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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Mo'o Kapu o Haloa - Patrick Rorie

There are moments in extreme hiking when participants say to themselves,"Is this more than I can handle? Am I pushing the envelope too far?" On the other hand healthy growth can only take place when an individual's limit is stretched. Such was the case for three men on Sunday, February 22, 1998.

After picking up Laredo Murray at his home in Haiku Valley I drove the two of us to a well-known windward Oahu ranch. Dayle Turner and FWH had already arrived and were waiting for us just inside the main entrance. FWH went to confirm that we had permission to do the hike. She returned a few minutes later and we drove our cars to an area not far from the trailhead. It was a high overcast day with nice breezes.

At 8:16 a.m. the four of us began bushwacking thru a small forest of mostly haole koa and tall grass working our way toward the foot of the fourth ridge (the first ridge being the one that goes directly to the prominent peak Kanehoalani (elev. 1,900 ft)). We essentially made our own trail since no one had done the hike in years. While in the forest our group climbed straight up two rocky hills. It was at this point that I took the ram-rod from Dayle. We had to be careful of loose rock under the grass lest one of us sprain an ankle or worse. Eventually the four of us emerged from the forest unscathed.

Pressing on our group started gaining altitude ascending steeply, first over low grass and other low level vegetation, and then across small rock ledges. The section was open and windswept. Laredo and I moved ahead of Dayle and FWH creating a distance gap as the initial ascent continued. All of us followed the main ridge line until it became a dike. Along the dike larger rock outcrops were encountered forcing a basic decision to be made - contour around or climb direcly over. Sometimes natural steps in the rock were available so the four of us used them.

After traversing a narrow level section of the dike Laredo and I climbed to the base of a large lengthy rock outcrop most of which was on the left side of the ridge. I noticed a short black cable (cable section #1) and scaled the first part of the outcrop to check it out and continue the hike. I reached the top of the cable where it was wrapped around a rock and fear of the unknown kicked in. To my left was a sheer vertical drop off. I hesitated which allowed Dayle and FWH to catch up. I retreated to the base of the outcrop and Laredo climbed up for a look. For safety sake I removed two one-liter bottles of grape drink from my pack and left them on the trail. Someone discovered another longer (20 foot ?) black cable running along the right side of the rock structure. While helpful, neither cable contained loops or knots. FWH used the longer one occasionally as she climbed steeply to the top close to end of the rock outcrop. Laredo followed her and I him. Just before joining FWH, Laredo accidentally dislodged some rocks which rolled/flew thru the air down toward me. Fortunately I was not pelted by any of them. Dayle chose the over the top option using the short black cable and a red and white rope he had brought. FWH gave him assistance while Laredo tied loops in the longer cable.

Once all of us were reunited Dayle, Laredo and I considered turning back shaken by the hazardous cable section. FWH encouraged us and admonished me to,"Lead on, Patrick !".

I slowly and nervously crossed a dicey extremely narrow spot marking the end of the rock outcrop. Next the dike widened which I was relieved to see and gave me confidence to pick up the pace. Our group ascended steeply over a rocky triangular peak. When the dike came to an end it was followed by an open (low vegetation) stretch featuring a steep ascent over a series of small rock outcrops. Once again Laredo and I began pulling away from Dayle and FWH. He and I went to the right of a huge rock face being careful not to slip on the loose rock and dirt. Occasionally the rock we were using as hand or foot holds came loose which was very unnerving!

I observed quite a few pellets (goat dung) along the trail. Sheer rocky vertical cliffs were on the right along the side of the fifth ridge and to the left the other three ridges had spectacular narrow, at times vertical, rock dikes. A beautiful triangular peak was located to the right of the Kanehoalani peak. Looking toward the ocean we could see Chinaman's Hat dead ahead, Kualoa Beach Park, most of Kaneohe Bay, Mokapu Penninsula, Coconut Island, Pu'u Maelieli, Dusty Klein's peak, Oneawa Hills, Kaiwa Ridge, the Mokulua Islands, and Rabbit Island in the distance.

Toward the Ko'olaus the highlights included the first part of the Southeast ridge of Ohulehule featuring the lone ironwood, Waikane, Waiahole, and Waihee Valleys, 7 "shoulders" along the Ko'olau Range - Konahuanui, Lanihuli, Keahi a kahoe, Aiea Ridge summit, Kalahaku leading up to the Waimalu Middle Ridge summit, Eleao, and "The Corner".

Pressing on Laredo and I scrambled steeply up yet another rock outcrop, ascended steeply over an open narrow section of the ridge most of which was covered with buffalo grass (there were occasional Christmas berry trees on the right), and ascended gradually thru more buffalo grass with precipitous drop offs to the left. A steep ascent thru a forest of Akia and Christmas berry trees including a brief contour to the right of a huge rock outcropping followed. Laredo and I did not have visual contact with Dayle or FWH again until we were on the crest. We did hear them talking to each other on a couple of occasions, however.

Reached the beginning of another long cable section (cable section #2). I removed my gloves because I wanted the best grip possible. There could be no slipping on this section. While I was attempting to negotiate the first part of it on the left side of a rock face Laredo climbed ahead of me along the direct route and started making his way up the very steep ascent. Due to the absence of loops or knots in the black cable I looped it around my left wrist. Footholds were tough to come by on the loose dirt and rock. Progress was slow and I was focused but not terribly afraid. I could see ledges below on the right side of the ridge followed by trees further down which helped me psychologically. I theorized that if I fell I would end up on one of the ledges or the trees would break my fall. Serious injuries would occur but not death. Whether my theory was correct or not is open to major challenge. Also, this section was very similar to the steep area Gene Robinson, Laredo, Dayle and I successfully completed on the way to the summit of Palikea from Pu'u Heleakala on September 1st of last year. Most importantly though was the fact that Laredo was showing the way above me. I asked him,"How's it look?" and he replied,"Good!"

On at least one occasion the cable zigzagged between trees which made progress tricky. The angle of ascent decreased noticeable after the termination point of the cable. As a result the ridge was relatively level as I passed Laredo watering the flowers if you know what I mean ! Unfortunately the relatively level section was brief. The final climb to the crest was very steep but another black cable (cable section #3) was provided for assistance.

I arrived at the Mo'o kapu o Haloa ridge crest at 10:26 a.m. As Laredo was making his way up the final segment I heard someone yell. The sound of it echoed throughout the gulches below. "What was that ?!" I asked myself. "I hope FWH and Dayle are alright !". Laredo joined me a few minutes later.

The ridge crest was narrow (not a lot of room to sit down and Laredo could almost straddle it) but the views were wonderful of Kaaawa Valley below to the northwest and the true Manamana and Kahana Valley toward the Ko'olaus. I was bummed that I could not see Ohulehule, however.

Eventually FWH and Dayle reached the start of the final ascent. FWH came up to the crest but Dayle refused. He looked visibly shaken from the entire ordeal. I give him credit for making it as far as he did. It was certainly no picnic for Laredo and I.

FWH, Laredo and I enjoyed food and drink on the crest for about half an hour taking photos of each other and of the awesome panoramic vistas.

With rain visible near the Ko'olau Mountain Range and the potential for it to blow our way the three of us decided to head down. It was approx. 11:30 a.m.

Descending to the relatively level section was much easier than the final climb (it almost felt like repelling!). Our group slowly and carefully moved down the next cable section (the most dangerous part of the hike in my opinion). Dayle tied his red and white rope around himself while Laredo tied and untied the other end to trees along the trail. We went one at a time because of the potential to dislodge rocks. During the wait I got out my pen and notepad and began jotting down the route description for the hike ala Stuart Ball, Jr.

Once the four of us reached safer ground above the first long cable we sat down to take pleasure from the views and snap more photos. The rain had stayed away and we were glad of that.

The first long cable was easier going down esp. since Laredo put loops in it and Dayle tied his red and white rope to the end of it. I retrieved my one-liter bottles drinking briefly from one of them and then placed them into my pack.

The remainder of the hike was rather uneventful although I did remind myself constantly not to let my guard down.

Our group emerged from the small forest near the trailhead at 2:30 p.m. all grateful to be alive with some brimming with confidence. Laredo, Dayle and I thanked FWH for such an exciting hike and bid her farewell.

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