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Monday, December 27, 2010

Hihimanu by Peter Artley

Photo by volcantrek 8/waialeale.org
Hike date: May 2006

I figured it was going to be relatively easy to summit the shortest mountain in Hanalei Valley. The elevation is only about 2400 feet and it took less than an hour to hike the first two miles, even if it was a bit steep at times. I didn't realize how totally crazy the trail to the summit is though. The first indication that only the extremely brave, or insane, should attempt this "hike" was when i came upon a rope descending through dense brush on a knife-edge ridge. Without a second thought i snatched the rope off of the ground and began the precarious descent, facing forward (i.e. down-hill.) The rope was obviously weather worn, but despite the signs that it had seen several rainy seasons it seemed sturdy enough to hold my weight, and did. Even when i tripped and caught myself while walking that first section of densely covered "trail" i didn't have the slightest intention of turning back.

I came to a second rope only after thinking myself lost but continuing on with the knowledge that i was at least going in the right direction. I was glad for this rope on the one hand because i could see that it was newer than the last one, which meant that people actually came out here frequently enough to warrant the occasional fresh rope. It occurred to me, however, that i didn't know the last time the older looking ropes had been changed. This became more of a concern the more ropes i came across only because the further i got the worse condition the ropes were in. This culminated in the most ridiculous slope i'd ever seen on any hiking trail ever. Almost immediately after i'd conquered that obvious landslide, i discovered a slope more ridiculous still. The rope coming down this nearly 100 foot cliff was so badly weather worn that when i grabbed it i didn't even have to squeeze for it to severely sting the palms of my bare hands. I wish i'd had a bullet to bite, or better yet some gloves! I stood there for a moment, the rope digging into my already tender hands, and peered almost straight up the side of this mountain completely covered with vegetation trying to make out the top of the rope and discern whether it was securely attached to something that would hold my weight. I gave it a little tug thinking to myself, "am i really this insane?" Then, "screw it" and began to climb.

Having experienced a number of these ropes already that day i concentrated on establishing my footholds and only used the rope as a guide, relying more on the small treesand shrubs to help me climb the crumbling slope. After about 20 feet or so i came to a section of "trail" completely devoid of any trees or strong bushes to grab on to, i would have to use the rope. I leaned into the mountain as much as possible, letting go of the safe solid tree i was holding onto with my right hand and transferring it to the rope. This meant putting most of my weight onto that poor rope in order to get my left leg up to the next foothold. The rope stretched like a long bungee cord. I fell towards the mountain as quickly as possible releasing the tension on the rope so as not to snap it and hugged that mountain like a best friend thought lost forever. Ten seconds later my heart started beating again. I erected myself using the rope as leverage to see if it would still hold, and it did. Again i stood on the edge of a precarious slope. I listened to the wind in the trees and the birds all around me and thought hard about how crazy i really am. I looked up that slope one last time and said to the mountain, "i'm crazy, but not stupid." and turned right around and went back the way i came.

Photo by volcantrek8

Kauai has a lot to offer in the way of hiking. Some of these hikes have some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, like from Hihimanu. But i would never suggest to anyone that they attempt this trail alone, if at all. Go hike the Kalalau trail 11 miles one way spend the night and hike it back. Or hook up with an eco-tour company and do the 10 mile Power line trail over some of the most rain beaten terrain found in the world. You'll see equally beautiful scenery, and in some cases even have your life threatened by extreme trail conditions, but you won't be in nearly as stupid a situation as i was when i hiked Hihimanu by myself in May 2006.

1 comment:

  1. Hi there. Great post! And many thanks for including my report... here's a link to Part II of my experience (the actual hike).


    _Amy C