Watch Alex Von Steen’s presentation below:
Alex Van Steen
Carstenz Pyramid—a “Seven Summits” peak—Presents Challenges And Opportunities For Partnerships In Building A Sustainable Tourist Ecosystem In Remote Indonesia.
Puncak Jaya, located in Lorentz National Park, West Papua, Indonesia, is the world’s highest island peak, in the largest land-based national park in Southeast Asia. Known also as Carstenz Pyramid, it rises 4,884m (16,024′) above lush equatorial rainforests and a large gold and copper mine. Its few tropical glaciers are rapidly receding. It is also the destination of a growing and important tourist economy. In 2011, Alex launched Rainier Mountaineering’s (RMI) Carstensz Pyramid program and in doing so recognized that current commercial models for adventures in Papua were not sustainable.
Today RMI partners with indigenous Papuans to develop a solid foundation for sustainable adventure tourism, a business model that is currently unprecedented in the area. While this is extremely challenging in the face of numerous societal conditions, the Papuans have expressed a readiness for such a model. As Western tourists (mostly climbers) are travelling more frequently through their lands, the Papuans are anxious to have a role in the burgeoning opportunity.
Alex Van Steen described the struggles of building relationships, his connection with efforts there, and what RMI has done to-date in terms of social responsibility and environmental care.
Since the late 1980s, Alex Van Steen has become one of RMI’s most traveled guides. When not in the field, he has responsibilities in guide development and training, human resources, and environmental management. Since 2012, he has led RMI’s effort to create a sustainable tourism industry and developed RMI’s position as the only western commercial guide service to partner with an indigenous Papuan outfitter. He has spent time with local community leaders building relationships as well as training and educating porters to work with expeditions. Additionally, Alex has spent more than a decade in community outreach and education. In Washington, he works extensively with at-risk youth as a mentor, pastor, and guardian.