The follow is an excerpt from “Chapter 10: Carstensz Pyramid” of DIE TRYING: One Man’s Quest to Conquer the Seven Summits by Bo Parfet with Richard Buskin.
To start with, there were armed security guards checking people into and out of the hotel where I and the other climbers were staying. This, believe it or not, was a Sheraton, located in a jungle village where the buildings were mainly shacks and mud huts; it was funded by the Freeport mine and used to house visiting engineers after they touched down on a runway that the mine also helped pay for. The guards were constantly combing the hotel grounds for looters and kidnappers, and it quickly became clear that neither I nor the other guests would want to walk down one of the surrounding dirt roads by ourselves. If we did that, there’d be a good chance of our being whisked off into the forest by a bunch of tribal warriors with spears at our throats.
After we’d been stuck at the hotel for five days while waiting for rain and freezing sleet to clear, an unfavorable weather forecast inspired Frankie to finally announce that, instead of hanging around any longer and taking a chopper past the Zebra Wall to the Base Camp, we’d simply have to bribe our way across the mine. Frankie would take care of the bribes, since we’d already taken care of Frankie.
Each of us had paid Mountain Madness about $15,000 for the trip, and Frankie was handed a sizable chunk of that, as attested to by the two-story home that he owned in the city of Manado, along with several four-wheel-drive cars. Having guided people up and down the mountain before it had been closed, he’d forged plenty of invaluable relationships with soft-palmed members of the military and the police, as well as government officials in Timika and the Indonesian capital of Jakarta. Now he was cashing in those chips.
This became clear on the second day of our hotel hiatus when members of another mountaineering group, who’d booked with International Mountain Guides, informed us that they were using an American guide to take them up the mountain, and that he was $5,000 cheaper than Frankie. Word of this soon found its way back to our man, and he quickly arranged a meeting in the lobby.
“I guarantee you those guys are not going up the mountain,” Frankie told us in good English. “They don’t have the connections I have. They’re not going to make it. But please do not say a thing, because if you do, they’re going to ask me to help them, and that will take my energy away from you. Just believe me—they will not climb that mountain.”
Whenever we met people from the other team at lunch or dinner, they’d tell us, “We’re setting off tomorrow.” Then, after another 24 hours of rain and sleet, they’d say, “We’re definitely leaving tomorrow.” They were really optimistic. Their guide would take care of them, and they hadn’t used Frankie because he was too expensive. They were basically rubbing this in our faces. However, on the fifth night, while they were still cooling their heels, Frankie came to each of our rooms at around 10 o’clock and said, “Be very quiet. We are leaving at midnight. You must be packed and ready. Don’t say a word. I’m going to tell everyone on our team. We will meet at the back entrance of the hotel, where a van will be waiting, and you must get into that van as quietly as possible.”
After five days of wondering whether we would ever see the Pyramid, it was go time, and we all felt good about it because at that point Frankie hadn’t told us of his little change in plans. As far as we were concerned, the van would take us to the helicopter, and we’d then fly to the Base Camp. Sure enough, at around midnight, we all met outside the rear entrance of the hotel and were driven to a military outpost located just a short distance from the mine. It was there that Frankie threw us a major curve.
“Look,” he announced, “the weather could stay like this for another month. No one is flying, and that other group back at the hotel is not going anywhere. We’re going to have to sneak through the mine.”
Before anyone had a chance to react, he tossed us some military fatigues—camouflage hats, shirts, and pants—told us to put them on, and then instructed us to climb into the back of a truck that would hopefully evade the attention of eagle-eyed soldiers as well as Freeport’s security guards.
Now I was nervous. “Holy shit,” I recall thinking. “What is this guy getting us into?”
Excerpted from DIE TRYING: One Man’s Quest to Conquer the Seven Summits, by Bo Parfet with Richard Buskin. Copyright © 2009 Bo Parfet with Richard Buskin. Published by AMACOM Books, a division of American Management Association, New York, NY. Used with permission. All rights reserved. http://www.amacombooks.org.