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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Ohikilolo via Keaau Ridge -- Pat Rorie

Hike date: January 2000

"Winter is for the Wai'anaes" is a saying I have a firm belief in, and I enjoy hiking the Wai'anae Range (Leeward Coast) because of its stark contrast to the Ko'olaus - dry, rocky, open terrain vs. muddy, heavily vegetated territory.

Having sat around watching football games on Saturday and Sunday afternoons resting my left knee, I decided to venture out of my humble Waikele abode Monday (Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday) to visit one of my favorite locales on O'ahu, the Ohikilolo triangular peak. I've reached the triangular peak in the past via Ohikilolo Ridge (twice), Kea'au Ridge commencing from the region mauka of the former First Hawaiian Bank (FHB) rec center (three times), the entire Kea'au Ridge commencing from the Makaha surfing beach, but never via Kea'au Middle Ridge. Dayle Turner recently posted a very good route description of Kea'au Middle, so I'll skip the specifics unless deemed necessary for inclusion in this digest.

The Pat-mobile required some routine maintenance in the morning, so I got off to a late start arriving at the entrance to the former FHB rec center on Farrington Hwy (see pic below) a few minutes past 10 a.m. The trades had decreased to 10 to 25 mph from the gale force gusts of 20 to 35 on Saturday and Sunday making for a pleasant day on O'ahu's west end, ample sunshine with a cooling breeze. Unwilling to walk from the Makaha surfing beach about 1.5 miles away (a safer place to leave my car), I rolled the dice and parked on Farrington Hwy near the entrance to the former FHB rec center. As a precaution, however, I removed the computer chip that allows the vehicle to start, an option available on certain Honda cars/trucks, and placed a Wai'anae Surfrider baseball cap given to me by Wai'anae resident Lynn Agena on the steering wheel.

Following final preps, I walked around the fence (the gate was locked) and began tramping along the paved road (elev. 17 ft) at 10:15 a.m. Further ahead, while approaching the middle ridge along the dirt road, I studied Ohikilolo Ridge and experienced steamy conditions. During the initial ascent of Kea'au Middle I lost the trail and had to proceed by way of the path of least resistance. I climbed methodically through dryland forest and took a water break when the ridge leveled off. One of the highlights of the footpath at this point is its relative closeness to the sheer rocky cliffs of Ohikilolo Ridge. They appear but a stone's throw away across the gulch separating Ohikilolo Ridge and Kea'au Middle. The best comparison I can offer is the waterfall shoots found along the Ko'olaupoko Trail (front cover of Ball's "Hiker's Guide").

Photo by Nathan Yuen
Pressing on, I carefully negotiated the narrow dikes, bypassed the huge vertical rockface, regained the crest of the middle ridge and accomplished the final, very steep ascent to the summit of unnamed peak (elev. 2,952 ft) at 12:11 p.m. (less than two hours from car to summit!). (see pic below)

Photo by Nathan Yuen

Without pausing, I turned left (north) and gained pleasure from the excellent open ridge walking over another narrow dike. Descended to a place I call "Mars", a severly eroded area of red dirt with rock formations that look like the dorsal fins on a fish, and finished the descent to the saddle between unnamed peak and Ohikilolo Ridge at a spectacular rock formation (dike), the subject of a Hawaiian legend according to Fred Dodge. Next, I dropped down and contoured to the right of the dike on a goat trail then climbed steeply to the crest of Ohikilolo Ridge. Paused briefly at the fence to gaze at the lone, tall Norfolk Island pine which appears to be dying.

Heading east on Ohikilolo Ridge, I climbed to the top of the triangular peak (elev. 3,052 ft) arriving there at 12:43 p.m. Occasional gusts made the spot chilly, especially when thick high clouds obscured the sun. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the awesome panorama, featuring much of the Leeward Coast from Maili Point to Kaena Point, beautiful Makua Valley, the Waianae Range from Kuaokala Ridge to massive Mount Ka'ala (socked in) to Pu'u Kaua, the north shore, the Ko'olau foothills above Haleiwa, the northern Ko'olaus, lush, undeveloped upper Makaha Valley radiating from Ka'ala's western slope, and Kamaile'unu Ridge.

After about half an hour, I descended on the Ohikilolo Trail a short distance then contoured along a goat trail on the Makua Valley facing slope of the triangular peak, careful not to damage any rare native flora, in an attempt to explore beyond the normal terminus of the Ohikilolo Trail. Following a difficult scramble over a slick, eroded tract devoid of handholds, I reached the saddle between the triangular peak and the broad pu'u to the northeast. A dike with crumbly ledges perpendicular to the ridge formed a steep wall between the two peaks. Alone, lacking courage and the gusts fueled my decision to turn back. I regained the apex of the triangular peak subsequent to 2 p.m. and for about an hour took pleasure from the magnificent vista, one of the finest on O'ahu.

At 3:08 p.m. I reluctantly departed the special place. While descending to the saddle between Ohikilolo Ridge and unnamed peak, I notice a few goats below, including a light brown billy equipped with long horns and a lengthy "beard", and had fun throwing rocks at them. Once at the pinnacle of unnamed peak, I tied two "hot" pink ribbons to a nearby branch and stared down into Ohikilolo Valley, the whole of Ohikilolo Valley spread out before me! A short distance into the descent of Kea'au Middle, I halted upon recognizing a truck parked on the dirt road deep in the valley.

"One of Albert Silva's men?" I asked myself. "Perhaps I was spotted earlier in the day and assumed to be a poacher!"

Not in the mood to debate the fact that I entered the valley via State land and determined not to get busted, I turned around, climbed back up to the summit of unnamed peak and hiked on the Makaha Valley side of Kea'au Ridge (the ridge separating Makaha and Ohikilolo Valleys) as much as possible to avoid detection. During the long detour I recognized a lovely full rainbow over the saddle below the red eroded peak and, later, observed atleast two more partial rainbows, one in Makaha Valley and the other above Ohikilolo Valley. When I reached Pu'u Kea'au (elev. 2,650 ft) I descended on a spur originating near the former FHB rec center. En route to the valley floor I startled atleast three dozen goats including a handful of kids.

The sun set as I emerged from the koa haole forest onto the gravel road, and I jogged from there to the locked gate near Farrington Hwy. Fortunately, the Pat-mobile was still where I left it, undamaged by would-be vandals. At 6:18 p.m. I entered my vehicle and sped off for home.

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