Mt Wilhelm Traverse
Note : This expedition has only been done by 3 groups that we know of. This is a remote part of PNG. While we are sure of your safety, there may be unexpected delays along the way. This is certainly not a "tour" but more like a real adventure.
- Trek through some of the remotest parts of PNG
- Experience the wonderful hospitality of the Simbu highlanders
- Climb the highest peak in PNG
- Witness awesome views from her summit
- Feast on delicious fruits grown in one of PNG's few temperate regions
Mt.Wilhelm is the highest peak in Papua New Guinea, at 4,509m/14,880ft. The Traverse from Ambullua to Keglsugl offers a unique and challenging way to experience PNG's highest mountain. This challenging alternative to the summit starts at about 2,000m/6,500ft in the remote village of Ambullua, where the only access is by aircraft or by foot. The journey over Mt.Wilhelm presents the opportunity to experience a culture still largely in tact, with a sing-sing (traditional dance) and a night in a basic village guest house learning about and experiencing the culture first hand. Then starting the trek, the path crosses rivers, climbs through moss forests (home of several birds of paradise), alpine grasslands and glacial valleys. To add to this there are amazing views of the North Coast and surrounding valleys. Once the summit is reached, the exit is by the usual summit route, down to Keglsugl via Lake Piunde.
Day 01: Arrive in PNG and transfer to Holiday Inn
Day 02: Transfer to the Air Niugini domestic flight. Fly to Mt .Hagen airport. Transfer to Highlander Hotel. Prepare gear, overnight Highlander Hotel.
Day 03: Transfer to Kagamuga airport. Light aircraft flight of about 25 minutes to Ambullua. From the airstrip it is approximately an hours walk to the "Korihkl Khu Guesthouse." Relax in the afternoon enjoy a traditional sing-sing and experience the culture. After dinner, sit around the fire and talk to the elders of the village about "time before."
Day 04: Awake early to start the trek. The first hour is through kau kau (sweet potato) gardens, until crossing the Kon River. From the Kon River it is approximately four hours walk through alpine rainforest, covered in dense layers of moss. The path follows a spur, in some places offering spectacular views of the valleys below, until the first campsite is reached - Ongoltungi. We spend the night in a bush hut; however there is room to pitch tents if that is preferred.
Day 05: From Ongoltungi the path continues up the spur and through the forest for a further two hours. We reach Hkelip, which has a small creek (and swimming hole for the daring). We cross the creek and the path follows a small gully. The gully marks the start of the alpine grasslands. Camp is set up after about one and a half hours walk in the grasslands at a saddle called Khupoke, approximately 3,600m/11,900ft. From here superb views are available to the surrounding valleys and other large mountain ranges in the highlands of PNG.
Day 06: Continuing on from Khupokhe, most of the day is spent trekking up and along one of the mountain's main ridges affording spectacular views of the surrounding mountains, with jagged peaks towering above the lakes deep in the valleys. It is at the top of this ridge, that the first glimpse of the summit is offered. The path skirts one of the largest peaks called Werakai. This unclimbed giant towers above the track which then descends into a valley leading us to our last campsite before the summit. The campsite is marked by a large overhanging rock and has the local name of "Seeku."
Day 07: Breaking camp at 4:30, it is an easy 20 minute to the end of the valley. From here we encounter a hard climb for the next two hours up the side of the main summit ridge. From this point it is only half an hour to the summit. Reaching the summit at about 7am is the prime time as the mountain-tops are usually clear at this time in the morning. The summit is marked by a rock cairn and a trigonometric marker. Time is allowed for photos and conditions permitting breathtaking clear views of the North Coast including Bagabag and Karkar Islands. Leaving the summit, the traverse continues down the normal route, past the wreck of a WWII Flying Fortress and the twin glacial lakes of Aunde and Piunde at an elevation of 3,500m/11,500ft. Our last night on the mountain is spent in a hut on the edge of Lake Piunde. Often a pair of rare Salvadori Teals can be seen flying near and swimming on the lake.
Day 08: From Piunde, it is an easy three hour walk to the village of Keglsugl at a height of about 2,500m/8,200ft, where we will be met by our pickup vehicle and transfer to Mt Hagen traveling through the populous Chimbu Province with excellent views of the beautiful Chimbu gorge, arrive Mt Hagen and overnight at the Highlander Hotel.
DAY 9: Flight Mt Hagen to Port Moresby where we will check into the Holiday Inn
Day 10: Check out and onto your next destination.
Due to the necessity to charter a flight from Mt Hagen to Ambullua, we are unable to conduct expedition with less than 5 people. To do so would make the expedition expensive. However, if you are interested in a smaller group than 5, please let us know and we can work a price out for you.
Flight Weight Restriction: Due to a 900kg weight restriction on the Cessna from Mt Hagen to Ambullua we will be asking potential clients their present body weight. We can then work out a luggage weight limit for this flight and thus the expedition.
This expedition is also open to Private Trips. To run we will need a minimum of 6 trekkers for a Private Trip.
MT WILHELM AND THE TRAVERSE
Mt. Wilhelm is named after Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany and was first climbed in the mid-1930's. Mt. Wilhelm in the Simbu language is called Enduwa Kombugu, and in the Upper Jimi Language (the language spoken in Ambullua) it is called Korikhl Khu. It covers an area of about 100 sq. km/40 sq. miles. To the North is a steep drop off to the Ramu Valley (from over 4,000m/13,200ft to less than 600m/2,000ft in only 13km/8miles). Its steep glacial valleys were carved out during the last ice-age (the Pleistocene period - approximately 10,000 years ago), the interface between the grasslands and the forest marks the snow line from this period. The mountain is climbed by both Papua New Guineans and International visitors alike via the normal Keglsugl route.
The traverse was first accomplished in 1998 by Bob Bates and Michael Bates, as well as three guides from Ambullua and one from Keglsugl. After this ascent the people of Ambullua built the track along the route taken by Michael and Bob. In 2001 a small group of Australian University students were the first group to ascend the mountain via this route. In 2003 the first fully commercial expedition successfully completed the traverse.
All the tribal groups that live in the Simbu Province are known as the Simbu. The name is derived from simbu which means "very pleased". Apparently, the first Europeans who walked through the region in the 1930's gave the locals gifts. The locals were very pleased with these gifts and responded by saying simbu, simbu!. The Europeans didn't know what they meant and thus called them and the area Simbu.
Approximately 8 distinct languages are spoken in the Simbu Province.
LIFE ON THE MOUNTAIN
The top of the Wilhelm Massif gets very cold indeed. Above 2700m frost occurs and at times snow falls above 4000m. Strong, cold winds are common and rain and mist can occur suddenly turning visibility to only a few metres.
The sky around Wilhelm is usually clear in the early morning, but by nine the fog that is laying low in 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 3am to avoid the mid-morning clouds. Views from the summit at sunrise are simply awesome.
HEALTH AND SAFETY
Mt Wilhelm 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 hypothermia. 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.
- It is recommended that you arrive in country a day before the flight from Port Moresby to Mt Hagen.
- Due to the limited availability of suitable sites (i.e. dry and flat) to pitch a tent at Khupokhe, the sharing of tents is encouraged
- While the traverse is non-technical, 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) or a visa is obtainable upon arrival (for many, but not all nationalities)
- All domestic charter and schedule flights
- 2 nights accommodation Port Moresby
- Government Taxes (except visa charge and civil aviation terminal facilities charge)
- All meals on the expedition component (7 Breakfast, 5 Lunches and 5 Dinners)
- All accommodation outside of Port Moresby including 2 nights in Mt Hagen.
- Meals in Mt Hagen
- Guides and porters
- 5 nights accommodation along the trek.
- Return airport transfers and getting clients in Port Moresby and Mt Hagen.
- Vehicle transfer from Kegsugl to Mt Hagen.
- Refreshments at the end of track.
- Use of tents and sleep mats.
After the main trip, a waiting vehicle will take us back from Keglsugl to Mt Hagen. After another night in the Highlander Hotel we will fly back to Port Moresby.
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