branch and walked for another hour into the village of Sugapa. I got quite lucky. I waited at our hut for another hour before Ed arrived. He had taken the right side road and had gone on a massive detour. I would not have been able to handle that.

In all, it had taken just under 7.5hrs of walking for me and Ed to reach Sugapa. Compared to the past two days (9.5 and 8.5 hrs respectively) it was short, but still a tough one. It took my mother another hour before she came in and then Robert didn't arrive until nearly 11 hours after we had set out. He had taken a wrong turn and spent several anxious hours unsure of the path. Luckily one of the head porters rescued him.

Tired but content after today's long day, we are all headed to bed early tonight. We have a 6:30am flight (weather permitting of course) and could be back in Bali tomorrow afternoon! Wouldn't that be something...

When I saw this sight, I knew we were back in civilization! Yay!!! Not exactly NYC, but at least there are other people and shelter!

Day 11: Camp III to Camp II

I like to think of the penultimate day of something as the "last" day, because the actual last day is generally pretty easy to complete (psychologically). This harks back to a lesson I learned from my high school cross country coach, Ned Gallagher, who always used to call a final interval an "optional" Ironman run. The idea is that, though you've essentially completed everything, you throw an extra one in to go just a bit farther, a bit harder. This was the approach I took today. I gutted out the 9-hour trail in under 6 hours, considering it my "last" day the whole time. I just hope that I'm not too exhausted for the real final day of the trek--the Ironman day--tomorrow!

This was the hardest trekking day of the hike in, and it wasn't much easier going out. It literally felt like one slip to another, with each perilously close to resulting in a broken leg or a twisted ankle. We also had several terrifying river crossings. I won't even bother to describe them with words; pictures do them much more justice.

Ed and I shot on ahead to try to finish the day speedily. We managed to, and bonded with the porters after arriving at camp. We can almost smell civilization now. And, I have to say, I am quite excited by the prospect of returning to civilization tomorrow. It's been a difficult two weeks. Today I asked my teammates what kind of "reward" they wanted to give themselves/be given when they completed the trek. Robert said a shower, Ed a cigar and glass of aged whiskey, and my mother said a swimming pool and the beach. I'm not sure what I'd like. Perhaps all three things!

Spirits are high as we prep for our "Ironman" day tomorrow. Hopefully the political situation is still stable and we won't run into any issues!

No more wet log crossings! Thank goodness we all survived them uninjured...

Day 10: Camp V to Camp III

Today was a hellishly long day. We combined two of the days from the hike-in and the result was an epic 9-hour slog through hail, mud, and jungle. The day started well enough; the weather was fine until around midday. By noon we had reached the intermediary camp site and ate some lunch. However, almost as soon as we started out after that it began to hail very, very hard. Though they weren't golf-ball sized, the hail was very hard and I was afraid we might have to stop and take cover at one point.

Luckily, it eventually abated and we continued. Because of the wet conditions, however, we were all soaked to the bone and freezing cold. I was legitimately worried that my mother would get hypothermia. We didn't take any breaks for the remainder of the day, and rolled into Camp III in the early evening.

We dried our gear in the porters' smokey tent and then barely made it through dinner before falling asleep. We're seriously going to need it if we intend to get out of this jungle in two more days...

Back to the crazy jungle trekking...notice how our porters are barefoot. They are incredibly strong and have totally awesome hobbit feet!

Day 9: Base Camp to Camp V

Though we had hoped to make it all the way to a camp between Camps IV and V, we were pleased to at least make it to Camp V. It was a surprisingly tough climb up and over New Zealand Pass and then down and out of the Jaya Range. The weather held up most of the day until the final descent--a harrowingly steep 1000ft climb down through rock, trees, and slick muddy slope. With that behind us it was smooth sailing into Camp V. It was actually the porters who insisted on remaining here for the night. I think they had a pretty tough day with the steep ascent and descent.

The mountain is finally behind us...