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April 23, 2007        
Entry Submitted by: Merlin
  1. Introduction

    Well, I'm not quite sure just how to tell this story. The trip was the most phenomenal and exciting undertaking that any of us had attempted (at least for hiking/canyoneering). We put a great deal of time, planning and preparation into this activity to ensure it would be done as fail-safe as possible but, sometimes things happen that you're just not quite ready for.   Seldomly, it's the unthinkable.
    When we got out of the gulch I told the others to keep the story on the low-down - to avoid the details of my little accident. I wasn't necessarily trying to keep it a secret. I just wanted to avoid the attention and worry from everyone. My seven co-hikers were traumatized enough and I hoped it wouldn't have to go any further (not to mention my reputation and pride were on the line). Well as you can imagine, in an LDS community, the secret didn't last long. I don't blame anyone though; it was a pretty crazy trip. I was getting calls from people that knew bits and pieces, other's knew a lot, and some think it's a lie (or exaggerated story). Now I'm putting the words down to get an accurate record of the story and clear up any confusion. I used my climbing rope do measure the height of the waterfalls as described. It has markings in the rope to help in this regard. (Used GPS for other distances and elevation readings). If you don't believe part of it you might as well not believe any of it and consider me a liar. I will make a request to my seven co-hikers to Reply to this Blog Entry and add any thoughts or additional perspective to the story.

    The story and preparation started over a year ago. We made a few visits to the upper portion of the Sacred Falls stream and to the first big drop in the fall of 2006. I wrote down a brief explanation of these trips in the Blogs below. On these other trips we went down to scout out and learn what we could about the gulch and waterfalls then ascend back up and hike home (we weren't prepared to descend the 500+ foot waterfall). This time we planned on descending all the way down and hike out on the sacred falls trail. It took a lot of rope, gear, and expertise on canyoneering. By March of 2007 I had finally gathered the necessary rope, and pull line that we would need to make it safely down the big drop. The last task was to gather a qualified hiking/rappelling team. I invited Dave Paddock and Jenne Anderson again. They came with me on the previous trip and they knew the trail and waterfalls. Dave was probably the physically strongest in the group and he was given the difficult task of pulling up the 500 feet of water-soaked rope multiple times. I brought Jared Halterman of course. He had more rappelling experience than I and had been with me on the last crazy outing in the Ma'akua where we almost lost Jason (he can handle any traumatic thing thrown at him now). Yo Phetsomphou finally put down his school work and came out as well. He's about the most ripped little Asian you'll ever see and tough enough to get out of any hairy situation (we lowered him down the big drop first - so props to him) (p.s. Yo got U.S citizenship this week). The trip still seemed a little daunting for me with the limited knowledge that my friends and I had with climbing and rappelling - particularly with such a large magnitude of drops. Nate and Adam Wadsworth were the answer and solution to my worries. I knew that they were climbers, but I was barely acquainted with them. After a brief conversation with Adam at a party I was anxious to have him and his brother on the team. Their knowledge with anchoring, knots, safety, techniques, etc, was invaluable and far beyond my own and I felt mentally and physically relieved with their support. They brought one of their buddies, Jeff, as well - eight of us all together.
    With the group ready to go we were prepared to embark on our expedition. The Paragraph below is part of an e-mail that I sent out as we prepared for the trip. It should give a brief idea of our undertaking.

  2. Planning
    Here's the trip plans:
    Saturday, April 7th is the day. The weather will be an important factor as to whether or not it will happen. I'll check the reports through the week, but Friday's weather will probably be the determining factor for Saturday's weather and whether or not we do the hike on the 7th. LOL - weather/whether - I crack myself up.
    Lets shoot to leave Laie around 4:30AM. We're going to do this without camping overnight. It's not light until 6:00 so a small head lamp will be good as we start the trail. Our route starts out in Hauula (on the Hauula Ridge Trail) and breaks off on a ridge that heads up toward the summit (see turquoise and blue trail on attached trail map). The trail isn't in great condition, but it is cleared pretty well and easy enough to travel on.
    Biner Block Concept
    Webbing (blue) is left at the
    top with the ring attached.

    Carabiner is tied into the rope
    behind the ring to prevent
    the rope from sliding through.
    The other line (pull line) is
    pulled to get the rope down.
    After about 3 hours we'll reach the "Castle Trail Intersect" point at 2500 feet elevation. From there we will leave the blue trail and take an old trail - "castle trail" down to the stream (2000 feet elevation - about 30-45 minutes more of hiking). Once we get down to the stream we'll probably take a breakfast break then head down the river bed to the first waterfall. The first falls has a rope on the side that isn't too steep and we can climb down easily enough. Once we get to the second waterfall we'll be mostly through with the hiking and we'll harness up and pack our hiking gear in a couple dry bags. We can jump down the next few waterfalls (nice deep pools) and rappel down the last 100 foot one before reaching the big drops (dropping or lowering the dry bags on a line). Once we get to the first big drop, we'll setup webbing and metal ring as an anchor then the 300 foot rope and 300 foot pull line on a biner block through the metal ring. I'll also setup the 120 foot rope. Both waterfalls have a lip (see second photo) that make it impossible to see what the rappeller is doing after they go over. I'll rappel a short distance on on the 120 foot line so I can observe and photograph the rest of the group rappelling. I'll be the last one down. I'll probably extend the webbing so the biner block hangs off the lip and start my rappel from there - it will help ensure rope retrieval. (I have my procedure down to do that safely).
    600 foot 6mm pull cord (Two 300 foot lengths) (12 lbs).
    310 foot 9.5mm static rope. (15 lbs),   200 foot 10.5mm dynamic rope.( 10 lbs)
    120 foot 9.5mm static rope. (6 lbs),   130 foot 1/2" Nylon dock rope
    Two 50 foot length of webbing, dry bags, rope bags, harnesses, ATC's, biners, ascenders, daisy chain,
    2 radios, 2 knives, 1 GPS (with radio capability), 1 waterproof camera (need 1 more), headlamps (flashlight), cellphone
    Food, water, purifier, first aid kit, small survival kit, toilet paper, backpack, gloves

  3. Descending
    We got up early as planned and were on the trail by 5:15AM. The weather was clear and we made good timing hiking the trail. By 8:30 we reached the stream bed near the top of the range. After a break for munchies we started heading down stream. We climbed down the first waterfall and continued hiking until we reached the second. There we got out our harnesses and descending hardware and got suited up to start rappelling. We started jumping and rappelling down the rest of the way. The only downer with our group was that nobody had any body fat to keep from shivering after each plunge in the pools. Not a big deal though - for the most part everyone was too excited to worry about the water temp and there was plenty of hooting and hollering going around.

    Jeff & Yo
    We exchanged a few high-fives when we got to the top of the big drops where the canyon opened up. We could see Hauula and the ocean through the opening. We got out the webbing, 300 foot rope, 300 foot pull line, and set up the anchor around a large boulder. Jared went down first with his camera and the rest of us followed one by one. This was probably the most favored of the waterfalls because it was large (300 feet) yet still easy to rappel. There were numerous helicopters including a police chopper that flew in close to watch and photograph us. No sign or word from them after that though. When we all got down we pulled the line, biner block, and rope down. We were now between the two big drops and we started setting up for the next waterfall - the largest on the island. This was now new territory for me and we took precaution as we set up and prepared to lower each person down. We had to tie two ropes together to make 500 feet (this meant there was a knot in the line. Instead of individually rappelling as we had hitherto done, we lowered each person down the big drop. We tied Yo onto the 300 foot rope and started belaying him down. When the bellaire got to the knot he tied off the rope and started the procedures to pass behind the knot. I (Merlin) was hanging down the cliff a little ways and watching Yo to make sure he was ok. After about 15-20 minutes of watching Yo not move I ascended back up to see what was going on. Turns out I had the ascenders they needed to make the process work smoothly. After another 10 minutes or so we got Yo moving again. We continued lowering him now with the second rope. We became a bit alarmed when we got to the end of the rope and Yo still hadn't reached bottom. We wern't sure how far he had left to go so we started preparing to tie in another rope. Before we finished tying on the third rope, Yo released himself and jumped the last portion (only about 10 feet) into the pool below. This saved the headache of trying to pass a second knot and the rest of us followed that method. This meant that the waterfall was about 510 feet in height - quite a bit bigger than we expected. Adam and I were the last ones to go and since it took two people to safely bellay we changed the setup to rappel down on our own as we did on the previous waterfalls. This was more risky because we had to pass the knot while hanging part way down the big drop. We practiced the technique previously and felt comfortable doing it safely. We setup the biner block and 600 feet of pull line so we could retrieve the rope and then Adam headed down. It took him a while to get down and I learned why after I clipped in and started my descent. Five hundred feet of water soaked rope is heavy. It took all my arm strength to lift the rope and feed it through my ATC belay device. Obviously it (ATC) wasn't the best choice for this type of rappel and I was glad that we lowered the six others down. I did enjoy the rappel though. I took a few rest stops along the way and regretted not having my camera on me (I gave it to Yo to photograph the rest of us from the bottom). Yo did get excellent photos from his position at the base of the waterfall. When I got to the knot I was at the end of the 300 foot rope and knew I had a little over 200 feet left to go. I attached an ascender to the rope and to my harness to hold my weight then I detached my ATC belay device and moved it below the knot. I began reworking the ropes so the knot would pass through the anchor at the top during our retrieval process.

  4. Mer's Drop
    Suddenly I was flung through the air and falling at full speed. Somehow the anchor at the top of the falls gave out and released the pull line and rope that I was attached to. There was nothing holding me up and in addition there was 200 feet of heavy, dynamic(has stretch), water-soaked rope below me that contracted and yanked me down. Since the rope was attached to my harness I was pulled down sideways and I took a small bounce off the wall which put me out in the air a bit. I fell about 90-100 feet before hitting the wall again. This time I had quite a bit more momentum and, though the wall was still mostly vertical, I could feel the whole side of my body smash against the wet stone and ricochet out into the air again. My adrenaline had already kicked in and I felt no pain from the impact. This bounce caused me to spin head over heals in a cart-wheel motion. It also flung me off the wall far enough to clear it the rest of the way down. I fell the remaining 100 feet and landed in the pool about two feet from the waterfall wall. Miraculously, and completely randomly I hit the water in a near diving position. The left side of my body took part of the impact as I was still somewhat angled and cartwheeling.
    The whole experience went pretty quick and I didn't have much time to think or react to what was happening. I did get a good dose of fear after I bounced off the wall and spun upside down. I couldn't see where I was going or what I would hit next. I figured I was about to crack my head. The next thing I knew I was in the water and feeling fully alert and mobile. "That wasn't so bad" I thought as I came to the surface. I took a couple strokes to swim over to the others before Adam and Nate (who had already jumped in) grabbed me and pulled me over to the shallow end. Everyone was pretty freaked out as you can imagine and I figured I should say something to let them know I was mentally there. The words "that sucked" were the only thing that came to mind and mouth. Someone disconnected the rope from my harness and I sat down on a rock while the others checked me out. The guys put their hands on my head and Adam blessed me. It was about then that I realized I couldn't feel my face and the left side of my body was numb. I was a bit worried that I hit my face on a rock and was going to look like Frankenstein. I quickly asked about it and Yo said it was ok. After that I didn't worry about having any serious injuries. I had some big scrapes on my left palm, left elbow and forearm, left knee and foot - like getting in a bicycle wreck on the street. Yo kept sticking a gauze pad in my eye which started getting annoying. I nagged at him and he showed me the blood on it - I stopped nagging. Apparently the impact of hitting the water burst a small cut in my left eye lid. By this time my adrenaline had worn off and I started shivering. Dave and Jenny put the tarp-shelter around me and bear hugged me until I was warm. If there was cell reception in the gulch the others would have called 911. When I realized that all our rope had come down I spoke up and told them that I would be fine if we just kept going. It was 6:30pm and not much day light left. I really didn't want to stay the night like we did in the Ma'akua. There was another small drop - probably 50 feet that emptied into a small pool that drained off a big drop - about 140 feet. The guys picked up the rope and got setup for the next waterfalls. The 300 foot rope barely spanned the length of the next two drops. Adam went down first and I followed. I realized that it was the same waterfall that I hiked up to just above sacred falls. I felt relieved to know I was on familiar ground with only sacred falls and the trail home left to go.
    Adam and I left the group and took off down stream. Adam was anxious to get me to the emergency room. I was anxious to run get the truck, pick up the group, and get done. We reached the top of sacred falls and realized we didn't have a rope to descend it. I'm pretty sure I've never jumped from anything this high, but I suspect Adam was thinking the same thing as I - if I could survive a 200 foot fall then we could jump this 86 foot drop. Adam slid over the lip of the waterfall and leaped off. I climbed down about 10 feet and jumped from a little lower. Piece of cake. We were done with the waterfalls and stream - just a 45 minute trail hike to Kam highway. Adam stayed to wait for the others while I started hurrying down the trail. It was almost dark and I was anxious to get out from under the canopy before it got pitch black. I was about 3/4 of the way out before I got stuck in the brush in the pitch dark. I sat for about 20 minutes, feeling frustrated, until Yo and Jared showed up with a flashlight. We finished hiking out and Yo called a friend to pick us up and give us a ride to the truck. Yo drove when we got in the truck (I think I was more fearful during the truck ride than trying to get out of the gulch.) After stopping at 7-eleven we picked the others up at the trail head and went home. It was during the truck ride that I realized how much my body ached - it even hurt to sit down. After I got showered and cleaned up Suzanne and Yo came over to bandage my cuts and scrapes. I guess I could have done it myself, but I felt I deserved some attention and pampering. It wasn't long before I realized that my internal bruising would be of more concern than my skin cuts. I didn't feel anything too serious for internal pain, but it's tough to sleep when half of your body is bruised and aching.

  5. Conclusion Even with a few rough nights of sleep I felt grateful for the minor injuries that I had considering the potential pain/injury/paralysis/death that could have resulted. After further discussion with my hiking companions we came to no conclusion as to how the anchor released the rope. Adam had gone down before me and the anchor held. Then I rappelled down 300 feet. Why did it break then? At the time I was under the impression that I made a mistake while trying to pass the knot where the two ropes were tied together. I ruled that out when I realized the whole 500 feet of rope came down with me. The next most likely scenario was that the webbing, which was stretched over some rocks, began to rub and fray then eventually snap. If this were the case we would have gotten a chunk of webbing with a frayed end connected at the biner block. No sign of it though. The webbing loop was tied with a figure eight then a water knot (which only tightens with weight) then a safety knot behind the first two. Adam and I both checked the knots and setup before going down. The only other thing we could do is hike back up and descend to the top of the 500 footer and check what remains of the webbing and anchor. I probably won't be doing that any time soon. Nate made a profound statement in that the real question and mystery is how did I survive the fall without injury. Not a day goes by that I fail to thank the Lord for snatching me from the jaws of death. My gratitude also extends to the members of my party, particularly Nate and Adam, who acted quickly and logically through the traumatizing moments of my fall and aftermath.

April 24, 2007 - Reply by: Jenne
I think it's kind of funny that people don't believe you!! Probably they're just jealous. Anyway. . . you are a masterful storyteller, Merlin, and thank you for meticulous preparation. This trip was by far the most amazing thing I've done on the island, and I can't wait to go back. There's something about being suspended 500+ feet in the air on a line as thin as a finger that sends the most delicious shivers up my spine. Thanks to everyone for keeping your senses while we were up there. The skill and expertise that each person brought to this experience were invaluable, and I felt very safe to be adventuring with such knowledgeable people. Even with Merlin's little mishap, this trip will be remembered as one of the best I've ever had, and it would truly be a shame if anyone ever allows fear of falling to rob them of their sense of adventure.
April 24, 2007 - Reply by: Nick Disney
Mer, I am so glad you are alive. I have no doubt that every word of it is true, you are an honest man. I don't think I would have been able to handle 1/10th of that trip, but if you ever need more body fat give me call. Again, I am so glad you are alive. -Nick
April 25, 2007 - Reply by: Dave King
Jeez Merlin, you're a punk. I don't know why that's all that comes to mind. Maybe it's because you went on an awesome trip without me (inevitable), or maybe it's because you almost killed yourself, or maybe because you've got the coolest near-death experience ever. Not sure why, but I'm glad to hear you're alive and doing well. I wish I was out there with you. Dave
May 14, 2007 - Reply by: Adam Wadsworth
Wow Merlin! That is so well written. Nice job putting a lot of complex feeling into words. I will never forget that day. I dont think that there is a day that goes by that i dont think about it. I sure am missing you guys out there in hawaii. Cant wait to come back and have some island fun with you all. Talk to you later buddy!
June 17, 2007 - Reply by: megan
wow mer. wow. i'm sick and speechless inside. i can't begin to tell you how grateful i am that you survived this.
July 13, 2007 - Reply by: Bill Westerhoff
I am a canyoneer that is very interested in some of your findings after the fall. It sounds like you were using a biner block. Were you using a rapide (quick link, or mailion) or another carabiner? Were you using a clove hitch on the block. When the rope was retrieved was the biner block still tied to the rope? If the webbing broke the rapide would still have been on the rope, was it? What sort of "re-rigging" were you performing to accomodate the pull? What sort of knot did you have attaching the 300 to the 200? I would imagine that an EDK might be able to make it through your top anchor. It also sounds as if you were lowering everyone down as opposed to the "rap & lower" method. Sorry for all the questions, but the canyoneering community that I am involved with has recently suffered a great loss due to a rappeling accident and we are trying learn as much as possible to prevent future accidents. Glad to hear you lived to walk out of there. Be safe, have fun Bill
July 14, 2007 - Reply by: Merlin
Bill, do you have an e-mail I can contact you at? Let me know -
July 30, 2007 - Reply by: Dustin
Mermaster sounds like quite the crazy fall. The awesome part is that you still jumped an 86 footer after the fall. You rock man. I'm glad you're alright. So that made me miss HI a freakin lot dude. I need to go visit asap. I was thinking about it, I think the next adventure I go out with you on we should learn base jumping. There's no rocks to hit on the way down. Take care man.
May 19, 2009 - Reply by: Bilgee
I was there last weekend. Me and Donny checked out the site at the top of 500 footer. we found the webbing that was broken. I absolutely believe that God watched over you guys and me. Me and Donny got stuck in the middle of the 500 foot falls, trying to get over the knot. I had no energy to pull myself up to release the joomar(i dunno how to spell it) . somehow i found this footing on a straight drop of the water falls, it was just enough to hold my body and get it released. we used all out webbing to make the anchors, and we used some old webbing we found (I believe it was yours :-) ). the rope that was left at the bottom the 500 footer, on top or 50 and 140 foot falls were broken. it was still anchored but there was only 15 feet of rope hanging down. I am glad i did this with Donny, and thanks for all your info for the preparation.

Oct 11, 2006        
Entry Submitted by: Merlin
October 7, 2006 - Reaching the big drops!
I made another trip to the top of the Kaluanui stream (in the Koolau Range)to finish what I started last month (see entry below dated Sep 17). Dave came along again and Randy and Jenny joined us as well. The four of us left Friday afternoon with 700 feet of rope, rappelling/ascending hardware, and basic camping supplies. We set up camp on the castle trail at about 2200 feet elevation. The weather was warm and dry this time and the stream had just enough water to make the perfect waterfalls to climb up and down. We left camp early Saturday morning with our ropes and gear and headed down stream. We dropped down the three waterfalls that we visited on our first trip. The water was clean and clear and we jumped down the second and third ones after setting up the ropes. We continued down stream setting up our cheap nylon rope on some smaller drops. We came to the 4th waterfall (probably 40-50 feet in height) but hesitated setting up a route as we only had two climbing ropes left. The stream did a U-turn to the right so we climbed over the small ridge and descended on the other side near another waterfall - the 5th waterfall (see photo at right). We continued down stream with our last rope hoping we would reach the big drops without any more small falls. Our hopes and joys came true as we came to a giant opening in the canyon where the ground and water dropped more than 700 feet in two distinct waterfalls.
I used about 10 feet of slack to anchor my climbing rope (310foot 9.5mm static bluewater canyoneering rope) to a big rock and (after grabbing my ascending gear) began rappelling down the first drop. I had only seen this waterfall in photos from the helicopters and I estimated it to be from 150 to 200 feet in height. Needless to say I was a little wrong in my estimates. As I was descending I was astounded by the sheer magnitude of the drop. The rappel was thrilling, the view was awesome, and the splash of the cool water felt good in the warm sun. The terrain was unscathed by human interference other than the occasional helicopter bringing sight seer’s to the falls "that can only be seen by helicopter". When I dropped off the rope into the pool below the rope hung about two feet out of the water. The first drop was exactly 300 feet and my rope was barely long enough to reach. The water in the pool emptied off the second drop which was considerably bigger - somewhere between 400-500 feet. I was hoping to get a good view and some photos looking down, but the water poured off at an angle that prevented me from seeing the bottom and I didn't have anymore rope to drop down.
Randy rappelled down after me and I took a few photos and video of him rappelling. We chilled for a bit then I gave the ascenders to Randy and he began his long ascent up the rope. When he got to the top he attached the ascenders to the rope and slid them down to me and I started ascending. I had some climbing experience and thought I could tackle the ascent pretty quickly. The long 300 foot climb was a little more than I bargained for though and I had to take a few breaks on the way. Together, it took Randy and I a little over an hour just to ascend. Dave and Jenn each rappelled down a short distance off the falls and then came back up. We then pulled up the rope and started heading back up river. We ascended up the remaining waterfalls and collected each rope that we had secured on them. By the time I got up the last one it seemed I could hardly lift my arms over my head. When we got back to camp I flopped down on the tarp to rest trying to avoid the thought of the long hike home that we needed to get started on. We ate and rested for about 30 minutes then packed up and started up the trail around 4:30pm. Though I felt weak and tired the trail was mostly all down hill and we made it home around 7:30 Saturday evening.
I hurt all over that night, but the pain was offset by the satisfaction of accomplishment of the biggest undertaking of my life. I visited Randy that night to upload the photos and he was gleaming as we reviewed and showed off the pictures. I still use and have them to show off, but more important the pictures retain for me the memories of joy, determination, adrenaline, achievement - everything. The photos are all full of warm fuzzies. I don't think that this will be my last visit to the "Big Drops". Eventually I hope to get the gear and technique to descend all the way down to Sacred Falls and hike out the river bed. I hope that some of you that are interested might be able to join me in the future excursions.

Click Here for photos of the excursion.

Merlin, Randy, Dave, Jenny
Oct 12, 2006 - Reply by: Randy
Merlin, dude, I enjoyed reading your description of the trip. That expedition was an adventure I'll never forget. I definitely need to train and exercise more if we ever go again because that outing kicked my trash. You are right what you said about wanting to go back...I didn't even want to think about walking to the mailbox the first few days afterwards, but now I'm getting excited at the thought of hitting those big drops all over again! Mahalo for the good times!

Sep 18, 2006        
Entry Submitted by: Merlin

September 16, 2006 - The big drops - a tribute to Mike K.
During the spring of 2006 I was contacted by a fellow named Mike about hiking the upper portion of the Kaluanui canyon or gulch that sacred falls was located in. Apparently he was looking for photos and info on the waterfalls and stream above sacred falls (located near Hauula here on Oahu). The google image search led him to this site and and we began corrisponding about the trails and waterfalls in that area. Mike, an avid backpacker and canyoneer has a similar website to mine - that contains a wealth of information about trails and streams on Kauai. In our correspondence Mike expressed an interest in visiting some particular waterfalls in the gulch. Then he sent me a photo that blew me away. There were two huge drops in the gulch (see photo at right taken by helicopter) that were far bigger than anything I had expected. Though Jon and I had climbed above sacred falls, additional falls below the big drops prevented us from getting any further up the canyon. The thought and excitement of getting to and being on those huge drops caused me to lose sleep for a few nights. We had a lot of planning and work to do first though - we had to find a way to get there. Mike proposed that we come from the top of the ridge down the river to reach the falls from the top. He had done it once before in the seventies, but didn't have the right rappelling equipment to make it all the way. Mike began giving me topographical maps, GPS coordinates, and trail information and my buddies and I began exploring. There were three routes that we tried. The original trail to get to the summit in that area was called the castle trail. It went up the ridge in Punaluu and would be the shortest trail the top. Unfortunately it was wiped out by a land slide and nearly impossible to ascend. Another alternative was to hike up and along the summit from the Laie falls trail. We tried it, but it was quite overgrown and took too much time. I finally settled on an old trail that broke off the hauula ridge trail. The trail went up the ridge between the Sacred Falls Gulch and Ma'akua Gulch in Hauula. At about 4/5 of the way up the ridge (around 2500 feet elevation) the old castles trail connected to the ridge and descended down to the river above all the waterfalls. Though it was completely overgrown, it was still useable. There was even a flat grassy area that made a perfect camp site down by the stream.
The Trip
We planned September 15th and 16th as the weekend to hike to the top, descend down to the river, camp overnight, descend down the river to the big drops, then ascend back up and head home by Saturday evening. Mike flew in that week and we packed all the needed equipment for the hike (rope, harnesses, climbing/rappelling hardware, camping gear, etc.) Dave Paddock, Mike, and I planned to go up Friday morning, then Jared and Jonathan would meet up with us late Friday afternoon with additional rope and gear. When Dave, Mike and I left Friday morning it was pouring rain which continued off and on throughout most of the weekend. I was glad to be hiking the ridge instead of the gulch (the bottom of the canyon). After almost 5 hours we reached our site and setup camp. We explored the old castle trail a bit then went down river a short ways until we came to a waterfall a little over a hundred feet in height. We turned back and headed to camp before it got dark. We were waiting for Jon and Jared to meet up with us but they missed the turn off and went all the way to the summit top. We lost radio contact with them and never met up. They headed back home that night. The three of us were on our own with a limited amount of rope. The next morning we took our rope and hardware and headed back down the river. It had rained quite a bit during the night and the river was bigger than the previous day. Memories of a long night awaiting a flood in the Ma'akua Gulch (Nov of 2005) were still in my mind and I resolved to be reserved in my quest to get to the big drops. We made it to the first waterfall that we go to the previous day and descended down easily - there was a nice tie-off tree out of the way of the waterfall. We continued down the stream and shortly came to another drop (photo at right). It was smaller but more difficult as the two ridge walls narrowed and we had to descend through the waterfall. The pool of that waterfall emptied off another waterfall that was as big as the first (see photo at left). While in the pool we held on to the rope to keep from getting flushed over the next drop. Then we got our footing on the edge of the pool and found another place to tie-off. We lowered a third rope (the last of our rope) down the big drop and Dave descended down. There was a small ridge blocking our view of the river so Dave climbed up the ridge to scout things out. He could see the river had a few more small drops (15-30 feet) and then he could see the top of the two huge drops - our ultimate destination. The rain had picked up and I was getting nervous with the rising water. We decided to pull up and start ascending up the ropes and back up the river. Though I hadn't gotten photos of the big drops like I hoped, I now had a complete feel and understanding of the river and terrain. We got back to camp, packed up and headed back down the ridge.
The big drops would have to wait for another day. Dave, Randy, Yo and I are aiming to return in early October. This next time our party will travel together with all the rope we will need to descend to the big drops. This trip would not have been possible for me without the information and knowledge that Mike had and shared with me. Our travels on the upper portion of the Kaluanui gulch and waterfalls will always be a tribute to him. Thanks Mike and hasta luego!
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