Walking the Water

Matias finishing the crux of Maulua Gulch, a 180 foot freefall. Matias finishing the crux of Maulua Gulch, a 180 foot freefall.

I think I have been awake all night.  It’s too damn cold to sleep anyways.  The poorly rigged tarp above me has become my mortal enemy and am appalled to find my sleeping bag soaking wet, yet the sound of a freight train quickly becomes my real concern.  I search for my headlamp to reveal the real scene; our dry creek alongside our camp is now a small river and slowly rising.  I frantically gather all the important gear and throw it up to higher ground.  Maulua Gulch, a huge target of ours and an exploratory expedition, will have to wait for another day.  We retrace our steps in the morning and hitch a ride back into town.  She has won the battle but not the war.

Under much clear skies and with a lighter load we rise with the sun.  Maulua Gulch is the deepest canyon on the Hamakua Coast and promises to be a very exciting route.  The hike to our previous drop in point is no easy path to follow; it is a faint hunting trail that weaves and wanders its way through a dense guava forest, found by chance, and even with a GPS and previous experience we still lose the trail and end up taking a completely different route than before.  Regardless, we pass our previous camp site and quickly rig the first rappel, a 165 foot big wall plunge to the base of the creek.  Here several forks of Maulua Creek join together and continue with force downstream.  We join the parade and slowly work our way deeper into the canyon.  The walls close in, quite unexpectedly, and we are soon faced with a narrow slot canyon cutting its way thru the basalt rock.  A sight we have yet to see in our many months of searching.

The canyon walls close in at rappel 4, a beauty. The canyon walls close in at rappel 4, a beauty.

The narrows begin with a short jump and quickly intensifies.  Beautiful walls rise above us.  We are faced with a number of drops, yielding progressively beautiful alcoves.  The walls are nearly closed in above us and we soon face a two stage drop that sharply turns a corner.  No anchors available, we are forced to sink two bolts to rig the next rappel; a 70 footer into the most beautiful alcove I have yet to see on this Island.  The primary creek flow crashes over the wall and is joined by three more; all springs, gushing out of the walls.  I could spend a lifetime here relishing in the sheer perfection of this place.  I quickly realize that I am likely the first person to ever gaze upon such a wonder; a thought that quickly brings me to my knees.  A thought that puts me in my place.  A thought that makes me feel so small.  The thought that I am the first person to ever walk these waters consumes my soul.

We continue our way down canyon and methodically work our way thru the obstacles with grace, seemingly floating our way down canyon.  Time blurs and we move like machines.  We hit more drops; 50 feet, 20 feet, 45 feet,the crux 185 footer, and the final 60 foot drop brings us back to reality.  The sun quickly sets as we make haste towards our exit point, reaching our car just over 12 hours from our start time.

-> Maulua Gulch – July 22, 2012 <-

The route presented here had no previous signs of human travel and is considered a first descent.  An absolutely spectacular experience ,with 11 drops up to 185 feet.  If you ever wonder why people go off the beaten path, this is it.  For that single moment of witnessing the sheer perfection the natural world can attain is worth more than a lifetime of experiences.