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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Pali Lookout to Lanihuli - Pete Clines

Hike date: 17 April 2010
I took a gamble on Saturday's chilly/grey morning and headed for the Pali lookout.  AC/DC blasted over the car speakers in an attempt to pump me up for a long day on the trail.  Arrived in the very windy (and very empty) parking lot at 8am, had seconds thoughts about the weather, but the exposed summit told me she might want visitors.Began towards the gap in the bamboo by the stone wall and made great time along this now very familiar route, arriving at the puka by 8:15.  Wasted no time skirting the cliff face here and was soon at the base of the climb that would bring me 200 vertical feet back to the ridgeline.  I skipped the first rope as it looks quite old and unreliable.  Worse, the rock here is always weeping making for poor footing.  The orange extension cord was next (more reliable) followed immediateley by the yellow rope (also reliable.)  Finally, the long rope helped me in climbing the last 100 vertical feet (altimeter measurement) getting to the ridgeline at ~1900 ft.  After four visits, this section was becoming routine, despite the steep/slick footing.With the initial heat-inducing climb over, I paused at the ridgeline to put on long pants, long sleeves, and a warm hat - an uncommon practice for me in sunny Hawaii.  But the winds were strong enough to rip away body heat and I didn't want to risk problems.  By 8:40 I was dashing along the ridge, careful not to get blown off the edge.  Summit was temptingly clear, though far away.
Photo by Pete Clines
When I got to the first tooth I cut to the town side and followed a path I made through a thick patch of uluhe.  All the work from previous trips allowed me to plow right through.  Back to the ridgeline, and encountered the second tooth. Stan Yamada told me that he and his son had gone over these teeth, but the deterioration of the rock was pretty awful when I tried to do the same.  (Photos we both took of this section confirm the changes in the last several years.)  In my photo you can see a pink ribbon near the bottom of the tooth.  It was near here that I roped to a tree sticking out of the side of the ridge, and dropped vertically down to a place where I could get some footing.  Upper body strength helped on this steep drop.  At the end of my 50 foot (blue/white) rope, I continued to drop steeply until I could work my way along the ridge - well below the ridgeline.Major trail-making and generous ribboning last time meant I had no trouble finding my way through tangles of vines and other progress-slowing plants.  I contoured at a relatively consistant elevation, passing over one steep spur ridge, before climbing straight up the second.  This spur allowed me to bypass some of the brittle teeth, but this climb had its own challenges.  It was steep, and the upper parts were mainly uluhe - lots of it.  Going up and down this spur a few weeks ago meant I had the advantage of a swath, but it was still a total-body climb.  Two steps up...one step back down.At the ridgeline again, I was at 2200 feet and the place where I stopped last time.  Only 10:15, so I had lots of time.  I called "Basecamp Sherpa" August to inform him of my whereabouts in case of trouble.  The wind was still kicking, but temperatures were improving and it looked like I would be spared from rain.  Pressing on, the ridge gave me an easier time (relative term) for a stretch.  Up in the distance, though, I could see fun a comin'.  
Photo by Pete Clines
Photo by Pete Clines
Photo by Pete Clines
  In this photo, there is a false summit on the left, followed by a couple teeth on the right of it.  These teeth would get uglier as I neared the false summit.  Stan informed me that he had roped to a tree on this mound and dropped down to a spot where he found an old cable running horizontally along the ridge as an aid.  I searched around, but found no rope.  As is turned out, I wouldn't need to use mine, and I dropped down to the cable using only plants for handholds.Followed the cable (getting unreliable at the anchor point, but probably not necessary anyway) to the teeth where a steel cable popped up.  Mostly buried, I pulled it free of the soil where I could.  Too thin to offer much grip, but it guided me around one tooth.  Not sure what to do about the second tooth, I decided to go directly over it rather than around.  Wish I had a picture of me ON this one, as it was very intense.  Totally vertical sides and narrow as all.  I did get a decent photo looking back at it (see below).  Yes, I climbed OVER that "incisor."  Imagine the wind.
Photo by Pete Clines
I was enjoying this section, and had no difficulties... until getting to what Stan referred to as the "anvil rock."  Immediately after the incisor, the ridge goes straight up for a short distance - no, it is actually overhanging here, with a concave section where material has eroded away.  If there ever was a "second puka" in this ridge - as referred to in the "Lost on Lanihuli" article - I agree with Stan's report that this was probably it.  Time has taken it toll.  Stan's extension cord was still looped around a rock here, so that one could drop down the town side a ways before contouring around and then back up onto the ridgeline.  However, the rock was in DREADFUL shape.  While straddling it and inching towards the concave cliff, it was falling apart into sand.  Completely bare of vegetation, and the whole thing moved when I pressed firmly on it from one side.  Yikes.At this moment - still straddling - a tour helicopter flew by.  I did my best impersonation of a rock just so I wouldn't freak anyone out.  (Wonder what they thought if they did see me.)  I spent too many mintues here deciding how to get around.  Grabbing the extension cord, I dropped below the anchoring pile of sand - I mean, rock - and slid down a loose gravel slope.  As I pulled on the cable I could see/feel the rock shifting DIRECTLY ABOVE ME!  Not good.  However, footing here was poor to non-existant so I had to balance my weight between the cable and my other hand on meager clumps of grass.  With some effort and panic, I was able to work around to the town side of the overhanging cliff and get into a place with strongish vegetation.  Let go of the cable, relaxed a moment, hung a ribbon, and clawed my way back up to the ridgline.Back on the narrow ridgline, I was past the teeth and almost to the top.  This final section was interesting.  Ie ie and other plants choked up the way, but also provided decent security and handholds.  I cut with a machete when needed, but mostly pulled myself over or through the tangles.  The exposure was severe at times, but knowing that I was so close to my goal I was loving every moment of it.  Just after noon, I made the final short climb to the summit of this ridge.  Awesome!  The high cloud cover that was keeping me cool also allowed fantastic views of all directions.   The Nuuanu reservoir below... Moole ridge and valley...all of Kaneohe....  The sun even came out for a short while during my summit lunch.  What began as suspect weather turned out to be a perfect day.Thrilled, I called August to let him know the news.  Enjoyed the summit for a while and then rememebred what a non-hiker friend says to me with concern every time I get him to a summit: "You know we still have to go back!?"  I could have gone back the way I came....but I just did that.  Could have followed the Lanihuli trail all the way to Alewa Heights....but then I would need a ride back.  Came up with a more interesting escape.  Part 2 on this report will soon follow.-Pete

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