We are off to a flyer in PNG. It has been a wild ride in every aspect. If you read my Kokoda blog, you’d know I had an absolutely amazing time. The scenery of Kokoda was continually changing and the greenery was gorgeous.

The physical demands of PNG weren’t slowing down, we finished Kokoda, had a day back in Port Moresby to edit photos and then were back on the next flight out to Mt. Hagen.

This is where things start to get a little wilder. The next chapter of our time in PNG was to summit Mt. Wilhelm. Mt. Wilhelm stands at 4509m and is the tallest peak in all of Oceania. It is also listed as one of “The Seven Summits”.

I was very excited for this adventure for a multitude of reasons. I had never gone above 4000m or done the highest peak in any country before. (I should look at doing Mt. Kosciusko in Australia, because that doesn’t stand very tall in comparison to other mountains in the world.)

Jackson making friends whilst we waited for the road to be fixed. Red frogs, that’s a winner.

We left from Mt. Hagen airport to a lodge owned by an exuberant character Betty. Here lodge was aptly named, “Bettys Lodge”. Situated at 2800m, it’s a bit of a journey from Mt. Hagen airport. “A bit of a journey” is a huge understatement. It’s a three-hour car ride along some of the worse roads I’ve ever been on. Betty doesn’t sugar coat it either, she’ll let you know about all the times she had requested for them to be fixed in the 33 years she’s lived at the lodge. Some roads were like driving over a dried-up, old, rocky river bed and others had pot-holes half the size of the car. Honestly, the drive to Bettys Lodge was an adventure in itself. Everyone warned us about the drive, so we knew we were in for something interesting. To the driver’s credit, he maneuvered around the ‘bumps’ as best he could. Jackson and I could only hold on for so long before we inevitably hit our head on the roof or slid into the back door of the FWD.

Arriving at Betty’s Lodge was a relief, we were over the moon to be there and standing on our own two feet. Betty is a boisterous character. She could tell stories for 4 hours straight, going from one tangent to another and I’m sure she doesn’t even take a breath! Her storytelling aside, Betty’s lodge is quite the cozy abode. Orchids and many wild birds surround the lodge, which makes it a hangout for more than just mountaineers. Betty told us that she’ll often have birdwatchers and orchid enthusiasts come and stay with her.

We drank a lot of tea, ate soup and enjoyed listening to stories from our new Swiss and Andorran friends Michu and Anna. They were mountain guides and mountain leaders and had a great deal of experience. I was fascinated by their stories as I continuously pinged one question after another at them. We had an early night and set off the next morning to basecamp.

Betty’s to basecamp was a reasonable climb, doing around a vertical kilometre in elevation. It was rather muddy as I often found my ankle fully submerged in swamp-like mud. I hiked with a large bag, full of sleeping bags, cameras and snacks. Arriving at basecamp, we found a small hut and “A-frame” structure with a kitchen inside. This is where we would sleep for the night. Once again, we sat by the fire, drank tea but this time tried to quickly acclimatize for the cold and attitude.

1 am quickly came around, however, we managed to get 6 hours sleep which I thought was impressive. The next four hours we would hike in mud, over tree roots, through waterfalls and up into the cold. It wasn’t easy. Personally, I had a slow start to climb from 3500-4000m. For some reason, after 4000m I felt good but Jackson didn’t. Altitude sickness hit him hard. He had a bad headache which progressed to a migraine and started to feel unusually fatigued. Being in altitude was interesting, you are the mercy of nature and have no idea how it is going to affect you.

As we didn’t get a view up the top, here are some portraits from the short time at the summit.

That us, at the top, just wanted some proof for those reading.

 

We made it to the top both smiling and shivering, however, there was no view for us to enjoy. The clouds ‘socked’ us in.  Alas, we promptly started the journey back to basecamp and then to betty’s lodge. It was a big day on the legs, 1200m of elevation and 2000m in decline.

 

Slowly but surely we made it back, proud that we summited Mt. Wilhelm.
What a journey that was to my first peak over 4000m. Papua New Guinea continues to impress me day in day out. What a place for adventure.
Soon we head to the coastal regions.
Big Love,

JL

Here are a few other photos from the Mt. Wilhelm Expedition.

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