glacier shrink back

The rapidly vanishing glaciers of West Papua have made a rocky tower called Sumantri the second highest peak in Indonesia. Although not yet officially reclassified, Sumantri, 4870 metres (15,977 feet) is now noticeably higher than an adjacent peak Ngga Pulu, which has lost its glacial cap and is down to 4862 metres. Until about 2000 anyone who schlepped up the crevassed glacier that lay across the way to the top of Ngga Pulu , then No.2 high point, would have looked across and down a chaotic landscape of rock blocks and receding ice to the lower tip of Sumantri, No.3 "peak".  But not any more. A self portrait by French mountaineer Philippe Gatta on the snow dusted newly rocky summit of Ngga Pulu shows him overshadowed by the tip of Sumantri in the background . It is a spectacular indication of global warming but one only seen by a small number of cashed-up peak baggers  who pay more than $10,000 in some instances to climb nearby Puncak Jaya (formerly Carstenz Pyramid) which at 4884 metres is the highest point in Oceania or Australasia, and part of the so-called Seven Summits of Earth. Access to what are the nearest glaciers to Australia, yet only four degrees south of the equator,  is complicated by the peak bagger unfriendly policies of the gigantic high altitude US-controlled Freeport copper and gold mine within sight of Puncak Jaya and the formalised bribery required to get permission to skirt it and fly to a base camp by helicopter, which avoids what amounts to a war zone between Papuan separatists and Jakarta. Recent estimates say the broken glacial masses that remain on the middle to upper slopes of the southern sides of Sumantri and Ngga Pulu (left and right in the photo below) will melt away in 15 years or less.

ridgeline