Monday, July 2, 2012

Mount Rotui

From the University of California at Berkley Moorea Adventure Guide by Aaron Wallace:

"You must wear pants for this hike as there are ferns which will rip your legs apart...Most of the hike is in  open sun so you want to be done as early as possible to avoid being baked. Don’t do the hike if it has been raining a lot or if it is cloudy, it is slippery to the point of being dangerous and it won’t be worth it if you can’t see the view...If it is clear and dry this is the most dramatic hike on Moorea... Mt. Rotui stands at 899 meters, the second tallest peak on Moorea and you will have great views of both bays and most amazingly the coral reefs.  Oh, and if you suffer from vertigo, don’t do this hike.  Much of it is on a 1-2m wide knife-ridge with dropoffs of 1000 feet on each side."

View over the anchorage - Ladybug in bottom right. Paul Gaugin cruise ship at left.

Chris and Bruce near the start of the hike

This description of the Mount Rotui hike, written by a researcher at the UCB station in Cooks Bay, is absolutely bang-on. Before we left, we confirmed the details with a cruiser who did the hike a few days earlier (and was still recovering).

Bruce and Rani at first rest point

View up Opunohu Bay.

View toward Cooks Bay

We began at 7 am on the beach with our friend Bruce from the catamaran `Gato Go`. We started the climb around 7:30 in a friendly Mo'orean's backyard, whom We had visited the day before to get her permission to cross her land. The hike began on loose volcanic rock through a scrub forest and ascended gradually until just below a grove of ironwood trees. After a steep climb to the grove, the ridge walk began. The vegetation on both sides of the narrow ridge made this climb much less scary than it would otherwise be, but at times as we climbed over the small hills that line the ridge, we felt very exposed. Each hillock required an exposed scramble on slippery dirt and rock with a thousand foot drop on both sides. There were at least 5 such places where I wished we had a long rope for the descent, as we had to down-climb these sections, which were too steep to walk down. Admittedly, if you slipped, you would probably be able to grab on to the scrub and grasses to slow your descent, but neither of us wanted to test this theory.

Around 2000 feet on the ridge

Lush rain forest vegetation appeared as we climbed to cloud level.

Small plane flies below us.

Bruce decided to turn back at 2000 feet because he was unhappy with the prospect of descending any more of the steeper sections. We were nervous about letting him return on his own, but he insisted we continue without him. The trail continued to follow the ridge passing over dozens of small hilloks along the way. At times, firm ground was only as wide as one or two feet and I slipped and cracked my knee in one place where the trail looked solid but dropped off into nothing. We reached the summit around 3000 feet at lunch time after a couple of tricky sections where, thankfully, someone had placed a rope. Clouds hid the sun for a portion of the ascent, which was a great help, for there is almost no shelter from the sun on this hike.

Roped section of hike.

On the top looking south

On the top - Cooks bay

The descent was a bit slow at times, because we had to be very watchful of our step, especially when climbing backwards down the steeper sections. Around 2000 feet we met a younger cruiser who had begun the hike at 9:30. He was out of water and feeling dizzy so we encouraged him to come down with us. We gave him some water and he hiked down to where he had left his two friends in the ironwood grove.

Descending - nice view up Opunohu Bay

Ridge walking on the way down - Tim off the sailing boat `Slick`waves in the distance

The views along this ridge hike are absolutely top rate and many of the best can be obtained in the first ridge section just past the ironwood grove. The UCB guide gives this hike a 10 out of 10 and we would agree.

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