On higher ground

Scal­ing Bougainvil­le’s high­est moun­tain

Paradise - - Contents -

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).

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