Mt Giluwe Traverse
"Broke Camp 44 at daylight on the 15th (June). Heavy frost during the night and the numerous small water-holes which dot the top of the mountain from the 10,000 to the 12,000 foot level were ice covered. Reached the 12,200 foot level at 9am. From 12,000 feet to the top, 13770 feet, was a very steep climb, reaching it at 11am. On the south-west side of the mountain it fell away 3000 feet in an almost straight drop." Michael Leahy June 1934
- Be one of the first to traverse the Mt Giluwe massif
- Climb the second highest mountain in PNG (4367m)
- Trek some of the remotest parts of PNG
- Witness awesome views from her summit
- Have the option to add Mt Wilhelm to your expedition (4509m)
It is hard to imagine that new territories were still being discovered less than 100 years ago in Papua New Guinea. This account from the Leahy brothers and their travels of exploration throughout the highlands of PNG in the 1930's takes us to a time and a place very foreign to us today.
However, there are still adventures to be had in this amazing country of PNG. We were the first company to not only climb Giluwe but also undertake the full traverse of Giluwe. While the Leahy brothers climbed it from the east, as far as we know, noone had walked across from the east and down the western slope until 2017. Maybe this is because of the "3000 foot" drop off on the west side. Maybe it is also to do with the massive forested area from the west that has prevented approaches from that side.
These were unknowns on our expedition across Mt Giluwe, PNG's second highest mountain at 4367 m (or 14327 feet, substantially higher than Michael Leahy first thought). It is the highest volcanic peak in Australasia and forms one of the "Seven Highest Volcanos" on the planet. (Highest volcano on each of the seven continents).
You can be part of this epic journey across the highlands of PNG. You will undertake one of the first ever journeys through a fascinating landscape of culture and natural history that few ever get to experience.
Day 1: Arrive in Port Moresby and transfer to Holiday Inn
Day 2: Transfer to the Air Niugini domestic flight. Fly to Mt .Hagen airport. Transfer to Melki Village and begin trek. First camp is made at over 3000m's so altitude will already play its part in the trip.
Day 3: From this camp, we head off for another 4 hours to a wonderful camp sight in a small gully. The summit of Giluwe can be seen in the distance. 3600m asl.
Day 4: From this camp, we head out to base camp at 3900m asl. Camp is on a small ridge overlooking the slopes.
Day 5: Today is summit day if weather permits. The summit is a scramble however we will bring ropes just in case. From the summit, we will head back down to base camp and explore the vast area below us.
Day 6: After breakfast, we will head over the main ridgeline and down to the unknown western slopes. We should have a good idea of the direction as we would have surveyed the area on our summit day the previous morning.
Day 7: Break camp and head further down the mountain hopefully making camp somewhere within the forest towards Pundia.
Day 8: Through the forest, we will continue with a great chance to see wonderful wildlife. We should arrive in Pundia late in the afternoon. Overnight in Mt Hagen.
Day 9: Transfer from Mt Hagen for our flight to Port Moresby. Overnight Holiday Inn
Day 10: Fly home.
Please note: If you wish to go on and climb Mt Wilhelm on this trip as an extension, this is possible. On Day 9 the transfer will take you to Kundiawa. This trip extension would be $1400. The Itinerary would look like this:
Day 9: Transfer to Kundiawa and overnight there.
Day 10: Transfer to trailhead and start trek up the mountain. 4 hours.
Day 11: Rest day at the lake for acclimatisation
Day 12: Summit day and then back to Bettys Lodge (13 hrs)
Day 13: Transfer to Goroka and then fly to Port Moresby
Day 14: Head home
LIFE ON THE MOUNTAIN
Mt Giluwe is a remote part of a remote country. From the road head, we will see no man-made structures. From about 2800m the forest gives way to open grassland. Thus we are exposed to the elements. Water is plentiful but firewood is not.
At night the temperature can drop below zero. Frost and occasional snow has been witnessed. Strong, cold winds are common and rain and mist can occur suddenly turning visibility to only a few metres.
The sky around Giluwe is usually clear in the early morning, but by 9am the fog that is laying low in the valley lifts. Large cloud formations gather at higher altitudes and by midday intermittent mist and showers occur, usually until sunset. Summit attempts are usually made around 1am to avoid the mid-morning clouds. Views from the summit at sunrise are simply awesome.
HEALTH AND SAFETY
This expedition should not be underestimated. Exposure to the elements can be a problem, whether it's the cold or sunlight.
A combination of wind, wet clothing, fatigue and hunger, even if the air temperature is well above freezing, can lead to hyperthermia. Likewise, you can burn deceptively fast. There is less atmospheric protection at higher altitudes and the fact you're not hot doesn't mean you're not boiling.
- While this is a non-technical trek, it is a difficult walk. In several places, a steep scramble is required. The walk requires a reasonable level of fitness to complete.
- Travel insurance including medical evacuation is considered mandatory
- Visas are available from the nearest PNG consul (or Australian consul if a PNG one is not available)
The original volcano on the site of Mount Giluwe formed roughly 650,000–800,000 years ago, probably as a stratovolcano of similar height to the current peak. Extensive Pleistocene glaciation eroded away much of the peak, leaving a series of volcanic plugs which form the present-day summits. A renewed episode of extensive volcanic eruptions formed the shield-like bulk of the current mountain between 220,000–300,000 years ago, and there is evidence that some of the lava erupted subglacially. During the last glaciations of the Ice Age, the upper slopes were covered by a massive ice cap over 150 m (500 ft) thick, from which only the main and east peaks protruded as nunataks above the ice surface. At its maximum extent, the ice cap was over 15 km across and covered an area greater than 100 km². Outlet glaciers extended down as low as 3,200–3,500 m (10,500–11,500 ft), leaving a variety of deposits including glacial till and moraines. Although the glaciers are now long gone, numerous cirques and U-shaped valleys remain visible. The present-day climate on the summit plateau above roughly 3,400 m (11,150 ft) is cold enough for nightly frosts and the occasional snowfall.
Day 1: Arrive in Port Moresby and transfer to Holiday Inn. Here we will have a briefing about our Mt Giluwe trek, what to expect, last minute packing and then off to bed.
Day 2: Port Moresby to Mt Hagen and then onto Melki. We will fly into Mt Hagen which is the main port for the PNG Highlands. From there we will pick up our team and food for the expedition and drive to Melki which is at the base of Mt Giluwe. This small village lives mainly from crops grown in wonderful gardens. Last checks and we are off into the primary rainforest up the side of Giluwe. After approximately 3 - 4 hours we will be at 3600m above sea level. The thick jungle and the relatively narrow trail makes way for open grassland which is welcome, as the jungle is thick on Giluwe.
Here we will make camp for the night with great views down into the valley below. But the summit of Giluwe is nowhere to be seen, as the massif is huge.
Day 3: This is a relatively short day, taking us onto a ridge that will wriggle its' way toward the summit. Large tarns (lakes left behind by the retreating glaciers that once spilled down from the summit) dot the landscape and rugged peaks now jut from ridgeline to ridgeline. The prominent "Dogs Tooth" (a large and high rocky outcrop) can be seen today. We will end up sleeping in a small gully at approximately 3800m asl.
Day 4: This is base camp day. Back up onto the ridge towards two 4000m peaks, but these are not the summit. Mt Giluwe is hidden behind these giants, so we head down into a vast grassy valley, through a boggy landscape, around the giants and into another valley that is enormous. One can only imagine the glacier that once ground its' way down this valley from the summit. And there it is, to our left, the summit of Giluwe. We will make camp near a small bush outcrop, preparing ourselves for the following days summit trek. Camp is at 3900m asl.
Day 5: Summit Day. We will rise early and head out along a very narrow trail through the grassland to the saddle that connects the Giluwe Summit with the two other 4000m peaks. Once on the Saddle at just over 4000m we can see down into an enormous valley on the southern slopes. High cliffs prevail and that route does not look inviting. We will continue on up a narrow and steep gully resting only 150m below the summit. From there, there is a little scramble across a short exposed ridge (approximately 5m long) and then with a grab of grassy tufts, we scramble to the summit with unsurpassed 360 degree views of the PNG Highlands. Mt Wilhelm and Kabangama can be seen to the east and northeast.
Once we have reached the summit it is back to base camp for a rest. The remainder of the day is at our leisure.
Day 6: While we have made the summit we are only half way through our expedition. The next challenge is to do the Mt Giluwe traverse. We head back up to the original ridgeline, across the base of the two 4000m peaks and down another valley adjacent to the uninviting valley we saw from the saddle the day before. Waterfalls are everywhere here and we will make camp above the tree line for our last night of unsurpassed views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
Day 7: This side of the mountain has only just opened and as such the trail is almost non existent. It is pristine cloud and rainforest, but after several hours of making our way through we will overnight in a newly constructed guest house on the southern slopes of Mt Giluwe.
Day 8: After breakfast, we will head down to Pundia bidding farewell to our local team and head back to Hagen for an overnight there. What an adventure! The drive from Giluwe to Hagen is approximately 2-3 hours.
Day 9: Transfer from Mt Hagen for our flight to Port Moresby. A celebration dinner will be had knowing we have just traversed one of the seven volcanic summits, Mt Giluwe. Overnight Holiday Inn
Day 10: Fly home.
- All domestic scheduled flights within PNG
- 2 nights accommodation in Port Moresby at Holiday Inn
- Government Taxes
- All meals on the expedition component (9 Breakfast, 7 Lunches and 7 Dinners)
- All accommodation outside of Port Moresby
- 1 x Local Guide and an Australian Guide throughout
- 7 nights accommodation along the trek.
- Return airport transfers
- Refreshments at the end of the track
- Tents and all camping gear such as pots, cups, knives, forks, spoons etc
- International airfares
- Travel insurance
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