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Friday, June 24, 2011

East Oahu Super Loop -- Duc Ong

Duc Ong completed a truly super hike, starting and ending at the top of Maunalani Heights at the head of the Lanipo Trail (aka Maaumae Ridge Trail). Here's his report:
First, I would like to thank all of the people who have helped me clear and mark these trails and to all those who came before and provided the inspiration for this project. Not wanting to implicate anyone, I won’t name any names. The route was developed as an expansion to the East Honolulu Rollercoaster, which started from Wai‘alae Nui Valley and ended in Haha‘ione Valley. I wanted to make this a closed loop, so as to avoid the need for car shuttling.

In the misty wet morning of the day after the summer solstice at 4:30 AM, at the Lanipo trailhead, I embarked on what is the longest day hike I’ve ever done. By 5 AM, I was beginning the descent down “Ironwood” trail into Wai‘alae Nui Valley. The trail itself hits a pseudo-bottom, where one might think that one has arrived at the valley floor. However, it turns out that more descending is in order before the true bottom is reached. At the valley floor, the stream was flowing quite nicely. By 5:40 AM, I was starting the ascent up “Beehive” trail. The name is more of a tribute to trailblazers of the past, since I never encountered any bees here. At this point, there was enough light to allow me to put away my headlamp.

At 6:13 AM, I had arrived at the back of the mansion on Wai‘alae Nui Ridge. The confluence of this mansion and another homeowner’s wall provided some of the inspiration for this project. After walking along the ridge for 5 minutes, I began my descent down “Guava Tunnel” into Kapakahi Valley. This trail got its name from my tunneling through a dense thicket of strawberry guava saplings on my knees while cutting each sapling at the base with borrowed loppers. I reached the bottom of Kapakahi Valley at 6:45 AM and started going up “Pua’a Akamai Mauka.” This is an improved pig trail that intelligently contours around cliff faces up to Kalani Ridge. I attained Kalani ridge at 7:07 AM, and headed towards Wiliwilinui, where I had my first stir-fried noodle break. After filling up my camelbak with the 1.5 L of water I had stashed, I started descending the HTMC route from Wiliwilinui at 7:52 AM. The club route was so much easier than the previous more obscure trails due to the heavy foot traffic and obvious trailbed.

At 8:26 AM, I veered off of the jeep road in ‘Āina Haina Valley and headed towards the base of the “Pōhaku” trail. This was named after a decent cliff face that stands out leading up to Kului Ridge, the eastern most ridge of ‘Āina Haina Valley. This climb was especially taxing, due to the steeper grade. I was feeling the first signs of fatigue at one rock face, where I had to rest mid-climb. I reached the Kului ridgeline at 9:18 AM and took another short break. The views from here are one of the best of the day, due to the steep drop into the valley. After a nontrivial ascent of Kului ridge, I began the descent into Kului valley at 9:50 AM. This was one of the smaller valleys, but the footing here was very slick, which provided ample practice in the art of falling. I pulled myself up through the guava dominated forest and reached Hawai‘i Loa ridge at 10:14 AM. To my surprise I ran into two of my former students, who happened to be hiking up to the summit. I find it strange that this happened even though I was only on the ridge for a few minutes. At this point I filled up with the next 1.5 L water stash and proceeded down the HTMC route into Pia Valley. This descent and the ascent up to Kulepeamoa ridge were relatively easy, thanks to the work of the trail maintenance crew.

Upon gaining the Kulepeamoa ridge at 11:06 AM, I took another break and proceeded up the ridge to the connector trail down into Kupaua Valley. Creative juices were no longer flowing at this point in the project, so no names were assigned for these trails. It was here where I had the most trouble with the fatigue and was moving very slowly. I didn’t make it to Kuli‘ou‘ou West until 12:49 PM. When I sat down and ate a snack, I resolved to move faster through the next valley, Kuli‘ou‘ou. I refocused and decided to override the feeling of fatigue and to move with greater determination. This coupled with being back in HTMC territory resulted in my arriving at Kuli‘ou‘ou East Ridge at 1:40 PM. I felt a lot more confident about completing the route at this point. However, this confidence waned as I faced the reality of traversing the Haha‘ione jeep roads and climbing the Haha‘ione Spire under sweltering heat. Before the climb, I grabbed another 1.5L water stash at the base of the Spire trail. Telling myself that I could eat another solid meal at the Ko‘olau summit inspired me to endure the 45 degree grade and the heat to reach the summit at 3:03 PM. Climbing the last steps to the Spire was immensely fulfilling, as I had been hiking for 10.5 hours at this point. I found it mildly amusing that this is only the half-way point in terms of distance.

After a 20 minute break to re-energize and connect with my support crew via text, I started going back along the KST. The Haha‘ione KST section was open enough to allow me to run and make up some lost time. At 4:09 PM, I reached Kuli‘ou‘ou East. The KST section above Kuli‘ou‘ou remains one of my favorites for views as it bends around Pu‘u O Kona. I also ate many thimble berries and ohelo berries, which turned out to be not so sweet. I reached Kuli‘ou‘ou West at 4:42 PM and laid down for a minute on the nice grassy knoll. I felt like I could stay there forever, but I still had a lot more to go to get back to my car, so I got up and pushed on. Having previously worked on the section, it wasn’t as overgrown as it can be, but the climb up to Kulepeamoa was intense. Around here, I discovered a method of getting through the mental challenges of distance and fatigue. I synchronized my breathing with my steps a la yoga. This was the lesson I was to learn from the Ko‘olaus.

With renewed energy, I was able to float almost effortlessly through the rest of the KST. I reached Hawai‘i Loa at 5:47 PM, Wailupe Middle at 6:17 PM, Wiliwilinui at 6:37 PM, and Wai‘alae Nui at 7:05 PM. I had doubts about reaching Lanipo before dark, but those thoughts were far gone at this point. I got to Kainawaanui, the summit of the Lanipo trail, at 7:32 PM. There was still enough light to allow me to descend Lanipo trail for 15 minutes without the aid of headlamp. Because of the darkness, I decided against running down and took each step carefully. By 9:45 PM, I was at the car, concluding the longest day hike I’ve ever done. What I went through this day was not just a rollercoaster of elevation, but also one of emotions—from frustration and doubt to elation.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Poamoho/KST/Castle/Papali Uka -- Keith Palmer

A Koolau Summit Trail hiker from the mainland told me about a water
source he found in the Peahinaia section of the trail, and referenced in
one of Stuart Ball's books. It is on the windward side of the trail at
Peahinaia at a gap. He was able to make a mud dike, stick a straw
through it, and slowly fill a water bottle. For people who might not get
to the excellent water source at Poamoho junction or those studying the
plants in the fence interior and staying thereabouts, decided to pack up
and see if I could find the meager source.

Thursday June 27, 2002

6:05 AM Walk out the door of house with light backpack. Worked the
night before until 3:00 AM and had packed up just before leaving.

6:20 AM Arrive at Hookele and Farrington Highway bus stop.

6:37 Bus #40 "Honolulu" arrives. Pay $1.50, the new higher bus fare, and
get a transfer. Thinned down internal frame backpack draws no comment
from the driver, and I slide it under my bus seat.

7:28 Get off bus at Leeward Community College. Cross to westbound lane
of Kamehameha Highway to other bus stop.

7:56 Bus #62 arrives at stop. Driver says Circle Island no longer stops
at LCC. Drive refuses to take my transfer, perhaps because it is the
first time I have been "bitten" by the change in route.
8:28 Arrive at Wahiawa California Avenue shopping center stop.
Discussion with two ladies about the bus route confirms #52 Circle Island
I tried to catch at LCC has been rerouted now because it has to go up
into Mililani Mauka.

8:49 Bus #52 Circle Island comes. Board, give driver my transfer.

8:58 Dole/Helemano Plantation. Have managed to get from Ma'ili to
Helemano for $1.50 and three bus trips, mahalo to The Bus. Get off one
stop early at the Dole tourist place and walk short distance to the
Helemano Plantation road, the road that serves as access to Poamoho
Trail. The road is now **completely** blocked, not just with boulders
but also with earth that has been pushed up against the boulders. And
the barricade is not just at the end of the Helemano Plantation road but
along it on the north side also, so a four-wheel drive vehicle cannot go
over the bank to the access road. Wrestle on my gaiters at the blockage.

9:15 Start up road. Such a great day, Martha Stewart would be doing her
insider trading outdoors. Bright sun, no clouds, and a cool morning
wind. Living dangerously decide not to dig out sunscreen, not even my
hat, which is handy in the backpack.

11:10 Arrive at Hunter/Hiker sign in station. Sign in as hiking and
camping and "X" off the return time block since do not plan on coming out
on the Poamoho Trail. 11:15 arrive trailhead. Take a long break.

12:15 Start up Poamoho Trail. Take breaks along trail, getting sleepier
and sleepier each time. Past my normal bedtime. The trail is
delightfully cleared, looks like recent Na Ala Hele work. Wide, a real
joy. A guess would be within two months or so ago judging from how far
up the cut Clidemia, Clidemia hirta, and guava, Psidium spp., have shot
up. The clearers have taken pains to clear around native plants that are
growing into the trail, even going the extreme of leaving a few koa
seedlings two to five feet tall. Mental note that they will block the
fine trail if not moved or cut. Guess the Na Ala Hele guys have to be
overly cautious.

2:35 PM Time for a nap. Reached a cleared spot just above the end of
the well-cleared section. Perhaps transition to another landowner who is
not as hiker friendly. Set alarm on watch for 5:30 PM and shove in
breast pocket. Lay down on raincoat next to pack.

6:37 PM Wake up. What happened to the alarm? Must have had my arm over
the watch, muffling the alarm. Too late to continue North on KST towards
my intended overnight at a high grassy knoll just off the trail, so hope
the DLNR cabin at Poamoho has no official users and head there. Arrive
Poamoho water source, a really lovely spot. The open field like area
next to the trail that is such a good campground seems smaller, for some
reason. Just an impression, no doubt. Walk to Cline Memorial. Windy
as usual. The "mop head" Lobelias, Trematolobelia macrostychys, that are
often in such abundance in the wet area just below the junction are
almost all gone by, all the seed bearing arms are brown and naked bearing
their many dried out porous seed capsules. Take a brief look over the
Pali at the windward side.

7:49 PM Arrive at the Poamoho Cabin. Cabin is particularly clean.
Check for the three rattraps left there last year behind the plywood
sheet, still there waiting for anyone with cheese to tie them to a post
below the cabin and control the inevitable rats. Rats kill snails and
native birds, so why not do a little rat control? The traps have a hole
drilled through one end with string through the hole. You tie the trap
to a post or nail with the string so if the trap does not result in a
clean kill, which they often do not, just catching a leg or so of the
rat, you can go out and take a piece of lumber from underneath the cabin
and with a quick blow humanely crush the invasive rodent's skull. Walk
away from the cabin and give the dead rat carcass a good toss. Plenty of
old two by fours under the cabin, no doubt left by ecologically conscious
DLNR carpenters for use in rat control. Make dinner, red beans and rice
for six cooked over an alcohol stove constructed of two soda cans and
perlite, one third of a half pound block of hard goat cheese, Triscuits,
and an apple. Debate setting the traps, but decide to keep the cheese
for myself. Read a few articles in a recent Science News magazine by
headlamp before falling asleep. An unnecessary candle on a tin foil
holder creates a glow for a while over one side of the plywood interior
of the cabin.

Friday June 28, 2002

7:43 Sweep up and leave cabin for Cline Memorial. Heading north, soon
after the KST-Poamoho Trail intersection pass through some fairly dense
Clidemia groves. Pass the long open pali section, which is in need of
clearing and some pickaxe work to clear the slides that create danger by
pushing hikers out to the very edge of the Pali. Innumerable small
landslides above the trail fill in the inside edge, and make for a harder
walk than is really necessary.

Beautiful views south towards windward Oahu. Stop to take three photos
of a misty trail, Pu'u Ohuluhule, and a knob on the trail. Start up a
few knobs where due to lazy hikers or overgrowth of the original contour
trail "cut throughs" have been made that bypass the back and forth
serpentines of the trail. The original trail is choked over with growth
but findable. Some hearty trail-clearing sort could restore the trail in
a couple of hours if there was someone so inclined. Reduce erosion,
create a more pleasant journey free of fear of losing the trail.
Clidemia in a few dense patches. Some of the trail is surprisingly
choked with plants, which grow into the only opening there is, the trail
cut. Overall the trail climbs gradually up. Pleasant walking, and a new
and unique experience on the KST for me, walking in the morning and not
getting soaked.

Every so often encounter a common damselfly of the endemic genus
Megalagrion, probably M. oahuense, flying or perching along the trail.
Pretty animals, dark gray and red. They actually seem to be hanging out
along the trail opening, a good flyway for them in their search for
smaller insects to catch, or a member of the opposite sex to impress.
They move without haste to avoid me as I pass.

10:07 Come upon the fence built by Army Environmental to excude pigs
from 150 acres of Bishop Estate land. This is the Opa'eula Watershed
Protection Project. There is a sign at the first cross of the trail with
the fence with small yellow lettering to let hikers know they are on the
trail, and a crossover stile. The stile consists of two steps on either
side of the fence, the one by the fence higher than the outer. Each step
is made of two two-by-fours bolted together over the top of a piece of
metal fence post. I walk up on the near side, let myself down the other
side. Step on the lower step on the north side and feel it sink about an
inch on one end's support. Put my full weight on it and it sinks another
half an inch. At this point where the trail first crosses the fence the
fence line runs roughly 290 degrees west and the trail 30 degrees east
towards a grassy swale. Having crossed the stile the trail is now inside
the fence. The trail heading north here is hard to follow, and manage to
get turned around. Walk back up towards the ridge and fence. The trail
was lightly marked here to begin with, and with the fence is hard to

Cross outside the fence again to see if this swale could be the top of
the water source, and walking downhill towards the pali come upon some
large metal helicopter pads that are sitting with grass growing up
through their holes. Look around the pali side of the swale and no
water, nothing really fitting the description of the seep. Walk along
trail again and stop at another stile to take a photo of the fence line
heading along the pali and the trail heading off at an angle a little to
leeward. The fence does not stay on the trail but crosses back and
forth, and due to this makes following the trail a bit of a chore. Due
to the esthetically challenged planning management at Army Environmental
the fence manages to be built on the trail off and on. It also cuts
through native plants along most of its path here. At one point a
certain past president of the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club, Pat
Rorie, felt it best to clear some of the original trail to allow less
confusion. Perhaps that and some sort of low-key trail markers could be
put up at intervals along here to so hikers can stay on the trail instead
of following the fenceline and wondering if they are anywhere near the
K.S.T. Some people like my friend from Ohio ended up walking most of
the fence line.

11:07 Reach a notch on the windward side that faces directly east that
looks steeper and more promising than the previous gentle swale. Walk
down it all the way to its pali drop off and find no flowing water.
There are several shallow pools in the moss covered rocky channel, one
about five inches deep with algae growing in it. This must be the place.
Try a sip, no off taste. Fill up plastic bottle with slightly greenish
water. Walk back up towards where left pack and take a photo of the
notch. The photo frames Pu'u Ohuluhule. Whether water is flowing here
must depend on how often and how hard the rain falls. Back on the trail
notice several large bundles of heavy fencing wire left hanging at
intervals along the fence line, leftovers still not cleaned up from the

Walking along the trail/fence can see the Army Environmental platform
and tent off to the left. When first spy it check it out with
binoculars. Because of the foreshortened perspective and the fact the
tent platform is built on stilts with open air beneath it the whole thing
bears an odd resemblance to a wagon train wagon. Arched or hooped top,
vertical sides, and open beneath. No oxen pulling it though. Closer
inspection shows it for what it is. The tent is up which is surprising,
since the Environmental Assessment issued for the fence construction
specifically states it is to be taken down when the fence line
construction crew is through and between visits by environmental workers
to the site. No one is around working. Walk along, the fence present
for a surprisingly long ways to the side of the trail. Along the fence
find none of the disturbing wire snares that were there earlier, though
not walking the entire 2.3 mile fence line cannot vouch for that for the
whole distance.

12:20 Arrive at a small enclosure, built earlier than Opae'ula, and with
taller wooden stakes instead of metal. The trail takes me to the sign on
the north end of the fencing, which has a created name for the area
"Lehua Maka Nui", with translation of "misty eyed Lehua" bog. The
exclosure area is on a surprisingly steep slope to be a bog, but perhaps
the plant community there is as unique as the signs indicates. The sign
also says to stay out, that the fence was built to keep pigs and humans
from trampling the area. There being no boardwalk or marked path stay
outside the fence. There is a small clearing a little beyond the sign
along the fence that looks like a small campsite.
On the KST eat a light lunch. More cheese and Triscuits.

12:50 Leave lunch spot by fence sign, trail bears a little west of north,
about 315 degrees. Just after starting look down a broad open valley on
the right to see a solar panel and what looks like a rain gauge. Visible
for the next twenty minutes or so along the trail. Above this rain gauge
on the trail come to a spot with pieces of helicopter landing pad shoved
off to the side of the trail. Also in the trail several pieces of what
look like landing pad reinforcement or some very heavy metal, directly on
the trail and speculatively there to prevent the trail from eroding a rut
in the ground.

1:13 PM Come up surprisingly to the junction with Castle Trail.
Recognize the open spot in the trail where have camped before when coming
south on the KST. There is a plastic piece of pipe with three bright
pieces of flagging tied around it. The realization that now most of the
trail after the meeting with the fence has some sort of human
construction visible along it makes a sad note.

1:20 Start down Castle Trail. Overgrown and narrow at places with signs
of some clearing attempt. Not hard to find the trail, but definitely
overgrown. Take a long rest near where the trail cuts into a cliff and
the Broussasia and other natives are pushing out from the cliff edge.
2:30 There is a fork in the trail with a little grass growing. This is
where Dave Waller and I had to guess which way to turn to find water on a
through hike a few years ago. We guessed correctly and went right.
This fork fairly close to the summit of Castle Trail could be the
junction with Papali Uka/Hau'ula Loa described by Dayle Turner in his
OHE post 16 AUG 2002. However, it may be too high up on Castle. Anyone
know this place?? A "Castle Trail" arrow and "Dangerous Trail Leads to
Uncleared Ridges" arrow might be helpful here. If it is the Hau'ula Loa
Trail then it should have a warning sign, since there is no real contour
trail and it is following narrow uncleared ridges.

2:40 On Castle Trail cuts through on the left of a hill, and come to the
small water source. There is a water-eroded channel with small pool in
the concave side of the hill, and the pool is full. Covered by native
vegetation and a few Clidemia. Push aside the surface debris and fill up
again. Futilely rip up a few Clidemia.

3:02 Another trail junction. Take a rest. The right fork is marked with
a small green painted sign that says "TRAIL" and above in black marking
pen in half inch letters is written "Castle". Been told by Pat Rorie
that access to Castle from the trailhead has been cut off, some landowner
not wanting to let folks in, and so it is getting really overgrown. I
decide that it would be nice to take the Castle Trail since have only
been on it once before, and with luck will be able to push through on the
trail cut. Start down Castle Trail.

4:02 Luck runs out. The trail dead ends, with several clumps of flagging
and a Loulu grove directly ahead. Push ahead below and through the Loulu
grove and along the mountainside on the grove's other side, pushing up
and along to find the trail. No trail. Push up, and clinging to clumps
of the native lily Uki-Uki, Dianella sandwicensis, and digging in along
the hillside work back to the trail. What a pain. Walk back to the
junction with green "Trail" sign looking for the trail and not seeing it.
It turns out that Castle does indeed go this way, and if had taken
some time would have found the correct trail, which goes down and crosses
Kaluanui Stream which feeds Sacred Falls.

4:30 Down other trail. Keep looking for the junction to Nipple/
Waiahilahila Ridge and miss it. No marker? Off of Castle instead of
this trail? Lots and lots of native plants. Someone has tied a ribbon
to three or four of the more interesting endemics, there is a Lobelia
with multiple heads, like the T. macrostachys at Poamoho but with more
than one leaf top. Never a good amateur botanist around to clear these
questions up when you need one. Pass three or so inviting openings in
the trail that look like campsites, perhaps left by amateur botanists
exploring the area, or trail clearers camping out for the night. The
campsites begin to beckon. Lots and lots of small birds, introduced
Japanese White Eyes having a convention. Have not seen a single native
bird the whole trip. No Apapanes even.

5:30 Decide to camp instead of trying to push through, perhaps by
flashlight, and brave the bus system after a long day. Set up camp on
an opening on the trail of bivy sack and pink blanket. Eat the last
third of the box of Triscuits have had for dinner last night and lunch
today, and last of the cheese. No need to light an alcohol stove since
do not want to make coffee. Just a few drops of rain at night.

Saturday June 29th.

5:30 AM Up and pack.

6:00 On trail. Misty overcast. Clouds above and in front, some opening
towards the ocean below. The sun comes up, first detectable by the red
tops of the waves off Punaluu.

7:30 Stop and take a photo looking down into Makua Gulch on the left.
Through binoculars can see runners of vines on the other face of Makua
Gulch, which though too far away to identify, look like Smilax
melastomifolia, Hoi kuahiwi. That valley is closed to hikers due to
landslide danger, and I wonder where in the hike I am above. Can see
sheer canyon sides but not the stream.

9:44 Come out at a road with sign saying "Ma'akua Ridge Trail/ Na Ala
Hele/ Ma'akua Gulch Trail Closed due to Hazardous Conditions Violators
Will Be Prosecuted." Walk to Farrington Highway, walk to convenience
store and purchase 16 oz ice tea, twelve oz orange juice, a plastic pack
with two blueberry pop tarts in it, and a bean manapua. Walk over
bridge on Kamehameha Highway, and a couple who look like serious
bicyclists spin by. The lady smiles and waves, at another outdoor
enthusiast no doubt. I refrain from responding for some reason. Cross
bridge to the bus stop and chow down on recent food purchase. Start to
take off gaiters when...

10:40 The bus #55 arrives, Ala Moana. Pay my $1.50 and get a transfer.
Walk on with one gaiter off and the other hanging off my boot. Sit
down, remove gaiter, pack it, and stow my backpack under the seat. Feel
a little embarrassed by the odor of three days of sweat in my shirt and
shorts, but no one takes visible offense. A couple of guys are talking
about how bus fares have gone up.

11:56 Arrive Ala Moana shopping center. Walk to Country Express "C" stop
and wait. Middle aged man who wants to know if he can take the #40 bus
to Waianae and back before 4:00 PM. I recommend the Country Express and
ask if he is on vacation. An attractive middle-aged lady in a swimsuit
looking a little down and out comes along asking people if they have a
match. I offer her a light, digging camping matches out of my pack's top
cover compartment and lighting up her inch long unfiltered cigarette
butt. Despite being a gentleman my conscience forces me to remind her
that smoking is bad for her, saying "You know, that will stunt your
growth." She sucks up her nicotine hit and backs two or three steps,
thanks me and leaves. Good to know I still have that charm.

12:20 "C" bus arrives. Get on, give transfer to driver. Put pack under
a seat. The Waianae sightseer gets on too.

1:50 Get off the bus at the Ho'okele and Farrington Highway stop. Spent
another $1.50 to get from Hau'ula to Ma'ili. Few minutes later...home to
shower, sleep, and go to work in the evening.


Kawela, Kapua. Environmental Assessment for Opaeula Watershed Protection
Project Oahu, Hawaii. November, 1999. Pub Unknown.

Merlin, Mark. Hawaiian Forest Plants 4th ed. 1995. Pacific Guide

Polhemus, Dan A. and Asquith, Adam. 1996. Hawaiian Damselflies A Field
Identification Guide. Bishop Museum Press.

Turner, Dayle K. Hau'ula Loa. Fri, 16Aug2002 09:26:30-1000 OHE-L.5079


Directions in degrees are crude, using an inexpensive compass, and do not correct for local magnetic declination.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Lanihuli East -- August Smith

Lanihuli and reaching it from the Pali Lookout has captivated my imagination and only that for a long time. It was off limits and as far as I was concerned way too dangerous to attempt. I had heard the stories of Kalanikupule and his wife escaping Kamehameha's forces using this route, the 1915 article in the Mid-Pacific Magazine, Lost on Lanihuli By R.H. Lambert , the scouting trip of Al Miller and more recently stories of a "father and son team" that was working on this very route around 2000 - 2001 and they made it! And then Pete Clines did it in April of 2010 ! There are plenty of accounts of people who have not made it and even for those who have, it usually takes multiple attempts.

Before continuing on I would like too say thank you to everyone (especially Pete and Stanley) who has put in work and put up ropes, cables etc. to make this a more "manageable route." Without your help this would have been a lot more time consuming and difficult!

After changing my hiking/clearing plans 3 or 4 times on Sat. April 30th, I got the call from Duc @ 12 am (who was partying along w/ Laredo and Matt) that the plan had changed once again ... I was informed that "there was energy" and Lanihuli East was the plan. I told Duc nervously I needed to sleep on it, and weather would decide it (for me at least ).

And so .... on Sunday May 1st of 2011 Duc and I met Matt and Chase at the Na Pueo mini park to stage a car, then headed for the Pali Lookout, to meet Laredo. Sometime after 9:00 am we pushed off for the Puka under a light rain w/ moderate winds (light by Pali standards). We soon encountered another group headed for the Puka, they graciously let us pass. We reached the Puka after what seemed like 10 -15 mins of huffing and puffing and took a short breather. somehow I got into the lead position ( I guess it was unknown territory for everyone ) we contoured leeward around the gigantic cliff face @ the Puka and within a few minutes came across the fabled tree that has the phrase "the f@$k me climb" carved into it. I figured we were on the right path. next to the tree was a small, old, and spongy rope to assist in getting up a wet and slippery rock. it soon lead to a steep, loose and broad ridge that would allow us to gain the Ko'olau Summit once again.

At this point I received a call from "Base Camp Sherpa" Clines who was at the Pali Lookout wondering if we were the group at the Puka, I responded he must have just missed us. Realizing he wouldnt be able too see us, he carried on w/ his tour guide duties for the day, and we continued to climb up as more rocks came down. After the call, I had fallen into the sweep position which was scary! A rock barely missed "the boys" by what felt like 1/16 of an inch. After a few tense minutes it was my turn on the rope and on to the KST once again (see pic above).

I have no idea why I was surprised at the narrowness of this ridge but I was! Continuing on very cautiously, the first tour helicopter of the day came by and was soon gone. I was now on my butt scooting along a ridge that is not only really narrow, but also crumbly and decently exposed on both sides.

Moving along we soon encountered the first of the "teeth" or "pinnacles" (see Duc on one of them above) and went around it as we were planning on using Pete's contour trail especially since we started so late. I once again found myself in the lead and on a pretty mellow contour until all progress stopped due to a toppled lantana tree. Borrowing Duc's hand saw progess was soon back in the vocabulary. Following a year old trail and faded pink ribbons we were soon back on the ridge line until we encountered the next series of "teeth." These are much more fear inducing than the last. Having seen photos of this spot from different decades I sided w/ Pete and decided life was better than chancing that.

Duc was ahead scouting at the top of the pinnacle (and I guess he didnt want to come back down) and so we left Duc to his "lone male hiking" hoping to see him on the other side. Everyone else decided Pete's contour was the way, so we looped Chase's 75' strong rope while being buzzed by helo # 2 and continued vertically downward for 50 or so feet until there was some kind of footing.

After everyone was down we pulled down Chase's rope and did our best to follow the contour which consisted of losing a lot of elevation then rambling until meeting a steep up ridge. The going was slower than expected due to a tree that had new leaves which looked a lot like Pete's faded pink ribbons + my spikes broke again! Matt was kind enough to lend me his leatherman tool to fix the spikes. W/ the spikes fixed, eventually we topped out onto the KST near a eroded spot (while trying to call Duc, Chase caught a glimpse of him ahead). I also called Pete to let him know the progress by leaving a message.

Back on the KST this section was still narrow but vegetation here was more prevalent. Looking over the side I could see a Lobelia (not in bloom). Moving on, this section was a lot of fun w/ some scrambling and wild ridge walking. The winds were still mellow. Aside from a couple of fast moving light rain squalls the weather had worked out so far. We could see Duc in the distance and headed for the "W". The "W" is a real marvel of creation. Reaching the "false Pu'u" we finally caught up to Duc and yelled back and forth for the game plan.

Chase had contoured leeward as I went to the false Pu'u where I met none other than Chase! He apparently missed the lower leeward contour Duc had used ... We had heard something about a red rope part way down and I remembered Pete saying he used vegetation only to get down. A slip here would have ended it for sure ! So we once again looped Chase's strong rope around a Uki (sedge plant) and intertwined it between 3 or 4 Ie'ie. It was only later I learned that Chase, Matt and Laredo were also assisting in anchoring the rope w/ human weight ( thanks guys ! ). Using the rope for security I held on to different Uki plants on the way down ... I also encountered the red rope Duc had pulled out from the vegetation and added it to the other rope I was holding on to ( apparently the red rope is no longer attached to anything and should not be used). At the bottom of the first notch it was very slippery and the Human/ Uki / Ie anchored rope was greatly appreciated.

There was a long old tan cable that was better used as a guide or ribbon than a "good handhold." It started on the leeward side contoured windward around a small hump and then contoured to the lee around a big and nasty looking tooth. Next up was the "incisor." I had watched Duc go over the top and wondered why he had not contoured. Once at the base I could see why: no such contour seemed to exist, so up and over it was! There was a tiny metal cable that went over it, which I ditched in favor of vegetation whenever I could. Waiting for everyone else to catch up I dangled my feet off the leeward side of the incisor while trying to get in contact w/ Duc.

The clouds at this point had rolled in and I could only see 10 feet in front of me. Knowing the "worst" had yet to come I made my way down the front side of the incisor and subsequently took pictures of Matt and Laredo making their way down.

My camera battery that had been threatening to go all day finally did, and I stopped to change it here. Looking on I could see "Anvil Rock" and the massively washed out concave section (old Puka spot ) scanning the area I couldn't see Duc or the orange extension cord and feared the worst ... Getting closer, the cord was still intact along w/ the pile of sand .... uh I mean rock anchoring it. I straddled the vegetation devoid ridge here. Before moving on I wiggled the rock, yes it wiggled ! Before this point I would have been game for this again, after .. I can't say for sure but as of now there is no way I ever want to do that again ! I hugged the rock and slowly lowered myself down the leeward side to a dry waterfall shoot, aiming for a small tuff of grass that started the "non-tour." I could hear everyone asking if there was something down further but as far as I could tell this was it + I wanted off the cable asap ( a bad slip here could end up w/ one pulling the "anvil rock" down on top of ones head along w/ the cable (the only handhold).

I figured if I did slide from here maybe there was something down further that would catch me .... grasping on to small loosely anchored plants I did my best to find footing and the next handhold. There may have only been a few places in which to put your feet. At least 85% of the non-tour was unreliable. The non-tour and anvil rock I thought by far was the worst section. It was here on more than one occasion I could feel my footholds giving as I was contemplating my next move. Moving quickly and lunging for the next handhold proved to be the best option. I soon hit a junction of a dead Uluhe trail going up very steeply, I chose the non-tour and soon found a pink ribbon (at least I now knew that I was on "trail"). Suddenly ahead of me the bushes moved. I called out and Duc answered. Relieved I climbed out of the non-tour and on to steep ridge line.

It was here the weather really picked up and the sky unleashed heavy drops straight down. Nasty vegetation meant I caught up w/ Duc fast, so we pushed, pulled, and climbed over what ever was in our way ... Soon we were on top of the Glenn taking in the views of clouds.

The rain shifted from top down to sideways as the winds picked up and the thunder started rolling. Hoping it might blow over we pressed on for Lanihuli and the club trail terminus. Looking down into Lanihuli's windward hanging valleys we could see waterfalls forming as well as pools. It was wild! It took a lot longer than I had thought to reach Lanihuli. At 3:30pm we all breathed a sigh of relief had a quick break. I called Pete to let him know the outcome. We then headed down as fast as possible to increase body heat. Within 30 minutes we hit a break spot and the sun came out. We had lunch here and were soon urged to move on by the weather and low core temps. Near the saddle the sun popped out and presented us w/ a gorgeous rainbow over a seasonal waterfall ( I have never seen ) in Mo'ole. The rest of the way out was uneventful and we were soon back at the locked fence. A chair here provided a much appreciated boost over the fence. We wasted no time getting Matt back to his car at the Pali Lookout. Thankfully it was unharmed.

All in all a good day !


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Descent into Milolii

In 2008, hike guide and Kauai extreme hiker, Eric Rohlffs, descended into Milolii Valley along the steep-cliffed Na Pali Coast on Kauai. The pic above is the mouth of Milolii taken from a vantage point on the ocean. Rohlffs descended the ridge on the righthand side of the valley mouth. He posted the pics below.

Others have likely descended this route, including volcantrek8, who issued the following warning:
The bushwhack descent into Milolii is hazardous with fatal drops aplenty. Noted Kauai photographer, author and Kauai Natural History Expert David Boynton was killed on the decent to Milolii in 2007. The descent is not recommended and these photos are only intended to show the variety of wilderness experiences and magnificent views off the established routes. There is no trail. Goats get weak kneed. Much KKKK (crumbly cliffs of Kauai clay). Bring your own handholds.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Mauna o Ahi Windward (MOAW)

Scott Villiger and Dayle Turner completed the ascent on August 13, 2003. They described the climb as "easier than anticipated." Initially, they showed up at the end of Manoa Road at 9 to do some exploratory hiking in Manoa.  However the others were no-shows so they decided to go elsewhere  to hike.  Turner bounced several hike venue options off of Villiger and the one they decided on was an exploratory of the ridge they had spotted a week ago after they had climbed Hahaione's middle ridge. The spotted ridge Turner  christened Mauna o Ahi Windward (MOAW) because it crests out very near the topping out point of the ridge of this name.
So from Manoa, they drove over to the windward side, leaving Villigers's car at the HTMC clubhouse.  They then jumped in Turner's vehicle and drove over to the Waimanalo District Park, where they set off hiking along the 'Nalo backroads, destination the starting point of Bear Claw Ridge.
Ten minutes later, they got to the Bear Claw trailhead and noticed a brand  new gate that  blocks vehicular (but not hiker) access along the road that skirts along the horse stable property.  There were no signs warning of the "P" thing for the "T" thing, so they hiked on, both thinking that the day's hike was just an exploratory to get to know the lay of the land.  Little did they realize that they'd make it to the summit.
They climbed up and over the extension of Bear Claw's left appendage (as one is facing the mountain), hoping to get a view of our target ridge.  Trees blocked clear views but they were able to see enough of the mountainside they were approaching to get the right aim.They tramped along in the forest (plenty of allspice trees, and, suprisingly, some coconut palms), following no trails or very faint swaths, some made by pigs and some made by humans, the latter likely tree trimmers who cut back a swath under the powerlines that run thru the area.  They also passed rock platforms, unsure if these were made by ancient Hawaiians or more recently by cattle ranchers. They crossed a couple dry streambeds, nothing daunting nor deep.Key landmarks on the summit, which they could see periodically thru the treetops, were two sets of powerline towers.  Simply stated, the target ridge ascended to the top between these two towers, a bit closer to the rightward tower than the left.Another key landmark at the base of the mountain was a narrow swath of tall trees (eucalyptus?) that grew along an ascending spur ridge (they had spotted this swath from the summit a week ago).  This certainly was key, for pinpointing this swath of trees (which they were able to do) put them right where they had wanted to be.  As they made their way thru the forest, Villiger put up ribbons periodically.
When they reached the narrow-swath-of-trees ridge (the target), they began climbing steeply on a slope populated by laua'e ferns.  Remarkably, pigs had tramped out a very nice switchbacking route up the slope. This made the climbing much less strenuous.  Mahalo nui, na pua'a.At the top of the steep laua'a section, they came upon a large rockface. They easily got around this to the left, again following a well-tramped pig trail that led to a large pig nest, probably carved out by the alpha male pua'a, likely a huge one.
Above this first rockface, the climbing got steeper and the ridge narrowed.  But they stayed right in the middle of the ridge, battling (and using as handholds) christmas berry.After the christmas berry battle (the first of several more), they came upon the biggest obstacle of the climb: a rockface with a natural chute in it. There was some protection below the face but a sizable dropoff below the protection (ledge). Villiger went up first, testing foot- and handholds as he climbed. Turner stood below him, thinking he'd use his body as a blocking device if Villiger slipped.  A small native plant used as a handhold pulled out after Villiger used it.  The chute was still likely climbable without this small plant.  Plenty of useable features on the face but would be tricky w/o a rope for a descending hiker. Nonetheless, when asked if a rope would be needed, Turner said yes. So  Villiger tied off his rope to two Xmas berry trees, then threw the rope down, and up Turner went.  Very EZ with the rope.  BTW, they didn't leave the rope there, thinking they might need it up ahead.
They had to battle more Xmas berry above the chute section. Out came the machete and a-hammering they went. Then, around 12:30, they reached a nice flat, shadedclearing. Villiger tied a ceremonial ribbon for Wing Ng, reasoning that Wingcould descend from the summit and eat lunch here. They spotted an animal (pig?) trail coming from upridge, a good sign.  At the clearing, they sat down to eat lunch, taking only about 15 minutes for this stop. They noticed the first copse of ironwoods adjacent to them, another good sign. Ironwoods are good.
After lunch, they continued to climb steeply but always in the protection of trees and vegetation. They came upon a couple more rock sections but they always found a line or weakness to climb these.  When they did have open areas to see, they noted the three ascending powerline poles on the summit ridge up to our right. They were getting close.  They also noted that there was a huge drop on the right. Didn't want to fall there.  Also noted that the two ridges nearest to us on our right were likely impossible. But the third one away, which they named broad ridge (because it is such in its lower third) looked doable (not that I plan to do it anytime soon).
When they came to the final rockface, they found a way around it to the left. Climbing an open slope under a canopy of ironwoods, they could at last see the summit ridge 40 meters ahead.  Turner yielded first-to-summit honors to Villiger, for he had done most of the hard/difficult work on the climb.  At around 2:40 (they had started hiking between 10 and 10:30), they congratulated each other at the summit with a handshake and smiles.  They had topped out, btw, just west (Ewa side) of the cresting out point of Mauna o Ahi Ridge and just east (Koko Head side) of the set of three ascedning powerline poles on the summit.  Ribbons now mark the spot.
The next objective was to determine how they'd get back to 'Nalo where they had begun.  Turner had blisters on my heels (new shoes) and wasn't looking forward to the painful tramp over to TomTom and a descent of that trail. So they called Wing to see if he could come and pick them up.  He balked, mumbling something about the long drive and cops out to get him.With a no-go from Wing, they then tried calling ManFriday at the HTMC clubhouse.  He wasn't home, so they left a message (which he later returned--mahalo to him).  Then, Scott's cell phone rang. It was his wife.  She had finished work early and agreed to come over to pick them up at the end of Hahaione Street.  Good deal!
They set off down the Mauna o Ahi trail a couple minutes past three.  About 40 minutes later they were at the end of Hahaione Street.  About five minutes after they got there, Scott's wife pulled up and off they went to Waimanalo and the HTMC clubhouse.  Perfect timing.  
In summary, the climb was challenging and exhilirating and a good workout. Way less danger than Bear Claw.  Similar to Mariner's Windward Direct, which Turner rated as slightly easier than MOAW.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Search for Lake Waianapanapa -- Pat Rorie

Lake Waianapanapa -- Photo by B. Gagne

With a layover day at Paliku (lit. "vertical cliff") came a leisurely morning. Although Paliku was still engulfed in shadow, the early morning sunshine lit up the massive ridge containing Haleakala Peak, the lava fields of the crater floor, Pu'u Maile, and Oilipu'u beautifully.

At 9 a.m. Arnold, Chris and myself set out to explore the territory above Paliku along Kalapawili Ridge (part of the crater rim) in hopes of locating (and swimming in!) Lake Waianapanapa. We were blessed with another perfect day weatherwise (a light breeze, clear blue skies with the exception of a few cirrus clouds, an abundance of sunshine). A sign stating "unmaintained trail" behind the campground denoted the Lau'ulu trailhead and we headed north on the footpath. I brought ribbon to mark potentially confusing junctions for Inger and Laura who would be hiking Lau'ulu later that morning. We gained elevation gradually and passed through a tunnel of vegetation. "When they say unmaintained, they really mean it!" I told myself as our group steadily worked our way toward the crest of Kalapawili.

Eventually, the route curved west and opened up featuring nice views down into Kaluanui, a crater nestled against Kalapawili Ridge. Although smaller and much less vegetated, it reminded me of looking down into Ka'au Crater from the ridge that ends at the peak Palikea on the Ko'olau Range.

Upon returning to its original northern heading, the trail became a graded contour cut magnificently into the sheer pali high above the lava fields. Arnold, Chris and I paused in awe of the spectacular vista of Haleakala Crater. We could see the various cinder cones, the Sliding Sands switchbacks and the summit in the distance. We also marveled at a long switchback above the contour as Arnold asked "We're going there?!". I responded with an enthusiastic "That's right!"

Gaining the broad crest of Kalapawili via the long switchback and a much shorter one, the three of us proceeded east along a summit footpath which contoured on the Hana Highway side of the ridge. We were afforded occasional views of Maui's northshore, spotted a pair of nene geese above us near the crest and passed through a gate in a wire fence.

Once the trail traversed the ridge top not far from Pohaku Palaha (elev. 8,105 ft), we sat down at 10:15 a.m. to enjoy incredible views of the light green Paliku campground far below, the ridge connecting Pohaku Palaha and Pu'u Kuiki, Kaupo Gap and, in the distance, Mauna Kea/Mauna Loa of the Big Island above Pu'u Kuiki.

About half an hour later, Chris, Arnold and I continued east, climbed over another wire fence and descended gradually a distance through prairie-like terrain in search of Lake Waianapanapa (I had a topo map of the area in my possession to guide our party). At another superb vista on the crest we halted again to gaze down into vast, lush, pristine, remote Kipahulu Valley and couldn't help but notice its sunken eastern floor stretching makai to a gap in the valley. Also visible to the east of Kipahulu due to the excellent visibility were craggy Pu'u Kaumakani (elev. 4,576 ft) located in the middle of the ridge that separates Kipahulu and Waihoi Valleys, Waihoi Valley, much of the Hana Forest Reserve and a small stretch of Maui's east coast not far from Hana. "This is why Maui is called the valley isle" I told myself.

Confident that we were closing in on Lake Waianapanapa, the three of us departed the crest moving steadily downward through the prairie occasionally startling a few nene [honk! honk! honk!]. Not anticipating such a lengthy day hike, Arnold's water supply reached a low level but Chris provided some of his to make sure Arnold had enough to get back to Paliku. At this point Arnold decided to return to camp not only due to his lack of water but also because he did not bring lunch.

While Chris assisted Arnold, I scouted the lower environs and discovered a green 10' by 20' cabin nestled in an open tract of land between thick native vegetation. Chris caught up to me and one at a time we climbed over a barbed wire fence. Still holding out hope of locating Lake Waianapanapa, the two of us explored the terrain below the cabin only to find thick native rain forest including several lapalapa trees scattered about the flora (among the biggest I've ever seen in Hawaii). We ascended gradually to the shelter and once at the locked building peered through the kitchen window and identified bunks and a poem attached to the wall entitled "Ode to Rain", an obvious reference to the normal weather pattern of the region. Fed by a roof catchment system, eight sizeable plastic barrels were located adjacent to the southern wall of the structure, all filled to the top with water.

Chris and I replenished our supply and, with lunchtime upon us, departed the area backtracking to the Kipahulu overlook to consume our food. A pair of nene flew directly over us as we sat on the crest and admired the outstanding sights. During the break I noticed a small body of water almost directly below on the floor of Kipahulu Valley. I pointed it out to Chris while exclaiming "Hey, that looks like a lake!" (duh!). That evening we found out that the lake we saw was the one and only Lake Waianapanapa. Chris finished his meal, hung around a while longer then headed back to Paliku. I reluctantly departed about half an hour later and reached the Lau'ulu Trail/summit trail junction at 2:48 p.m.

With so much time remaining in the day and the excellent visibility still present, I decided to head west along Kalapawili Ridge with aspirations of reaching the summit of Pu'u Hanakauhi, the massive mountain which dominates the vista from Holua Cabin and the Halemau'u switchbacks. Initially, I contoured on the Hana highway side of the ridge, an occasional blue ribbon marking the route. Eventually, I gained the crest. The summit looked far off and fatigue was setting in. Nevertheless, I pushed myself determined to gain the apex. I ascended gradually over the open broad summit crest and rugged rocky terrain surprising many chukars on the way.

Arrived at the summit of Hanakauhi (elev. 8,907 ft) at 3:48 p.m. and descended a short distance to a better vantage point where I enjoyed sweeping views of the entire Haleakala Crater from Paliku to Ko'olau Gap including Pu'u Kuiki; Kaupo Gap; Haleakala Peak; the massive ridge containing Haleakala Peak and Kumuiliahi; the various cones, pu'us and network of trails on the crater floor; the Sliding Sands switchbacks; Pu'u Ula'ula (Red Hill), "the summit of Haleakala at 10,023 ft"*; Leleiwi Pali towering behind the Holua Cabin; and Ko'olau Gap (filled with white cumulous clouds). Truely a top of the world experience!

Took pleasure from the awesome panorama until 5:07 p.m., then began heading back to the Lau'ulu Trail/summit trail junction. During the return leg I noticed a band of white cumulous clouds to the north (that I was hiking above them) and said to myself "there's nothing like hiking above the clouds!".

Reached the top of the Lau'ulu Trail at 5:55 p.m. and enjoyed descending the spectacular long switchback and contour section. Gazed down into Kaluanui Crater once more and completed the return trip to Paliku approaching my tent at 6:35 p.m. I immediately grabbed my pans, utencils, and dinner entree and walked a short distance to Laura's tent where several members of our group were gathered for the evening meal.

After dinner at 7:31 p.m., Emil, a good looking blond haole dude in his early twenties and an environmental assistant for the national park, invited us to the ranger cabin and all but John Darrah gladly accepted. The rustic shelter, built in the 1930's by the CCC, contained twelve bunks (four stacks of three beds) and a stove (the temperature inside was a balmy 70 degrees fahrenheit) among other things. Our party sat around a large table and consumed wine and food items which Emil prepared. When the young man joined us, he shared some interesting information about Haleakala including that fact that 42 miles of fence surround the crater (it is possible to circumnavigate the entire crater!) and Lake Waianapanapa is in Kipahulu Valley (it is a $10,000 fine to be caught in or near the lake). Charlotte inquired about various plants she observed during the day and Inger quized Emil regarding the native birds she spotted. The environmental assistant came across as very knowledgeable in these areas.

Unfortunately, the nine o'clock hour came and went and with it most of our group. Before departing the cabin a few people helped wash dishes and cleanup. I engaged in star gazing for as long as I could tollerate the cold, then retreated to my tent and lost consciousness at 11:20 p.m.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Kalihi Saddle -- Pete Clines

Last summer I made several trips to upper Kalihi Valley to explore the Koolau saddle between Lanihuli (to the east) and the peak next to the Bowman Trail terminus (to the west.) I found a ridgeline that is narrow and crumbly, making for an exciting walk. Anyone who has ever looked up at this area over the Wilson Tunnels has noticed a number of sharp ups and downs which add difficulty to this walk. In order to reference them, I have given silly names to these menacing pinnacles: Witch’s Hat, Shark Fin, The Bunny Ears, Doorstop, Pimple, and Can Opener. (From west to east)

This shot was taken from a scout trip last year from a spot partway down the west ridgeline of Lanihuli. The red and blue dots mark the two routes I put together to climb or descend the saddle. The orange “flags” mark the extent of how far I have gone in either direction. The left flag is the “Witch’s Hat” and the right is the “Doorstop.” Last Sunday, we went up the blue (look closely) and down the red, with Duc and I making a side trip to the top of the first “Bunny Ear” which is marked with a blue flag.

Just getting within climbing distance of this ridge is a chore, as there is no parking area near the tunnels. As such, I would begin from Kalihi Valley and use my mountain bike to get me as close as I could ride. From there, I scouted and ribboned two town-side ridges that would allow me to gain the Koolau ridgeline and make a closed loop. Then I went to the mainland for a month, and when I returned this project went on the “back burner” for half a year.

Last weekend I was able to recruit some of the gang to go check out this loop. Since we would not have the benefit of bikes for everyone, part of our goal was to find a route that would begin at the end of the road in Kalihi and connect to the trail I had already marked. August, Duc, Kevin, and I set off at 8:30am, hoping to find remnants of an old road that has since been overtaken by nature. After a couple false starts, we decided to simply follow the stream itself. Most of the time the water was only mid-shin, but there were one or two deeper spots as seen below left. We soon intersected an old bridge, and from there we able to follow the nearly unrecognizable road mauka. We had one moment of misdirection when the way was completely overgrown, but soon regained the correct route and saw the first of my ribbons from previous trips.

Back on familiar territory, I swiftly led the group to the base of the loop. We began climbing through a eucalyptus forest on an open but steep and slippery ridge. Though the photo above makes the rope look unnecessary, the mix of incline and slick footing meant that we were all glad to use the 200+ feet of assistance in place along the way. Higher up, in the uluhe zone, we had a great view of some of the more challenging features along the ridgeline. (Not listed on the photo below is the “Pimple” which is just below and to the right of the “Doorstop.”)

Not long after noon, we all climbed the final steep section and popped out on the saddle ridgeline. With the ground only a person wide, we sat side by side to eat lunch and enjoy the views. We were at ~1600’ and were lucky to be below the clouds that socked in the higher summits on our periphery. Being over the freeway tunnels, we had a unique vantage point where we could look down and see the windward entrance…then turn around and see the leeward section.

Though we were to head left (west) to hit the down trail, Duc agreed to head right (east) with me to check out the first “Bunny Ear.” August came along to get some photos. Being the self- proclaimed “Hawaii’s Worst Hiker,” Kevin opted to stay where he was (relatively) out of danger.

Getting to the base of the climb is narrow but mostly level. From there it gets intense. It is super steep, and much of the rock is rotten, including pieces that would seem far too large to wiggle around so easily. As such, I had a left a rope on the lower half of the climb last summer. Since it had 6 months of weather on it, we tried to rely on it as little as possible. Right, Duc?

Below is a photo looking back from the base of the first Bunny Ear. I labeled everyone as they are hard to pick out otherwise.

Below left: Duc on rope climbing up. Below right: Pete on rope climbing back down.

The top of the first Bunny Ear was enough for today. But had we gone further, the climb up the second ear is just as sketchy. And the climb down the second ear is immediately followed by the climb up the doorstop where you would get this view (below) from the crest. (Hang onto something.)

This was the furthest I have gone (so far.) Though interested in a climb to the top of Lanihuli, I am not sure how “doable” it is. Progress up here is decidedly slow, as each rock needs to be tested. Getting down off the doorstop would be reasonable, but the “Pimple” – seen above in the middle of the pic – is indescribably thin and followed by a notch. After the notch, it gets worse as you look up.

Above, we are looking head-on at the “Can Opener,” with the little “hook” dead-center in the picture. Looks nasty. Top-down to install ropes would probably increase the odds. (But not by much.) So after Duc and I descended the first ear, we all headed back to our lunch spot - at the terminus of our up trail – and continued along the ridge to the down trail. Though this stretch has few pinnacles to negotiate, check out the drop to the windward side that is ever-present. Though hard to see, that orange arrow is pointing at August on the narrow ledge as he approaches us.

Just before the down trail - which comes off the “Shark Fin”- we had to drop down a steep section. The guys thought a rope would be helpful so I got to work installing one before going down to get some pics of their descent. I waited about halfway down to assist if needed, and as each guy passed me they would continue to the low point before climbing back up to the “Shark Fin” on the far side. I came down last, and August took a pic of me from the Fin.

Once near the top of the Fin, the route splits. To continue over the Fin and along the saddle would bring you past more tricky pinnacles including the “Witch’s Hat.” The pic below was taken from the leeward base of this obstacle on a previous trip. To continue up to Bowman would mean getting around – or most likely over – this “Hat.” A contour seems unlikely and I have not yet attempted it.

Instead of summiting the Shark Fin, our route was to carefully contour THROUGH a tree just before the top. The solid branches provide hand and footholds on an otherwise steep slope of the pinnacle. Once past the tree and a brief narrow tangle of ie ie, the ridge broadens and enters a eucalyptus forest like the one on our way up. Without the benefit of ropes on this route, there was much butt-sliding and controlled falling on our speedy descent. Once at the bottom, we easily looped back to the trail we came in on earlier.

With all the danger behind us, we focused on finding the part of the old road that we missed on our way in. No easy task, but occasional flat stretches and/or half-buried car parts let us know when we on track. We managed to follow it back to the old bridge over the stream that we found earlier. We then ribboned a while longer before losing the road for good in a total mess of clidemia and thimbleberry. We stubbornly continued to beat and crawl our way through this terrain before deciding to return to the stream. As luck would have it, as we made our way downhill to the stream, we realized we would intersect it at the pleasant waterfall that we stopped at in the morning. Losing daylight, we opted for a quick break to enjoy the deep, clean pool.

Kevin, Duc, and I all enjoyed several leaps from the rocks…and then it was time for the big event. August was going to jump. But first, a little back story – some of you know this one. During a neighbor island backpack trip in mid 2009 we found one of the most scenic waterfall pools imaginable. I convinced the group to join me in jumping off the high rocks – as seen in the pic below.

In the above pic, you see August waiting for his turn to take the plunge. What we can’t show you is that immediately after jumping, August must have suffered a bout of narcolepsy as he unintentionally oriented into a reclined position as the rest of us watched in horror. The splash heard around the world. He surfaced in pain, and was forced to hike the 10+ miles out the following day with a bad back. A tough guy, he made it out on his own…but I have not seen him pool jump since.

Until this past Sunday. With almost 2 years of flashbacks haunting him, August stood at the edge of the rocks. We positioned cameras at multiple angles, as you would for any significant moment in sports history. A quick countdown… and then the leap. Note the (preferred) upright position.

And then the entry. I give it a 9.5! Note the blurry dreadlocks which confirm who the jumper is.

And finally, he surfaces in triumph. August got his mojo back with that jump. Thus ending an exciting, injury-free outing.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Luaalaea Windward -- Pete Clines

Not long ago, August and I were on the Koolau Ridge behind Manoa Valley when we spotted a windward ridge originating from Maunawilli that we thought might be climbable. (It was essentially the “best of the worst” options in that area.) So I studied it from different angles during subsequent hikes and stared endlessly at topo maps until convincing myself that we should go for it. Then I managed to convince the others. Regulars August, Duc, and Laredo were in….along with newbie Albie Carcueva who had shown interest in joining us on our adventures. So after stashing my vehicle in Manoa, Duc and August and I rode over to the Maunawilli Falls trailhead to meet the others. We hit the trail at 8:40am, continued up the connector to the Demonstration trail, and took a left to search out the targeted ridge. We were treated to high clouds which kept us cool…but also did not obscure the ridge in question. I was aiming for a spot just to the right of the prominent puu at dead-center in the photo below.

I believe it was around 10:00 when I made an educated guess as to the point at which we should break off the Demo trail and start heading mauka. We began in guavas on a slippery slope, but quickly popped out into the uluhe zone. I realized we were one ridge left (east) of target, but we decided to press on as this ridge could possibly get us close enough and then we could leapfrog to the other. Below left is a photo taken by August when we popped out of the guava. I was terrified as you can see. Below right is my best recollection of the route I planned to get us above a rock band and over to the target ridge.

As seen below left in one of August’s shots, the uluhe section was thick. But it was far more negotiable than the ridges just a ways west of us, as seen below right in another picture he snapped.

Duc and Laredo alternated the front position with me through the uluhe, until we got to the base of the steep climbing. From there, I tried to lead us up a route that would provide some security and get us above the vertical rock band so we could cross to the target ridge on our right. Though very steep, there were lots of handholds in the form of guava and other roots/branches. We soon got to the elevation of the rock band…contoured right and up…and took a snack break on top of it in a relatively flat area with a dry waterfall chute behind us. This is the “gully” between initial ridge and target. It was during our break that we noticed Laredo had damaged his money-maker. No worries, blood eventually clots, and scars make for good stories when impressing the ladies.

Pleased with our progress so far, we began up out of the waterfall chute, steeply climbing to get to the crest of the target ridge. The tangle of vines here made for odd conditions – like climbing up a cargo net. Upon cresting the target ridge, we had excellent views and cooling trades. The vegetation continued to be both progress-slowing yet protective…until I reached a steep slope with only a dusting of green… and terribly loose soil. This short stretch would prove to be the trickiest section of the climb as the exposure would be significant if a fall occurred. As such, I offered to get to the top and anchor a rope for the others. By digging small holes with my fingers and knuckles, I was able to carve out just enough steps to make me feel comfortable on the ascent. Once on top, I was able to get a rope around a suspect root – the only thing around - and cautioned the guys not to pull any harder than needed. Below is a photo Albie took of that stretch. And August after the rope climb. All smiles again.

Following the rope section, the ridge narrowed noticeably, but never got too dangerous. August snapped a couple pics: one looking up, and then one below.

Around the 2,000’ mark, the ridge became less defined and more of a steep wall off the Koolau Ridge. But we were in luck! Strong, healthy uki uki grass littered the slope and I had no trouble plotting a course through it. We basically did mock pull-ups with a clump of grass in each hand, bracing with our feet when the ground was not too slick/steep. Tiring work, but much safer than the exposed sections that usually go with such steep climbs. And before long, I could see the slope above me cease to climb, and I hit the swath that is the summit trail! 2:10pm and ~2490’. Amazingly, this was the very spot where August and I had first noticed the ridge from above, and it was just west of the ~2600’ puu that I was using as reference on the topo maps. Laredo and then Duc quickly joined me to celebrate, and then August emerged from the greenery as seen below.

And shortly after, Albie joined us on top to conclude the climb! Laredo took the picture below using Albie’s camera. Note Duc’s hat whipping around in the wind. Moments earlier, the stiff trades had blown my (unsecured) hat skyward to my dismay. I attempted to chase it down the Manoa side, but had no luck finding it. Oh well, the only casualty of the day.

With the gang reassembled, we looked down on our completed ascent route. In August’s photo below, you can see the uluhe ridge (and swath?) that we began on, just left of center.

Following the requisite high-fives and hollering, we dashed off along the summit trail to a more
suitable lunch spot to the east. En route we had perfect weather and awesome views.

Along the way, August got a shot of me with our ascent ridge in profile. (red arrow)

At the lunchspot we relaxed and talked story for some time before readying for the exit at 4pm.
As planned, we made the very familiar descent into the Middle of Manoa enjoying the expansive town-side views all the way. About ½ way down, we noticed rescue chopper activity over towards Manoa Falls as it circled back and forth. We figured someone got injured attempting that deadly trail and were glad we stuck to more reasonable routes on this day.

As is custom, we all made the plunge into the clean, cool pool at the base of the ridge before making our way back out to the neighborhood and my waiting car. Out by ~6pm. Another “Wicked Pissah” adventure! (That’s Bostonian slang for Really Terrific.) Congrats to Albie on surviving his first bushwhack hike.