Due to its geographical location, between Southeast Asia and Australia in the Pacific Ocean and south of the equator, the island of New Guinea has a tropical climate with average temperatures of about 24 degrees Celsius all year round.

However, it also has high peaks where temperatures can drop below zero, with abundant rainfall.

One of these peaks is Mount Jaya, located in the Sudirman Range in the western part of the island, which belongs to Indonesia. It is a peak that reaches 4,884 meters in altitude (some Australian sources indicate 5030 meters), known in Indonesian as “Puncak Jaya” (literally, Glorious Peak).

The first European to behold it and report it was the Dutch explorer Jan Carstenszoon, who on a particularly clear day in 1623 observed with amazement the glaciers at the summit of the mountain.

This earned him ridicule and mockery from half of Europe for two centuries, ridiculed for claiming to have seen snow near the equator.

Nevertheless, mountaineers still call the mountain “Carstensz Pyramid” in his honor, even though he never climbed it, something that would have to wait until 1962 when it was conquered by the expedition of the Austrian Heinrich Harrer.

Jaya is a gem for geography and data enthusiasts because it is not only the highest mountain located on an island, surpassing Hawaii’s Mauna Kea by 677 meters.

At the same time, it is obviously the highest mountain in New Guinea, the highest in Indonesia, and, if we consider New Guinea part of the continent of Oceania (something on which there are different opinions), also the highest on the continent.

Not only that, Jaya is the fifth highest mountain in Southeast Asia, and the highest point on Earth between the Himalayas and the Andes. It also ranks fifth in the world’s topographic isolation ranking (there is no higher land within a radius of 5,261.65 kilometers), surpassed only by Everest, Aconcagua, Denali, and Kilimanjaro.

If we look at satellite photographs or go to Google Maps of the mountain range where Jaya is located, we will see that very close, just 4 kilometers from the summit, there is a huge hole in the ground. It’s not an alien base; it’s the Grasberg Mine, the second-largest gold mine in the world and the third-largest copper mine, located at an altitude of 4,100 meters.

The place turned out to be the source of the large amount of alluvial gold that reached the Arafura Sea, located between Australia and New Guinea, and which the Dutch had been searching for since they colonized the island in 1828.

Not in vain, when the rest of Indonesia gained independence in 1949, the Netherlands retained the western part of the island in an attempt to create a new allied state, but it was finally annexed by Indonesia in 1969.

The ascent to Jaya is considered technically difficult, mainly due to its isolation and remoteness, and the steep limestone walls.

In addition, reaching the base camp involves a three or four-day hike, as there are no roads, or the need to use a helicopter.

Until the beginning of the 2020s, there were three tropical glaciers on its slopes. The first disappeared before 1962, the second in 2000, and the third a couple of years ago. Nowadays, the snow that falls on the mountain quickly melts.

This article was first published on our Spanish Edition on February 19, 2024. Puedes leer la versión en español en Puncak Jaya, la montaña situada en una isla más alta del mundo y el punto más alto de la Tierra entre el Himalaya y los Andes


Carstensz Pyramid (The 7 Summits) | Carstensz Papua | Carstensz Pyramid, Indonesia (Peakbagger) | Wikipedia

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