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Hawaii websites promote extreme hiking

By Lara Yamada
Published On: Mar 21 2012 06:28:27 AM HST

A common activity, some have turned extreme. A niche group of adventurers are defending their hobby, following the death of a well-known hiker Sunday.
KITV4's Lara Yamada reports.

HONOLULU -

The panoramic photos are as beautiful as they are enticing.

In one picture, David Chatsuthiphan is seen perched on a narrow ridge as he peers over the Pali Lookout on Oahu.

“You see these amazing bird's eye views that actually become little bit addicting,” said Chatsuthiphan. 

The thrill of extreme hiking was so alluring that the 33-year-old web designer created his own website, Unreal Hawaii.

“I see it as an avenue to display photography and share my experiences,” Chatsuthiphan told KITV4.

Chatsuthiphan is not alone in sharing his extreme hikes through cyberspace.  At least two other websites, Extreme Hiking Hawaii and Exploration Hawaii, are dedicated to the sport, or as some would put it, the lifestyle of extreme hiking. 

“I try to talk a little bit more about safety, and make sure I'm providing a realistic sense of the difficulty of it,” said Chatsuthiphan, who always studies potential hikes before setting off.

After Sunday’s death of an avid hiker in Waimanalo, officials with the state Land Department are warning hikers to remain in sanctioned trails.  Leslie Charles Merrell, 48, died after falling 150 feet from a narrow ridge known as “Bear Claw.”

“Most beautiful places, unfortunately in a lot of cases, have dangers and hazards associated with them,” said Aaron Lowe, the state’s Oahu trails and access specialist for the Na Ala Hele Trails and Access Program.  “If you're not experienced or you're not in shape or you don't have the right equipment, you're probably going to run yourself into some trouble.”

There are 43 state approved trails on Oahu offering about 100 miles of hiking.  Lowe said anyone who strays off the beaten path not only risks injury or death, they could also be charged with trespassing.

“A lot of trails on this island are on private land or on military training areas. “There could also be native species (or) cultural sites that you really shouldn't maybe go to.”

All of the extreme hiking websites based in Hawaii also include a disclaimer, warning hikers they won’t be held liable should someone die or injure themselves.

“We're doing this to share experiences, but we're not experts,” said Chatsuthiphan.  “We're not trail guides.”

Chatsuthiphan is never shy about expressing his limitations to others he goes hiking with.  If there’s a ridge he finds too challenging, he simply turns around.

“There should be no peer pressure,” he said.  “It's just hiking; it should be fun.”

The Department of Land and Natural Resources has a website of its own to give hikers a feel for what a sanctioned trail will be like.

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