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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Luaalaea-Konahuanui

On March 16, 2003, Hawaii local dailies have articles about the apparent suicide of a 35-year old visitor from the mainland. One article mentions the location of the suicide as the Jack Ass Ginger trail. Another says the location was "a trail overlooking Nuuanu Pali."

The articles, btw, are at


In actuality, the correct location of the (apparent) suicide was along the lower third of the Konahuanui trail

The hike, by the by, was Luaalaea-Konahuanui, whereby the route was as follows: start in Manoa, climb the ridge east of Luaalaea Falls, then head along the Koolau summit to Konahuanui, then hike down the Konahuanui trail to Pauoa Flats then back to Manoa via the Aihualama Trail. It was a great outing, albeit one with a somber interlude, but in the end all who began finished okay, which is always a good outcome.

Nine members of the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club Hammers HP5 Anti-Shock Hiking Pole with Compass & ThermometerHammers HP5 Anti-Shock Hiking Pole with Compass & Thermometertook part in the hike.

Photo by Met Lebar
Hikers met at the end of Manoa Road at 7:45. From there, the hike leader (Turner) asked everyone to hike up the road to the Manoa Falls trailhead where he delivered the prehike spiel. When he commenced the prehike blah-blah-blah, no one backed down even after the "you can be severely injured or die on this hike" disclaimer. And so the groups was off, making its way initially along the trail leading to Luaalaea Falls.

After hiking along Luaalaea stream for five minutes or so, hikers headed up to the right toward a couple ribbons Turner had affixed a couple weeks prior on branches of guava trees. Other ribbons he had left were nowhere to be found, either victimized by a ribbon vandal or ribbon-eating rats.

Thereafter, the group climbed steadily and occasionally steeply on a rough "trail," sweating and huffing in the still air of upper Manoa Valley. Fortunately, everyone was the benefactors of a week of dry weather in Manoa, which produced good conditions underfoot (read: no mud).

Photo by Met Lebar
The group stopped to regroup and rest at a clearing that was once a pakalolo patch but was now just a plot of weeds, and Turner told the group about his first encounter with the patch and subsequent visits when the "crops" gradually were harvested and/or plundered by some unknown farmer/plunderer. Above the pakalolo patch, in a section where the ridge narrowed considerably, hikers had to take a short bypass on the right to avoid a nest of bees. The bypass required some hand to hand climbing using guava trees but all negotiated this section safely. Above the bee bypass was a steep section thru uluhe. After scaling that, everyone plopped down for another rest break at an open section of the ridge that obliged good views down the maw of Manoa Valley.

Above the steep uluhe section, the climbing was less pronounced but nonetheless tough, mainly due to the warm, humid conditions. Hikers on this day were fortunate to have a decent trail to hike, thanks to the work of Ed Gilman, Dick and Brenda Cowan, Scott Villiger, and others. The lead group of five reached the summit not long after 10 a.m. with the last of the group of ten topping out about 45 minutes after the first. A cloudfree summit was available, so everyone had clear views to windward and leeward and of the crest from Konahuanui to points just beyond Pu'u Lanipo.

After resting at the topping out point, the lead hikers commenced the push on on the mile-long northbound leg along the crest to Konahuanui with the hike leader awaiting the arrival of the others.

Photo by Met Lebar
The leg along the summit was superb. There are several large puus to surmount on the way to Konahuanui, and a couple appear daunting from a distance. But once the climb is underway, their dauntingness dissipates and ascending them is just a matter of negotiating one five-foot section at a time until the peak is acquired. On this day, the footing was optimal, for this area can get slick after periods of rainfall.

Before everyone approached Konahuanui along the summit trail, the lead group of three headed down the Konahuanui trail to begin the homeward leg back to Manoa. This was about 12:15, the trio having arrived at Konahuanui for lunch around 11:30. The rest of the group arrived at the Konahuanui summit clearing a little before 12:30 and sat down to eat lunch, cloudy conditions prevailing.

After a half hour lunch, the rest of the group set off down the Konahuanui trail. A couple minutes down, Turner received a cell phone call from Pat Enomoto, who was with the lead group heading down the mountain. "I got some bad news for you, Dayle," said Pat.

"What's up?" Turner replied, his initial thought being that someone in the lead group had gotten injured or had fallen off the trail or something along that line. Pat's answer was unexpected: the lead group had come upon a dead body on the trail. The location was about two-thirds of the way down the Konahuanui trail, not the Jack Ass Ginger trail as reported in one newspaper.

Photo by Met Lebar
After getting the news from Pat, Turner alerted the others of the discovery so that they could prepare themselves for the encounter when they arrived at the location. Then, Turner blitzed down the trail at a rapid pace along with Met Lebar, with Mirek close behind. About halfway down, an HFD helicopter hovered in front of Turner and Lebar to make a landing. A fire rescue guy in the chopper gestured them to hold fast to keep them from entering the landing zone. So from about 100 feet away, Turner and Lebar watched the chopper touch down and drop off a fire rescue guy and an HPD officer. (see photo at right)

After the chopper landing, Met and Turner hiked down the trail after the fire rescue guy They all had to climb up and over two humps in the ridge, the second being the one with the small rockface and rope. On the makai side of the second hump (the one with the concrete platform atop it), in a low saddle on a narrow section of ridge, was the body.

Pat and three others were there, having waited at the spot for close to an hour. Come to find out, a lone female hiker heading to Konahuanui had come upon the body earlier in the day. At first, she thought the man was sleeping, so she continued by and headed on up the trail. On the return leg, she then realized that the man was dead, so she made a call to police to report her find and then departed the scene. This was about 11:30 a.m.

At about 1pm, members of our group arrived at the location. The first investigators on the scene arrived at around 2:00. Having been dropped off at the same LZ upridge, another HPD officer and a second fire fighter arrived fifteen minutes later and an HPD evidence technician and a third fire fighter arrived around 2:30.

The hikers watched as the HPD personnel examined the scene. At one point, Turner asked one of the officers if the group could hike by, but he said no since in doing so would mean literally stepping over the body and potentially disturbing the scene. So all stayed put as they did their work. Though observable evidence seemed to indicate suicide, the investigators did checks to rule out homicide, so the evidence tech guy took a myriad of pictures (with a very expensive Nikon camera, the lens being over $1000, according to Pat, a photo buff) and took skin samples from the victim's hands to check for gunpowder residue. Under ordinary circumstances in an urban setting, civilians wouldn't be able to get close to an investigative scene such as this. However, the circumstances weren't ordinary on a high mountain ridge in the Koolaus where the police couldn't just tell bystanders to move back because there was nowhere to move back to, the ridge being fairly narrow at that point. So the hiking group saw it all, including the recovery of a weapon (a 40 caliber Smith and Wesson pistol) from under the body of the man.

Photo by Met Lebar
Around 2:45, the HPD guys had completed their investigation. At that point, the group was given the green light to hike by. All still had to step over the body Why the man had decided to hike to this spot to end his life (if indeed it was a suicide), no one may ever know. However, all who were there that day will likely remember that spot whenever they hike the Konahuanui trail again.

The rest of the hike had the group continue down the Konahuanui trail to the Nuuanu Lookout, this leg requiring about fifteen minutes, then onward and downward to Manoa via Pauoa Flats and Aihualama. The first group was out by 4 p.m. and last at 4:45. W

Courtesy of Met Lebar, there are pics of the outing, including one of the scene while we waited for the HPD guys to complete their investigation (the body is not in view). See the pics at

http://www.ofoto.com/I.jsp?m=16058902303.16234171803&n=1912909938

This hike marked the 20th "super" hike Turner coordinated or co-coordinated for the club. He is now retiring (temporarily?) to lead family hikes on Saturday for HTMC, his first one being Ulupaina on a Saturday in May.

1 comment:

  1. Must say this is a very accurate description of the events that day , 8 years ago. It was one of the last "super hikes" HTMC conducted - Dale, thanks for the leadeship!
    Grea hike, though towards the end, the outing turned rather somber due to the unrelated tragic event descirbed above - what a loss, a young, healthy guy...
    Met

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