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Monday, September 24, 2001

Pali Dip Trip (Pali Puka and Pali Notches --2001)

From:Stanley Yamada 
Reply-To: ohe-l@hawaii.edu
Date: Mon, 24 Sep 2001 23:54:02 -1000 

Finally got up to the Lookout for an exploratory of the Pali Notches on one side and Lanihuli prayer on the other. Couldn't persuade No. 1 son to join me so he just dropped me off near the trailhead around 3:30.

I sped up the trail next to a sign warning me not to rappel. OK I won't. At a junction I took a narrow trail left toward the ridge. The trail continues straight up for those not wanting to look over the edge at the highway below. To me, it's way more dangerous the "safe" way as I'll explain later. I kept to the ridge line despite contouring routes which appeared every so often. The rock is amazingly good and the lee side is well protected with lush vegetation for safety. This is a great climb to try if you want the thrill of ridge climbing without the danger. Powerful wind gusts pushing you alee also helps in the confidence department. Just don't get caught leaning left if the wind suddenly dies out!

Soon a vertical rock face appeared, but there is a clear contour to the right. I went straight up. The rock is hard and a joy to climb. Got to the notches and the top of the second "molar" without incident. When attempting to drop down off the second tooth though, it appeared to be an overhang. Lots of placements, but too dicey to try on my own. Never take unnecessary chances when out alone. I had rope and all, but I could see the upcoming face clear enough so I just sat there awhile studying the problem.

The more I looked, the more I was convinced it was doable free solo. IF the rock is hard like below and IF it isn't an overhang. Don't think it is as I studied it coming up the road. Just steep. It actually looks about the same as the ridge I had just climbed with zero problem, only shorter. The major difference is the lack of vegetation alee and the ridge looks more razor edge. There appears to be a possible contour route too. The decision to try it will have to await No. 1 son's whim. I give it a green light.

I debated whether I should try to go farther by removing my pack, but decided against it. I climbed back down and explored possible contours around the second tooth on both sides. Possibilities, but I didn't push it. Took the "safe" route down and couldn't believe anyone would want to go that way. Very steep, loose soil, leaves, uneven. The type that makes you slip, trip and fall. One metal wire and a thin rope is placed, but you better have gloves. It's a twisted ankle waiting to happen if you ask me.

I emerged to the dismay of tourists at the lookout and crossed over to the north end of the parking lot. Found the hole in the bamboo forest and enjoyed a delightful trail heading up. I could hike all day on a trail like this, assuming I get a view like I got at the top. Stupendous is too tame a word for it. Sheer Pali with the freshest air you can imagine whipping up into your face. Green, green, green all the way down the slope with sheer rock faces above and to the sides. I gazed down at Koolau Golf Course and Pali Golf Course. Sight of many personal humiliations and triumphs alike (ace at Pali no. 15).

I tore myself away knowing more was in store ahead. Proceeded to climb along the ridgeline, sometimes bailing to the left when an obvious trail presented itself and the ridge looked dicey. The wind was really whipping here and it made me nervous although I was never in any danger. After a nice climb I got to the puka and the problem face. The face seems to be a hundred feet high, though you can't tell because it overhangs about 10 degrees (as viewed from the side). It has a lot of character and placements. The problem is it isn't good rock. I attempted to climb the lower part and the rock came loose in my hand. Not a lot, just enough to know that you don't want to be 50 feet up and hanging by your fingertips from it. It is very exposed on both sides. Even if you top rope it, the overhang will pull you away from the wall. Unless you can lower or pull yourself up with your arms for a hundred feet, top rope won't help (fancy self-belay device might work or a dyno prusik knot and a few hundred dollars worth of climbing rope!). No, this wall needs real rock climbing protection. The crumbly rock makes that problematic. It's climbable, but you should have protection for the inevitable fall.

So I looked for the contour route to the left and using my "trail eye" I found a hole in the canopy. It's either a pig trail or the thin remains of a long lost tramper's traverse. Basically, it looks like a narrow terrace separating one layer of rock from the next. Hardy trees line the path and I bushwhack along a sheer, but well vegetated wall. Found a shallow cave lined with moss. Sometimes I actually ducked down to see what's below for the path of least resistance. Staying just right of the tree line, I eventually got to a spur and climbed up it toward a black rock face. I tried to climb that, but gave up when it proved to be too tough for today and above it looked tougher. I spied a "weakness" to the left so I slabbed over that way. It is a small crease in the hill with a rocky dry streambed down the center. I took that route up and came upon a brown faced mini-amphitheater on the right. Looks like the site of a small waterfall when flowing. I went over just to say I was there and sat facing east looking directly down upon the road exiting the Lookout which merges with Windward headed traffic.

Rest time over, I went back to the other streambed and continued up. This part was very difficult as the hill was steep, lots of branches and brush in the way and sticky vines grabbing every part of my body. I just bulldozed through sacrificing the old body for science. I was having a ball. Turned out that I had been pulling myself up the branches of a felled tree. I could see a ridgeline above me and thought it was a spur leading to the main ridge I had left behind. The last 30 feet to the top was a grab-a-piece-of-grass and slither up type climb. I pulled myself up and over to look at a sheer thousand foot drop on the other side! This was the ridge! I had made it to the saddle between the pyramidal first knob and the summit. Wow. And I thought the other view was good. Awesome and you gotta see it up close and personal is all I can say. The ridge here is very narrow but due to the wind pushing you back to the safe side, not scary at all. It's all soft grass and shrubs down below on the lee side, steep though so no picnic if you do fall. Heck, if you're chicken you can just lay there with your head over the edge and your body on the safe side.

I climbed up the east ridge to look at the overhang from the top. Razor edge trail, but well protected with shrubbery to the right. I got to the top of the world and found that I would have to descend to see over the edge, if it's even possible due to the overhang. Nixed that idea, too risky for solo approach. Noted though that the top has lots of trees to hang a rope off of if need be. Stood there in all my glory and watched as a bug-like helicopter flew through the gap headed toward town. I had seen the same craft flying the other way a little while earlier while relaxing in the brown theater.

So I turned my attention to Lanihuli and climbed down, then across the saddle and up the ridge on the other side. Easy climbing again, similar to the trail coming up along the ridge below. I got to the top of that false summit and looked down. Nothing to it from here. Clear swath down and up to what looks like the summit from there, but who knows? In my mind, this is a done deal. Just have to bypass that nasty steep is all. Does that still count I wonder? Heck yeah I answer myself. I must add that from this vantage point the crossover from Pu'u Kahuauli looks really cool and inviting. Lanihuli Windward also looks doable due to an apparent contour around the worst part which is evident from here. Of course, things could change when actually confronted with it.

I had to tear myself away from this heaven-like beautiful scene since daylight was getting short. I tied a white nylon string to a branch just below the ridge to mark the trail down if anyone comes down from the top. Should be able to find it from this description though. I proceeded down using my modified skateboard technique. Sit on my right heel with my left leg extended out slightly bent (to avoid injury). Surf/skate down on my flat feet using my heels to stop along with anything my little gloved hands can grab. Slid right down and through all that grass, weeds and vines. Half way down I sensed, wrongly, that I needed to head left more. Luckily I stopped just shy of a drop off on the wrong side of the brown waterfall theater. Sixth sense saved me there. I crawled back to where I should have been and stumbled my way back along the sheer contour trail. Got back to the puka and proceeded right along the ridge.

I crab crawled my way back down until I could descend in a less ridiculous posture. When I entered the canopy on the final leg down to the parking lot it was too dark to see. Goody goody, I get to play with my new toy. Tried to find my Petzl Zipka LCD headlamp in my pack, but it's so small (size and weight of one D cell battery). I couldn't find it! I had forgotten that I tucked it in my rain pants for padding. Ended up dumping out my pack to find it and had to use it to gather up my goods. Works anyway. Works really well in fact. Perfect for hiking. So light you can barely feel it on your head. Solid fit and feel. I recommend it. I even jogged with them on and they remained solid.

So I got down and crossed over to head down the hill on the Maunawili Trail, or whatever they call it from there. Got to the hairpin turn parking lot in due course and injured myself hopping over to the outside of the guardrail for protection. Rats! All that core climbing and bushwhacking almost without a scratch and I skin my knee on the guard rail. Babooze my mother would say. Walked down to the bus stop and caught the 57 to Ala Moana Shopping Center. Walked up Keeaumoku and home from there and arrived at about 8:30 p.m.

All in all, an afternoon romp to remember.

sky 9/24/01

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