Ascent of Lanaihale on 2017-01-28

Climber: Dave Covill

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Saturday, January 28, 2017
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Elevation:3379 ft / 1029 m

Ascent Trip Report

Part of our trip to Big Island, Maui, Lanai in Jan 2017.

We took the ferry from Lahaina harbor on Maui, $60 R/T pp. Saw many humpback whales enroute, waved to the people who were paying lots more to go whalewatching... Also saw a pod of dolphins just offshore from Lanai's harbor, another treat. Takes about 45 min to get there.

We caught a lift from a guy on the ferry but otherwise would have paid the standard $10pp for a lift from a shuttle driver to get from sea level up to the Lanai City at about 1,500'. Beckie went birding for 2 hours while I investigated the highpoint.

The actual highpoint is an innocuous slight rise along the Munro Trail, a N-S dirt road about 12 miles long that circles the mountain to the east of town, and in fact follows the crest up high. It hadn't rained in a few days, but there was still muddy sinkholes in spots.

We tried to rent a jeep in town, but they don't want renters to drive the Munro Trail in them. Hmmmm.....

We made a contact with a local islander guy who operated the gas station in town (only one). He tried for 20 min to find someone who would drive us up in their 4WD. Strike 2......

We had earlier been turned on to the guy who is the only renter of ATV's, John Price. Great guy. He lives a block from the gas station, and a block from the museum and wildlife square in the center of the village. He rented me one ATV, and said he didn't like to have 2 persons on an ATV as they just weren't safe for a rider on back. I would note that he owned 3-4 "400's" and a couple of larger "500's", whatever that means. I got a 400. It was fine. He charged me $100 for the few hours I might need it, and said that was discounted from his usual $150 pp. He showed me how to operate it, and then led me on paths out of town center to the start of the Munro Trail. So far so good.

I made a few tentative turns that were right then wrong then right. I got a bit nervous when the trail went down some before finally going steeply and always up. I had a topo map, and was able to correlate my position on it nicely. I also had my phone with a MAP but not a GPS TOPO. It too showed the turns on the Trail nicely for a cross check. There are tiny trail junctions enroute; ignore them. There was only one single actual road junction, keep right uphill on the way up, turn hard left downhill and not straight downhill right-ish on the way back.

I finally was able to gain the high crest. The only other persons I know of to come here was John Mitchler years ago, and Ken & Karen Jones recently. The Jones got an ATV, presumably from John Price. I can't recall whether John got an ATV, jeep/truck, or a ride.

The high ground is somewhat obvious once you drive back and forth along the entire ridge a few times, which I did to be sure I was where I was supposed to be. I can see how this might be tough in fog or clouds, which is frequent. I was blessed with a clear day, and could see nothing higher in either direction. High ground itself is a straight section maybe 100-150' long, with dense brush on either side for a few feet before it fell off steeply both E and W. I got out and thrashed a but in the brush, but quickly decided that was ignorant, as it was dense, and the roots of the brush were level with the road. There is no marker of any sort. There is a cattle guard about 1 mile back both N and S from the highpoint. The road is steeper down low on the N side, which was the way I had to come as John wanted me to go that way to avoid driving his ATV on the paved roads of town. I met a runner, and a mtn biker. Both said that the road from the S side was drier and less rutted. I found this to be true for the ~1 mile stretch of it I did drive from the top southward before turning around.

I saw no animals, very few birds. Nice views in all directions. I could easily see Molokai, Maui, and Kooholawe. I was gone for 2 hours, but could easily do it in about 40 minutes each way from his house, about 30 of that on the Munro Trail, knowing what I now know. Allow 2 - 2.5 hours R/T. You should probably be reasonably skilled at 4WD driving, or have driven an ATV or a Dirt bike motorcycle before. It does take some physical effort; there is no power steering or anything like that. I only hit 30mph on the paved roads and sidewalks pretty much 15-25mph on the dirt road itself. I would not advise someone under 18 to go, or a frail person. Also, John pretty much said he doesn't rent to guys under 25 or 30, as they tend to be "self-destructive", so if you are, prepare to have to convince him. I believe I could have hiked the Munro Trail portion in about 3 hours up, 2 down. The part to go from the center of town to the start of the Munro Trail would be maybe 30-40 min O/W. I used the ATV odometer, and got a reading of 6.2 from the HP to the start of the Munro Trail, which btw is somewhat ill-defined and can be reached from a few directions.


Lanai info:

Great beach just left (W) of the harbor, 6-7 min walk, pretty much the only public access beach, and it is shared by a huge resort, which is located beyond it above rocky shores. Free. Nice place, good amenities.

Couple of restaurants up in Lanai City. We liked Blue Ginger, great burgers etc. Go for the Mahi burger. Decent price considering you are in the middle of nowhere with few choices; saw many locals there.

Jeep rentals are next to the gas station. High price. You can then drive to the NE and NW ends of the island to explore.

Ferry goes from Lahaina harbor dock at 6:45AM, 9:15AM, 12:45PM, 3:15PM, 5:45PM. It returns ON TIME from Lanai harbor at 8:00AM, 10:30AM, 2:00PM, 4:30PM, 6:45PM. No need to make a ressie 95% of the time they say, just show up. Office in the town center across Front St from the Banyon tree square, and a tiny shack right at the ferry dock manned (woman-ed actually) for perhaps 30 min prior to each departure. Bring some warmer clothing for both the ferry and the highpoint, big change up high from sea level.

Island was a Dole company town until a decade or two back, Larry Ellison of Oracle fame now owns it, is turning it into more resorts, preservations, etc. I hear the locals are being squeezed out of businesses and property, but I do not know that. I can say that 90% of the part of the island that isn't right in Lanai City and flat old plantation land is undeveloped, and has trees or scrub grass on it. They say that there are a ton of deer, and that hunting of deer and birds is a big thing. Overall a very different feel from the major Hawaiian islands. Cell coverage was good everywhere, even up high. They had a power outage a week prior, which crippled the island, and hotel guests departed on droves I heard.

John Price:

Cell = 808-280-7092

Email =

Web =

Address = PO Box # 630956 Lanai HI

Tell him you are an acquaintance of mine. Really nice guy, we bought him lunch after it was all over, and in turn he drove us down to the harbor, saving us the $10 pp that direction. All in all it couldn't have worked out better. We went from 9:00 - 4:30, and that was plenty of time to do what we wanted. Could have come earlier or stayed later, but no need.

Shuttle guy Isaac = 808-559-0230 (call him in the unlikely event he does not come down to meet the ferry) (John Price will come get you if you let him know to do so, saving you $10pp)

CASH !!!!! You must have cash $$$ for the ATV, and for food. One fancier restaurant and the gas station take VISA, nowhere else. I was told at the beach you could wander up to the resort and score a drink and walk back to the beach, and that they wouldn't care whether you were a guest or not. Dunno, probably true.

Aloha !

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