OHE November 10, 1997 (b)

Date: Mon, 10 Nov 1997 14:20:58 -1000
From: Mike Uslan (killah@off-road.com)
Subject: True Horror 

We took UNREAL pictures to document this hike. This following post will shortly be turned into a web page with all the pictures. I'll add the later. I am not just writing this for the sake of writing it. I dont want to forget, or have the memories fade to a blur.

10:00 PM Saturday night, I retire to bed and try not to think of the next days hike. Last time I only got three hours of sleep and it really messed me up. It is still raining quite hard, ever since about 4 in the afternoon. I only hope it stops before morning.

2:00 AM; I half/wake up enough to realize the rain has stopped. I also half/wake up at about 4 AM and still no rain. No rain is good.

6:15 Am; I get out of bed, take a quick walk outside and to my complete wonder the entire top of Manoa Valley has NOT a cloud in sight. Even Konahuanui is thousands of feet below any cloud. Better get ready. Rain will not stop us today. The air is brisk. A north wind has dropped the temperature considerably, an added bonus for the days attempt.

6:30 AM; Wing arrives in his late 80's Mustang 5.0. (wanna sell it?) and we both tie on our boots and throw the bags in the Jetta, my wife will drop us off at the Ewa entry to the "Manoa Cliffs Trail" our entry point for today's saga.

7:20 AM; we took almost an hour to get here because I forgot my flashlight (just in case SURE) and we had some Mickey D's on the way. We hit the trail and reach Nuuanu lookout in about an hour.

I am over a month into this horrible cough, which started as a flu, turned into a Pnuemonia, and now is just a bronchitis of some sort. About 10 minutes into the Manoa Cliffs trail I think I started to worry Wing. I was coughing so bad I almost puked. I was kegging hard. I told Wing I was getting enough oxygen, (I was tested with numbers of machines) but I don't think Wing bought it. His words were, "We will see how you do on the hill climbs then." Alright. A few puffs of an inhaler and I was on my way. I wouldn't have to stop and cough again until it got dark, some 12 hours later. Lucky me.

Nuuanu Lookout; I snap three pictures here. I LOVE IT! What a view. I never been up here before. I told Wing 20 yrs in Hawaii and I never been up here. There is a metal pole in the ground, someone has inscribed "God's Country" on it with an arrow pointing to Konahuanui. I smile.

We get moving after a few minutes and we immediately get lost. We took the wrong trail, but no time lost, we find the correct route and start our way up the steepest hill I have ever climbed in my life next to a vertical wall. Wow! Just name this hill "Riff Raff" because it will definately turn around ANY day trippers. Keep out all the riff raff for sure. I start to imagine how pristine it is above here, as this hill is getting my heart rate up quick. We top it amazingly quick. My adrenelin is on and will not rest until about midnight tonight. Well after I shower and retire.

I can't remember exactly how many hills we climb, but its like 4 or 5 with Konahuanui at the top. Somewhere in between we see a group of 5 making time on us. Wing is always ahead of me on the climbs here, I am waiting for my "second wind".. I don't know how I get it, but even bodyboarding large North Shore or Sandy Beach surf with extreme rip currents I cannot survive until I get my "second wind" A large set of waves usually gets me VERY tired, then after a good rest I am ready. My second wind being much stronger than my first.

We reach the top around 11:30 or something, the group of 5 arrives shortly after us. Wing and I are pondering how to ask them to join us on the crossing. My first question was where you guys going? Their amazing reply was (you wont believe this) "Woodlawn" me and Wing dropped our jaws. "No way!!" I said loud enough to echo... This is a "Grape" we call them in sales. No need to sell a thing. Theyre already commited. Just close the deal. "Were going there too! How ironic" both me and Wing kept saying in a variety of english. Wow. They didn't seem as surprised as us. I asked them if they knew why we were so amazed. They had no idea. "as far as we know nobody has crossed over in 5 years" they didn't think so. I asked who had done it before. Only one had. the oldest adult who was 72 yrs old. This mans name was Rick or Dick or Jack. I forget, we will call him Jack, but he is a Manoa resident too. I asked him how long ago was the last time he did it. 8 yrs. "SEE" I said. We are the first in a long time.

11:55 AM; 7 slighty crazed hikers start down Konahuanui along a razorback that hasn't seen traffic in years. For the entire crossing we will not see a single ribbon until we are within spitting distance of Olympus some 5 hours from now. Immediately the view is phenomenal. I wouldn't say magical or mystical as Wing describes Waimalu Ridge or Kipapa, but phenomenal. The strech of high rises in Honolulu, Waikiki and Kailua and Kaneohe are beautiful. Stunning. Every now and then we see an old cutting, they had to be at least a year old but possibly older. We now know we are surely the first in a long time. Wing and I are joking about how lucky we are, especially to have a trail clearing crew in front of us. The 5 hikers in front of us can only hear Wing's laughs, they never hear my jokes. So they think Wing is just laughing for no apparent reason. My wife told me after I got out, they described Wing as strange because he was laughing at nothing. I thought perfect! They couldn't hear my jokes and only heard Wings laughs. They must think we're all crazy.

I take last place in our group for now, and soon into the hike it is so steep going down Konahuanui we are on our butts using our boots as both steering rudders and brakes. To describe this next all downhill hour was fun, thrilling, amazing, nothing else like it in the world! It was like downhill skiing or mudsliding for a full hour+. Imagine a one hour mudslide with 2000 foot cliffs on one side and at least a 500 drop on the other and you get the idea. It was better than any roller coaster or thrill ride. This alone was worth it. I looked back what would be 5 hours later and could still see our trail we blazed from as far away as Olympus. We reached bottom in around an hour. Looking towards both peaks we had made it about half way. In an hour! Wow! This is the first time the whole week I realize we will make it! Stoked! But I remember not to get cocky, not good up here to be overconfident.

1:00 PM; we start through our first uphill in over an hour. My second wind!! I ask Wing if I can pass, and find myself right on the 5 hikers tail for the rest of the hike until after dark. Wing from here on out will always remain about 10 minutes behind me. I get into a pattern of blazing with the 5 for about a half hour, then waiting for Wing, a good 10 minute rest in itself, then catching back up to the 5 through their nicely blazed trails, about a half hour to catch them, then once I catch them, I rest and wait for Wing. I do this pattern about 7 or so times today. I start to notice every time I catch up to them, Jack is still in ramrod position, he never allows the teens to take ramrod, and every time I see him he has a new cut. By the end of the day he would have 2 cuts to the face, entirely bloody knuckles, and numerous scratches and cuts along his arms. Remember this man is 72 yrs old. Quite a huffer himself. Big credit to this man.

Mid-Afternoon; Adrenelin is raging enough to feel it in our bones, in our faces, and through our fingers. It is similar to a high from an illegal drug. The ridge has now become extremely skinny. Like Wing described, nothing to either windward or leeward side. and about a 1 foot wide ridgetop. Luckily for us it is only this dangerous for about 1/8-1/4 of a mile. I think it takes us an hour to get through this lonely section. I went outside the house this morning to identify this horrifying section and sure enough it is still there. I can see the trees and everything. It only looks an inch long from here but forget about it. Its psychotic.

Only once in my life have I experianced pure horror before. I was about 9 or 10 yrs old and We had just moved to Aiea Hiegts. Right below the Heiau. It was a magnificent place to live, we had a huge park full of needle-pine trees that made awe inspiring sounds in the wind. I dream of it nowadays, but as a 9 yr old boy "JOJ" from New YorK City it was a bit too much for my imagination. It got the best of me one night as all the neighborhood kids were scared to death of the park past dark. Something got in my room one night. The wind was howling like a banshee but not even a breeze was entering my room. It was too much for me to handle, too spooky. I was about to run to my mothers room when WHAM something pinned me to the bed, the wind intensified instantly to bone chilling speed, and my blankets and pillows started a tornado twister below my ceiling. I couldn't scream I was so terrified. it stopped as soon as it started and I screamed so loud my mother thought I was being attacked. She said I shook her bed all night long. What was it that terrified me that night? Thats another story, but I can look back at that night and say it was nothing compared to this afternoon on the razorbacks above Manoa.

Check this out. First thing you hit is a small short hill climb on MUD with the ever present cliffs on both sides. OK, this is bone-chilling enough. Well once you clear the top of it you see about 50 yards of nothing in front of you. The only reason I attempt it is the 5 ahead of me are just gonzoing through it. I am shocked they don't even consider the risk, just charge. Each one of them hangs onto this clump of needle-pine trees right there smack dab on the ridge. How the trees got here I have no clue, but without them this would be the end of the road. They use them as handholds, and go across with legs dangling into eternity. It is quite a sight to see. Extreme sports can only dream of a video of this. I am next and make it just fine. After the clump of pine trees you climb another slightly taller hill. Now let me stop here and say if you had a telescope or high powered camera you would see all of us easily from Manoa Valley below. I checked it out already. Its all there. Even the pine tree clump.

The next slightly taller hill is another mud crawl and I start to really think about dying here. This is not fun anymore. It is a life or death drama. If I slip here, no Uluhe to tangle and hold me, no Dayle to pull me out, see you later. Death will find you and find you quickly. That is my only consolation. If I fall to the windward side I dont think I will survive the fall. It seems at LEAST 1000 if not 2000 feet straight down. You will die. A fall to Leeward, and death is still assured, this side is "Only" 500 feet or so down. Of course the whole trip since Nuuanu Lookout has been along razor sharp cliffs, but it is like comparing this. You can know a killer is on the loose and be scared, or you can suddenly meet the killer face to face. I am in deaths breath. But I had no idea what was ahead of me. This was chilling. What I would find on the other side of this hill would be horror like I have never known.

I top this hill, start the steep climb down to another strech of rocky razorback cliffs. this time the 5 are walking along the Leeward side of it. the ledge being about head high. A covienient walkway takes them to the next hill up. Suddenly I am upon a rock as big as a 4 door sedan standing on end. Not too high, but the only way down is onto a 6 inch wide OVERHANG of loose crumbly lava rock with guess what under it. Nothing. Words cannot describe it.. It was true horror for me. I was ready to cash it in. Wait here for Wing and dial 911. Oh, there was a phone cable tied to a no more than 3 foot high bush. HAHAHAHAHA!!!!!! this will never hold me. I know none of those kids, even the 2 adults are NOT over 200 lbs. I'm 240 and with my luck the 5 of them loosened it up just enough that I was going to try and use the cable and pull the bush right out of its hold and fall to my death. 3 times I attempted it and was shaking from fear so much I pushed myself back on the rock. The cliff was easily the highest I ever been on. And I was not on it, I was hanging over it. This sedan sized rock could have fallen off on its own. Who knew! The rain from the past winters could have loosened it enough all it needed was a 240 lb haole like me to push it over the edge. Then i'd be like Wile E. Coyote and fall and go splat somewhere above Maunawili Demonstration Trail. To me death was now a possibility. I have been in huge surf, car accidents, hauntings, gotten into fights with guys bigger than me by 100lbs, had a gun pulled on me twice in my life!, been in a high rise fire inferno 7 stories up and passed out from smoke asphixiation, I even got married! But never had I encountered such horror. It was frightening. Last resort, I yelled ahead to the 5, "Hey how did you get down this?" They told me "Use the cable, and go down the crack." not what I wanted to hear. I was hoping they'd say I was going the wrong way or something more pleasant. Forget about it. You must face the dragon. I put my life in God's hand, said a prayer. Accepted death as a possibility, got peace, stopped shaking and did it. I wanted to run away from that rock as fast as I could. I know it will haunt me for years to come. I started along the next section of this house of horrors which is the loose crumbly ridge to my immediate left, and a 500 foot drop on the right. At least I only have one cliff now. I felt *SO* much better. You are still hugging the loose crumbly rock as your foot trail is barely discernable, almost kipapa-ish. I manage to dislodge a rock the size of a football. It nails my left shin and ankle. I wanted to fall and hold it but I could not allow myself such pleasure. A few seconds after I knew I was OK. But now I was mad. I was starting to get angry. that was good. The anger and adrenelin combo would get me out and off the crossover. Time was quickly vanishing.

I kind of have a taste now of what it must be like in all out ground combat. Like Vietnam or WWII. turning around is not an option. Staying put is death by fear, and moving ahead right through deaths grip is the only way out. It makes you a bit crazy. When I was halfway out down Wa'ahila I found my mind tripping hard. Even as I went to sleep it haunted me into the night. This was only a one hour max,

I reach the next hill and the 5 resting again. From here I look back and see WIng at the top of the hill, he doesn't see the rock yet. Once he is on top of it I see he is as shocked and puzzled as I was. He takes about 3 minutes himself to build up the courage to do it. Here he loses his lopper and almost takes a plunge down the Leeward side.

4:20 PM; we still have three major hill climbs ahead of us to Olympus. I almost walk right over the 5 who were taking a water break. I stop and join them. Take off my pack and refill my canteen with wy quickly vanishing surplus of water from my pack. Have a snack of dried apricots. I have my full lunch still in my pack. I never ate it because I didn't want to waste time. I planned on lunch at Olympus around 3 pm. Now it was almost 5pm. I asked the gang of 5 if they realized we would be hiking in the dark. the older man knew, and just nodded acceptingly. The other 4 were like "What are we going to do??" Now THEY were scared. I lied and told them I did it before. Had to, before any of them freaked. I knew we would make Olympus, and explained to them once we had Olympus we could almost run the rest of the way if we needed to. And showed them a half full moon which would give plenty enough light. I told them to forget Woodlawn, go out at Wa'ahila State Park and get a ride down the hill. That was the plan and we all immediately quickened our pace to get the heck out of here.

5:05 PM we arrive at Olympus and dont even stop. We take the side contour and gain the main trail like we were running away from Freddy Krueger. I do manage to scope out the entire crossing, and have a nice smile as I can obviously make out exactly our trail we blazed from Konahuanui all the way to Olympus. It stands out like a sore thumb. I hope no day trippers try it. Next weekend some tourists will probably get stuck up there, the 10 pm interview on the news, "Gosh we saw a trail and thought we could make it". About 10 minutes down Wa'ahila I see Wing has made the Ridge too, I yell at him, "We are stepping up the pace lets jam!" He yells something back about Woodlawn and that was the last I heard. I saw him three more times but wanted to make it to the easy part by dark. I would ask him what he said then. I wasn't going to wait 10 precious minutes to find out what he said.

5:40 I stumble into the 5 again. they are resting right on the trail. I explain to them we should wait for Wing, he has an extra flashlight, and it will be dark in 20 minutes anyway so may as well take it slow from now on. They want to know how far we are etc. I said about 2-3 hours more. They had no food or water. I happened to have a unopened MRE. I gave everyone a few bites of the spaghetti and meatballs peanut butter and crackers, all had a few swigs of water. We stayed here about 10 minutes. I wished them luck and said I'd meet them at Wa'ahila. I was going to wait for Wing. I actually trudged ahead with them for about another 45 minutes slowly losing them to the darkness ahead.

6:30 When the 5 were well and gone and the trail had eased considerably, I found myself a nice tree in a clearing and off came the pack and belt. I was cruising here. I looked down into Manoa and was still quite a ways up from the Chinese Cementary and Woodlawn Dr. So figured even if Wing was going down Woodlawn he'd have to pass me first. I quickly passed into sleep and awoke at 7:00. No Wing yet. I wondered, then let out a few hollars. I can yell REAL loud. Dogs in Manoa and Pauoa Valley started barking when I yelled "WING" at the top of my lungs. No reply except the barking dogs. "That crazy nut went out Woodlawn was the only possibility". I knew. The trail was too easy for him to have fallen or gotten stuck. That was it. I was going out.

8:00 PM the final 2 hills out of Wa'ahila. I was delerious, and my only clue I was almost out were the power lines I had passed. Like a fool I took a break for another few minutes only 2 or 3 minutes from the park. I had no idea I was out already. If I did I'd have not breaked. I got to the park and sucked up about a quart of water from the water fountain, bowed a knee and thanked God for sparing my life, then made my way to the gate. Wife was there waiting faithfully since 5 pm, she said the 5 hikers who had made the crossing with us were just picked up 5 minutes ago. I would have liked to say goodbye but oh well. Its a small Island, I'll see them again. If I hadn't waited for Wing i'd have made it out around 7:25. right behind or with the other 5. All in all it was 12 1/2 hrs. for me. I'd have like to invite Wing in for a beer but he blew out of here like a bat out of hell before I got back. Instead I had to listen to my in-laws rambling about how many people die up there. How many got rescued by helicopter and pakalolo growers etc etc ad infinitum ad nauseum. They were upset I went in there. They are long time Manoa residents. I guess the feeling around here is those mountains are Kapu. Even my Father In Laws next door neighbor who joined the witch burning last night said to go past Nuuanu Lookout is a fools hike.

12 noon Monday; I actually get to start work tomorrow, Tuesday. So a extra day to heal my feet is welcomed. My In-Laws have gone from criticism to mockery now as they see me hobbling on 10 blistered toes. I guess they are happy I'm alive. So am I.

In summary; I would love to see HTMC or another hard core group open up this trail with about 5 ropes needed on extremely steep sections of the crossing and also bring rock climbing gear to permanently replace the "phone cord on bush" section. There are no trees here so a grommet of some sort would need to be hammered into the rock, and a rope down the safer side is a must. Maybe even a ledge of some sort built to safely place your feet on. Its soooo scetchy here. Remember I described it as PURE HORROR. The way up to Olympus from the bottom needs some serious weed whacking. It was only 1 hour to the bottom but 4 hours up. 5 total. Also ropes would need to be installed before one could attempt a crossing from Olympus to Konahuanui. The hills we mud-slid down for an hour are near vertical with nothing to hold onto. going down we knew going back was never going to happen. NEVER.

It reminded me of the movie "Jumanji" A hike for those who seek to find a way to leave your world behind. WARNING! Do not start this hike unless you intend to finish! Once you leave Nuuanu Lookout you are commited. Once you start down Konahuanui you close the deal. Turning around is not an option.

I will never go up here again. Not unless there is a trail built. Kipapa to Manana, Konahuanui to Olympus, any of these crossings are too dangerous to enjoy entirely. Had I known the risk of death I would never even try it.

On the other hand, the Koolau Summits are like a drug. Someone said the Uluhe will one day be found to contain a drug that causes insanity. The beckon you in there, places like Aiea, Waimalu, Poamoho, Manoa, Kipapa, Manana you name it. You vow to quit but you know you need help. Screw the help I'm going to spend the night next time. Waimalu Middle ridge to Aiea Ridge is next on the calendar. Who wants to go?

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