Sumantri (also spelled Soemantri) is a splendid sharp summit approximately 2 kilometers north of Carstensz Pyramid in Papua. The north side of the peak is dominated by tremendous cliffs that wrap around onto both the eastern and western sides of the mountain. Remnants of the once mighty North Wall Firn still cling tenuously to the southern aspects of the peak. It is unlikely that this ice will last for more than the next fifteen years or so...
There is considerable variability and confusion in the names associated with the peaks in this region. The peak of this page is currently the highest peak along the North Wall Firn, the largest glacial remnant in the Carstensz area. As such, it is possibly also the peak that is listed as Ngga Pulu on page 47 of Heinrich Harrer's I Come From the Stone Age
. Click here
for an online copy of this map. Many maps and sources apply this name to the shorter flatter topped summit slightly to the East of Sumantri, a peak also called Puncak Jaya by most of the locals. It is possible that this shorter peak was taller when the summits of these peaks were snow. Currently, the top extent of the glacial ice is now lower than the rock summits, so the ordering of the summits might have changed due to this melting.
Sumantri (left) from the slopes of Carstensz Pyramid, June, 2010.
Carstensz Pyramid is the narrow 4800 meter summit shown to the South West and is not named on summitpost's topo. I believe that the summit coordinates and location shown on the Carstensz page are incorrect as the "Puncak Jaya" notation is actually in the location of East Carstensz Top (Carstensz Timor).
Ngga Pulu was first climbed by the Dutch in the 1930s, so it is possible that they made the first ascent of this peak. If they in fact climbed the eastern peak, then the first ascent was made by Harrier, Phil Temple, and Russel Kippax on the same expedition as their Carstensz ascent in 1962.
Sumantri is located only a few degrees south of the equator. As such, climbs of the peak are made in every month of the year. Due to the movement of the ITC, May and June as well as January are both relative dry seasons while the months around March and September are relative wet seasons. Almost all of the pictures that I have seen include fog and limited visibility. However, when we were there in mid June, most days had a number of hours in the morning of essentially clear weather prior to the arrival of the clouds and we were able to get expansive views.
Collection of ice cores from Sumantri summit region.
The mountains of Central New Guinea are being formed as the Australian and Pacific Plates collide, resulting in both subduction and uplifting. There is an article discussing it here
. The rocks at the surface for the peaks in this range are made of limestone, and are about the most grippy rocks for climbing that I have ever encountered. As a result, even though the summit block of the peak looks extremely daunting, it is actually an fairly easy scramble.
In the summer of 2010, a number of researchers collected ice cores from the summit regions of both Sumatri and Puncak Jaya (the high point of the glaciers.) I have included a picture of the helicopter moving gear during this collection.
Decline of the Glaciers
Below, on the right, are three photos, showing the decline of the glaciers over the years. The 1936 and 1972 Photos are from the USGS. The last one was taken in June of 2010. In 1936 there was ice covering New Zealand Pass and the North Wall Firn is a single mass. By 1972, New Zealand Pass has melted out. The final photo is of a much smaller area, covering only the region directly around the summits of Sumantri and Puncak Jaya, an area that in the previous photos was almost entirely within the middle mass of ice that stands to the right of New Zealand Pass. The glacier to the left of New Zealand Pass has all but disappeared as of this writing (Click here
for a 2010 photo), and the ice on East Carstensz no longer reaches that peak's summit as shown in this
Reaching the base of the peak is probably the primary challenge for an ascent of Sumantri. As noted in other pages for this range, the first challenge is to reach Papua. As of 2010, there are no direct flights from Los Angeles or New York or anything of the sort. The easiest access to the area served by commercial airline is generally through either the towns of Timika or Nabire. For flight details, see the web pages for Garuda
Airlines. Routes from Jakarta or Denpasar generally go to Makassar, then on to either Timika or Nabire via the island of Biak.
Once in the area, the quickest and most expensive means to reach the mountain is to charter a helicopter to the Carstensz base camp. Roger
has detailed several chartering options on his West Papua' Mountains
page. The peak is an excellent and short climb from the Carstensz base camp. I have not tried to do this option, but it seems that most expeditions using this option cost in the range of $15,000 US.
A second quick option is to access the mountain through the Freeport mine. Although this method is occasionally used, it requires connections with folks in the mine and is not a viable option for the public at large. With both this and the previous option, the possibility of altitude sickness exists due to the rapid ascent to over 4000 meters.
The longest, slowest and least expensive option for getting there is to hike in from Ilaga, Sukapa, or one of the other nearby villages. The trek from Sukapa takes about 5 days and includes a number of river crossings on bridges reminiscent of Indiana Jones. The route from Ilaga goes through a very scenic karst region and also takes about five days. Both routes start in the jungle, and combine for the final ascent over New Zealand Pass. In 2010, expeditions using this option cost in the range of $10,000 US. Expect to pay approximately $500 US for each porter when treking in from these towns. If your expedition is organized by the outfitters listed in the links below, the cost will be included in the expedition cost.
It is unlikely that the political situation in Papua will ever be completely stable in the near future. The region has been a part of Indonesia since the early 1960's and provides the country with a vast wealth of minerals and thus money. Freeport Mine, at the foot of Sumantri and Carstensz Pyramid is one of the World's largest gold and copper mines and a major employer in the region. However, because of vast cultural, ethnic, and political differences between Papua and the rest of Indonesia, a political movement to free Papua from Indonesian rule was established in the 1960's and continues to this day (Organisasi Papua Merdeka, abbreviated OPM
As a result, tensions exists and blood is occasionally shed between Papuans and Indonesians in the region. Furthermore, the areas to the north and the East of Sumantri are inhabited by Dani people, while those to the south are controlled by the Amungme. These two groups also see occasional conflict, tempered to some degree now by their shared solidarity of the OPM.
East Carstensz from the slopes of Sumantri
Sumantri is located in Lorentz National Park
. One of the World's richest mineral deposits is also at its base. Not surprisingly, a permit from the Indonesian government is required to climb in the area. The most expedient way for an outsider to get one of these, is by using a commercial operator such as those mentioned in the external links below. People in these organizations already have a rapport with the necessary officials that might be difficult for outsiders to obtain. Roger has a considerable discussion about this in his discussion of West Papuan mountains
When hiking in from one of the villages, it is also almost a certainty that you will need to get the approval of the local leaders. On the peak itself, the Amungme people in June of 2010 constructed lines indicating the limit of where they permitted outsiders to wander without their permission. As a result, in order to climb the peak in June of 2010, we obtained not only the government permit, but also permission from both the Dani and Amungme peoples.
To reiterate an earlier statement, obtaining such permissions will be vastly easier working with those who have already fostered relationships in the region.
The only route that I am aware of is from the south side of the peak. This is described as a route page associated with this peak. There may be routes on the massive cliffs that guard the north side of Sumantri. There appears to be a nice line up the center of the face directly to the summit if anyone is interested...
It rains here virtually every night, so be sure to bring gear that can handle such a load of water.
A number of different companies offer expeditions to the area. These include:
There is a map of the Carstensz area that is significantly out of date in terms of glacial ice extent, but that nicely shows the positions of the peaks. It can be found here
WeatherMountain-forecast provides a weather forecast
for nearby Carstensz Pyramid (Puncak Jaya). It can be viewed here
A nice camping spot while waiting for the plane to Igala. Snorkeling after the climb.
While we were in the Papua area, there were days where we were waiting for planes or had spare time to take advantage of. In Nabire, it is possible to rent a local outrigger and go out to nearby islands for scuba diving or snorkeling. Ahe Island recently opened a posh resort with a possible tour to see whale sharks if you have a diving permit. See here
for more information. There was a supermarket on the main drag in Nabire that had t-shirts as well as items such as AA batteries.
is an enticing picture of Ahe Island.
In the town of Timika, Freeport Mine's company town of Kuala Kencana has a wonderful nature trail through lowland rainforest as well as habitat for a magnificent array of butterflies. Timika had no t-shirts that we could find, although there were about 5 shops that sold masks, carvings and other traditional artifacts.
Sumantri and Puncak Jaya at Dawn.