I found out yesterday that my friend (and hiking buddy) Brian was going to be deployed to Iraq in the next week or so with his Marine division. We decided to get in one last hike, and I thought we should make it a worthwhile one. He's gone with me on Kalena, Olomana, and Manamana, so I proposed one that would top them all.
We arrived at the Pali lookout at 11:00, and were glad to see the high cloud cover, but with Konahuanui cloud-free(which it remained all day). I've been up to the notches to the right of the lookout 3-4 times before, but never beyond. Today we got to them in short time, then proceeded to work past them taking the direct up-and-over route. Coming off the second notch required a steep downhill climb followed by a careful jump. (We had missed the more gradual descent option on the windward facing side)
Next was a brief level stretch, prior to arriving at the "test your courage" spot. We spotted an old rope hanging at the top of very steep/narrow section. The other day I had run into Jason Sunada and he had advised me of this part, but I was not ready for how dangerous it would be. There were basically two sheer vertical spots, with a little recovery spot in between. Few handholds and no vegetation at all - only loose rock. I got past the first one(with some trembling upon looking around at the drop-offs) and then took off my pack. I then tied a length of rope around me, and Brian secured the other end around all of our gear so we would be able to climb safer. I then fought my way to the top of the next wall where the rope finally came into reach. Even with the rope I was pretty damn unsure if I was going to make it.
After reaching a (relatively) safe spot, I was able to heave and pull our gear up the 40 or so vertical feet. Brian then made his way up, and was also fortunate to succeed. After a handshake and a quick water break, we continued on our way. We agreed to "no going back now". No trail ribbons (or much of a trail) from this point on. The narrow ridge sections became the norm for the next stretch, but with surprisingly low-growing plant life that didn't block the amazing views.
Another challenge soon faced us, as we arrived at a tall imposing feature of the ridge. Climbing directly up was not an option due to the loose dirt, moss, bad rock,etc. Brian suggested we contour to the right side of it, and I was then able to find a way up. No easy task, as this one was also near-vertical, but there was enough tree roots and long grass to pull on. Both of us got by after some slipping and sliding.
It was at some point after this time that I was waiting for Brian to climb up to me at another rocky section, when a chunk of rock that he was pulling on suddenly shot out -while he was in an exposed position. Almost a fatal fall, which made us take another break to remember the seriousness of this climb.
Some uphill bushwacking followed but nothing too memorable. The upper sections are quite similar to Piliwale, but the earlier rock climbs were significantly scarier. Reached the summit at 2:00, after an exciting 3 hours. We took lots of pictures(digital and old-fashioned) on the way up and from the top-can't wait to see them. Perfectly clear in all directions...could even see Kamaileunu in the distance.
After a long lunch, and conversation on how much fun life in Hawaii can be, we headed down the ridge that parallels Lulumahu stream/falls on the west side. A new trail for both of us, but in as-expected condition. We were able to follow a faint swath and old ribbons on the way down to the Lulumahu stream trail- which I am very familiar with. We shortly departed from that trail, got to the reservoir parking lot at ~4:30, and then folowed that road out to the Pali highway.
While assisting a stranded motorist (by letting him call for help on my cell phone) a soldier in a jeep pulled up asking for directions to Starbucks in Kailua. I told him how to find it, and he was kind enough to drive us to the base of the Pali lookout access road. We completed the short uphill walk to the car, pleased to have eliminated a good chunk of highway-hiking. With an impressive loop completed, we headed to Kua Aina and Jamba Juice to fatten up. Gotta think of an even better hike for when Brian returns from Iraq. Any suggestions? --Pete Clines