Destination: Olomana is a three peaked monolithic land mass separated from the Koolau range rising up above Kailua. Most people hike to the first peak, take in the 360° view and head back down the mountain. A crazy few descend into the saddle and climb to the second peak called Paku’i. And then there are the stupids who descend 300 feet down the precipitous backside of Paku’i into the next saddle so they can ascend the third incredibly narrow peak, Ahiki.
Today I’m being stupid.
Focus: Hiking, Nature, Bouldering, Facing fear head on and something called YDS class 3 scrambling that involves lots of ropes
Songs in my head for the climb: U2, Beautiful Day and Breathe
Quote of the Day: There’s nothing you have that I need, I can breathe ~ Bono
Here’s a first – I’m texting my Honolulu friends to let them know what I’m up to today because a few months back a local man lost his footing up here and fell to his death. Lots of people have fallen actually. This peak is nicknamed Hawaii’s Matterhorn actually. And the reality may be that it’s 1,600 feet high instead of 14,000 but still, I’m doing this alone and I have no clue what I’m actually in for. ‘Cuz the thing is, I’m not a rock climber. But whatever, right?
My plan for the day is a simple one – Stay low and go slow.
The hike starts out normal enough. There’s red dirt and those spindly needle pine trees I’ve grown accustomed to for the first twenty minutes or so. I can see the first peak towering in the distance. It’s all up hill. Not far into the ascent the first set of boulders appear and things quickly change. This is no longer hiking. This is bouldering. At first I avoid using the ropes and stick to thick tree branches. The climbing isn’t difficult and the roots and rocks make for enough of a natural staircase. I’m surrounded by foliage and feeling great.
As I get closer to the top of the first peak the trail gets narrow. It’s a steep drop on each side and now I’m happening upon higher, steeper rock faces.
This is starting to feel less like bouldering and more like rock climbing. Some of these faces are twelve feet high and others are more like thirty and, like an idiot, I keep on climbing.
I’m working really hard to gain access to the recesses of my brain. There’s information back there, gathered from that one time I went to a rock gym with my ex and our friend Matty who knew what he was doing. All I can remember is to use my legs more than my upper body and to keep my weight forward, close to the rocks. It’s enough to get me up each face and I reach the first peak of Olomana. From here I can see the second and third.
Descending into the saddle and climbing the second peak, Paku’i, is very similar to the first experience, most of it spent in a deep squat or lunge, low and close to the rocks. I keep wondering why I’m succeeding without too much difficulty. This trail is incredibly hard and I’m not in great shape. Pulling and lowering my entire weight on the boulders (without gloves of course because why would I have thought of that?) is no easy task but I keep doing it over and over. No matter the obstacle in front of me I just keep moving forward.
I make it to the top of Paku’i which means the next thing is the big descent. 300 feet straight down, smooth rocks and loose gravel, nothing to do but rely on the ropes.
I know I’m not supposed to put my full weight on them but there are quite a few spots where I have no other choice. About halfway down I start to wonder how the hell I’m going to get back up. But that’s a question for later, isn’t it?
I stick to my plan – stay low and go slow – and it works. At the bottom I look back up and shake my head. For now that’s behind me and it’s time to deal with what’s in front of me. There’s a lot of What the fuck am I doing? going on in my head.
For a short while I’m amongst trees and enjoying a flat spot.
It doesn’t last long and soon the real climb begins. It is relentless. Within minutes I’m back above the trees and completely relying on my own sense of balance. Just as I pass the keyhole,
I reach a point that trips me up. It seems impassable. I can’t find a place to put my feet or my hands and my focus is waning. The drop, the vertigo, the possible death if I slip and fall. Here then comes the fear. Washing over me, the thoughts in my head that ring louder than the songs, louder than the chirping birds, disguised as perfectly acceptable reasons for giving up. You’ve gone far enough, you don’t have to finish. No one will think less of you if you quit now.
I think back to day 15 of my juice fast, day 20, day 30, day 38. All the times I wanted desperately to give up and start eating again, Travis telling me it might be a long time before I fully understood what that experience taught me. And I realize it’s time to take a break and just breathe. So I sit down and take out my fruit and my Gatorade. I down my strawberries, my grapes and my kiwi all the while letting the fear have its moment. I invite it in, let it swish around, knowing full well I’m gonna spit it back out.
Fear doesn’t scare me so much anymore. I know all I have to do in the scary moments is move forward at a slower pace. And these are the lessons of life, aren’t they? Thoughts are not reality, they are thoughts. When you’re climbing, don’t look up. When you’re descending, don’t look down. Just focus on where you are. Stay in the moment. Let your worries go. Be alive.
I finish my Gatorade. I stand up. I put all my faith in a rope placed here long ago and swing myself dangerously out over the edge and up to the next level. I climb rock face after rock face after rock face,
and then there I am, standing on the peak. No one would think less of me except me and I’m the one who has to really believe in me.
There are empty water bottles tied to a tree with paper and pens inside. People have signed their names and dated their summits. I rip out a page from the bird journal Amber gave me before I left Portland and add mine to the mix.
Coming down is no easier than going up, but my accomplishment allows for a few chuckles and sincere wonderment as to how in the world I got up here in the first place, especially once I have a chance to see the 300 ft descent from the perspective gained on top of Ahiki.
Later I’ll google information to add to this post and learn that what I did is called Yosemite Decimal System (YDS) Class 3 scrambling.
According to Wikipedia, during a Class 3 scramble “falls are not always fatal.” And it’s true. I slipped plenty of times (do not tell my mother!) and yet my day resulted in absolutely no death, just challenge and adrenalin and heart pounding joy. A few of my favorite things!
What you don’t have you don’t need it now
What you don’t know you can feel it somehow
It was a beautiful day
(In fact it’s been a beautiful month.)