There are two components of any mountain climbing expedition: getting to the top and getting to the mountain.
For a lot of reasons, Tommy Danger and Mark Nolan were both excited about their attempt to get to the top of Carstensz Pyramid. It would be their fifth of the Seven Summits — the highest point on each of the seven continents. It’s considered perhaps the most technical climb of the seven. And it is estimated that fewer than 500-600 people have ever reached the top of the 16,023-foot mountain that sits in the Indonesian province of Papua.
But what intrigued them most about this particular expedition was the prospect of getting to the mountain to begin with.
“This will be like jumping in a time machine,” said Tommy.
That’s because the hike through the jungle to the base of The Pyramid will take them through lands inhabited by indigenous tribes, whose aboriginal lifestyles are as shrouded in mystery as the mountain is in fog and storm clouds.
“It’s really hard to fathom what life is like, and I’m not talking just about life without wifi or TV or smart phones or restaurants,” said Tommy. “This is a world where you have to make your own clothes, where you kill your own food. It’s life the way the world used to be.”
The little that’s been written about the tribes native to west Papua is indeed fascinating. There are reports of climbers encountering bow and arrow-wielding warriors, whose faces and bodies are painted and whose curiosity toward their white-skinned western visitors can make for uncertain interactions. The relationships between neighboring tribes can be tenuous, if not confrontational.
“You read all these stories and you don’t know what you might see,” said Tommy. “We might not see anything too unusual or we might hike through a village and see a head on a stake. We have to prepare ourselves mentally, in case we come across something, to understand that in this culture, it’s completely normal.”
As if preparing to climb to the rocky top of a 16,000-foot mountain weren’t challenging enough.
“It’s not just the most technical, it’s the most demanding on the mind. There are all those extra unknowns, all those extra worries,” said Mark. “Who knows? We might get shot by a dart. This is just going to be bizarre. Nothing is guaranteed out there.”
Tommy Danger, Mark Nolan and filmmaker John Burkett (Red Tide Productions) are climbing the Seven Summits to benefit the More Than Just Me Foundation. They hope their adventure – More Than Just Mountains – will call attention to and raise funds to support a variety of causes, ranging from Cystic Fibrosis to providing clean water, food and supplies to orphanages around the world. To contribute to the More Than Just Mountains campaign, visit their Flipgiving fundraising page below.