On higher ground
Scaling Bougainville’s highest mountain
Photographer Bruno Louey was recently among the first people in eight months to reach the summit of Bougainville’s 2715-metre Mount Balbi.
The track to the top of the active volcano had been closed for most of the year, while some issues were sorted out between landowners and tourism operators.
Louey took the photos on these pages for Paradise.
He says the three-day trek to the summit, which is the highest point of Bougainville, is tough.
He says the group set out from Buka and spent a night in a village before starting the ascent proper.
“Our porters took turns to clear the track and the higher we went the colder it got. We walked and climbed through jungle, jumped over fallen trees and crossed dry river beds.”
Louey says his group of 11, including porters, camped out at night and meals were prepared over open fires.
Although the group was hit by some wet weather, the final day to the summit was in beautiful conditions.
“Everyone was happy about this,” he says. “We trekked along ridges and between fumaroles (spitting hot gas and steam) to the top.
“There was an overwhelming feeling of success standing right at the top of the highest peak (on Bougainville). There are five craters up there, one with a big blue lake. The beauty of the place made all the effort worthwhile.”
Bougainville’s rooftop ... Mount Balbi from its southern flank (top); the blue crater lake (opposite above); a rugged path to the top (opposite bottom).