Day Off, Mr. Chef? Nothing A Precarious Climb Can’t Cure
Michael Chammaa is the Lebanese born chef and proprietor of the Brigadoon restaurant, along with his wife Tricia. He also happens to be a bit of a fitness freak, a divemaster, and as readers of my blog may remember, he also knows some rather challenging off trail excursions that really put me up close and personal with Saba’s rugged volcanic terrain.
A couple days ago, I asked Michael to return with me to Great Hill and the Saba whale, in an attempt to tackle the tail, which I didn’t do on my own when I came last. One side story: the great whale tail is also the namesake for Saba’s celebrated dive sites Tent Reef, Tent Wall, and Tent Deep, as the rock, covered with red lichen, is clearly visible from the sea below, and looks like a three pointed tent (or maybe a teepee to me).
It rained like crazy on our way up Paris Hill to get to the whale, and as usual, Michael had other plans as well; we popped on headlamps, climbed up some boulders and came across a cave entrance straight out of Indiana Jones, with hanging vines at its mouth, a dark cavern beyond. For the next hour, the Chef challenged my fat butt with corkscrew and cliff hanging moves and descents into the belly of the whale. The good news? It was a dry, dusty cave, no goat droppings, threatening stalactites, and no signs of insect life. (Slightly) bad news? When we had penetrated roughly 120ft (38m) in and 40 ft (12m) down into the volcanic nether regions, we came across a main cavern room that had dropped rocks on an entrance hole since the last time Michael had been there, 18 months earlier, which had me momentarily uneasy, if a few more rocks decided to drop. But it was solid in there, and we climbed our way out with no issues, and I had another unique Saba adventure under my belt. No pictures…too dusty and didn’t want to risk dropping the camera along a shelf into the darkness.
We came out and it was still raining and blowing with gusts up to 30-40mph (50-60kph). I told Michael I needed a better day to tackle the tail, and of course, he ignored me and went straight there, where I filmed his rapid 2:12 second ascent. I hope the pictures give you a scale and perspective on how intimidating this climb is up close, with its dropoffs. I’m sure it’s a pithy effort for bouldering/rock climbing specialists, but for big Hawaiian dudes, its a challenge for another drier day. But if you’re interested in seeing a quick, crazy climb, check the short video out to watch Michael use weak weed roots to climb up in his tennis shoes, up volcanic boulders shining slick with rain. Yikes. The things we do on Saba when we’re bored. D’Oh!