Ascent of Mount Giluwe on 2015-08-20

Climber: Rob Woodall

Others in Party:Matthew Holt; Fiona McIntosh
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Thursday, August 20, 2015
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:4x4 Vehicle
Peak:Mount Giluwe
    Location:Papua New Guinea
    Elevation:14331 ft / 4368 m

Ascent Trip Report

This is a fairly tough two days or easy three days, with good scenery and a fine summit area. It was easy to set up, at a day's notice with

Tue 18
After our Mt Boising attempt we fly from Madang to Mt Hagen airport, arriving just after 4pm and are met by Elisabeth and driver Brian of Paiyatours, who take us to Magic Mountain. Mostly good tarmac roads with the usual PNG potholed sections; finally a rough steep 4wd road gets us to the resort (S 5.8, E 145.08) which consists of a small conference centre and ten 2/3 bed chalets; a balcony overlooking fine forest at about 2400 metres with good birding. They are friendly folk here; I get talking to Paul the birdwatching guide.

We have dinner with the other guests: a UK couple, a Frenchman and a young Norwegian. Pym the owner appears briefly to discuss arrangements for our ascent.

Wed 19 Approach
After an early breakfast we are driven 1h20 on paved then reasonable unpaved roads to where a small trail (S 5.9178, E 143.9136, 2600m) leads up to a house. Our porters load up: Paul the bird guide also joins us having never been up Giluwe before.

We hike at 0845. The route initially leads through small fields then into nice woodland. Temps are pleasantly cool. A few longish breaks: the porters are slower than the ones we used for Boising. In a couple of hours We emerge into grassland and break for packed lunch. Further up a well defined ridge emerges and we keep left of a rocky tower, descend left into a bowl, pass a small stream then climb to regain the ridge. The summit we've bypassed has a group on top: a long distance conversation ensues in the local language. Our summit is visible, one of several steep rocky tops in and out of cloud. The next few km follow a wideish undulating ridge, a little boggy in places (albeit mostly dry in the present drought). We top out at about 3900m then descend 300m into a valley before ascending a little, crossing a small stream and stopping at a small copse which is our intended campsite S 7.0327, E 143.898, 3712m. Our peak is directly above us, in cloud.

There's just one small 2-man tent, which Matthew and Fiona erect. I spend a cosy night with the guides and porters in their shelter: they hack a small clearing out of the copse, build a fire and sit round it, breaking off for a meal then chatting until about 11 before all goes quiet. I'm cosy in my sleeping bag a bit further back from the fire; after a few anxious moments when sparks start flying, the fire settles down and my sleeping bag escapes unscathed.

Thu 20 Summit and down
Up at 4, a bit more breakfast than is ideal at that hour; hike just after 5. First hour in dark following a small trail: our guides know the route well. First light sees us at a small saddle in an old crater rim. We turn R and ascend a broad ridge a short way. Then things get steeper and the trail zigzags through steep tussocky ground with a few exposed sections and some easy scrambling. The sun's up now: quite nice sunrise. We're surprised to see some bolts have been installed to enable protection of the climb. Quite some years ago as we later learn. In today's dry conditions protection seems superfluous but wet or icy conditions could be a different matter. Today it's sunny with in inversion lower down so that we look out across a sea of cloud to distant peaks rising like islands. Chilly wind though so we don't linger too long.

The summit is marked by a pole (S 6.0431, E 143.88622, 4377m). There's a slightly lower east summit and two obvious old craters with some quite pointy summits on their rims. We're up in just over two hours and after 15 mins we head back to camp, arriving in 1h30. Our guides are concerned we might get back to the village early (thus violating a seemingly inviolable rule of PNG hiking that any hike shall finish just before sunset) and set about preparing a hefty second breakfast.

We leave camp at 1030. I tag along with Paul and we see a few birds: Mountain thrush, Alpine pipit and Mountain swiftlet. It's striking how few birds (species and individuals) are seen compared with a UK hill walk of similar length. This could be partly due to the locals' tendency to kill them: our porters are reported to have shot down a swiftlet with a catapult. ..

It's hot and sunny, good to at last drop down into the forest, although even there it's hot and humid, quite a contrast to yesterday's approach walk.

Suddenly the porters I'm with, start looking into a tree. Something about couscous? This makes more sense when it's explained the cuscus is a small tree dwelling marsupial. There's a hole 3m up and one of the porters skilfully climbs up to it. A pliant stem is passed up to him; this is poked into the whole. At length something starts growling, then appears and is grabbed behind its head, pulled out and thrown down to a colleague, who lashes it to a forked stick for ease of transport. A cute animal, black with white breast, size of a large domestic cat. They are quite valuable and we expect the finder to sell it. However on arrival at the village/trailhead (at 1730 true to form) he's persuaded to part with it. It's supposed to be released into the forest, but somehow gets taken back to Magic Mountain - still on its forked stick which has been lashed to the front of our vehicle and attracts a lot of interest from pedestrians and other road users!

Pym the proprietor arrives later in the evening and favours releasing the cuscus so hopefully the story will end well. We also agree arrangements between him and Bettys Place for tomorrow's transfer to Keglsugl for our planned ascent of Mt Wilhelm.

Mt Giluwe photo album

Birds observed
Magic Mountain:
Belfords honeyeater
Redcollared honeyeater
Greystreaked honeyeater
Brehm's tiger parrot (H)
Mountain firetail

Mt Giluwe:
Island thrush
Alpine pipit
Mountain swiftlet
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:8425 ft / 2567 m
    Extra Gain:1312 ft / 399 m
    Round-Trip Distance:31.1 mi / 50 km
    Trailhead:8530 ft / 2599 m
    Grade/Class:Yds 2+
    Quality:7 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Unmaintained Trail, Exposed Scramble
    Gear Used:
Guide, Porters, Tent Camp, Bivouac
    Weather:Hot, Breezy, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Time:22 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Time:12 Hours 
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Rob Woodall
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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