Ascent of Mount Wilhelm on 2015-08-23

Climber: Rob Woodall

Others in Party:Matthew Holt; Fiona McIntosh
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Sunday, August 23, 2015
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:4x4 Vehicle
Peak:Mount Wilhelm
    Location:Papua New Guinea
    Elevation:14793 ft / 4508 m

Ascent Trip Report

This ascent can be set up quite easily eg via Bettys Place I had been in touch with Betty from the UK but the timing was flexible and finally confirmed just a few days before. It turned out to be my 500th 2000ft prominence summit - a nice milestone peak.

It's a straightforward two day ascent although acclimatisation has to be allowed for. A party in a hurry could get to base camp on the day of arrival; theoretically it even could be day hiked in around 12 hours by a fit and acclimatised party. NB the GPX track also includes the road route to Keglsugl for completeness.

Fri 21 To Bettys Place
After our Mt Giluwe ascent we are taken back down to Mt Hagen where Betty has a coffee shop xxxx near the airport. We confirm arrangements, buy essentials such as beer (over the road) and food (supermarket) for our one night on the mountain (for us and our guides and porters). Then we pile into a Toyota 4x4 and are driven by Betty's Aussie husband Peter to their guesthouse at Keglsugl. The surfacing has recently been extended, taking over an hour off the journey, which is completed in under 4 hours with several stops along the way for errands or small purchases. I've read some horror stories about the road to Keglsugl but nowadays it's pretty good for an unpaved road. But for the sideways facing rear seats which seem to be standard around here, it would be a reasonably comfy ride.

En route Betty tells a few of her stories: best is from a couple of decades ago right at the start of her career in tourism, when a tourist broke a leg on the mountain and she somehow managed to phone around and organise a helicopter rescue. A remarkable woman with amazing drive and determination - a definite trip highlight.

We're driven right up to the lodge (S 5.8175, E 145.087, 2800m), which is just past Betty's house. It's a great place: don't expect TV, Internet or too many stars for the accommodation but it's perfectly comfortable with hot water and (4 hours morn and eve) electricity. We spend a lazy afternoon tea drinking on the verandah; looking round the trout farm; reading. The other three guests arrive mid pm having summitted Wilhelm that morning. I try some birding but apart from good views of yellow browed and red collared honeyeater there seems the usual PNG scarcity of bird life. Dinner is excellent, as expected from previous reports.

Sat 22 To Base Camp
I try some bre-breakfast birding: a few new birds: New Guinea wood-swallow Belfords honeyeater; the glossy swiftlets hawking and drinking from the upper pool are lovely to see close at hand. Also Baimuru the Southern Cassowary has emerged, 2012 vintage and getting close to adult size, a big bird.

We set off at 10am with two guides and three porters including one female. Betty is promoting female participation, not least because women are less likely to waste the money on tobacco or betel nut... Female guides a possible next stage.

The route soon joins a well made trail with log paving and steps; even picnic benches! The second bench is next to a Survey Marker (ref no 3953, S 6.80573, E 156.07129, 3257m). As the penalty for removal is $200 it's presumably Australian. Also acts as a boundary marker we're told. Up through nice woodland, then a wide valley with tree ferns; finally a steepish ascent L of a waterfall leads to the "A-Fram" hut - base camp. We're here in 2h30 without rushing.

The hut (S 5.7927, E 146.0578, 3595m) consists of two guests rooms with pillows and mattresses for half a dozen in each room; there's an adjacent hut equipped with stoves, cooking and eating utensils; a third rather scruffy hut for the guides and porters (2 have gone back down - they don't carry above base camp - except perhaps for an extra tip). Finally a shack with a long-drop toilet.

A lazy afternoon punctuated by self cooked lunch and dinner (chicken stew sent up with us by Betty!), a little birding (the very local Long-bearded honeyeater is a speciality here: its buzzy call; eventually a couple of sightings). The hut is nicely located overlooking the large lower lake; there's another older hut across the valley. The first half hour of the summit route is explored: past the huts the trail descends a little, follows the L shore of the lake, climbs quite steeply L of a series of waterfalls then at the top swings L to soon leave the very scenic upper lake far below. Above, it evidently swings R, but it's time to head down for dinner. No sign of the expected xxx Teal on either lake. There's a heavy rain shower mid pm - first we've seen in two weeks - and more overnight.

Sun 23 Summit and back to Betty's
We start at 0210 and do almost all the ascent in the dark, getting back at 0925 (suggesting 0400 would have been a more appropriate start time for anyone not set on seeing sunset from the summit - and it was cloudy anyway). Above the upper lake the very clear (unmaintained) path makes an ascending traverse R and eventually follows a rocky ridge with a few ups and downs. There are a few minor rock steps which are a little awkward by torch light (mine not being as bright as it should be) but trivial on the way down. I hear a Ring ouzel calling - although presumably couldn't have. The last 30 mins is in growing daylight: after a stumbly ascent this is a big improvement. Cold wind: we stop once the summit comes into view through the clouds, put on extra clothing and ready the cameras. The final few mins to the summit is quite devious, descending L a little then scrambling up a few rocky steps, YDS3 but not exposed. The rocky summit is marked by a pole (S 5.77959, E 145.02917, 4504m), flag and, slightly beyond, a short length of metal pipe bedded in concrete, which I take to be a triangulation point - appropriate the national highpoint should have one.

We're up in just over 4 hours: would probably be nearer 3 if ascending in daylight. We are in cloud but the sun is intermittently visible with some dramatic cloud effects. After 15 mins chilly fingered photography we head down, stopping when we find a sheltered spot for food. We stop again above the upper lake to see the wreckage of a crashed Australian plane (S 5.793, E 145.046) which at 4040m makes for a good acclimatisation hike.

Back at the base camp hut we pack up, finish the last of Betty's stew with some noodles and a cuppa, and head back down to the lodge: descent takes 1h20. Within the hour it's raining heavily - first rain for three months.

After another day at the Lodge, we travel back to Mt Hagen with Betty and Peter. The we go our separate ways: Matthew and Fiona fly to Port Moresby for some diving, while I return to Magic Mountain Lodge, to climb Mt Hagen the following day.

Mt Wilhelm photo album

Trip outline
We first attempted Mt Boising, failing to summit.
We then climbed Mt Giluwe and Mt Wilhelm. These are both simple to arrange.
Finally I summitted Mt Hagen.
These three summits are all straightforward once having got to Mt Hagen airport.

General info
English is spoken in most places
Cash is king: a few (high end) hotels may take a card
ATMs are widely available eg Port Moresby airport; Madang and Mt Hagen (in towns but not airports)
Hotels tend to be expensive and/or low quality, but clean and adequate; Electricity tends to be unreliable

Birds observed
Redcollared honeyeater
Yellowbrowed honeyeater
Back fantail
Smokey honeyeater
Glossy swiftlet
Southern Cassowary (captive)
New Guinea woodswallow
Greystreaked honeyeater
Torrent lark

Wilhelm trail: 2nd picnic bench:
Brown sicklebill (H)
Blackbreasted boatbill

Basecamp (A Frame hut):
Long bearded honeyeater
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:5803 ft / 1767 m
    Extra Gain:98 ft / 29 m
    Round-Trip Distance:14.9 mi / 24 km
    Trailhead:Keglsugl Betty's Lodge  9186 ft / 2799 m
    Grade/Class:Yds 3
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Scramble
    Gear Used:
Guide, Porters, Hut Camp
    Nights Spent:1 nights away from roads
    Weather:Pleasant, Windy, Low Clouds
Ascent Statistics
    Time:21 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Time:5 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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