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Safety urged for hiking students

by Nathalie Parkvall, '05

After four hours of extreme hiking uphill and down, through mud, dust, rock, and thorny bushes, we finally reached the top of Koolae Ridge above Kaimuki. We were tired, sweaty, dirty, sore, and hungry. But we didn’t care because we had made it. At least half way. Going back would take another four hours.

 

 

 

The 180-degree view over the lush windward side, from the turquoise waters of Waimanalo to Kailua and Kane‘ohe Bay was absolutely stunning, and we all agreed that it was worth all the sweat, mud, insect bites, and cuts.

Tired, but appreciative of the beauty of nature, we sang songs and joked along the trail on the way back. We had a far way to go. There was no choice now, we had to do it.

Then, all of a sudden, Mother Nature let us know she is not only beautiful, but powerful and dangerous as well.

We heard the most horrified scream ever behind us.

“ AAAHHHHHHHH!!!”

Quickly, we turned around and saw one of our friends tumbling over the edge of the trail, head first. The whole accident took a split second, but it felt like we saw her moving in slow motion. We rushed up to the narrow path’s edge and looked down into the valley. We couldn’t see her, and our hearts started to race as panic paralyzed our muscles.

“ SELAH! ARE YOU OKAY? WHERE ARE YOU?” Matt yelled.

“ I’m here! I’m so scared! Take me out of here!” Selah yelled, panic in her voice.

About 12 feet below us, a bush or a tree of some kind had stopped her fall. She was clinging to a branch with no ground under her feet and 1,000 yards or so to the bottom of the valley. It was definitely too steep for us to get down to her without falling ourselves.

For a couple of seconds we stood there, perplexed about how to get her back up. Then, we realized that we could use the 5-foot walking stick I had found and so determinedly been carrying. The trail was so narrow Matt folded himself over it, his upper body hanging down one side holding the stick, his legs over the other side, and I and Selah’s boyfriend, Marcello, sat on top of him. Selah pulled herself part way up by moving from bush to bush so she could reach the stick. Then Matt pulled her up the rest of the way. Phew!

We were relieved, but also shocked. What would we have done if we hadn’t had the stick? Hike for four hours to get help? We realized we hadn’t been prepared.

To hike in Hawai‘i is a wonderful experience, but it can also be very dangerous. The key to safety is to be prepared. Some people might think preparation takes away the feeling of adventure, but it is better to be overcautious and prepared than ignorant and at risk.

“ You can never be too over prepared, unless [your gear] is too heavy to carry,” said Aaron Lowe, O‘ahu Trails & Access specialist at Na Ala Hele Trails & Access.

Na Ala Hele Trails & Access is a subdivision of Forestry & Wildlife at the Department of Land and Resources. Its mission is to administer and maintain about 36 trails around O‘ahu.

According to Lowe, the most common mistake hikers make is to get off the trail. That is the reason why people get lost.

Another common mistake is to not keep track of time. When it gets dark, it’s very risky to keep on hiking. If you get caught in darkness, you should stop hiking and call 911 for help (of course you remembered to bring your cell phone).

There are some safety guidelines to follow for a safer hike.

· The number one rule is to never hike alone. Nobody can help you if you fall or hurt yourself badly. Bring at least one other person, although, the ideal number of people to bring is three or more. That way someone can stay with an injured person, and the third person can go and get help if needed.

· When you have decided whom to hike with, then plan the hike. Get information about the trail. Check how difficult it is and how long it is, and make sure you and your partners have experience enough for the chosen trail.

· Before heading to the trail, check the weather conditions. Make sure it’s not going to rain because rain causes floods, slippery trails, and earthslides.

· Make sure somebody knows what trail you are going to, and what time you plan to be back home. That way, someone will know to call for help if you are not returning home on time.
There are certain things you can bring to increase the safety of your hike.

· A cell phone could be the difference between life and death. Consider this: what would have happened to our friend in danger if we hadn’t had the stick? We would have had to hike for four hours before even being able to alert someone to emergency. With a cell phone, we could have called 911.

· Bring a rope or a walking stick. With that you have the right tools to pull someone up if falling. Make sure that the rope or stick is sturdy and thick enough to use.

· Bring at least two liters of water per person for a one-day hike. If it’s a very hot day, bring even more. It will be heavy to carry, but it’s worth it.

· Bring a first aid kit, or at least bandaids and antiseptic. There are many sharp rocks and bushes out there, and good chances that someone will get a blister.

· Bring a whistle. If you get lost it improves your chances of being found. The sound of a whistle travels further than your voice. It is also helpful to be wearing something brightly colored. That way you are easier to see.

· Bring a space blanket (compact mylar-coated sheet). If you get stranded on the trail, you are in danger of losing body heat, and it can help you keep warm.

Other essentials include flashlight, rain gear, signal mirror, knife, sunscreen, mosquito repellant, and food.

“The adventure can turn into a nightmare if you are not prepared,” said Lowe. So, follow these guidelines to a safe experience of the beauty of O‘ahu’s mountains.

 

Safe hiking guidelines

• Never hike alone.
• Plan the hike. Check trail conditions.
• The day of the hike, check weather conditions.
• Inform friends or family where you are going
and when you will be back.
• Be sure to bring:
• Cell phone
• Rope or a walking stick.
• Two liters of water per person per day.
• First aid kit with bandaids and antiseptic.
• Whistle.
• Space blanket.
• Flashlight.
• Rain gear.
• Signal mirror.
• Knife.
• Sunscreen.
• Mosquito repellant.
• Food.


 

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