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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Piliwale Ridge - August Smith

Wednesday the 21st of July (2010), me and a couple of my closest hiking friends (myself and I ) were thinking of a new challenge. I had previously scouted the lower part of Piliwale ridge the week before, and it didn't seem so bad. I had stopped just short of the "worst" place ascending out of the notch at a octopus tree growing out of the cliff face.

Photo by August Smith
The weather on Wednesday morning was not so good. The Pali and surrounding cliffs had gotten their fair share of moderately heavy morning showers + it was already 8:30 am by the time I got going, heading up the board of water supply road under a light rain. Feeling discouraged by the heavily overcast conditions and slippery wet ground I spent a good deal of time improving the path to the notch, reaching the notch at 10:15 am. since it was already so late and the clouds were still dark, I had just about thrown in the towel on summiting , I told myself, I just want too see how bad it is above the previous turn around point.

Going down was easy enough. I slid down the worst section, then took a higher route ( then last time ) to contour around until I reached the up-climb tree. After a little negotiating I had found for the most part suitable footing , although slippery and crumbly I only lost one foothold on the way up. Once at the top I was looking down at the notch. Just past this was a cable which I gave a tug on thinking it must be the cable which had been pulled down in 08. It seemed solid ( thank you to whoever reinstalled this ) w/out the cable upward progress would have been possible but hand holds were few and far between. At this point I was just starting too get a dose of Piliwale exposure: the ridge had narrowed considerably and the soil was loose though not as wet as I had expected, and I figured I had made it this far so I might as well keep going ... I had about 70' feet of rope and figured I could just loop my rope going back down the bad parts. With that problem solved onward and upward it was.

I soon started to encounter stray honey bees here and there 3 total. Continuing on cautiously no hive ever materialized neither did a swath or any type of trail. It started off w/ shin to knee high uluhe and intertwined trees Ohia, Kopiko + some Ie Ie for good measure the going was very slow. every 20 - 30 minutes I would come across another steep section w/ not much too hold on too, each one was a challenge as much physically as mentally + it was one more reason that I would end up making the decision too keep moving forward.

One particular section had a christmas berry tree growing right in front of the rock face, tried the Maunawili side but it was nearly vertical and exposed looked on the Pali side which had foot holds it was also really exposed and the rock looked awful ... so up the tree it was ( this was not a big tree ) part ways up the tree started too lean back and out I quickly came back down , pulled out my hand saw and cut it down as I made my final pass on it I ducked while it flew up and over my head and continued down ridge ( I was glad to be alone here + glad to be alive ) the stump provided a excellent foot hold.

Photo by August Smith
A couple more memorable spots: one foot was in Maunawili and the other on the Pali side both on a tuff of moss barley held on by a small Uki (sedge) plant. I am not sure which came first or after ...+ the second cable section (which is still intact and anchored to a healthy tree) and an eroded spot that met up w/ another ridge on the right that one could contour to and then up .... the middle section proved to be an exhilarating ride between its exposure, steepness, narrowosity and overgrowth every minute was exciting!

Somewhere along this section at 1:20pm I found a 12"x12" space and deemed it "the lunch spot." Good thing too. I don't think I ran into another suitable spot for hours. After an avacado sandwich and a banana + some brain food I was ready to roll. Fighting head and beyond head high uluhe, I was socked in from here on out. Realizing how late it was getting I did my best to up my pace. Plowing as fast as I could through the overgrowth from here to the summit I didn't hit another major obsticle. Although it was my biggest concern, a night out on Piliwale would most likely be cold and wet.

one of the coolest things about this hike is you get too see all the different levels of plant life on the Ko'olau cliffs from the base elevation too the middle section and onward too the Cloud forest . at least for me these are not common experiences.

Up in the now dominant cloud forest things were slippery but much more mellow (aside from the vegetation) as the ridge broadened out. It was around 3:00 pm and feeling extremely tired I knew I must be closing in on Konahuanui. Just then the clouds lifted and I could see that the summit was far away and I was worried I might have to spend the night out, so I continued on at a steady pace not having given up yet. On the way there I must have hit 3 false summits w/ Lapa Lapa trees just below them ( just like the real summit ). On the third false summit I got a glimpse of the Ko'olau summit ridge just off to my right and realized once again this is not it! Pressing on, I was soon at the junction of the two ridges and just below the actual summit. I found my Lapa tangle that I been to years before and then saw the three stacked pink ribbons signaling the lunch spot ...... I was ecstatic!

At 4:10pm I summited Konahuanui, fully relived. I knew the trail from here on out well. I sat down to rest, eat and Satta. 4:30pm came fast while packing up my hand saw I cut my thumb decently. After some water to clean it out, I made a band aid from medical tape and lens cleaning tissues.

August Smith, self-portrait
Now 4:40pm and on my way to K2 I stopped when I got reception to let Pete know I was on my way down safely. Thanks to the trail clearing crew I made it to K2 in 20 mins in style! I ran into campers at the junction of the ridge and Castle trails (not very friendly ... they let out a grunt when I passed, I remember thinking to myself there are some civilized pigs up here ). An hour from the summit and I was enjoying the shade and sunset from the iornwood grove just above the Nu'uanu Lookout ... Made plans to meet my ride at 7:45pm in Manoa . At 6:45pm I departed my favorite spot and made a beeline for the trail, l hit the overlook then Pauoa Flats and Aihualama trail ... got to Manoa Falls at 7:25pm as light was fleeting. I saw a couple enjoying the pool. I waved but no response (the day of unfriendly hikers). I don't think they had lamps. I waited a bit and took off so they could follow me. They couldn't keep the pace and made no effort to ask for help, so I left them in the dark (hey .. I got a ride to catch) I made it out just after 7:50pm just as my ride pulled up. I contemplated going back in to help them but figured that ungrateful peps don't deserve help + they could always get the helicopter in the morning ; )

By 8:30pm I was back at the whip and grateful to be alive! Thus ended a long 12 hour day on the trail.

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