OHE May 21, 1997

OHE member Kurt Heilbron (kurt@hula.net) submits the following report. Glad everything turned out okay.
Pu'u Ohulehule

When hiking alone, sooner or later you'll get into trouble on the trail. It happened to me hiking Ohulehule.

I got up late but decided to go for Ohulehule anyway. I packed my lunch and water and headed out to Kahana bay. Construction in many places along the way delayed my trek. I got to the gate and parked my car at 11:00 A.M. I headed up the trail via directions provided to me by Pat Rorie (Much mahalos Pat). The first part of the trail is beautiful. You go through a number of forests and jungles. I crossed three or four streams too. The day was unusually hot. There were no winds and the hike to the base of the saddle was grueling. I think on a normal tradewind day it would have been a lot nicer.

I made it to the saddle in about 2.5 hours. I stopped at one of the streams along the way to cool myself off. At the saddle, one can look at the Koolaus and see the Koolau summit trail cut into the mountain. The views of the front and back of Kahana valley are breath taking. I stayed there for awhile and decided to eat my lunch before I head to the top. After I finished my lunch I realized that I forgot to pack my second quart of water. "Oh no." I already gulped down my supply. (Mistake, big time!)

I decided I had to reach the summit. As the trail started to get worse, I decided to change into my long pants. I approached the first cable section. The first cable is brown and eventually attaches to the 30 year old steel cable. I pulled my way harder and harder up the rockface. I came to a second cable and again pulled my way up the face. Wew! This part is nasty. It's steep and extremely slippery. In fact, most of the trail was muddy and slippery due to the rains we had the week before.

I reached the top and decided to rest and try to cool off. I stayed there for over an hour admiring the views. All of a sudden this huge black cloud approaches me. Within minutes I was engulfed in a major down pour of rain. It only lasted for around five minutes but it was enough to mess my day up.

I decided I'd better get back down before things get worse. Well, hiking back down was something else. It was actually like hiking down a running waterfall of mud. I reached the cable section again and started to wonder "how am I going to do this? Just like before Kurt, except the cable is now wet." So I start to go down the face. Cleared! One more to go. As I started down the second cable section my hands slipped, I slipped, and fell approximately 40 feet down the trail bouncing and sliding along the way. I eventually came to a rest on a tree stump. My body was numb. I couldn't feel any pain (at least not yet). I laid there for a minute or two to try and evaluate my condition. Okay, my limbs are still functional. I'll make it. I made it to the saddle and rested there for about fifteen minutes.

Now the pain started to hit. My lower right ribs were aching now. I started to head down the trail. After five minutes or so I started to get dizzy. I fainted for a second or two but managed to stay alert. It was now 4:30 or so and I needed to get out of the valley before it gets dark. I was thirsty, over heated, and had no water. "If I can make to the stream," I thought, I'll be okay. I started to hike again. All of a sudden my legs started cramping real bad. I stopped under a small shady tree and decided to take some electrolyte pills that I had in my first aid kit.

All of a sudden I start to faint again. I laid down to try and relax. I was getting a little nervous now. After my little faint spell I started to get real cold. It was scorching hot but I started to freeze. Oh no. "Shock," is what I was thinking. I pulled out my raincoat and decided to stay put. If I tried to stand up, I just got more dizzy. It's now 4:40 and I still have roughly two+ hours to go in order to get out of the valley. My pride was getting the best of me and I almost decided to try and do it. I'm glad I didn't. "Don't chance it Kurt, it's not worth it," is what I started to think.

I took out my cellular phone and called 911. The signal was week but I managed to get a hold of search and rescue. They decided to send the chopper out to get me. Problem, they never heard of the trail. We decided that when the chopper arrives, I would give him directions via my cellular.

My cramps subsided and I was relieved somewhat that that I got a hold of someone. The cellular signal is not strong in the valley. Within fifteen minutes the chopper arrived. I called 911 again to talk to search and rescue and direct the chopper to where I was located. The chopper was on the opposite side of the valley. I kept telling the operator, "He's on the wrong side. Tell him to go to the opposite side of the valley." After a few minutes of giving directions the chopper was above me. I pulled off my white shirt and waived it to him. He saw it. The chopper instructed me to stay put and that he'd be back in ten minutes. Well, in ten minutes he was back. A fireman repelled his way down to me. I was relieved. He said a basket would be coming down next and gave me instructions on how to situate myself in it.

We both got in the basket and headed out of the valley. They took us right near where my car was parked along with a fire truck and some other people. I got out of the basket and walked over to the fire truck with the aid of a Captain Oka. He said I should wait and asked if I wanted to go the hospital. "No way! I don't want the media up here either." They gave me water and insisted that I go to a hospital to get checked out.

Well, I didn't want to leave my car up there so I decided to drive myself. On the way, I started to feel okay. I decided to stop at home first before I go to the hospital. I took a shower checked my email and then headed out. Am I nuts or what? Now I was starting to feel the pain with every breath.

At the ER I was x-rayed etc...I was told that I have a cracked rib. Oh great...So they sent me home with some painkillers and a doctors note for work. Is that it? Yep, that's it...that's all they can do.

The moral of the story. Don't go hiking alone...especially on a hike like this one. Take plenty of water. It might be a good idea to take extra and drop it along the trail for your return back. I had mistakenly forgotten my extra quart. Get a cellular phone. It can be the difference between life and death. Finally, never under estimate the conditions. The weather can change suddenly, just like it did for me. Also, heat exhaustion is real. It happens and can be extremely dangerous. I do a lot of weight training and cardio workouts but that still doesn't mean you can't get heat exhaustion or worst heat stroke.

I still plan on doing this hike again. I consider my trek unfinished since I didn't quite make it out of the valley. Next time, I will be with other hikers....


Return to OHE top | Return to Oahu Hike Tales | Email Dayle