Diamond Head

11 Jun 1996 - by David Harris

I climbed Diamond Head, the high point of a volcanic crater in Hawaii, on Tuesday June 11th. After spending the morning snorkeling, I convinced the tour driver to drop me at the crater instead of at my hotel. The ascent from the crater floor was a grueling 15 minutes and nearly 500 feet of elevation gain. The guidebooks warn of 99 steps on the trail, a number exceeding the number of switchbacks on the Whitney Trail.

As the entrance to the crater is on the east side and my hotel was on the beach on the west side, I decided to attempt a cross- country descent of western face instead of retracing my steps down the trail. Ducking under a "Warning: Dangerous Cliffs" railing at the top, I followed a narrow use trail around the crater rim. The cliffs were nearly vertical and would have required a 75 foot rappel; as I left my rope at home I traversed along a class 2-3 route atop the cliffs in a clockwise direction. After about half a mile, I found a class 3 descent of the Direct West Buttress that was safe to do in sandals.

From the base of the buttress, I worked my way back counterclockwise on a narrow trail. Access to the street was blocked by many houses, so I had to follow the trail, dodging cactus and other sharp plants, until I finally reached a brush-choked dry stream bed which led out through a back yard to the street. From the street, I completed an epic 2.5 mile death march back to my hotel, slowed by the loose sand and scree on Waikiki beach and by the crowds of scantily clad sunbathers I had to pass.

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