Page last updated at 00:15 GMT, Wednesday, 27 August 2008 01:15 UK

Peak feat follows fuel increase

Carstensz Pyramid. Pic Bob Kerr
The peak was scaled by Austrian climber Heinrich Harrer in 1962

Rising fuel costs forced five climbers to make a rarely attempted trek in and out of an Indonesian mountain range.

The British expedition to scale Carstensz Pyramid - the highest mountain in Oceania - included Bob Kerr from Melvich in Sutherland.

They made the first successful trek from the settlement of Ilaga since authorities re-opened the peak in 2005.

A 30% rise in fuel made chartering a helicopter, the most common means of getting near Carstensz, too expensive.

Mr Kerr, a member of Assynt Mountain Rescue Team; Dave Pritt, of Ambleside, the Lake District; Ashley Hale, from Norfolk; Duncan Hale, of Durham, and Andy Rice, from Hertfordshire, made the trek and reached the summit in early August.

Thankfully the cook was nimble and didn't get his head taken off
Bob Kerr

Carstensz Pyramid in the Papua province of Indonesia was first climbed by a team which included Austrian mountaineer Heinrich Harrer in 1962.

It was closed to westerners between 1995 and 2005 and remains highly restricted.

The main access is by helicopter, while on land what would be the favoured route has been barred because it is close to a massive gold and copper mine.

Mr Kerr said: "Originally, consideration had been given to accessing the mountain with a chartered helicopter flight but due to rapidly rising fuel costs this option became too expensive.

"In just one day, on 23 May, fuel prices in Indonesia were raised by 30%."

The team embarked on an eventful trek from Ilaga, where they were met by the Dani tribe and introduced to their leader.

MOUNTAIN FACT FILE
Carstensz Pyramid stands at about 16,024ft (4,884m)
Also known as Puncak Jaya, it was named Carstensz Pyramid after Dutch explorer Jan Carstensz in 1623
Heinrich Harrer was played by US actor Brad Pitt in the 1997 film Seven Years in Tibet

The five later found themselves being escorted by armed tribes people and on finally negotiating safe passage to the peak were ordered to take with them 34 porters when they had anticipated on only requiring six.

A village chief, who also accompanied the team, was at the centre of dramatic incident in base camp following the successful ascent.

Mr Kerr said: "The Pinapa chief came into base camp shouting and waving his machete.

"Our cook seemed to be the brunt of the anger and was chased around the camp site by one of the chief's men lashing out with his machete.

"Thankfully the cook was nimble and didn't get his head taken off."

The row was over a matter of disrespect of the chief and was eventually peacefully resolved.

The climbing team said they had felt privileged to have been able to complete the trek.

However, they expressed concerns four glaciers in the mountain range near Carstensz Pyramid will vanish.

Mr Kerr said: "The rate of glacial retreat in this area is rapid and it is likely that within a decade these glaciers will have disappeared which would then make the greater Australia continental plate the first completely ice free continent on the planet in 100,000 years."


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