Stories behind Trikora Peak’s Name and Expeditions

Maoke Mountains is the name of the mountain range in West Papua that stretches for about 700 kilometers. The mountain range boasts several peaks, with Jaya Peak (Carstenz Pyramid) as its highest peak. However, the mountain’s third highest peak also has its own appeals, distinctions, and interesting stories. Standing on 4,750 meters of height, Trikora Peak is not only an amazing geographical wonder, but also a place that has historical significance.

Descriptions of Trikora Peak

Trikora Peak (Puncak Trikora) is the third highest peak in Maoke Mountains, right behind Jaya Peak and Mandala/Juliana Peak. This peak is located at the central range of Maoke, also known as Sudirman or Nassau Range. Jaya, Trikora, and Mandala Peaks make up for the highest mountains in the entire Australasia continent.

Trikora Peak was formed by the collision between Pacific and Australia plates during the late Miocene Melanesian orogeny period. The peak used to be covered with ice, which is unusual in a tropical land. However, the rising temperature had reduced the snow layer since 1936. In 1962 or 1963, there was no more ice cap on Trikora Peak.

The typical vegetations in this peak are varied. When you start climbing, you will find mostly rainforests. At the higher level, there are scrub beeches, swamp vegetations, alpine scrubs, lichens, and mosses. At some points, climbers will only find bare rocks with almost zero vegetations, due to cold temperature (despite the melted snow cap).


The History of Trikora Peak’s Name

Although this peak is only the third highest, the name has become a subject of changes with time. In early times, the peak was known as Ettiakup. This name was given by Dani people, who live near Lake Habbema. However, when the Dutch came to Indonesia to occupy and form colonies, the peak’s name was changed to Wilhelmina, following the name of the Dutch queen.

For about six decades, the name Wilhelmina stuck to the peak. However, Indonesia later declared its independence in 1945, and launched series of strategies to reclaim West Papua from Indonesia. One of them was Trikora Operation, which was realized in series of noncombat strategies and military operations, followed by several diplomatic treaties with the UN as mediator.

Trikora Operation marked Indonesia’s latest military strategies against Netherland (which had still tried to reclaim Indonesia and later West Papua as colony). In 1963, Indonesian government renamed Wilhelmina Peak with Trikora Peak, eliminating Dutch-related names and commemorating the struggles.


History of Trikora Peak’s Expeditions

Even when it was still covered in snow, Trikora Peak has always been quite challenging but exciting to tackle. Travelers can approach this peak by boats in Unir (Noord) River, which runs through the eastern and western part of New Guinea. The presence of this river makes Trikora Peak relatively easy to explore. This is perhaps why Trikora Peak achieved popularity among the early 20th century travelers, due to the easy access.

The very first expedition to Trikora Peak was conducted by H. A. Lorentz, a soldier and amateur biologist. Lorentz did not reach the Trikora Peak, but he managed to record various aspects in this peak, such as the vegetations, animals, and geographical conditions. Lorentz conducted two expedition trips at the beginning of 20th century (no data recorded), but all were for scientific purposes. Lorentz was accompanied by several Dayak people from Borneo, famous for their skills in navigating river.

After the expedition, Noord River was renamed Lorentz River. Lorentz later led the second expedition in October 1909, together with a partner, Jan Willem van Nouhuys. They reached the new height of 4,460 meters, in the snow-covered area. Lorentz’s expedition ended with several losses due to extreme weather, but Lorentz discovered a lake he named Lake Habbema.

The third expedition in 1913 was led by a Royal Dutch East Indies Leger officer named Alphons Franssen Herderschee. He was accompanied by scientific experts such as a geologist, medical doctor, botanist, and zoologist. The group managed to reach Wilhelmina Peak on 21 February 1913. The goal of the expedition was to research and record various plants, animals, and soils at the mountain area, especially above the height of 3,200 meters.

Several of the next expeditions were for survey and military activities, although a surveyor named Paul Hubrecht was the first person that noticed the decline of snow cap in Trikora Peak.


Trikora Peak Expedition Now

Despite the debates about its actual height (compared to Mandala Peak), Trikora Peak is still mentioned in the Seven Second Summits List. The peak has become a popular fall mountaineering destination for climbers from all over the world. Semalak Cave near Lake Habbema is the main base camp point, and various businesses such as local travel agents and vehicle rental services thrive from this peak.

Trikora Peak may not be the highest summit in Maoke Mountains, but it is a source of tourism pride in West Papua, especially with the popularity of Eastern Indonesia traveling. The buildings of new infrastructures in Papua are expected to increase the travel boom to this area.