On Saturday Mary and I hiked up Mt. Alava with Jeremy and Ashley (and their dog Annie). At 1610 feet above sea level, Mt. Alava is the third-highest point on Tutuila. Unlike Matafao or Rainmaker, it doesn’t have the classic “volcanic peak” look- it’s simply the highest point on the Maugaloa Ridge, which runs about five miles above Pago Pago Harbor between Fagasa Pass to the west and Afono Pass to the east.
There are two ways to get to the top: A long, relatively easy dirt road that branches off from the road to Fagasa, or a shorter, steeper climb from the village of Vatia. We chose the Vatia route. Here is what the National Park Service sign at the start of the trail had to say:
The first section of trail was very steep but gave a nice birds-eye view of Vatia.
After gaining several hundred feet of elevation in the first quarter-mile, we were glad to find such a nice place to rest.
A wild pineapple growing alongside the trail.
The middle third of the trail wasn’t as steep and we moved pretty quickly. Then we got to the ladders:
I lost count of how many there were. At least 20, and most of them very steep and between 10 and 30 feet high.
We took another break at a flat spot that gave us a great view of Pago Pago Harbor to the south and Cockscomb Point and Pola Island to the north. It was really cool to be able to see the ocean on both sides at the same time.
Then, more ladders.
Jeremy, despite never having climbed the trail before, kept saying “I think this is the last one. We’re pretty much at the top.” Eventually he was right.
On the top of Mt. Alava were a fale, some TV and cellular antennae, and stunning 360-degree vistas of the central part of the island.
Rainmaker Mountain towering over the village of Aua.
Matafao and the town of Fagatogo. Mary works in the white building just to the right of the two white piers.
Farther down, there are the remains of a cable-car system that used to cross the harbor.
The north coast of the island and some yellow flowers.
This shot is a good view of how narrow the island is at the back of the harbor.
The walk back down was faster but just as difficult. We did the whole trip in 3 1/2 hours, even with some long breaks, which is pretty good considering that the sign said it could take 2-3 hours just to get to the top.
I hope Mount Alava was the just first step towards conquering the “Big 3″ of Tutuila Island. Before we leave American Samoa, I’d like to climb Matafao and Rainmaker. If that isn’t enough, there is Lata Mountain on Ta’u in the Manu’a Islands- a 3170 ft peak on an island not much larger than ‘Aunu’u.