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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Lanihuli East -- August Smith

Lanihuli and reaching it from the Pali Lookout has captivated my imagination and only that for a long time. It was off limits and as far as I was concerned way too dangerous to attempt. I had heard the stories of Kalanikupule and his wife escaping Kamehameha's forces using this route, the 1915 article in the Mid-Pacific Magazine, Lost on Lanihuli By R.H. Lambert , the scouting trip of Al Miller and more recently stories of a "father and son team" that was working on this very route around 2000 - 2001 and they made it! And then Pete Clines did it in April of 2010 ! There are plenty of accounts of people who have not made it and even for those who have, it usually takes multiple attempts.


Before continuing on I would like too say thank you to everyone (especially Pete and Stanley) who has put in work and put up ropes, cables etc. to make this a more "manageable route." Without your help this would have been a lot more time consuming and difficult!

After changing my hiking/clearing plans 3 or 4 times on Sat. April 30th, I got the call from Duc @ 12 am (who was partying along w/ Laredo and Matt) that the plan had changed once again ... I was informed that "there was energy" and Lanihuli East was the plan. I told Duc nervously I needed to sleep on it, and weather would decide it (for me at least ).

And so .... on Sunday May 1st of 2011 Duc and I met Matt and Chase at the Na Pueo mini park to stage a car, then headed for the Pali Lookout, to meet Laredo. Sometime after 9:00 am we pushed off for the Puka under a light rain w/ moderate winds (light by Pali standards). We soon encountered another group headed for the Puka, they graciously let us pass. We reached the Puka after what seemed like 10 -15 mins of huffing and puffing and took a short breather. somehow I got into the lead position ( I guess it was unknown territory for everyone ) we contoured leeward around the gigantic cliff face @ the Puka and within a few minutes came across the fabled tree that has the phrase "the f@$k me climb" carved into it. I figured we were on the right path. next to the tree was a small, old, and spongy rope to assist in getting up a wet and slippery rock. it soon lead to a steep, loose and broad ridge that would allow us to gain the Ko'olau Summit once again.


At this point I received a call from "Base Camp Sherpa" Clines who was at the Pali Lookout wondering if we were the group at the Puka, I responded he must have just missed us. Realizing he wouldnt be able too see us, he carried on w/ his tour guide duties for the day, and we continued to climb up as more rocks came down. After the call, I had fallen into the sweep position which was scary! A rock barely missed "the boys" by what felt like 1/16 of an inch. After a few tense minutes it was my turn on the rope and on to the KST once again (see pic above).

I have no idea why I was surprised at the narrowness of this ridge but I was! Continuing on very cautiously, the first tour helicopter of the day came by and was soon gone. I was now on my butt scooting along a ridge that is not only really narrow, but also crumbly and decently exposed on both sides.

Moving along we soon encountered the first of the "teeth" or "pinnacles" (see Duc on one of them above) and went around it as we were planning on using Pete's contour trail especially since we started so late. I once again found myself in the lead and on a pretty mellow contour until all progress stopped due to a toppled lantana tree. Borrowing Duc's hand saw progess was soon back in the vocabulary. Following a year old trail and faded pink ribbons we were soon back on the ridge line until we encountered the next series of "teeth." These are much more fear inducing than the last. Having seen photos of this spot from different decades I sided w/ Pete and decided life was better than chancing that.


Duc was ahead scouting at the top of the pinnacle (and I guess he didnt want to come back down) and so we left Duc to his "lone male hiking" hoping to see him on the other side. Everyone else decided Pete's contour was the way, so we looped Chase's 75' strong rope while being buzzed by helo # 2 and continued vertically downward for 50 or so feet until there was some kind of footing.

After everyone was down we pulled down Chase's rope and did our best to follow the contour which consisted of losing a lot of elevation then rambling until meeting a steep up ridge. The going was slower than expected due to a tree that had new leaves which looked a lot like Pete's faded pink ribbons + my spikes broke again! Matt was kind enough to lend me his leatherman tool to fix the spikes. W/ the spikes fixed, eventually we topped out onto the KST near a eroded spot (while trying to call Duc, Chase caught a glimpse of him ahead). I also called Pete to let him know the progress by leaving a message.

Back on the KST this section was still narrow but vegetation here was more prevalent. Looking over the side I could see a Lobelia (not in bloom). Moving on, this section was a lot of fun w/ some scrambling and wild ridge walking. The winds were still mellow. Aside from a couple of fast moving light rain squalls the weather had worked out so far. We could see Duc in the distance and headed for the "W". The "W" is a real marvel of creation. Reaching the "false Pu'u" we finally caught up to Duc and yelled back and forth for the game plan.

Chase had contoured leeward as I went to the false Pu'u where I met none other than Chase! He apparently missed the lower leeward contour Duc had used ... We had heard something about a red rope part way down and I remembered Pete saying he used vegetation only to get down. A slip here would have ended it for sure ! So we once again looped Chase's strong rope around a Uki (sedge plant) and intertwined it between 3 or 4 Ie'ie. It was only later I learned that Chase, Matt and Laredo were also assisting in anchoring the rope w/ human weight ( thanks guys ! ). Using the rope for security I held on to different Uki plants on the way down ... I also encountered the red rope Duc had pulled out from the vegetation and added it to the other rope I was holding on to ( apparently the red rope is no longer attached to anything and should not be used). At the bottom of the first notch it was very slippery and the Human/ Uki / Ie anchored rope was greatly appreciated.

There was a long old tan cable that was better used as a guide or ribbon than a "good handhold." It started on the leeward side contoured windward around a small hump and then contoured to the lee around a big and nasty looking tooth. Next up was the "incisor." I had watched Duc go over the top and wondered why he had not contoured. Once at the base I could see why: no such contour seemed to exist, so up and over it was! There was a tiny metal cable that went over it, which I ditched in favor of vegetation whenever I could. Waiting for everyone else to catch up I dangled my feet off the leeward side of the incisor while trying to get in contact w/ Duc.

The clouds at this point had rolled in and I could only see 10 feet in front of me. Knowing the "worst" had yet to come I made my way down the front side of the incisor and subsequently took pictures of Matt and Laredo making their way down.

My camera battery that had been threatening to go all day finally did, and I stopped to change it here. Looking on I could see "Anvil Rock" and the massively washed out concave section (old Puka spot ) scanning the area I couldn't see Duc or the orange extension cord and feared the worst ... Getting closer, the cord was still intact along w/ the pile of sand .... uh I mean rock anchoring it. I straddled the vegetation devoid ridge here. Before moving on I wiggled the rock, yes it wiggled ! Before this point I would have been game for this again, after .. I can't say for sure but as of now there is no way I ever want to do that again ! I hugged the rock and slowly lowered myself down the leeward side to a dry waterfall shoot, aiming for a small tuff of grass that started the "non-tour." I could hear everyone asking if there was something down further but as far as I could tell this was it + I wanted off the cable asap ( a bad slip here could end up w/ one pulling the "anvil rock" down on top of ones head along w/ the cable (the only handhold).

I figured if I did slide from here maybe there was something down further that would catch me .... grasping on to small loosely anchored plants I did my best to find footing and the next handhold. There may have only been a few places in which to put your feet. At least 85% of the non-tour was unreliable. The non-tour and anvil rock I thought by far was the worst section. It was here on more than one occasion I could feel my footholds giving as I was contemplating my next move. Moving quickly and lunging for the next handhold proved to be the best option. I soon hit a junction of a dead Uluhe trail going up very steeply, I chose the non-tour and soon found a pink ribbon (at least I now knew that I was on "trail"). Suddenly ahead of me the bushes moved. I called out and Duc answered. Relieved I climbed out of the non-tour and on to steep ridge line.

It was here the weather really picked up and the sky unleashed heavy drops straight down. Nasty vegetation meant I caught up w/ Duc fast, so we pushed, pulled, and climbed over what ever was in our way ... Soon we were on top of the Glenn taking in the views of clouds.

The rain shifted from top down to sideways as the winds picked up and the thunder started rolling. Hoping it might blow over we pressed on for Lanihuli and the club trail terminus. Looking down into Lanihuli's windward hanging valleys we could see waterfalls forming as well as pools. It was wild! It took a lot longer than I had thought to reach Lanihuli. At 3:30pm we all breathed a sigh of relief had a quick break. I called Pete to let him know the outcome. We then headed down as fast as possible to increase body heat. Within 30 minutes we hit a break spot and the sun came out. We had lunch here and were soon urged to move on by the weather and low core temps. Near the saddle the sun popped out and presented us w/ a gorgeous rainbow over a seasonal waterfall ( I have never seen ) in Mo'ole. The rest of the way out was uneventful and we were soon back at the locked fence. A chair here provided a much appreciated boost over the fence. We wasted no time getting Matt back to his car at the Pali Lookout. Thankfully it was unharmed.

All in all a good day !

-August

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