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Friday, November 26, 2010

Aiea Ridge to Waimalu Middle Ridge -- Pat Rorie

On Saturday, Jan. 10, 1998 Laredo Murray (blonde hair) and I took advantage of the incredible weather conditions (light and variable winds resulting in a crystal clear Ko'olau summit crest) and went for an all day hike (aka "Super" hike or Xtreme hike).

We met at Anna Miller's in Aiea around 7:40 a.m. It was a chilly (for Oahu) morning but the mountains were completely cloudless and the two of us were psyched. Laredo followed me as we drove to the top of Onikiniki. He left his truck there and I then drove us to Keaiwa Heiau State Rec Area. I parked in the lot near the Aiea Loop trailhead.

At 8:12 a.m. we started up the trail. I had to constantly wipe/blow my nose and it didn't take Laredo very long to realize that I was sick. I told him it was only post nasal drip and a minor problem. Although my nose was running I felt fine because Mike Adams recommended I take a certain 24 hour cold medicine the night before.

Laredo and I worked our way along the loop trail thru a very pleasant forest of guava and eucalyptus trees. We encountered several members of a running team/club as they ran past us going in the opposite direction. Reached the junction where the Aiea Ridge trail begins at 8:45 a.m. As we continued our trip (now on Aiea Ridge), Laredo and I couldn't help but notice the noise of the recently opened H-3 freeway. It was a constant distraction and was with us almost all the time we were on the Aiea Ridge Trail. One thing which helped us get our minds off of the freeway was the presence of lovely Kalauao Valley on the left.

Laredo and I chipped away at the miles and after a stiff ascent took a break at the top of Pu'u Kawipo'o (elev. 2,441 ft). The time was 10:06 a.m. This was the first time Laredo had been on Aiea Ridge so he took delight in the superb views of Pearl Harbor and the Waianae Range. The dome atop the building which marks the termination point of the Haiku Stairs was also visible. Both of us studied the peaks along the Ko'olau summit crest toward Waimalu which we would have to scale later that day.

Pressing on at 10:20 a.m. the two of us climbed over a series of small humps (this part of the ridge is "open, windswept, and at times narrow"*). Next Laredo and I ascended somewhat steeply to a large grassy clearing, the spot where one can either drop down to a gully and ascend to the second power-line tower or go right, still on the main ridge, toward the first power-line tower. At 10:45 a.m. we arrived at the clearing and paused to take in the good views of the windward side including Mount Ohulehule and Kanehoalani Ridge. Because Laredo had never been to the Aiea Ridge summit the two of us went that way instead of descending to the gully. I wasn't feeling very well but didn't have the guts to suggest to Laredo that we turn back, not on such a beautiful day. I drank a liter of malolo grape water (3 parts water, 1 part malolo grape syrup) and led us to the summit.

The views were marvelous of the Mokulua Islands on the right and Kaneohe Bay dead ahead. Temple Valley is directly below. At 11:17 a.m. Laredo and I departed the Aiea Ridge pinnacle bound for the Waimalu Middle Ridge. The conditions were totally different for me compared to those I had to endure on Thanksgiving day - excellent visibility, light southerly breeze, warm temps. Instead of backtracking the two of us descended slightly along the Ko'olau summit crest. We followed what looked like a faint swath in the vegetation and reached the second power-line tower in 17 minutes.

Continuing on, Laredo and I began traveling up, over and down a series of 8 major peaks between Aiea and Waimalu. Ascended somewhat steeply to the top of the first peak where we noticed three small boulders protruding out of the soil toward the windward side. Went along the leeward side of the summit following the path Gene Robinson had created on Nov. 16.

Reached the top of the second peak just before 12 p.m. (noon) and paused for a brief rest. Laredo was surprised at how quick and easy our progress had been so far. I gave the credit to Gene's swath and the fact that I had been this way before. Periodic "hot" pink ribbons along the route didn't hurt either.

Following the break as we started moving again Laredo brought to my attention the existance of a short metal pole in the ground. Between peaks three and four was a very pleasant windswept ravine covered with low level grass. Between peaks four and five were ti plants. Thick vegetation could be found on peak five and an unusually large concentration of flora and phauna close to the summit crest existed between peaks six and seven. Laredo and I took another rest after a steep climb to peak seven. It was approx. 1 p.m. Not much of the ginger which Gene and I had encountered in November was around for Laredo and I to appreciate.

The final climb to the Waimalu Middle Ridge was long and difficult. Laredo and I were forced to struggle thru leeward vegetation while ascending, sometimes steeply. The summit ridge leveled briefly at one point but became very narrow. This was followed by more climbing. If we tried to stay to the windward side of the crest where there was less vegetation the two of us found ourselves hanging precariously over the side of the sheer cliff !

At 1:52 p.m. I reached the summit of Waimalu Middle Ridge and collapsed from exhaustion. Laredo joined me a few minutes later. We both lay there in the sun until we caught our breath.

For the next hour the two of us ate lunch and greatly delighted in the awesome vistas. Ohulehule dominated the scene with "the corner", Eleao and the Waimano Ridge summit clearly visible.

Very reluctantly, Laredo and I began heading down into Waimalu Valley at 3:07 p.m. Laredo told me that I looked peaked as we slowly descended. I felt terrible because of fever and about half way down the middle ridge I had to stop and take a swig of grape drink. This seemed to revive me and the two of us made it to the valley floor without incident. Before we got to the bottom Laredo informed me that he had left his keys in my car. We would have to find a phone, call his wife and have her deliver another set. At 4:30 p.m. Laredo and I stopped at the termination point of the HTMC Waimalu Ditch hike marked with three "hot" pink ribbons. Laredo washed his face in the stream as I had another drink.

Pressing on, we hiked quickly thru hau and over stream crossings. The Waimalu Ditch Trail went on and on and on ! I ran out of water before we reached the end of it.

At long last Laredo and I arrived at the start of the final ascent to the top of Onikiniki. During the final climb I could feel my legs cramping up badly.

We emerged from the ditch trail at 5:57 p.m. and asked some pig hunters if they had a cell phone. "No" was their answer so I attempted to ring an old friend from the gated community. Neither she nor her parents were home. Laredo suggested ringing Gene. I replied, "There is no way I'm going to bother Gene again !". But he insisted so I told him,"YOU call him !".

By chance Gene was home and a few minutes later the three of us were on our way to Aiea Heights. A huge mahalo for his help. As we entered the Keaiwa Heiau rec area there was a gathering of people followed by police vehicles and a body on the ground wrapped in a white sheet. Apparently a disturbed man had ended his life near Kalauao Stream. Very tragic. Gene got us to my car just before the gates were to close. I thanked Gene for his help as he and Laredo entered Gene's truck for the trip back to the top of Onikiniki.

Notes: This trip is best done over a two day period. If possible don't hike when you're sick. There were times during the hike when the enjoyment of the trip was lost because I felt so bad. Bring extra water on variable wind days. The Waimalu Middle Ridge Trail is slowly being lost to uluhe. On several occasions Laredo and I had to backtrack to find the path. Go for it, Wing! Get up there and clear that trail!

* Ball Jr., Stuart, THE HIKER'S GUIDE TO OAHU - 1993 University of Hawaii Press

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