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Ascent to Lata Mountain-Radio Tower on 2018-12-11

Climber: David Darby

Others in Party:2 Guides
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Tuesday, December 11, 2018
Ascent Type:Unsuccessful - Turned Back
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Point Reached:Lata Mountain - Radio Tower
    Location:American Samoa
    Elevation:3140 ft / 957 m
    Remaining Elevation:29 ft / 8 m (1% left to go)

Ascent Trip Report

I was visiting my daughter in American Samoa and figured I would give this a shot. I knew it was going to be a long shot because I had a terrible time finding/getting information ahead of time. I foolishly figured worse case I would put my head down to bushwhack my way - how hard could it be, WRONG. Here are my notes from my attempt:

I contacted the National Park Service (NPS) in Pago Pago 3 times prior to going (+1 684-633-7082 ext 22) They told me there was no longer a homestay program on Ta'u (wrong), and failed to e-mail me a map all 3 times. So, I knew I was going in a little blind so I packed my hammock tent, stove and sleeping bag expecting the worst.

When I arrived in Pago Pago, I stopped by the NPS office. The woman there (her e-mail is: soonafai_seloti@nps.gov) told me - YES, there is a homestay program. She called Eseta (sister of Ann Kesetogia who I also met on the island) and made a reservation for me. You can contact Eseta at esetashomestay@gmail.com or +1 684-677-3167 directly instead. Some people have contacted her sister Ann, but her email is not working anymore. Expect $85/ni to stay or $100/ni with meals (I recommend the meals). You'll get a private room, a bed, a shower and wifi (note: for some reason DHCP doesn't work with Samsung phones, so you have to configure an explicit IP address - I used 192.168.1.129). Remember, you are on a remote island so don't expect a HOT shower or A/C. But, everything will be clean and Eseta (and Ann) are awesome!

Flights: Samoa Airways (formerly Polynesian Airways) flies RT Pago Pago<->Ta'u, Mon/Tue/Wed/Fri for $165/rt. Contact June at: ol1.sales@samoaairways.com. Tickets are typically only made available about 2 weeks prior to the flight dates. My flight over on Monday was full (~20 people), and my return on Weds had 2 people on it.

Guides: When I arrived on Monday morning, Eseta quickly arranged 2 guides for me for Tuesday. The plan was to meet for breakfast Tues at 5am, and start hiking when we finished eating. 1 guide had hiked before but didn't speak English, the other guide had never been up before but spoke good English. I don't think there are any guides on the island anymore that have been to the true summit.

Hike Day: The weather had been raining HARD for ~3 days. When I awoke at 4:45am, it was raining hard (think fire hose). My 2 guides arrived at 6:30. We ate and Eseta drove us the ~200 yds down to the trailhead to begin hiking at 7:00am.

The trail was very grown in. Rumor had it no one had hiked it for 1+ month. Both guides macheted the majority of the hike up. I would never have made it up the trail without them. The jungle grows very fast and fills every open space very quickly.

We made pretty good time according to the guide that had hiked before. It took ~50 mins to get to the crater (I couldn't see in because of the thick clouds and pouring rain). We continued up and lost the trail/ribbons twice. After the guides macheted ~100 yds each time and we didn't see any ribbons, I recommended going back to the last "ribbon" and searching for the trail again. Both times we found the correct trail (with ribbons). We reached the end of the trail/"top" @ the radio tower in just under 3 hrs from the start.

At this point, the rain had stopped, but the wind was blowing pretty hard and it was cold. I had a good raincoat on and was fine, but both guides just had cotton t-shirts and they were getting cold. I had heard there was supposed to be a previous macheted trail over to the high point, but it was done ~2 yrs ago. We backtracked about 100 yds searching the trail looking for any sign of humans, any trail, anything in the direction of the true highpoint. No luck. So, I picked a spot that looked good and had the guides start macheting to see how difficult the progress would be (they really didn't have any interest in doing this and were getting colder). They macheted about 100yds over to a small crown/hill. From there we could see the high point way off in the distance, but we couldn't see any trail or path to get there. It had taken us 45 mins to go the 100 yds. The guides were exhausted and tired so I called it and headed back.

We never found the "log book" that was supposedly at the new "radio tower" location. I believe the hurricane earlier this year destroyed the old (tripod) tower that was at the top. I found it in the grass nearby. The NPS brought up a new metal box with electronics, 2 solar panels, and a new antenna and cemented everything in place. I believe this location (-14.23539483, -169.44972222) to be ~550m away from the true summit.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:3100 ft / 944 m
    Round-Trip Distance:5.5 mi / 8.9 km
    Route:NPS trail past Luatele Crater
    Trailhead:Across the road from airport road  40 ft / 12 m
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Bushwhack
    Weather:Raining, Cool, Windy, Low Clouds
Hard rain to begin, Cleared on the descent
Ascent Statistics
    Time:3 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Time:3 Hours 
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip


 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by David Darby
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. Peakbagger.com accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file




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