Tuesday, February 6, 2001
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Posted on: Tuesday, February 6, 2001

Teen hikers rescued after night on ridge

By Suzanne Roig
Advertiser East Honolulu Bureau

KULIOUOU — Christopher Lee and Alan Morrow went for a hike in the Koolau mountains to test their rappelling skills. Before it was over, they would get stuck on a cliff ledge, spend the night in a cave, and finally be rescued by helicopter.

Robin Lee greets his son, Christopher, following the boy's safe return from a 30-hour hiking ordeal.

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

The teens said they were cold and worried, but not frightened.

They had come prepared with mirrors, flashlights, a flare gun, rope and a cellular phone.

In the end, the cell phone was what saved them.

Rescuers plucked Lee and Morrow off the cliff at 2:30 p.m. yesterday, 30 hours after their adventure began.

"This morning we looked at the bottom of the ravine and we saw how steep it was; it was scary," Lee said.

The boys, both 17 and students at Honolulu Waldorf School in Niu Valley, were met by two firefighters in a helicopter and flown to Kuliouou Neighborhood Park, where friends and family awaited them.

The two were in good spirits and good condition despite 40-degree temperatures overnight and only one small camping blanket.

"It was cold," said Lee, of Kailua. "We slept in a cave. When I first heard the helicopter, it was below us and I wasn’t sure it was for us."

Honolulu firefighters hunted for the pair by air and land.

Nigel Lumsden, a Honolulu Waldorf School physics teacher, was also looking for them. He spent the morning combing the Kuliouou Ridge Trail for signs. An experienced hiker, Lumsden had just taken his class on a hiking trip the week before.

"We did everything you taught us," the pair told Lumsden after their rescue.

Fire Department spokesman Capt. Richard Soo said that even though the boys were experienced hikers and had come prepared, they got in trouble because they left the trail.

Lee and Morrow started their hike at 7 a.m. Sunday. At 6 p.m. Lee called his mother on his cell phone to say he had gotten in a bit of trouble. They were going to wait until daylight to get out. "He reassured us that everything was OK," said Robin Lee, Christopher’s father. "He had the good sense to stay put. He was quite upbeat, actually."

Lee and Morrow had planned to spend the day rappelling down a series of waterfalls until they got to the bottom of the mountain, Soo said. The last waterfall was 300 feet down.

Alan Nitta, one of the rescuers, said that firefighters weren’t sure what they’d find. They searched everywhere they could from the air, but there are many places a helicopter can’t see or go, especially with winds of more than 30 mph.

Once they reached the boys by cell phone, they had them walk out about a half-mile to a spot where the helicopter could land, Soo said.

"It’s a pretty easy hike if you stay on the Kuliouou side of the trail," Nitta said. "They got in trouble when they went off the trail. This is a happy ending. They were prepared with all the right equipment, but they still managed to get into trouble."

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