Mount Wilhelm, at 4509m above sea level, provides an icon trekking experience for PNG. The climb is able to be undertaken by fit bushwalkers and takes climbers to the summit of the highest mountain in PNG, with spectacular views both north and south. The climb, often undertaken over two days is recommended only for fit climbers.
The track up Mount Wilhelm has a long history of interest to keen bushwalkers and climbers as it is the highest mountain in PNG. It is not managed formally by any organisation for tourism at this stage, although the local village members support the tourism product and guesthouses at Keglsugl provide before and after accommodation. The Tourism Promotion Authority has undertaken guide and guesthouse development training. Mount Wilhelm is known as Enduwa Komgugu in the local language.
The track is usually undertaken as a two day trek, with the key stages:
The trek is also undertaken as a three day experience where climbers spend a day acclimatising at one of the Huts for a day before making the ascent more than 24 hours from when they first reach the Hut.
- Keglsugl to one of the Huts (overnight stay and acclimatisation) 5 km
- Hut to Summit and return to Keglsugl 13 km
The following sets out a general description of the climb.
Day One – Keglsugl to Huts
Approximate Distance 5 km Net Climbing: 900 m
About 3-4 hours walking The track starts at the crossing of a small tributary of Gwaki Creek and then enters thick montane rainforest. On the climb over 4.5 km there are three “rests”, then the track emerges into more open alpine heaths and grasslands. The ANU Hut is to the east of Lake Piunde and the A Frame Hut to the south west.
The walk can take from 3 to 5 hours, but is generally done as an easy half day with climbers then resting near their hut.
Camp Jehovah Jireh
The track is a simple footpath through the forest floor, with log steps and other simple construction in some places. There is some limited compaction and root exposure on some areas of the track.
Day Two – Hut – Summit then Return to Keglsugl
Approximate Distance 14 km
Climbing: 1000 m then almost 2000m descent About 10 hours walking
Usually weather conditions dictate that walkers leave their hut well before dawn and climb in the dark until they reach the summit shortly after dawn. This enables a reasonably clear view of the landscape around the area, before clouds envelope the mountain.
The climb is arduous and quite treacherous on the upper slopes and ridge toward the summit. A guide almost always accompanies the climber. Once the summit is reached and the view taken in, most climbers then descend the whole way back to Keglsugl, to arrive by mid to late afternoon.
The track is an unconstructed footpath leading to the summit with loose stones and slippery rocks making the going difficult underfoot.
Trans Niugini Tours also promote a traverse, which involves a journey over the Mountain, climbing first from Ambullua (northwest of Mt Wilhelm) to the Summit then descending the “normal” route via Lake Piunde and Keglsugl.
Acute Mountain Sickness
Mount Wilhelm is at an altitude that can cause acute mountain sickness - a very serious health issue which can lead to death. Many climbers who have climbed the mountain experience no or minor symptoms, however some climbers do experience mild to severe EMS and need to be treated accordingly.
Mount Wilhelm was a declared national park and was managed by the National Parks Board and more recently by the Department of Environment and Conservation. It is understood that the park was at some point ceded to the provincial administration to manage and since 1994 there has been little active management or recognition of the area as a protected area. A meeting with DEC staff found that there is no current active management, though the Park would appear to still be statutorily declared.
Customary Land Ownership
The whole of Mount Wilhelm has of course been customary land. Notwithstanding the potential alienation of customary land within the national park area, a meeting of some of the key stakeholders from Keglsugl identified some claims of customary ownership by Joe Black and family, Agetha Kuno and family, Josefa Nama and family and Henry Agum and family.
During discussions with various other stakeholders it was evident that not all local people in Keglsugl may recognise the above claims and this Plan has not undertaken any further investigation nor made any determination on the claims of customary ownership. A formal process of social mapping and land mediation would need to take place to identify and confirm the customary land ownership structure. There may be others who consider they have an interest.