Ascent of Mount Hagen on 2015-08-26

Climber: Rob Woodall

Date:Wednesday, August 26, 2015
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Mount Hagen
    Location:Papua New Guinea
    Elevation:12579 ft / 3834 m

Ascent Trip Report

After our Mt Wilhelm ascent I have a couple of days to spare, so return to Magic Mountain Lodge, as a good ascent route starts from there. However it's not clear exactly where the summit is and I did an extra 5 miles visiting the four contenders which according to my altimeter are all within 5m elevation of each other.

I start at 0650 with a single guide from the Lodge: guide pretty much mandatory in PNG as they are quite hot on land ownership and all carry bush knives...

From Magic Mountain Lodge the trail heads up through a reedy area then enters the forest: decent trail but rather rooty and a little confusing in places. We make good progress in nice cool conditions, leaving the forest behind after two hours. Then follows a steep rough tussocky stretch through dead/stunted woodland. Views are very fine, especially of Mt Giluwe, with Mt Wilhelm just visible.

We emerge onto a nice ridge which undulates over a few tops. A top comes into view with a small building (and a toppled comms mast): we reach this at 1130 and share an excellent packed lunch which Jed has carried up. Then visit the obviously higher summit to the south west. From here the tops to the north appear as high or higher. So I suggest Jed waits while investigate. Quite a distance but a decent path and quite runnable (albeit around 3800m: good thing I'm acclimatised). There's a quite tricky short down climb at one point, grassy and balancy. The first summit is reached: the other two don't appear lower so I keep going. There's a pool just before the last one: the path more or less stops here and the route to the last is tussocky.

These three northern most tops are all the same elevation according to my wrist altimeter (ie to nearest 5m). I have no GPS with me but it would be too close to call without dGPS. I retrace my steps back to the toppled comms mast where Jed is waiting and we head down. The ridge is nice but once we reach the tussocks and forest below we just try to maintain reasonable progress on the face of innumerable trip hazards. We're down in 2h30; 10 hours round trip. This included a pretty fast out and back along the ridge and a quite fast descent: worth allowing 12 hours of wanting to be sure of the summit.

I had planned to move on this pm to Kumul Lodge but with the extra time and effort I'm ready for a shower and some rest. So another night at Magic Mountain. David Hamilton of Jagged Globe et al has arrived for Giluwe and Wilhelm so an evening of mountain talk ensues.

Next morning (Thur) I transfer to Kumul Lodge for some birding. It's very well set up for armchair birding: balcony overlooking lawn with a bank where fruit is put out: close views of ribbon tailed astrapia, brown sicklebil, tiger parrot, several honeyeaters and other spp.

Then a group of USA birders arrive with a very good Aussie guide Deon, and the bird list starts to increase rapidly. Star of the show is Crested Satinbird (Bird of Paradise) which we are shown in the Lodge grounds by Wilson the Kumul bird guide: First comes the crested berrypecker, then thr female satinbird, then the male. And he's a beauty.

Next morning we're up at 4 and on site by 0630 for excellent views of the equally gorgeous Lesser bird of paradise, with a nice supporting cast, behind some traditional PNG thatched houses at Kama which is just west of the Mt Hagen massif. We call at Lai river on the way back for Torrent lark and Torrent flycatcher.

Then fly to Port Moresby Fri pm and homeward on Sat. A memorable trip to an interesting country; while I missed out on the main goal Mt Boising, some good peaks were bagged and as a bonus some good birds seen.

Birds observed:
Kumul Lodge:
Bluecapped ibrita
Friendly fantail
Island thrush
Brown sicklebill
Ribbontailed astrapia
Belfords honeyeater
Smokey honeyeater
Brehms tiger parrot
Greystreaked honeyeater
Rufousnaped Whistler
Mountain firetail
Whitewinged robin
Mountain mousewarbler
Brownbacked whistler
Regent whistler
Brown breasted gerygone (h)
Crested berrypecker
Papuan scrubwren
Crested Satinbird
Lesser melampitta (h)

Kama (W of Mt Hagen):
Lesser bird of paradise
Brush cuckoo
Pied bushchat
Ornate melidictes
White shouldered fairywren
Whitebellied cuckooshrike
Mountain meliphaga
Mountain redheaded myzomela
Papuan flowerpecker
Fantail cuckoo (H)
Papuan grassbird (h)
Coconut lorikeet

Lai River bridge:
Torrent lark
Torrent flycatcher

Anzi village:
Willie wagtail
Black kite
Summary Total Data
    Route Conditions:
Unmaintained Trail, Scramble
    Gear Used:

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