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Lanihuli via Nukohe ridge

Updated: Mar 6

By Nandor Szotak - June 17th 2020

Nukohe ridge? Where is that?

Most of you might ask the same question. If you know me, I always look for challenges and adventures at places that are not as well known or barely known, maybe just by very experienced Hawaii hikers. Nukohe ridge is one of those places.

I learned about this place from a blog where Pete Clines (legendary extreme hiker) climbed down this ridge and called it very dangerous with loose rocks, "something I don't plan on doing again".

The question in my head was, "Maybe it would be interesting to climb up on it?"

I reached out to Patrick Roarie who also hiked to this ridge before from the bottom, but he retreated from the climb because he thought it was too sketchy.

He told me "Nandor go try, just watch those cables!"

Well, next day I messaged Steve and a week later we were already walking on Likelike Highway towards the tunnel to find the starting point of our hike to Nukohe Ridge.

Jumping into the bushes we encountered a terrible uluhe land, but soon we arrived at this beautiful paperbark forest. Walking got much easier, the views were pretty unique and the ridge was pretty defined.

On the way up it started raining a bit with dark clouds moving fast over us, so we knew that the rain will not last long.

It was a really enjoyable hike at this point. They were some faint trails around which were easy to follow and navigate. Maybe some hunters got out here or some hunter dogs were chasing pigs around? Who knows.

The important thing was that the bushwhack we expected wasn't there...yet.

Let's just clarify that bushwhack for us or for a regular hiker it's a totally different term.

The higher we climbed, the gnarly, eroded, exposed section of the ridge started to show up.

From far didn't look like a big deal, but the closer we got, the scarier it looked. It got more exposed and definitely more crumbly.

We got to the bottom of this sketchy section, looked at it, looked at each other....

"Who's going first?" I knew that I planned this outing so I should go, even if I didn't feel like... We could see the old cable that Pete Clines talked about but we knew that we can't trust it! It had to be free-climbed.

It looked so crumbly and scary that I asked Steve for his microspikes for extra traction. I tied a 50 or 100-foot webbing (I don't remember exactly) around my waist and started climbing slowly.

I felt like the world stopped around me. It was only me and this exposed section. I was very focused on every step I took, I knew that I can't make mistakes, and the drop-offs were unforgiving...Like a chameleon making his way up a tree, moving slowly and carefully was the key. Somewhere at the end of the climb, I got to a point where I really needed to grab the cable just to keep my balance. My heart started pounding, I grabbed the cable and with a smooth, fast move I was up...pfffff. That moment scared the sh*t out of me!

I sat down in this small, flat area and looked around. There was no place for an anchor to tie the webbing. I had to do a live anchor for Steve. We are both skinny, but Steve is even thinner than me, so I was pretty comfortable to "live" anchor him.

Basically, I was sitting down with the webbing around my waist, securing Steve's climb up. I told him to only use our webbing on the up climb because the cable is not safe.

He started climbing, I started feeling the pressure of the webbing around my waist when he relied more on it while climbing. Everything was fine until...."Ahhhh..." I felt a big pull and I knew something happened...

"Are You Okay? - I was yelling, because I couldn't see down the steep section.

"The cable broke, the cable broke! - yelled back Steve.

A couple of minutes late Steve showed up, said no one word, passed me, climbed to a safe spot, and yelled "Are you f**king kidding me? This was so scary man!"

It turned out that while he was climbing up, a piece of lava rock crumbled under his foot, he pulled on the cable at that moment, and the cable broke and he fell, holding only to the webbing which was tied to my waist. Scary moments, but you know that when you get in adventures like this.

We both were happy that we were over that gnarly section. Were we?

Well, not quite yet. There was another section just after this climb that was too skinny the climb over it, so we decided to pull a webbing around it and climb it that way. I used the same technique. Climbed with the rope around my waist, but this time I was able not to anchor to two different spots making it nice and tight.

We managed that section pretty well, but we had to leave that webbing behind because it was impossible to retrieve it.

This climb took a lot of energy out of us. At the same time, we needed a lot of mental calmness to get through these sections.

Next objective: Let's reach Lanihuli!

"From here we just have to follow the ridge line until we reach the Kalihi side of Lanihuli"

Simple enough!

"Well, not so fast!" says the mountain.

The climb up Lanihuli was almost vertical, in some places vertical!

The first section after the gnarly climbs was the most exhausting. One step up, one pull on uluhe or uki grass, next step, and so on. It was a very slow climb until we got to this flatter area with amazing views.