Thursday, December 9, 2010

11-10-2010: True Manamana

As this is my second hiking write up, this hike deserves a write up for a good reason.  A truly elusive peak has truly eluded some of the best climbers (Chuck Godek, Al Miller, and Charlotte Yamane) on the island for decades.  Like a heavily fortified castle, this peak has time and time again denied would be climbers access to it's flat topped summit...

That would all change on July 3, 2010, when Pete Clines and Laredo Muredo became the first 2 men to reach the summit of True Manamana!  You can read their account ( here.  With this in my mind, I've became more and more intrigued by this peak and I began making preperations for my own summit attempt by doing other hikes that would serve as a "training ground" for this enduring task.  On October 30th, I successfully climbed all 3 peaks of Olomana and went down the backside of Ahiki or peak #3 to the Old Kalanianaole Rd.  I was at the top of the 1st peak when I have learned that Jeremy Kreis has acquired the summit of True Manamana at this very moment as I stood on Olomana!  He has became the 3rd person to reach the elusive summit!

I had to do it!  After being satisfied that the backside of Ahiki was sufficient enough to attempt my summit attempt, I called up Tommy Klein, Nate Rubio, and Kale Monz who are fool hardy enough to attempt this with me.  They all agreed and we set off on the morning of November 6th, 2010 at 6:30am, with high spirits.  Those spirits would later on come crashing down on us when torrential rains coupled with gusting tradewinds blowing at 30mph at times made for whiteout conditions as we were perched just above the very steep descent just beyond 1900' lookout.  Retreat was our wise option and off we went back towards Turnover and ultimately to our disappointment, soaked and muddy to the bone.

Four days later, Tommy and I made our re-attempt on the morning of November 10th, 2010.  We left our cars at 6:30am and our climb up the Graveyard ridge was uneventful and we were at Turnover by 8:45-9am.  Normally Turnover is the terminal point of the Pu'u Manamana Trail which wraps around back towards the coastline and the Crouching Lion.  To get to True Manamana, one would have to continue mauka (inward) past Turnover.

Looking up at the sky, the sun began pouring through the broken clouds and we both agreed that weather conditions were ripe to begin our summit attempt.  Off we went on the freshly made trail thanks to Chris Cheng, August Smith, and Tricia Higa who cleared the trail up to 1900' lookout on June 27th, 2010.  What normally would have taken 2 hours or so of plowing through head high uluhe ferns only took us about 30 minutes or so to reach the lookout.

Upon reaching the lookout, we've had our first view of Ka'a'awa Valley from this angle and wow was she beautiful!  Dead ahead in front of us was our target, menacing looking, staring down or should I say UP at us like it was telling us that we had no chance of conquering it.  While the lookout we were standing at was around 1900ft, True Manamana was only 1,650ft in elevation.  In between us and the summit was the ridge that was by far the gnarliest I've ever seen!

With GoPro cameras in hand, I mean on our heads, we took a deep breath and took our first step on what would be an adventure to remember...

The initial descent from 1900' lookout wasn't at all too difficult, but the ridge already has gotten ridiculously narrow and it was so early into the trek.  "This is going to be bad." I thought to myself as I gingerly made my way through a short narrow dike and swung over the edge a few times to get around several trees.  Five or ten minutes after we have left 1900' lookout, the vegetation opened up and the massive dropoffs....  grew even more massive!  With no trees for support, we were now entirely exposed to Ka'a'awa Valley to our left and Kahana Valley to the right.  The dropoffs began playing mumbo jumbo with Tommy and he began scooting his okole across the crumbly ridge, dislodging a few boulders in the process.

The ridge was now beginning it's nose dive to the bottom of the saddle and it was here that Tommy had enough and told me he was going to go back to 1900' lookout and wait for me.  I told him to keep a visual on me at all times whenever possible.  However I knew that the bottom half of the vertical descent was where visual contact was not possible.  I was on my own at this point. (Once one has gotten to the bottom and continued further on the ridge, whoever is at 1900' lookout will be able to maintain visual for the duration of the hike to the summit.)  As I made my way further down, the ridge became vertical and a rope was visible.  This must be the rope that Pete must have installed on their attempt.  Further down, using the rope, things got real wacky real fast.  This was essentially a repeat of the Ahiki Backside descent, but with death drops on both sides!  Farther down I went, still grabbing the rope with my left hand, I grabbed a good sized boulder with my right hand and lowered myself down, then suddenly, my right hand started moving!  I immediately came face to face with a microwave sized boulder that was about to knock my head off!  The boulder fell past my head and landed on my left thigh, just above the knee.  In excruciating pain, I let out a painful moan and reached down with my right hand and pushed the boulder off my left leg and it fell off to the right down towards Ka'a'awa Valley, splitting in two as it tumbled downward.  I assessed the damage done to my left thigh. Fortunately, nothing more than a big bruise.  Further down there's a critical part, just before it bottoms out where the rope falls short and the last 10-15ft is nothing but holding on to vegetation.  Because the best "path" of descent makes a gradual shift towards the right as it bottoms out, it exposed me to a phenominal dropoff down towards Ka'a'awa Valley.  Almost immediately after letting go of the rope, a foothold gave out sending me plunging down about 10ft when a ledge just next to a big tree branch caught me.  Should I have fallen past the ledge, this tree would be the only barrier between me and Ka'a'awa Valley below me.

With my heart racing, I made the last easy steps downward and was at the bottom of the saddle.  I walked ahead a bit and turned around, looking back up at where I came from.  "How the hell am I going to get back up that?!" I muttered out loud.  The only way back home now was to climb up this sheer vertical cliff!

I told myself to worry about that later as I had to focus on my goal to reach the summit first so onward I went, climbing up a short but steep and narrow hill.  This would be the case for just about the entire way to the final climb of True Manamana, short rollercoasting ups and downs, all on a crumbly knife edge ridge.  Another problem was the choke full of low trees and brushes that spells doom on your legs if you're wearing shorts, which was my case.  After a hill or two, the vegetation opened up to what could be the most legendary section part of this entire journey, a hair raising traverse on the narrowest dike I've ever seen.  I was ready to poop my pants after seeing this, but I held my breath, turned on my GoPro camera, pointed it down at my feet, and slowly made my way across what looked like 6 inches of width at times with a VERTICAL drop down below, not a slanting grade at all!  This went for quite a long ways actually, dropping down a small 3-4ft rockface, continuing it's knife edge of doom.

As I approached the next hill to be climbed, the ridge widen up slightly and up I went without incident.  At the top, the vegetation returned and so did the poking and slashing of my legs and arms.  After a few more hills and narrow dikes, I came to a prominent feature of the entire ridge, a puka in the ridge and just beyond it, a rock outcrop that forces you to crawl to it's left side, putting yourself ever so close with the jaws of death below.  To get past the puka, you can either traverse right over it although it increases the chances of the puka giving out and sending you down below, or contour on the right side of the puka.  I decided the latter and this allowed me to get a very cool view of Ka'a'awa Valley through the puka!  (Photo op missed, but got a very cool video clip of it!)

The next hill after the puka/rock outcrop was the most difficult out of all the small hills for me.  Just as it begins it's climb up the hill, the entire ridge is completely blocked by a wall of trees so my natural reaction was for me to contour it and I thought I saw what looked like a path leading to it's left side and so off I went.  However, as I progressed further in, the "path" turned into a massive drop off.  Not wanting to get stuck so far in after realizing it is in fact not the correct route, I turned back and thought for a moment how to get up this hill.  Still on the left side of the ridgeline, I looked up and saw branches that could be used as foot/handholds so I climbed up it like a monkey and was able to gain the crest.  However it was still very overgrown so I just crashed through the small branches as I made my way uphill.

With that hill behind me, I continued my way, inching myself ever so closer to that elusive summit!  I noticed a pattern forming: small hill, narrow dike, small hill with trees and choke brushes, narrow dike, small hill that's nearly impossible to get up it, narrow dike...  and on and on it went.  I've encountered a few bees at times but they were not being aggressive and they left me alone.

After fighting vegetation like I was Manny Pacquiao and dodging it's pokey branches what seemed like an eternity, I looked up and to my amazement, I was perched on the bottom of True Manamana!  Energy flowed through me and my spirit was higher now than what it was the rest of the day thus far as I discovered I was within striking distance of the summit!  Not wanting to get distracted, I kept my focus on and began scrambling on all fours upward.  I thought about the incident where Al Miller and Charlotte Yamane were several hundred horizontal feet from the summit when a boulder dislodged and almost hit Yamane in the head.  Sure enough, I inadvertently dislodged a boulder...  then another....  I was in a mine field of loose boulders!  Kicking every possible loose boulder I could find, I essentially have became a minesweeper.

50ft more feet til I can touch that summit!

I gave it all I had and sped climbed the last remaining vertical feet and fought the last tree brush overgrowth at the apex of the climb and I was soon standing on a broad grassy summit....  the summit of True Manamana!  It was 11:43am.

I've done it!  I'm here...  I'm truly here!  I turned around facing back towards 1900',  pumped my two fists up into the air, and let out a loud whoop.  I got several whoops of rejoicement back in return from Tommy as he was apparently watching me the whole time!  He called me and congratulated me, saying he took photos of me making my final climb up to the summit!  I told him to take a picture of me standing here at the summit.  As I looked around, I could see Pu'u Ohulehule dead ahead and I saw up close a prominent feature called "2 apes talking".  Looking back, I can see the entire ridgeline leading back up to 1900'.  I've became the 4th person to summit True Manamana!

After ingesting a granola bar and gulping down some water, I proceeded back down after about 20 minutes on the summit.  I've conquered this peak, but I still had to get back in one piece and before dark.  The return journey was only slightly easier, I didn't like the fact that I had to do everything in reverse.  Going back down the hill where I contoured on the left side was much easier and when I reached the puka, I didn't feel like contouring on it's side again so I walked right over it, hoping the puka would hold and made it over without incident.  A passing rainshower performed a flyby and it briefly got socked in and a light drizzle ensued but quickly the views returned.

Now, the problem I have left behind this morning was back upon me, getting back up that sheer vertical cliff!  This could really use that extended rope.  Without it, it's pure upper body strength.  I heaved myself up, grabbing a sturdy tree just within my grasp and then the end of the rope.  Once on the rope, it's quite easy to get back up, but I have to note, the rope could use a suppliment rope and one that actually reaches all the way to the bottom of the saddle!  I've had rope with me but I was so preoccupied of getting back down asap that I forgot to install it.  After a stiff 20 or 30 minute climb I was back at 1900' lookout and I could hear Tommy further up into the woods.  The time was 2:30pm.  After gazing back at True Manamana, I smiled, pumped my fists into the air one more time and then left the lookout, running into Tommy about 100 yards into the woods.  I told him about my adventure as we made our way to Turnover and we made our way back down Graveyard Ridge without incident.  It was around 5pm when we got to the cars.  I took off my shoes and washed off the soil of True Manamana using a water spigot at the Kahana Bay Beach Park.

Got home around 7pm, showered, and went with Jerry Mendiola to Buzz's Steakhouse in Pearl City for a well deserved dinner while talking tales of my great adventure!


True Manamana from 1900' lookout

Made it to True Manamana!  =)

2 apes talking

This photograph shows me (white speck) standing at the summit of True Manamana.

Photo taken by Tommy Klein. I had to rotate the picture to it's true "upright" position in relation to the peak and it's ridge as he had his camera tilted at the time of capture.


  1. Inspiring, loved all.
    looking for al miller
    ol extreme climber and friend
    im @
    chris cooney
    thank you all
    climb on!