Friday, May 20, 2011

5-15-2011: Pali Puka to Lanihuli

Head north--- Thru hiking the Ko'olaus? ---Head south

My adrenaline was in full force on this day with one hell of a monster hike.  The original plan was to hike the route from the Pali Lookout to Lanihuli on Tuesday (May 17), but with weather being on our side lately, I decided that we wouldn't miss this opportunity to bag Lanihuli.  We would also unexpectedly run into 2 individuals whom I've been following on their blog for quite some time.  How proper it would be to meet them on such an endeavor that is to be done today!

The route from Pali Puka to Lanihuli (Click photo to view larger version)

I met Randy at the end of Alewa Dr. at little past 6am to stage my car and then be shuttled to the Pali Lookout.  The planned route: Go up to Lanihuli from Pali Lookout and descend via the Lanihuli Trail back to Alewa Dr.  As we left, I glanced at my car one more time and wondered if I would ever see it again.  We passed by Queen's Hospital to meet up with Francis "Kinky", who took a bus from his place of residence in Hawaii Kai.  I took a good look at the hospital and thought, "I hope none of us have to end up here by today's end..." as I pondered about all the nasty hazards that were documented by the group who completed this route on May 1, along with other photos and write ups from people who tried and failed to reach Lanihuli.  Enroute to the lookout, I saw the jagged profile of the ridge to be climbed.  We had our hands full.

The route to the Pali Puka spot was a pleasant one.  The winds were unusually light and gentle and would remain that way for the duration of the day.  The morning sun lit up windward O`ahu, but the clouds still lingered at the Lanihuli summit.  After about a 20 minute stroll, we reached the Puka and the vertical wall immediately after it.  Instead of climbing directly (it was done by Godek himself) over the wall, we contoured on it's left side and picked up a trail climbing up it's west flank.  It's a steep and muddy climb to gain the crest of the ridge.  Eventually we came upon the first rope, a springy one at that, followed by a couple of cables.

We gained the crest and took a short break here.  Ahead of us was the suicidal ridge to be climbed and it looked mean.  As we were admiring the views from here, we heard voices and out of no where, two girls emerge from the trees below.  Upon introduction, I came to realize that these brave women were Martyna and Allegra, the ones whom I've been following up on Blogger!  They have been on a hiking hiatus for some time and what a way to come back into it!  I asked them if they were going to shoot for Lanihuli and their reply was "Yes!".  Even better!  It felt like one of those RPG video games where your team is on a quest and pick up fellow characters along the way to aid in completing said quest.  Oh what a quest it would be!

The five of us shoved off with much enthusiam and the hike gets down to serious business right away.  The ridge was already getting as narrow as True Manamana as we climbed the first rock face with the aid of a flimsy neon green rope that somehow withstood our weight.  Further up, the ridge narrowed even more and began to get extremely crumbly.  The rockfaces were no better either as they retained a very steep, crumbly, and razor thin profile!  Progress was slow going as we all straddled along the ridge, our legs dangling over both death drops.

We spotted a blue and white rope heading steeply back down to Nu'uanu Valley which provided the only single bail out should the need arise.  Past the rope, we came to a nasty saddle that featured a large and rather odd looking boulder that was shaped like the Moai at Easter Island.  There was absolutely no way around it.  I've heard people making lassos with their ropes and using it to scoot along side of it.  Randy did just that and was the first up followed by Martyna.  With her elite climbing ability, she was able to get past this obstacle with major ease.  She wrapped her arms around the giant boulder like she was embracing it and placed her right foot on an invisible ledge that I did not see at all and heaved herself past the boulder!  With me next to go, I did what she did and much to my surprise it was rather easy to get past it.  Beyond the boulder was one of the worst sections to scramble up.  Everything on this particular climb simply fell apart and we were required to distribute weight evenly on all four limbs, taking care not to dislodge anything...  or worse!

Beyond was a tooth that was shaped like a dorsal fin of a shark.  I remember Jeremy Kreis calling this "Pu'u Suicido".  Climbing up it wasn't so bad but going down it's backside was pretty nerve wrecking.  Fortunately, Randy secured a temporary rope on this section and it proved useful!  Slowly but surely we made it down, one by one.  On these kinds of hikes, every step counts.  On the flip side, Martyna and Allegra took the ramrod position and took off like a rocket!  Man those girls have a hiking need for speed!

As we got higher, I occasionally took a glance back towards the Pali Lookout to see how much progress (or rather lack of) we made.  The clouds were scattered over the summit spine although they remained thick over the twin summits of Konahuanui.  Directly across the Pali Lookout were the Pali Notches, a route I did a few months ago to gain the summit of Konahuanui.  Lanihuli was still socked in but I could sense the clouds were beginning to lift from her misty summit.

The ridge transitioned from a razor thin crumbly ridge to becoming extremely overgrown, but the vegetation was a welcoming sight in a way as it provided a security barrier to the massive drop to Nu'uanu side while the windward side remained exposed.  Compared to what we went through prior to this point, it was a pleasant ridge walk, a well deserved break "on the go".  Up ahead, the ridge continues on to a point where it would begin to hang left towards a "false peak" where it apparently hides a nasty thing that makes everyone go bonkers.

As we started the climb to the false peak, that nasty thing was finally revealed and people called this particular section various names ranging from "Donkey Kong" and "True Pali Notches" to something simple as the "W".  I glanced at it again and realized that Martyna was already on the 2nd tooth, what would come to be known as the "Incisor"!  I finally reached the false peak and I could hear Randy's voice somewhere down below.  Over to the left, I spotted a fresh looking rope heading virtually straight down and to the left of the false peak to gain the 1st notch of the W.  A fall here would be disastrous, but it was the only way to get down.  Down I went on the rope, eventually contouring on the lee side, and made it to the 1st notch with no problem.  During my descent, I spotted the old red rope that Duc Ong apparently was using for support, when the darn thing wasn't even attached to anything!  How the heck it supported him just blows my mind!  Kinky, being the trail sweeper for the whole duration of the hike made it down safely and decided he would need a smoke break.  I don't blame him as the worst section of the hike was next!

While the first tooth is easily contoured on it's left side, the "Incisor" had to be traversed up and over in it's entirely.  Randy attempted to affix a rope but found absolutely nothing to anchor it to so he simply went over it.  I was up next and began crawling my way towards the incisor.  I spotted an old looking metal wire and came across a badly eroded section just before the apex of the incisor.  This particular part spooked the hell out of me as I tried in vain to grab any vegetation for support, ripping them apart in the process.  Somehow I made it to the top and the way the ridge looked like from this vantage point, looked like I was about to head down the first drop of a roller coaster from hell!  I dragged my okole slowly down the backside of the incisor and tried to keep my back in contact with the ridge as much as I could.  Time appeared to slow down as it seemed like an eternity to get down this backside, the phenominal dropoffs filling just about my entire field of vision.  At last, I made it down and breathed a sign of relief, knowing it was over.  Looking back, I could see Kinky on the top of the incisor and I snapped an awesome photo of him!  I wished I got a photo of me on that thing!  I don't know how it's even managing to support all of our weight.

We were now at the "3rd" notch (counting the 2nd notch which is actually a contour) and it was here where an old looking cable was attached to the infamous "Anvil Rock", a messy pile of "rock" that shouldn't even be holding itself together at all, let alone a cable!  The way that thing looked was akin to a bad thing waiting to happen to Willie The Coyote everytime he used those ACME contraptions in a futile attempt to capture the elusive Road Runner.  Going down the left side of the notch where the cable was at was the only option as our forward progress was halted by extremely eroded rock that was actually concaving!  It was said that this entire area, including the Anvil Rock was all once a puka, similiar to the Pali Puka, only to be destroyed by erosion.

One by one we went down that cable and I swear I saw the Anvil Rock move each time a person went down!  God forbid, but one day, someone will have the unfortunate event of completely ripping apart that rock, and the cable with it that he/she is pulling on!  Beyond on the left side of the ridge, the contour was like no other contour I've ever seen before as it was virtually non existant.  Eventually the path climbs up the left flank to regain the ridge line, bypassing the concave eroded section.

I looked up and realized that Pu'u Lanihuli was within striking distance!  But it would be the slowest climb ever as tangle after tangle of thick overgrowth battled us one last time.  We were soon climbing into the clouds that remained over Lanihuli for much of the day, revealing the summit every now and then.  I put every ounce of energy I had left into me and trudged the remaining steps to finally acquire the summit!

We all made it and in one piece too!  Actually, this summit was the topping out point of Mo'ole Ridge (Lanihuli East).  The actual topping out point of the Lanihuli Trail was the next big peak over.  After snapping a group photo at Lanihuli East, Randy, Martyna, and Allegra  made their way over to the Lanihuli Trail while Kinky and I remained at Lanihuli East as he took another smoke break.  The clouds began to lift and we were treated to some splendid views of Kaneohe to our left and the rest of windward O`ahu as far as Kailua and a bit of Waimanalo to our right.  Far below was the ridge we climbed up from Pali Lookout, still menacing looking.  Beyond the summit we could easily spot the saddle separating Lanihuli and Pu'u Kahuauli.  It is supposively known as "No Man's Land", otherwise known as the Kalihi Saddle.  Whether if I will ever attempt that remains to be seen, but for now, this will suffice!

The hike down the Lanihuli Trail towards Alewa Heights was a walk in the park compared to what we went through hours ago.  But the trail was very long, about 6 miles one way.  By this time, I was completely devoid of all useful energy and I was merely on autopilot the whole way.  Far in the distance we could see Randy, Martyna, and Allegra.  This would be the last time we would see them.  They would catch a separate ride later on.  About 3/4th of the way, we came to a junction and while I hiked the Lanihuli Trail with Leslie last year, I could not remember which way to go.  I called up Randy and they said they went down the left fork so Kinky and I went that way, but then we backtracked over to the right fork, thinking it was not it because Randy mentioned that they ended up finishing at the wrong road.  After a 10 minute jaunt on the right fork, it was decided that it was not it because the trail dimished to virtually nothing.  After all this back and forth on both forks, we ended up wasting a good hour.  With daylight fast running out, we opted to take the left fork and just be at any road before dark.  Later on, we entered a dense forest and I remembered there was another junction to the left that led us along side a fence to Alewa Dr.  But we turned left too early and we found ourselves on the wrong side of the road, behind someone's property.  A lousy fence was all what separated us from my car!  We ended up just circumnavigating the entire fence and eventually found the way to the now padlocked gate and hopped the gate and to the safety of my car at around 6:30pm, completing a whopping 12 hour hike (would have been 11 or perhaps 10 and a half had it not been for the junction issues along the Lanihuli Trail).

Martyna and Allegra, you guys are a beast!  You did a superior job and showed a great display of teamwork, along with the rest of us!  It was a pleasure to hike alongside of you!

All in all, I personally think this hike blows Pali Notches to Konahuanui K1 out of the water and gives True Manamana a run for it's money.  This will be one hike to remember for a very long time indeed.



  1. Great hike, awesome write-up, and even better video! Thanks for the shout-out; we are so flattered!

    Allegra and Martyna

    PS If we'd have known that we'd be hiking with such a good photographer, we would have picked out better outfits :)

  2. Great write-up, great hike, gonna do it real soon!!

  3. OMFG! U are all CRAZY! Next time, can I come?

  4. And please don't laugh at my blogs. They are nothing like yours. Oh GOD! I need to take my fat pictures off really quick...