OHE March 5, 1998

Date: Thu, 5 Mar 1998 07:40:26 -1000 (HST)
From: "Dayle K. Turner" (turner@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Lost on Lanihuli

After reading the piece Carole posted, I was reminded of an article Pete Caldwell gave me about a year ago. Dr. Pete found it in the Bishop Museum archives in a 1915 edition of The Mid-Pacific Magazine (pp. 587-590). An interesting read.

Lost on Lanihuli
By R.H. Lambert
[reprinted without permission]

He who believes that he cannot enjoy all the thrills of an Alpine climb in the tropics within an hour's walk from Honolulu, is mistaken. True, there are no safer and better mountains for climbing than those back of Honolulu; also there are sheer precipices of between two and three thousand feet that no man can scale or descend. There are ridges so narrow at the summit that you must actually stride them to make progress, and from these razor-edged ridges you may look down one, two, or three thousand feet on either side. A number of daring soliders have lost their lives attempting to negotiate these dangerous ridges, that are often composed of crumbling rock; but there is always a safe way of climbing these mountains, and the Trail and Mountain Club has cut excellent paths in many directions to the summits of the mountains about Honolulu.

Hundreds of people every week follow the well-cut tracks that lead up to three thousand feet above Honolulu, and this in a walk of but two or three hours. Sometimes, however, the most daring members of the Trail and Mountain Club attempt the seemingly impossible, and it is with a seemingly impossible tramping trip that I shall deal.

From the end of the Nuuanu car line near the Honolulu Country Club, by spldendid automobile road to the Pali or precipice overlooking the other side of the island from a height of twelve hundred feet, is a walk of but four miles. From the Pali, mountain peaks rise on either side to a height of over three thousand feet, and both of these peaks look down sheer precipices to the windward side of the island. Prof. J.S. Donaghho, the map-maker of the Trail and Mountain Club, has scaled these peaks from the Pali for the purpose of making observations for the completion of the contour map prepared for the Trail and Mountain Club. Others have tried and have failed. Both of these mountain peaks are easily ascendable by following either the valleys or the ridges leaving Honolulu, but from the Pali up there are in places vertical walls of crumbling stone, and around these a way must be fought, and often it is necessary to hang on by tree ferns.

On the right-hand side of the Pali is the peak of Konahuanui; on the left is Lanihuli. It was Lanihuli that we determined to conquer. Several of our Trail and Mountain Club members were the pioneers. They decided to climb to the summit by way of the valley, then descend along the razor-edge ridge to the Pali.

At midnight, dropping down with fatigue on the edge of an unseen precipice hundreds of feet high, and there, because they could limp no further, sleeping the sleep of the just in all unconsciousness of their danger, was their experience. Trail and Mountaineers Gilbert Brown, Frederick Cramp, and M.L.H. Reynolds were those who hiked to the summit of Lanihuli and pratically attempted to make the descent towards the Pali in the dark. These three had set our from the club rooms early Sunday morning to explore Hillebrand Glen, intending to return to the city by sundown. They were just 24 hours later, however, in accomplishing this, being escorted back to the city by our rescue party that found them in a famished condition painfully crawling back to the summit of Lanihuli.

Gilbert Brown is an expert trail and mountain climber. He led the way up Hillebrand Glen, climbing and crawling up and around Seven Falls, over a route never before essayed. It was in the afternoon when he and his party reached the summit of Lanihuli and looked down toward the Pali about two thousand feet below. They determined, as it was so late and there was but one lunch left among them (and that lost later on the trail) to attempt a short-cut to the Pali. It was one of those glorious hikes along a razor-back ridge where you got a thrill every moment. You could look down sheer 2500 feet on one side and more than 1000 on the other. In places the ridge was not more than 6 inches wide and the three adventurers had to straddle it. When the wind became strong and the ridge rocked ominously they crawled down on the lee side and hung on to ferns. At one place, some distance below the edge of the ridge, they were almost blown from their feet by a mysterious wind that seemed to come from the bowels of the mountain. They crawled toward it and found that it was a blow-hole, that is, that there was a hole worn entirely through the ridge. It took skill to get by, but they made it. Then, as it grew dark, they attempted to descend one of the spurs toward Nuuanu Valley. It was a matter of sliding and hanging on to ferns until at last they came to a gully and here they climbed along and felt their way until 10 o'clock at night when tired nature would stand no more and they decided to lie down, or at least straddle tree ferns to keep from slipping, and go to sleep. Mr Reynolds decided to look a little further and see if he could find a more level spot. After he had walked 8 feet he returned, saying he did not like the feel of things.

In the morning when the tired party awoke and stood up they could look over the edge of a drop-off that surrounded them on three sides, and there was no part of the drop less than 500 feet. There was no breakfast, no coffee, and no water with which coffee might have been made. The last bit of chocolate had been eaten the day before and there was nothing now to do but to crawl back, and crawling back up steep ridges was no joke. Some of this was what is called hand-work, that is, clinging to trees growing out at right angles from the mountain. You climb up hand over hand and trust to luck that nothing will give way. They made one more attempt to get down to the Pali, but came to a trifling dropoff of one hundred feet and, being nervous from loss of sleep, prepared to turn back. They stood at the edge of this drop-off and could see laborers at work on the road below and Reynolds felt everywhere in his pockets for a pencil and paper that he might write a note and throw it down to the laborers that they might give it to the first chauffeur going to town. Reynolds merely wanted to notify any searching party that might be looking for them to go back.

It took several hours to climb back to the summit of Lanihuli, in fact it was 1 o'clock when the three tired trampers arrived once more at the summit. When they got there they were saluted by whistles from three directions. They had met our rescue party approaching from three directions.

Do not believe that these Trail and Mountaineers were discouraged: on the contrary, they learned that Professor Donaghho had once reached the summit of Lanihuli starting from the Pali, so they secured his co-operation, and I was allowed to go along when the next attempt was made. We made our start from the auto road near the edge of the Pali. It was hard work from the start; climbing up through vines and ferns and holding onto friable rocks that gave way under the hand; but our leader knew just where to tell us to place our feet, how to throw the body around, and look up, forgetful of the great drop below, and we made progress. The Professor, true to his scientific training, at frequent intervals, sometimes when I seemed to be slipping, slipping, slipping, down to sure perdition, would suddenly stop just ahead of me and say in the most exasperatingly calm tone, "You don't mind hanging on there a moment, do you, while I take an observation and look at my aneroid?"

Sometimes we climbed--more often we crawled like lizards. We used arms, and legs, and toes, and heels, and elbows, and fingers to hold on to any possible vegetation. Sometimes we straddled ridges and looked down into valleys on either side. Sometimes the ridges were so impossible that we had to make detours down the mountain side, hanging on as we felt our way along and climbing like monkeys. I had started early in the morning with buoyant spirits, but after several hours of this sort of climbing and crawling I became less sure of myself, and after a while somewhat a burden to the others. Prof. Donaghho very kindly kept me right behind him, and many times I looked at him in despair a few yards ahead, absolutely unable to see a possible hand or foot hold. Then the Professor would point at an invisible plant or stone and tell me to grub or dig for it; then to swing around or do some other remarkable stunt, and sure enough my plant would hold, if only for a moment, and I could make the swing or turn. Sometimes I would feel myself slipping, and my thoughts would gallop down those one thousand five hundred feet to the rocks below, where the thousands of brave warriors of Oahu's army were hurled by the conquering forces of Kamehameha the Great. But the Professor would each time stop in his easy progress and say, "Now, don't worry; you won't go very far, and if you do go, you will be able to catch onto something before you slip more than thirty or forty feet down, and it won't hurt you. Your only trouble will be in climbing up again." I would weakly answer, "Thank you, Professor." But I did slide down as he described, and I thought the whole mountain had broken loose and was carrying me down, but a sudden jolt fetched me up short and I was straddling a projecting tree-fern. Then there was the climb up, hanging on to the ie-ie vines, and confidence returned. Now the Professor is twenty-five pounds lighter than I am, and he can hang onto stones and roots that will not bear me, so I lost time looking for heavier material; and it began to grow late. It seemed as though another night must be spent on the precipices of Lanihuli, but Professor Dongaghho, who has unitentionally spent many nights in the mountains when caught by darkness, had no intention of camping out this night.

He announced that we would begin the descent as we had already passed the point from which some of our party had descended, and we now knew it was possible to construct with a little work, a trail that would be comparatively safe. We began the descent. I have seen pictures of skiing and sliding on ti leaves, but there is nothing in the experience of man to compare with the sliding, many seconds at a stretch, down loosely laid ie-ie vines down a straight wall, but by this time I had become a Fatalist. We had a leader, and I took it for granted that where he would lead it was safe to follow. It must have been for a thousand feet that we slid and struggled down the ie-ie vines, emerging from rotten tree-ferns and rottem loose humus. Soon the sliding wasn't so steep, then came the deep grass that climbs high up the mountain side and now we could see far below us on the Pali road, spectators gaping in amazement at our foolhardiness. But we had accomplished something, and breathed sighs of relief as we slid down over the thick grass.

Verily, there are thrills and joys and mountain climbing within an hour or so from Honolulu that will compare favorably and unfavorably with mountain climbs in any country of the world.

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