Apologies for the radio silence.
Upon our return from the climb-, we made immediate attempt to
return to Bali, and has been stalled in another part of Papua, in the
opposite/wrong direction called Timika. Seems we lost our seats on a connecting flight
So, we treated Jordan to a 5 star type place called the Rimba Papua for an
overnight stay. Gaudy, nice manicured lawns, but we were shocked to find no internet at this place.
So, REWIND….I write about 1/2 way through day 5, the day BEFORE we take off for the mountain to climb…and it leads to part of the climb…MORE to come asap.
During our drive up the coast to find a secluded beach, easy to find just a mile out of town. The confusion is cleared up, as wereceive a phone call fromBase Camp, it’s climber Andy on the phone. Patrick passed back to me in the backseat. Andy starts in with a brief hello, then a very direct, to the point statements. “Paul, tell the helicopter pilots we are 275 kilos in total, we will call as early as we can with weather conditions.” I’m not able to get a word in before he continues, “we have a problem with Meldy, the guide. He is over two days up here at base camp, and now he has obvious altitude sickness, he’s getting worse.” I’m baffled, it’s the first we’d heard of this. Apparently, the military rescue had made a huge trek up to check on him earlier in the day, and basically discharged him and his condition as nothing major. Well, these situations do not get better on their own. If you have altitude sickness over two days after flying to 14,000, you only get worse, and it happens quickly. “ Paul, I still have the diamox (high altitude medicine) you gave me, we did not use it. Shall I give it to Meldy? He is in bad condition”. I ask him for more details. “he’s not slept, he is breathing very rapidly, has very bad headache, and is very very weak.” If there was a checklist for the perfect case of bad altitude sickness, he is checking off ALL the boxes. Next, again, I can’t get a word in edgewise, Andy (completely blind I remind you) continues “Paul, in case you do not have a guide, I’m going to describe the entire route to you, can you hear me fine?” The blip of the satellite phone gives reminder that this connection is fragile at best. He continueswith his very fluid English, but with that classic heavy Austrian accent. It’s move by move description of the route with such accuracy (I would later learn) that I’m ever impressed with.
A long story short, I give him directions for the usage of the medicine, and some other advice on treating Meldy, the worse of the two. Next he mentions that second guide Poxy also is not well. He’s in a similar battle with altitude sickness. Almost on prompt, the phone connection is dropped.
The whole operation appears to be unraveling. The only two guides need to leave the base camp for medical attention. Next the phone calls start flying to Bali, and a plan is set for Military Helicopter Rescue for the ill guide.
Our wheels are spinning, and our serious concern for the wellbeing of the guides turns to possibility that our climb, out whole trip may be in jeopardy. We opt to drop the seed into our local guide coordinator that regardless of the availability of guides on the mountain, we are keen, capable and willing to climb the mountain on our own, JUST get us up there. We get a nod, but still many things to happen in the moment. We are outside of the communications at this point, and as evening comes we go to bed with total uncertainty about what day 6 will bring us. Jordan hears all of what’s happening. His concern about the likely hood of a shot at climbing Carstensz is apparent. And he’s right. The tons and tons of work to get here is all resting on the thinnest of ice. Patrick, gives us his patented big smile, pat on the shoulder and assures us all will be ok. I must admit, he’s got a great charm and coolness about him.
Day 6- We’d gone to bed hoping with all our might that we have clear weather for our helicopter trip to base camp. The night was anything but quiet or without anxiety. The aluminum roof of our cozy 1 star hotel is pounded with an onslaught of heavy rain all night. We’re awaken by phone call from base. They report two things- Military rescue did not happen last night, and they currently have fog at 5am. This is two items of particularly bad news.
We go through the motions, cup of tea/biscuit and butter and load the bags again. We’ll go to the airport, but we are expecting the worse. It’s the 3rd attempt at lifting, and another delay would almost be a fatal blow to Jordan’s moral. The boredom is weighing on us. The golden hour of 0600 and expected lift time has come, and gone. Local weather is not good, and pilot Heru invites us for coffee and small talk. He’s got the relaxed tone of just another day at work. We can’t get the sight of a fogged in Base Camp out of our minds. The cell phone of Patrick rings again. I’ve gotten to know him enough to see his mood while on the phone, it’s a short call. He hangs up, sticks his head into our pilots lounge and says the golden words…”Base Camp reports clearing”. A complete 180 of emotions grabs us. Jordan says “did I just hear what I thought I heard?”, “ indeed you did, let’s roll” Karen says back . It’s back onto the giant Bell 212, along with mechanic team of 3. We’re lifted within minutes, and make the same wild canyon trip to the remote camp to drop off the mechanic team and every ounce of weight. From then it’s 30 minutes east and VERY uphill where we’ll reach cruising elevation of almost 15,000’. For those not in the know, for a helicopter…this is high, really high. Both our pilots don oxygen masks to keep their thinking and vision as clear as can be. Before long, our eyes are glued to a sight of which we’ll never forget. The largest gold mine in the world, Freeport is just a handful of miles before our base camp. It’s a bored out hole, taken right out of the middle of a mountain range…visit our photo page for the visual. It’s too big to describe, and almost unbelievable even when we were looking at it with our naked eyes. We now have about 5 minutes of pretty unreal scenery. The corridor or valley that leads to the Carstensz Pyramid is rather spectacular. Giant pillars and walls of limestone, on the floor of the valley are these brilliant opaque blue lakes, one after the other. This whole sight is something out of Lord of the Rings, and it can only be topped by the amazing sight of glaciers, yes ancient glaciers on this equatorial nearly completely jungle island in the south Pacific. It’s only on final approach that the pilot can point out the Pyramid, the giant limestone peak that we’ve hauled this far to climb. We touch down, and the Austrians and ill guide Meldy are standing by with bags in hand. Our door opens, our gear is tossed out, the new outgoing crew is on board and they are lifting before we even know it. We wave them off, the buzz of the chopper is gone and the reality sits in. A giant collective weight is off our shoulders, the 8am chill of 14,400’ hits our bare skin, and we are greeted by the guide Poxy. He is the one that was not so ill, but at least he’s on his feet. He’s got headache, nausea and he’s not slept, but he’s keen to climb with us. It’sjust over an hour, and packs are on, we’re harnessed up, and our bottles are full of some prestine glacier water.
Perhaps never before have we had so many barriers come before us and a mountain climb. Jordan has displayed amazing patience, and motivation. As a father, I could not be more proud of his ability to manage himself during this immense travel, stresses and countless obstacles we’ve encountered. Perhaps just getting here, alone has been the biggest obstacle. There are life lessons that come with dealing in language barriers, cultural issues, serious sanitation concerns and much more. At 13, Jordan’s learned life is a rollercoaster, just hold onto the bar and feel free to scream.
It’s likely nearly 50f, and we’ve left our base camp for the 1 hour approach to the ‘wall’. It’s 1800 vertical feet of amazingly clean limestone, that has kilometers of knife like ridge. We arrive to our first rope, the first of many. Just like Jordan has rehearsed back home, mechanical ascenders grab the rope, and we begin the real climb. This is what we’ve come for. It’s just us 3, our guide is someways back, taking his time. But essentially, it’s us 3. Alone. In this entire national park, it’s just us. Not a soul around, not a breeze. Before long our new FIVE TEN ‘Guide Tennies’ are gripping the limestone, as we move up the mostly 4th class giant crack that we move up.
MORE TO COME ASAP