Category Archives: Skills Training

A nearly perfect practice testpiece: Shuksan’s Fisher Chimneys

I found it! A nearly perfect practice test piece to compliment my prep for Carstensz; not only to see if my skills are up to snuff, but also as an opportunity to do some team-building! … Mt. Shuksan’s Fisher Chimneys route!

The Challenges: We must proficiently cover lots of terrain (both rock scrambling & climbing), be smooth & efficient on mid-fifth class rock, and know how to execute a Tyrolean traverse and multiple rappels!

The Carstensz Pyramid expedition is for adventurers in excellent physical condition with moderate technical climbing ability. Moving on third-, fourth- and easy fifth-class rock, on fixed ropes, and through multiple rappels shouldn’t cause us to flounder or halt. Certainly, the altitude, length of trip, the remoteness of the area, and the technical nature of the climb all contribute to make this a challenging and demanding adventure. On top of that, the Carstensz area is usually rainy and we expect to spend at least some time travelling and climbing in the rain.

Even for the healthiest and fittest individuals, climbing Carstensz requires a high degree of physical stamina and mental toughness!

With regard to fitness and technical training, RMI Expeditions emphasizes starting sooner than later, intentionally developing both your fitness and your technical skill sets, and the closer you get to departure, the more your training ought to resemble climbing in New Guinea.

The Solution: We must get a healthy dose of rock climbing under our belts, practice the technical climbing skills (the Tyrolean & multi-pitch rappels), and find routes that challenge us both physically and technically (like Fisher Chimneys!)

Carstensz climber, Sara McGahan, doing “homework” at Linville Gorge, North Carolina

Getting multiple “practice” pitches under my belt along the Tieton drainage in Washington

I had a chance to climb Mount Shuksan via the Fisher Chimneys route on the mountain’s northwest side this past weekend. The route offers lots of moderate, enjoyable climbing. The alpine rock and glaciated terrain which make up the climb are not difficult – but there is a lot of it! The climb takes every bit of three full days. Except for the fact that the Chimneys route includes some glacier travel, it gives a taste of the fitness and technical climbing demands rolled into one adventure that makes it a perfect test piece for a future Carstensz climb.

 

A lengthy approach, which included climbing the actual “Chimneys” (better described as steep, rocky gullies) with a moderately heavy pack felt more like “climbing” than “practice!”

Climbing with packs and in alpine boots is an important component of the adventure, as this is exactly how we move on Carstensz.

The summit (the exact halfway point of our adventure!)

The Carstensz Pyramid adventure throws much more at us than just fitness and rock climbing demands, but practicing diligently heads us in the right direction … and it is downright fun!

 Enjoy!

On the Rocks

Carstensz as a whole is an incredible adventure from beginning to end. It is unique in its own right. There is nothing quite like it. It is neither terribly high nor too cold but our approach through the Papuan rainforest is likely different than anything you’ve done before.

In addition to getting prepared physically for this adventure, mentally preparing for an adventure of this enormity must not be overlooked! Mental readiness is just as important for success. Having travelled abroad many times, my advice is … make this unique adventure fun! This is a long haul adventure, so good preparation and an ever-positive, ever-flexible outlook helps make for a successful expedition.  Carstensz is an elusive summit that only opens its top to those with patience and endurance, so work your way up the mountain steadily and carefully, beginning well before ever landing in Papua!

It is useful to know precisely what to expect with regards to the technical climbing. Because the climb includes a substantial amount of rock climbing, a healthy dose of rock climbing should be included in your preparation. While the climbing covers mostly low-fifth class terrain, there is lots of it, some is quite exposed, some of it traverses, and rain/snow (!) may bring an entirely new element to the adventure.

Definitely get out and spend time climbing. Climbing gyms can be a great place to start, but nothing beats time at a local crag.

The skill set you wish to acquire includes:

  • Comfort climbing at 5.3 to 5.5 for multiple pitches (8-10)
  • Capable of climbing shorter steps (60 feet) at 5.6-5.7
  • Belaying with gloves on
  • Multiple rappels with gloves on
  • Comfort executing a Tyrolean traverse
  • Some comfort climbing and rappelling in the rain!

Here are a few more pics to inspire you to get your skill set mastered …

The Carstensz massif

 

The upper ridge toward the summit.

The upper ridge toward the summit.

Snow is not uncommon. Here climbers leave the upper face to access the summit ridge proper.

Snow is not uncommon. Here climbers leave the upper face to access the summit ridge proper.

Small but exposed gaps present an additional challenge on the summit ridge.

Small but exposed gaps present an additional challenge on the summit ridge.

The infamous Tyrolean traverse. Though the cable spanning the gap doesn't sag as much as ropes might, the crossing is still a physically demanding.

The infamous Tyrolean traverse. Though the cable spanning the gap doesn’t sag as much as ropes might, the crossing is still a physically demanding.

Lots of snow on the summit ridge!

Lots of snow on the summit ridge!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enjoy!