Mount Giluwe

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Mount Giluwe Trip Report (#15134)

  • Signed By: Christopher Blogg
  • Date submitted: February 10, 2004
  • Date(s) climbed: 1977, 1982,

Raised on a coffee plantation in the Nebilya Valley in the Western Highlands I first climbed Mount Giluwe at 13 with 2 close friends of the same age and a local employee guide. This is my recollection.

Rimmed by tall swordgrass and dense rainforest with high cliffs from the South West the best entry to the mountain is from the North. The hike from the road was steep in places and often wet, but not overly strenuous as it follows a lightly worn rich red clay track deep below below the magnificent Nothofagus canopy. This part of the climb is amongst the most impressive walks in the highlands, takes around 6 hours, and offers many exotic and extraordinary plants and insects.

Opening up at around 10,500 ft to a vast alpine tundra valley the peaks of this spectacular mountain tower over 14,300 ft in a massive shale and granite amphitheatre resembling a patially collapsed volcano.

At 11,000 ft the effects of hypoxia are felt and each step to where our guide is constructing the small grass hut in which we'll stay the night becomes more difficult. Set over a creek some 1,000 ft below below the mysterious spiritual caves to the West of the tundra valley and below the massive reedy ponds 500 metres to the East, the hut is a welcome respite from the cold rain and a welcome opportunity to acclimatise to the altitude.

It's night now and the rain has turned to snow outside, but we're fed, bedded on dry grass, and warm next to the open hearth fire inside the hut. As we listen to the stories of 'Asples bilong pikdok masalai' (home of the giant half dog spirit) with the cries of Giluwes wild dogs from the caves below the Summit we are politely reminded to respect the spirit of the mountain with silence as we climb in the morning...else harm will come to us. (Mmm..wonder if that'll work on my kids?).

We're woken early, it's still dark outside and very cold, but dry. Luke warm Milo from 26C boiling water, 2 banana breakfast, sneakers on and we're ushered quietly across the deep creek and up toward the bottom of the ridge rising from the North West edge of the valley to the Summit.

It's now 6am, getting light and we've begun the shimmy up the steep shale incline toward the ridge that will lead us to the Summit. As highly adventurous teens we relish this bit...it's going to be a fun day.

Was!...we've been at this for a few hours and it's scarily steep now, the shale is fragmented and slippery and with every 10 feet foward we slide several backwards. Grasping for traction on all fours now, chest pressed against rock, fingers bleeding against the sharp shale in the chilly morning air, which combined with the altitude is making it hard going. It takes another 4 hours to reach the outer edge of the North West ridge some 800 feet below the summit.

Longing to reach the ridge for a rest, now we're seized with vertigo as we peer over the ridge (volcanic rim) at a sheer drop of around 6,000 feet down into to the valley behind the mountain.

To the amusement of our local friend and guide we traverse the knife edge North West ridge like gekkos the full 750 feet to the base of the summit.

The Summit, a large granite column over 20 metres in diameter rises straight upward from the shoulder of the ridge, as if a massive pole holding back the ridge cliff-face and crater like rim from falling back into the valley behind.

The only access to the Summit from here is through a vertical semi-open ventricle weathered out of the rock-face rising up the summit column 12 feet to the peak of the Summit. To climb this requires back firmly against the column wall with hands and feet shuffling up either side of the semi open tubelike ventricle.

There is a small platform of rock half a metre wide providing a step to enter the ventricle. It's a granite pedestal outcrop from the summit column 3 feet out from the shoulder where the knife ridge meets the back of the summit column, a small but very very careful jump is required.

From that single pedestal to the East is a 120 ft free fall to the near vertical shale ridge wall dropping 2,000 ft down to the creek we'd crossed around 9 hours earlier, and to the West of the knife ridge rim 6,000 ft straight down into the valley behind.

To fall in either direction .....!!

Our guide has climbed untethered up to the Summit now and has lowered a twine rope down through the ventricle and is coaxing us to leap to the platform, grab the rope and clamber up through the column opening. Heart pounding I decide going forward is marginally better than going back and make the leap of faith to the small rock pedestal. A little over-balance, heart in mouth, I scramble for the rope and hang on. Looking past my feet through the ventricle opening at over 14,200ft I see nothing but blue sky and clouds, I'm terrified but my body is now in autopilot taking me up the summit column.

Hey, I'm ok.. made it. Suitably trembling with adrenaline I draw a very deep breath as I look out across the world from PNG's second highest vantage point and choke out few uncontrollable laughs as I sheepishly encourage my friends how good that was... right!!

We made it... how scary was that!! The summit peak is flat and under the geomarker (metal mast) there is a small black metal army box, inside it is a visitors book, surprisingly containing names of many interesting people.

Signing in I question our guide on how some of these people could possibly have made it to the Summit. I can hear him laughing, but he's gone... walking down the relatively gentle rambling trail along the South ridge of the summit!!

...always do your own homework!!

Before leaving PNG after independence and passing of the National Aquisition Act I was foretunate enough to complete climbs on all PNG's top mountains.

Next??... Mera Peak.

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