OHE October 11, 1998 (b)

Date: Fri, 16 Oct 1998 11:50:48 -1000
From: Patrick Rorie (prorie@hekili.k12.hi.us>
Subject: Another Attempt at the Southeast Ridge

There's just something about Ohulehule that draws me to her. In mid-1996 I first read of the craggy peak in Ball's "Hiker's Guide" and was especially fascinated by the "most dangerous" southeast ridge (OSE). My hiking partner Laredo Murray and I attempted the OSE in March of '97 only to reach the base of the last dike. On subsequent attempts I made further progress but did not have the guts to free climb the steep, narrow eroded stretch which leads to a very, very steep exposed section. I knew of only one person who could help and she desired to give it a try. Despite all her incredible accomplishments, the famous woman hiker (FWH) had never climbed OSE to the summit (only this year did she attain the top of Ohulehule from the northwest via Kahana Valley).

Dayle drove the three of us from Kualoa Park to an undisclosed location and we continued on foot at 9 a.m. FWH lead our group as we walked past a house and exchanged greetings with a woman and her young daughter (FWH knew the woman having obtained permission to enter the privately owned valley a few days earlier). A doberman pincer, visible only from the kneck up, barked at us but was restrained behind a wooden wall.

We tramped along a mostly canopied dirt road successfully fording three small streams in the process. Upon accomplishing a couple of tough hill-side climbs our threesome departed the road turning into the woods at 9:35 a.m. We worked our way up a gully and bushwacked to and along a dike until reaching the crest of a side ridge. From there I took the ram-rod cutting through Christmas berry branches and lilikoi vines while ascending toward OSE. Eventually, we encountered uluhe and cut/plowed throught it arriving at the crest of the southeast ridge at 10:50 a.m.

Looking up toward the summit, I noticed the swath I had created during a jaunt along the OSE from the summit downward on September 26th located above a large tree inside a steep pocket of the ridge and pointed it out to Dayle. He, FWH and I sat down to rest, eat some snacks and hydrate. While Dayle and FWH carried on a conversation I knew what lie ahead and tried to prepared myself mentally for the coming ordeal.

At 11:10 a.m. our threesome continued along OSE toward the summit, clearing the trail as we went. FWH, Dayle and I bypassed the last dike to the right, crawling along a narrow grassy shelf to complete the stretch. We regained the crest of the ridge only to be confronted by a huge dropoff on the Waikane side. I continued crawling until the crest widened enough to where I felt comfortable to stand up. As I jungle-gymed through a large banyon tree, Dayle and FWH tied a rock climbing rope to two smaller trees for security then moved forward. Dayle sat down on a small pu'u and didn't proceed any further while I dropped down to a crumbly eroded saddle (elev. 1,400 ft) and straddled it. FWH emerged from the banyon and studied the steep eroded stretch in front of me composed of a series of crumbly boulders which looked like they could easily be dislodged. A wire was hooked underneath one of them about 10 feet above my position and I pulled on it to test its capability.

Then FWH began to work her magic. She pulled out a long rope from her pack, carefully moved in front of me and tied one end of it to the base of a guava tree on the Waikane side of the ridge. To break the tension she jokingly instructed me to catch her if she fell. "Right" I thought to myself "and we'll go down into the abyss together!!!". FWH commenced free climbing the boulders as Dayle and I held our breath. At a ledge about 20 feet above me she discovered an old piton still lodged between two boulders. FWH told me to remove the extension cord from my pack and tie it to the rope. After untangling the cable I accomplished the task and she pulled the remainder of the rope to her position. FWH untied the extension cord from the rope and attached part of it to the piton while I tied the other end to the banyon. Although having no desire to join us, Dayle did a superb job of coaching FWH and I from his excellent vantage point. FWH then ascended very steeply to a Christmas berry tree and anchored her end of the cord around it.

Now it was my turn! I removed my gloves (because I wanted the best grip possible even if it meant suffering some burns) and pack (to be free of any excess weight) then pulled on the cable to make sure the connection with the piton was solid. Up I went to a ledge beyond the boulder which had the wire under it. The next ledge with the piton near it wasn't quite as easy to gain but with some advice from Dayle I successfully arrived at the spot. I slabbed left toward the Christmas berry and looked down. There was no angle to the mountain, just a straight drop! The tops of trees were visible far below. I shook my head and looked up to the tree and down to the drop-off at least a dozen times.

Before climbing to the base of the very, very steep crumbly exposed section, FWH admonished me saying,"Come up to the tree! Make like an opihi!". I know what an opihi (fish) is but didn't understand what she meant. Dayle asked FWH how the next section looked and she replied,"Worse!". I hesitated and Dayle suggested FWH take up the slack in the cord on her end and throw it down to me so I could tie it around my chest. FWH did as Dayle instructed but the cable wasn't long enough to tie around my chest, only around my neck! However, a second cable connection stretching from the tree became available. With a cable in both hands I carefully stepped up onto a rock while leaning against the sedan-sized boulder. A loss of balance would have meant hanging on for dear life from the cables, dangling below the Christmas berry tree. I stepped up onto another rock and achieved enough elevation to reach a solid root. I grabbed it and breathed a sigh of relief as I joined FWH soon after.

We ascended to the beginning of the very, very steep crumbly exposed stretch and Dayle thought the two of us might be headed for the summit. Unfortunately, upon closer examination, FWH concluded that not even she could scale the unstable slope. A descent from above using a cable or rope tied to a tree was the only way to make the area passable again.

FWH and I returned to Dayle without incident and followed him down the narrow grassy shelf along the last dike after he looped part of FWH's rope around a tree. We continued retracing our steps descending the side ridge to the floor of the privately owned valley in only 35 minutes. I thought about kissing the ground but knew that if Wing Ng found out I would never hear the end of it!!! Approached Dayle's Jeep 30 minutes later and took off for Kualoa Park.

Notes: Ball writes "In its present condition the trail from the base (of the pyramid) to the summit is unsafe, even for experienced hikers."*


* Ball, Jr., Stuart M. Unpublished notes from THE HIKER'S GUIDE TO O'AHU. Honolulu: University Of Hawaii Press, 1993.

== Paka

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