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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.

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