OHE May 10, 1997

OHE member Kurt Heilbron sent me this superb account of his recent climb of super dangerous Pu'u Manamana. Mahalo nui, Kurt!!

Pu'u Manamana -- 5-4-97

Above the Kahana bay on the eastern shore of Oahu lies the infamous "Pu'u Manamana." This is a hike that I had contemplated doing for quite sometime. This is not a beginner's hike.

My Sunday started as usual. I got up and was trying to decide on Lanikai beach (5 minutes from my home) or hiking. Of course I made the right choice and went hiking. I decided on Manamana. I had spoken to Dayle Turner about this hike the week before.

I packed my sack with two bottles of water, two sandwiches, and two powerbars. Oh let's not forget, my cellular phone. As I drove out towards Kahana bay passing chinaman's hat on my right, I could only wonder what lay ahead of me. I thought to myself "How dangerous can this hike be? How narrow are those ridges that are referenced in Stuart Balls book?" I was about to find out.

At 12:00 P.M., I parked my car right along the side of the road next to some ironwood trees. Right across from me at the first utility pole pass the guardrail I headed into the forest. I was immediately blessed with ti plants and tangled Christmas berry. I passed a small wooden sign that said "Heiau" with an arrow pointing in the direction that I just came from.

The first part of this hike is hot and steep. After about fifteen minutes of sweating I was surprised at how high I had already ascended. Kahana bay was right in back of me and the back of the crouching lion was to my left. I could see two hikers who were sitting on top of the lion's head.

I started to head up towards the ridgeline. The trail is steep but open and well defined in this section. After a half hour or so I came to the first cable section. It was about 20-30 feet up a rock face. This section is not that bad but you still need to be careful. As I pulled my way to the top my heart was pounding hard. At the top if this section the trail levels out for a little ways. Again I stopped briefly to catch my breath and admire the views of Kahana bay and Makua Village.

From here on the trail gets down to serious business. There are a few ups and downs you must negotiate. The views are fantastic! As I continued, the ridge became extremely narrow with drops 1000 feet on both sides of me. I came to a section where I had to ascend and go around a rock face. This section is bad and must be negotiated with extreme care. A slip up in this section means you will become pig food. After I regained my composure I headed up the trail.

Looking forward the trail seemed to end at a cliff ahead of me. I thought to myself again, "cable section." I was right. I looked down to what seemed to be a ten foot plus rock face with a cable attached to a metal spike in the ground. I didn't even think about the consequences of what would happen if I fell. I tested the cable and headed on down the face. When I reached the bottom I took a picture of this section. It looks much more nasty from the bottom than the top.

From here on the trail starts to go through a mild forest section. I stopped again before heading into this section and took some pictures of a beautiful lush green valley with a dried up waterfall directly to my left. This valley is really cool. I was trying to see if there was way to hike it. Awesome site!

After a half hour or so I came to what I considered the most dangerous part of the hike. First, you descend down a twenty foot plus rockface level out for a short ways and then ascend back up another twenty foot plus rockface on a very narrow ridge with a huge drop off on your left. There is a cable in this section but the trail follows so closely along the narrow ridge, right to the edge! Be very careful here. The rock is crumbly and the trail is slippery.

Wew! I continued on into a lush forest blessed with beautiful Hawaiian plants and trees. From here on the trail is thick. You go through a forest / jungle section with a few clearings here and there before you reach the top. I took pictures wherever I could. Some of the sections on the trail are carpeted with moss. It is really a site to see. After pushing my way through some wet sections and uluhe ferns I reached a small grass clearing. Ahead of me about another five feet there is a benchmark. I sat here in the clearing, gulped down my water, and ate my two sandwiches. I made a call to my mother (lives in Colorado) and told her where I was. Isn't technology wonderful?

After a fifteen minute or so rest period and a prayer that I return down the mountain safely, I headed back down the trail. One note here. There seems to be another trail that leads up to the clearing. It approaches from the Kaneohe side of the ridge.

The descent down Manamana issomething else. You descend over 2000 feet in about a half mile. There a lot of wet muddy sections with other parts that are grown over. Still, the trail is defined and easy to follow. The ridge becomes so thin in places its hard to believe! What's nice is that the trail is mostly surrounded with vegetation making it much easier to hike.

After an hour or so of hiking along this narrow moss carpeted ridge I came to a section that I will never forget. I approached a grove of Hala trees. The sun was starting to set behind the Koolaus. To my left laid a beautiful open field of uluhe ferns. The sun was shining through the forest and the beams of light were surrounding me. I stayed there for a moment to admire God's creation.

I continued down the trail again. I could see houses with children playing in the street. I emerged in an old cemetery. This place is really unique. I kept thinking to myself " I wonder if this is where they bury the hikers who didn't make it." But seriously, this cemetery is very peaceful. I read on one of the headstones that said the person laid to rest here was a victim of a tidal wave back in the 1940's.

I walked down the main path and emerged on Trout farm road next to an old abandoned chapel. Some children were shooting hoops playing ever so gracefully in the street totally unaware of me or where I had just come from. I walked back to my car and sat there for a while. "I did it! I actually did it!" Total time 4.5 hours.

As I headed to my home back in Kailua I played my favorite CD, Exchange. The songs I listened to were Gracepoint and Islands. This music is truly inspiring and very uplifting. Listen to it! The rest of the evening I spent flashing back to the dangerous sections on the trail and the beautiful sun lit hala grove. I was at peace having finally done Pu'u Manamana.

Hike safe, gang.


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