HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – The thrill of hiking to Oahu’s steepest peaks entices thousands to Olomana Trail. But many people who decide to make the trek have no idea what the hike entails.
Now the city ― which bears the cost and the strain of dozens of rescues ― is looking for a simple solution to keep people safer: More signage and education.
In an emergency, there’s no easy way to access Olomana Trail. A first responder is dropped in by helicopter while others make the exhausting trek up the mountain on foot.
That’s exactly what happened on a recent day on the trail.
“What’s your name ma’am?” a first responder asked as he kneeled next to a 24-year-old woman sitting with her back up on a tree trunk.
Last Thursday morning, it took a half hour for help to reach the hiker, who was likely dehydrated and unable make it back down the trail on her own.
“We’ve been coming here quite often. At least once a week for rescues,” said District 3 acting EMS Field Operations Supervisor Isaac Tejeda, adding he also recently responded to a fall case on the trail.
A hiker had fallen 100 feet.
‘Not for the faint of heart’
It’s easy to see why Olomana Trail is so popular.
“There’s nothing like it in the world,” said hiker Todd Everette, describing the view from the top of the first peak. Tejada added, “It is definitely not for the faint of heart.”
Like many Oahu trails, Olomana is unsanctioned ― passing over state and private land.
Meanwhile, the city responds to all 911 calls. It’s not one of the busiest trails. But officials say the accidents happening on this hike are much more severe.
“Avid hikers have fallen,” Tejada said.
Over the past decade, at least three people have fallen more than 100 feet to their deaths on the trail. All occurred between the first and third peak.
“There’s a steep decline and then a steep climb,” said Everette. “There’s ropes and it looks a lot more difficult than it does for the first two peaks.”
‘Once you’re talking about ropes … that’s climbing’
Dr. Jim Ireland, head of Honolulu’s Emergency Services Department, is pushing for a sign to be placed at the trailhead warning hikers what they’re in for.
“You just have no idea how safe this stuff is,” Ireland said. “Once you’re talking about ropes and needing things like that to hold you up and keep you from falling over the edge, that’s not really a trail anymore. That’s climbing.”
He also wants markers along the path so people will have a better idea where they are if they need help and educational information posted to the city’s website.
“We’re here to respond to people who get hurt no matter what they’re doing,” Ireland said.
“But we also have a responsibility with respect to injury prevention and doing what we can to alert people about dangerous situations.”
Hiker James Taylor visits the trail about once a month. He said it’s easy to see why novice and even skilled hikers can get into trouble on Olomana Trail.
“The ropes are just there for guidance,” he said.
That’s something you might want to consider before grabbing hold.
“You’re not really supposed to put all your weight on it,” said Taylor. “You can’t put your life and trust in that one rope you didn’t put up yourself.”
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