Saturday, 31 October 2015

Lost on Lanai

It may only be ~10 km from Maui, but I've never been to the neighbouring isle of Lanai. Never sure why it was worth going.

About 4 months ago, I heard through the news sites that Lanai was doing a special event this year -- Lanai 5th Fridays -- with a good value package deal including ferry over and back, transport on the island and a town party, every month that had 5 Fridays. Turns out one was October, so for a change, we changed islands.

It starts of course with a ferry ride to the island from Lahaina.
Bye bye harbour 
The expanses of Lahaina 
The towers of Ka'anapali, explaining why we don't stay there
On our way across, we kinda hoped to see whales, but alas, there were none (only 2 whale sightings so far this season). We thought we saw Oahu, but it was probably just the north end of Moloka'i.

It's hard to believe anyone grew anything on Lanai as you approach it. Thousands of acres of desolate scrub is all you see.
The dry side 
There's a road, sort of, leading to a beach. 
Scrub from the boat 
As you get closer to the harbour, sea cliffs start to appear.

The first of the cliffs
Sea stack in the distance 
Walls of lava 
Looks like a fault to me 
Probably 300' tall
The harbour is nicer than Lahaina's, and a nice sheltered cove. On the other side of the cove is the island's main public beach, Hulopoe. We got there early enough to go snorkel & swim for a while. The snorkelling was pretty good, with lots of fish and good viz, though we were there mid day (not a good time of the day to snorkel) and we brought masks and snorkels but not fins. It was similar to both Ahihi Bay here for fish types, numbers and water clarity, but also like Maluaka, which has reef straight out from the beach.
The beach, and the resort. Yet another crowded Maui beach
The other end
See the tide pools? There are rocks and tide pools!
Cool puddles full of stuff 
Mini waterfalls 
Crabs & fish & sea cucumbers 
Maybe even a fish pond
We walked out to the point and got good views of that sea stack.
A rough cove 
Kind of an interesting if inaccessible beach 
The stack 
A lava arch 
Looking back at the resort
So that resort -- the Four Seasons -- is closed for renovations until 2016. That's one of exactly 2 hotels on the island. The other is up at Lanai City, 12 miles (and a $20 per person shuttle) from the beach, and it's only 25-odd rooms.

See, if you don't know, this is virtually a private island (98% owned by one guy). It stated that way in the 1870's when it slowly acquired into one big private ranch. Then in 1922, Jim Dole (of pineapple fame) bought it and turned it into the world's biggest pineapple farm. When Dole was sold to Castle & Cooke in 1985, ownership transferred to them and David Murdoch (a real estate mogul). C&C shut down the pineapple farming in 1989, building the resort first. In 2012, the island was sold (for a rumoured $600 million) to Larry Ellison, founder of Sun Microsystems. Larry owns the place, lock, stock and houses -- though he doesn't own the island's gas station.

At 4:30, we picked up a shuttle to Lanai City, a 3,200 person company town and former plantation headquarters -- and the only town on the island. To get there, we drove up the side of the island opposite Maui. Turns out, there's a plateau at 1,200 feet ASL and the centre section of the island is almost flat. The towns in the middle.

The 5th Friday even was centred on Dole Park, a big rectangle fronted by 2 main drags where EVERY BUSINESS IN TOWN is located. And that's not many; 4 restaurants, a coffeeshop, 2 art galleries, 2 grocery stores, a laundromat, some banks, an old jail...
Before checking out the activities, we wandered a bit.
A long way to LA 
Company housing 
Off to the flatness of the centre
We were impressed by the number of rec activities there were. A gym, outdoor basketball, volleyball & tennis courts, a pool, a football field, a ball diamond, big playgrounds, the works. Makes sense, there's NOTHING TO DO ON THE ISLAND. 

Everyone, and I mean everyone, works for either Mr. Ellison (directly or indirectly) or the Government. With virtually the only places for visitors to stay closed, that's kinda limiting in the jobs department. So the 5th Friday idea was a way to bring day visitors to the island, which doesn't happen often.

So we visited every business at least twice. We were:

  • Blown by the hurt me pricing in grocery stores. $9 US a case of Coke. $7 a loaf of bread. Wine that is $5 on Maui is $9 on Lanai. Whole chicken is $2.50/lb on Maui, $3.75 on Lanai.
  • Blown by the reasonable prices in the restaurants. We enjoyed the crab cakes and coconut shrimp in Pele's in particular.
  • Struggling as to how anyone can eke out a living on the island
  • Impressed by how friendly every local was. It's like they needed someone from the outside to talk to.
  • Surprised at the complete lack of views of anything from within the city. No ocean views at all, and no mountain views, either.
We learned that one thing that makes it possible to live here is hunting. Nothing is native; everything was introduced hundreds of years ago as gifts for the king. There are axis deer, mouflon sheep and pheasants. And people hunt to supplement their diets.
238 of the 3,100 people who live here hunted sheep
It's a small town. We made the rounds and kept seeing the same folks over and over again. You could do a lap of Dole Park, see everything, visit every business, get stamps from each for a draw, and do so in under an hour. Some businesses had bands out front, and the local dance schools had kids doing hula, tiki and other dances.
The little ones 
The stylish ones 
The hip shakers
The night ferry ride home was... dark.
The boat's rooster tail
We had fun going over to the island. There's ways they could improve the event; a central "bandstand" with continuous entertainment, listing what times things were happening and sticking to it (we missed the 7 PM hula show that started at 6:45), more outside temporary seating near the restaurants, maybe a beer tent run by the restaurants jointly. The food was generally very good wherever we ate.

The island desperately needs:
  • An ice cream shop that also sells shave ice -- and maybe candy, too. You could make it handmade sorbets and ice cream because getting frozen things to the island is a pain
  • A bakery. Apparently, there used to be one but it became a full-fledged restaurant. A sandwich shop that sells bread (like Canmore's JK) could work
Again, it stuck as a tough place to make a living, and possibly a tough place to live -- unless you are a hermit. Let's see what happens after Mr. Ellison is done improving the island.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Sept 30: A nameless place (with the name Nameless)

It was a spectacular summer day, except it's fall. We decided to visit the oxymoronically named Nameless Col, and climb Nameless Ridge. For the record, it has a name so is not nameless, but its name is Nameless. If that makes sense.

The hike starts with a fairly steep 3 km grunt up through a pretty and mossy forest, in which we saw a pine martin (running too fast to photograph) and a spruce grouse.
Trying to be invisible
After climbing 200 m through the forest, you break out into a wide open meadow and spend the rest of the day above treeline or out of trees.
South flanks of Mist Mountain 
Nameless Ridge. We'll be up there later
from this point, it's still a steady slog for another 2 km and another 275 m up through the meadow to Nameless Col.
About halfway through the meadow 
Nearing the top. Odlum Ridge in the background
We were startled on the way up when we surprised a Blue Grouse, and it fluttered out of its hiding hole. Spruce Grouse we see a lot; Blue Grouse are kind of rare.
Statue imitations
Once you make the col, the views of Mist Mountain show up, as do views to the north and east. You also get killer views south towards Plateau and Mt. Burke. Other mountains I could pick out included Banded Peak, Gibralter and others.
Mist in all its glory 
Plateau with Mt. Burke on the left 
Northeast over Mist Ridge
Mist has a hot spring on its side. The water's 33° and most people have no idea that K-Country has a hot spring, much less where it is. Well, this is the spring as seen from the col.
Colourful algae lead the way
I was hoping to get to the spring. There are two ways across; you can descend down 180 m into the valley, then climb 160 m back up (repeating that feat to get back), or you can traverse across losing all of 60 m. Neither way is long (800 m to 1.1 km) We opted to try the traverse.

We had trouble finding the traverse route's start; when we did, we were 10 m below the weak trail. We climbed up to it (you can see it in the photo below), crossed a draw that still had snow in it, then had to cross a scree slope. I was in the lead, with Karen behind. About 20 m into the scree, the whole slope started moving, taking me with it. I moved downhill about 2-3 m, while trying to move out of the flowing rocks. The sliding scree at my level loosed much larger rocks from above, and suddenly I was being passed by rolling and sliding rocks the size of microwaves. I moved fast enough to get out of the moving rock, but every pole plant started more sliding.

I finally got to more stable scree, and looked back at Karen 20 m away.
Most everything between me and her slid
Karen wasn't willing to cross it. I didn't blame her. So I went back across and the same thing happened. I would plant a pole which would start a rockslide, which would release larger rocks from above, and they would bounce past me. I finally just basically ran across the sliding rocks, as they slid and clattered around me. Try running across a 35° unstable scree slope. Tons of fun.

Being as close to the hot spring as I was going to get, I got one more picture.
The spring is obvious. People have built two pools at the top
Here's how far we didn't get into that scree.
To the middle of the first rockfall
Ah well, it was time to climb. We wanted to walk Nameless Ridge, so climbed 225 m from the sliding scree straight up the ridge. It wasn't a hard climb, just tedious. And the views from the top were amazing.
Looking south down the ridge 
Karen makes the last rocks. Mist sticks up 
Looking north. Banded Peak in the middle 
Looking southwest towards the Divide & Mt. Odlum 
Looking straight up the range. Mt. Rae is up there
The next 2.5 km was just walking south down the ridge on its top, undulating over a few high points along the way.
South from Peak 1. Peak 2 on left. Odlum Ridge across the valley 
North from Peak 2. Nameless Col on left 
South from Peak 2 
South from Peak 3 
Mist Ridge from Peak 3. The larches are almost spent 
Approaching Peak 4
We saw 2 horses and their riders on the top of Mist Ridge. I pity that the horses have to come down from there.

On Nameless Ridge, you just follow the ridge crest, so there's no trail. A trail was supposed to show up near Peak 4 but we never found it. And the trouble is the slope just keeps on getting steeper and steeper. The guidebook suggested to just keep following the ridge crest down. At Peak 4, though, the ridge crest sort of splits (it doesn't, actually; what look like ridges are just the tops of gullies on the southwest face). We were supposed to keep following the left ridge crest.
The left crest 
The middle gully top crest 
Across the slope looking east to show you the grade
From the 4th peak, we could see straight below us on the gully crest a really good game trail traversing down the gully of the right crest. It looked FAR easier than staying on the left crest, which farther down was getting very steep indeed.
The left crest. Notice it just rolls over.
In addition, following the left crest would have put us 2.5 km from our car. Staying right struck us as being smart.

So we ignored the guidebook and headed down the right gully crest. The going was steep but with good footing. We had to get through a rock band or two, but they were easy to sort out. We got to an obvious flat that was a bedroom for either deer, elk or sheep. Poop all over, bedding down spots in the grass, and the game trail that's hundred of years old heads down from it.
The trail cutting down to the left
The trail traversed a big draw and was really easy to follow until it petered out on the next ridge.
At the start of the game trail. You can see it on the other side of the draw
Once on the other side, we were only about 300 m from the start of the forest, and only about 50 m above it. It was easy to take a bee-line to the road, picking up game trails from time to time. Here's some Google Earth images of the descent route.
The "correct" route stays on the ridge on the right 
The traverse we used to cross the gully is obvious
We popped out of the forest not 2.5 km from our car, but only 600 m from it.

We stopped at the Mt. Lipset parking lot for a good view back of the ridge descent.
Peak 3, Peak 4, and the last bump
Zoomed in from the bump down 
Zoomed even more for the lower section 
Same picture but with the route annotated
I would have liked to have made the hot spring, but as it was we were out for 5 ½ hrs, covering 13 km with 720 m of climbing. Getting to the hot spring by the down/up route would have added 360 m of climbing and another couple of kilometres, meaning a MUCH longer day. If the traverse was viable, we could have done it, but I just found it way too dangerous to attempt.

By the way, I would never ascend the route we descended. For starters, it would be nigh on impossible to find. For second, from treeline, it looks like this:
Go straight up this to the knob in the centre, then traverse