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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Haleakala, Sea to Summit Dayhike -- Patrick Rorie


Hike date: April 2003

Certain recollections come to mind when I think of the valley isle of Maui: the tourist town of Lahaina, where there are "brown eyed girls to break your heart"; the long and winding road to Hana, with its wonderful waterfall/swimming hole hikes; lush, isolated Pu'u Kukui, where a group of HTM trailclearers once participated in a service project (Dec. '99); and then there's remarkable Haleakala Crater, the location of my very first neighbor island backpack (May '97), coordinated by Ken Suzuki.After reading about the trip Dayle Turner, Ed Gilman and Mark Short did to Haleakala's summit via a route along Manawainui Gulch in December of last year, I had a strong desire to check it out myself. Moreover, I'm really into elevation gain these days, and after accumulating a total of 7600' via a double traverse of Mount Ka'ala on February 2 of this year, I wanted to exceed this one day total. "10K in one day" has a nice ring to it, but where could I go to gain 10000' in one day? Then it hit me; Maui, specificially, sea level to summit of Haleakala!After catching an Aloha Airlines flight to Kahului Airport Friday afternoon, April 11, I obtained 3 liters of water from the men's room and then met Mark Short curbside for the ride to Manawainui Gulch, situated along south Maui's barren Kaupo Coast. "Marlborough County" as Mark likes to call it. Kimba, Short's faithful k-9, stay in the flatbed of the truck.During the hour long drive to Manawainui, Mark and I noticed many jacaranda trees covered with pretty purplish blue flowers along Kula Hwy, and we conversed about a variety of topics, including the trek. I learned that Short is quite the kayak enthusiast and a wedding for his 18-year-old daughter is slated for Good Friday. Regarding the ascent, Mark told me how to avoid the "lantana from hell" section, advised carrying no water at the start of the outing because, due to recent rains, there would be plenty in the gulch, and, most importantly, when I communicated some doubt about being able to pull it off, Mark said,"You'll make it. I've seen you in action."At 6:45 p.m. we arrived at the paved lot above the mouth of Manawainui Gulch (approx. elev. 150'), overcast skies and breezy conditions prevailing. Upon being set free from her leash, Kimba pranced around the open grassy area below Piilani Hwy, barking loudly, the soft brown fur on her back standing on end. While Mark searched for traces of the "King's Highway" (an old Hawaiian footpath), my highest priority was to find a level tract relatively protected from the wind to pitch my slumberjack bivy. I discovered what I thought to be an ideal spot, but as darkness set in, I learned the hard way that strong gusts were able to sweep through my temporary campsite. I also found a switchback trail cut into the west wall of the gulch.Once Mark and Kimba drove off a few minutes past 7 p.m., I hunkered down beside my humble abode. Although partially concealed by the high overcast, I recognized a fairly large moon in the heavens almost directly overhead, which provided enough light to render the use of a flashlight unnecessary. However, there would be no star gazing opportunities. As the evening wore on, I noticed a surprising amount of vehicular traffic on Piilani Hwy, heard occasional rifle shots and cows mooing in the distance (Marlborough Country, remember?) and watched a nicely illuminated cruise ship the size of the Titanic float slowly by well off the coast. The gusty trades made it impossible to light my esbit stove, so I settled for a cold beef/vegetable soup dinner. The wind also caused my rain fly to flap all night into the early morning hours, robbing me of quality sleep. Thankfully, I had to endure only one brief passing shower.I emerged from my tent on Saturday morning, April 12, at 6:15 a.m. more than a little anxious with anticipation. The gusts were still strong enough to where I had to eat cold oatmeal, one balance bar and a 12 oz. Dr. Pepper rounding out the breakfast menu.With fuel in my tummy and caffine kicking in, I ventured down the switchback trail, taking it to the floor of Manawainui, carrying only a 1 liter plastic bottle, complements of Doug Klein. En route to the ocean, I briefly inspected two circular, high rock walls and then scolded myself, thinking "I should have camped down here". The acquisition of sea water didn't come easy, for I had to carefully negotiate slippery rocks and time the sizeable waves breaking just off shore. Nonetheless, I successfully obtained half a liter of salt water; albeit my feet and lower left arm got drenched. Having "tagged" the ocean and secured a miniscule sum of its contents, I retraced my steps to my tent, broke camp, drank all of my remaining Kahului Airport men's room water save one liter and then strapped on my kelty backpack.Leaving my campsite behind, I crossed Piilani Hwy at 7:31 a.m. and then followed an abandoned, grassy jeep road heading mauka. Perfect hiking conditions existed, a brisk cooling zephyr from the east, with scattered clouds overhead blocking direct sunlight, Haleakala's summit ridge in the clear.My strategy was to accomplish the first 4000' as quickly as possible and then steadily gain elevation from that point forward; therefore, I made Pu'u Pane (elev. 4032'), which I could scarcely see, my initial goal. Tramping methodically, I pausing only occasionally to catch my breath, peer down into Manawainui Gulch, enjoy the superb views of the Kaupo Coast, or snap photos; the summit region of Mauna Kea (elev. 13796'), Mauna Loa (elev. 13679') and Hualalai (elev. 8271') in the distance to the south across the Alenuihaha Channel my constant visual companions.It's strange what goes through one's mind during events like this. The lyrics to the song "Higher" by the modern rock band CREED kept filling my head..."Can you take me higher? To the place where blind men see. Can you take me higher?"*At 9:38 a.m. at a spot near the green slopes of Pane (approx. elev. 3750'), I stopped to guzzle all the water I had been carrying and refill my 1 liter plastic bottle from a small pool in the gulch. During the respite, a thick fog engulfed the upper environs, which caused me some consternation, fearing I might miss the Kahua Trail junction. Fortunately, the mist dissipated as I began approaching it a short time later.About 500' above the small pool, the terrain transitioned from open pastureland to native forest, tall ohi'a lehua, koa and a'ali'i trees dominating the landscape, teaming with native birds. I took another significant break here to relax and refuel (2 balance bars).Between 4250' and 5000' I felt fatigued and also hit a mental wall (I was now above the highest point on O'ahu)."I'm not even halfway and I'm running out of gas", I thought to myself.Inspired by the following scripture verses,"Though youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly, Yet those who wait for the Lord Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary."**I received inner strength and continued ascending, halting momentarily to carefully negotiate the barbed wire fence designating the forest reserve boundary.At 10:25 a.m., almost three hours into the climb, I reached 5100' and decided to tramp at a more deliberate pace. En route to 6000', I startled 5 goats contouring toward a now very narrow (almost nonexistent) Manawainui Gulch. Beyond 6000', I began emerging from the native forest, low-level pukiawe, a'ali'i and ohelo the territory's prevalent flora. 600' higher, I noticed a large cairn (ahu) slightly above and to my right, and, soon after, I arrived at the junction with the Kahua Trail at 11:30 a.m. Elated at my discovery, I headed west on the Kahua footpath (reminiscent of the lower Mauna Loa Trail), anticipating a rest stop and lunch at the hunter's cabin.The Kahua Shelter (elev. 7126') didn't come as quickly as I had hoped; nonetheless, I rejoiced upon reaching it at 12:12 p.m. I immediately stretched out on one of the metal lounge chairs like the ones available at a resort pool then consumed a peanut butter/honey sandwhich and a gala apple, washed down with a 12 oz Dr. Pepper. A cute keiki stay at the cabin, and we exchanged greetings. She kept herself busy by sweeping the perimeter of the building. A few minutes later, the child's Father and another hunter arrived, having bagged two goats. When I told the men where I had come from, the Father exclaimed,"You're an animal"Leaving the Kahua Shelter behind, I continued the trek at 12:46 p.m. with less than 3000' of elevation to gain to achieve the summit of Haleakala. A spur ridge behind the cabin led to the most difficult stretch of the day, over 500' of sustained steep ridge climbing along rugged rocky terrain. I trudged ever upward until reaching the broad crest of the summit ridge (approx. elev. 9100') at 2:05 p.m. After skirting an unnamed pit crater, I soon traveled along the Skyline Trail (aptly named because it feels like one is walking in the sky), where I delighted in the marvelous vista of east Molokai and west Maui far below. Compared to the earlier struggles associated with the event (steep climbing, etc.), the tramp along the Skyline Trail resembled a walk in the park, the final 900' coming gradually over red brown cinders and then via a paved road. Despite commencing the outing from sea level, I experienced no side affects from the high altitude.When I received my first glimpse down into Haleakala Crater a short distance below the summit, I became emotional and had to hold back the tears. "Pull yourself together!" I admonished myself.After inadvertently traversing the wrong side of the summit, I acquired the apex of Pu'u Ula'ula (lit. "Red Hill"), the summit of Haleakala (elev. 10023') at 3:04 p.m. While waiting for Mark to arrive, I donned a red REI sweater to stay warm, a gift from the great John Hall, and chatted briefly with an older gentleman from Florida, who agreed to take a picture of me underneath the wooden summit elevation sign.At 3:45 p.m. Mark appeared in his truck; no Kimba, but he had brought his youngest son Dillon along for the ride. Once Short joined me at the top of Pu'u Ula'ula, we enjoyed the superb panorama together until 4 p.m. Prior to departing Haleakala's summit, I poured the salt water I had obtained that morning from the Pacific Ocean onto the summit benchmark as a celebratorygesture.From the pinnacle of Haleakala, Mark drove us down to Hosmer Grove (elev. 6800'), with stops at three spectacular overlooks of Haleakala Crater en route. I discovered the Hosmer Grove campground to be a decent place to camp (I had never been there before), the locale nestled amongst tall eucalyptus and pine trees, sufficiently protected from the wind, an attribute I definately appreciated. Despite the fact that almost all of the sites were taken, we had a pleasant stay; the other campers were respectful, Mark kindled a fire, and after darkness had set in, the moon and stars appeared in the heavens between passing cloud banks. As I retired for the evening inside my slumberjack bivy, the temperature read a chilly 51 degrees fahrenheit.In stark contrast to Saturday's marathon climb, Sunday's events consisted of a fairly easy day hike double header. After breaking camp at Hosmer, the three of us stopped by the Short homestead in Paia to pick up Kimba and Mark's older son Jacob. Together, Mark motored the five of us to the "4 Pools" trailhead, situated along the Hana Hwy. The hike features picturesque waterfalls and deep, invigorating pools. To reach the highest waterfall that feeds the fourth pool, we had to swim a short distance upstream. The image I'll remember the most is of Mark and Dillon in tow (father and son hanging onto Kimba's collar), Kimba doggie-paddling with all her might. By 1:30 p.m. we had completed the return leg to the Hana Hwy.After dropping Jacob (homework) and Dillon (no interest in going) off in Paia, Mark drove he, Kimba and I to Waihee Valley, where we commenced the second part of the twin bill. The delightful valley stroll included a traverse of two swinging bridges (more like vibrating bridges) and a refreshing dip in a large circular pool filled with crystal clear water fed by a powerful waterfall flowing over a man-made weir. The main form of entertainment came when Mark attempted (unsuccessfully) to lure Kimba to a spot in the swimming hole near the waterfall. By slipping on a pair of tabis and following the river, it is possible to continue mauka all the way to the base of a spectacular high waterfall cascading down the sheer walls in back of the valley, which we could see in the distance; Maui's version of Kauai's "Blue Hole" hike. On the way in and out of the valley, I counted over 40 people on the trail. Upon reaching Mark's truck at 4:30 p.m., we found the vehicle unscathed and my black duffle still inside the passengercompartment. Right on.From Waihee Valley, Mark motored us to Kahului Town so I could purchase and mail a postcard, then it was on to the airport for my flight back to Honolulu.KUDOSA special mahalo to Mark Short for the logistical assist and comaraderie during my recent visit to Maui. Esteem Dayle Turner for coming up with the idea of ascending Haleakala via the rim of Manawainui Gulch, and many thanks to Dayle, Ed and Mark for actually backpacking the route first in December of last year, essentially showing the way.Any takers out there for an attempt at a sea level to Mauna Kea summit oneday excursion? :-)REFERENCES* "Higher", written by Tremonti/Stapp, Published by Tremonti/Stapp Music, Copyright 2001.** Scripture reference: Isaiah 40, verses 30 and 31, New American Standard Bible, Copyright 1977.== Paka

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