OHE April 18, 1999 (Waiau Ridge)

Date: Sun, 18 Apr 1999 22:18:34 -1000
From: Dayle K. Turner (turner@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Waiau Ridge

Wing Ng has proclaimed himself the world's expert on Waiau Ridge. Bob Silva, a long-time HTMC member, now retired, is the patron saint of Waiau, having logged dozens of hours working on trails there. Both played roles in a successful HTMC maintenance outing today.

The club has not hiked Waiau in two years but the dry spell will end with a scheduled outing in a couple weeks (coordinated by Arnold Fujioka). Even with all the work Bob Silva has done, the majority of the ridge is badly overgrown and in need of much attention to be hikeable. Aware of the difficulty of clearing the ridge from bottom to top, we planned a two-pronged attack: one group would ascend the Waimano Trail, cross over on the summit, and then descend Waiau, clearing as it went; the other group, on the other hand, would set off from the end of Kaahumanu Street, hike the improved segment maintained by Silva, and then begin clearing upridge until it encountered the summit-down group.

I was with the top-down team and was joined by eleven others: Pat Rorie, Ralph Valentino, Ken Suzuki, Brandon Stone, Jim Pushaw, Judy & Kim Roy, Inger Lidman, Kay Lynch, Jay Feldman, and Nathan Yuen. We met at 7 a.m. at the Waimano trailhead and commenced hiking not long after that.

The bottom-up team met at 8:00 at Kaahumanu and included Thomas Yoza, Grant Oka, his daughter Georgina, Carole K. Moon, June Miyasato, Naomi Nasu, Arnold Fujioka, Lynn Agena, Carmen Craig, Lita Komura, Kris Corliss, Dusty & Sandy Klein, Larry Oswald, Harold Chinen, Kost Pankiwskyj, and Gina Goodman. Bob Silva and his wife Yoriko, who live near the Kaahumanu trailhead, were there to greet them.

For the top-down team, the ascent of Waimano went well despite muddy conditions and intermittment drizzle showers. I can report that the route has been beautifully cleared by Na Ala Hele (and prison labor?) to the five-mile marker. Thereafter, it is a bit bushy but no problem to navigate. Arecent landslide has wiped out a section of the trail at around the four-mile point but scrambling up and around it is possible. We also encountered a troop of Boy Scouts and their adult leaders, heading out after camping along the trail the night before.

A bit past 9:30, the first of us summitted Waimano (elev. 2,160). After a brief rest, we climbed a sizable nob to the south on the wind-whipped crest to reach the terminus of Waiau Ridge (elev. 2,329). The crossover took maybe fifteen minutes. Clouds obscured views.

One of Wing's red ribbons marked the Waiau summit. Other than that, the terminus is unremarkable and devoid of any distinct landmarks. The initial descent involved weaving through moss-covered ohia trees and uluhe, and spotting another old ribbon about 25 meters down indicated we were on the right ridge. Jay Feldman was the appointed ribbon affixer, and by day's end he had used just about all of a brand new roll of pink markers.

Low clouds continued to limit visibility until noon, and at a few points we stopped to examine maps, make altimeter checks (courtesy of Kim Roy), and to make educated guesses about which way to proceed. Unlike some other Koolau ridges, Waiau isn't a straightforward descent. For example, at four or five spots, a side ridge extends from the main ridge, and because we were moving forward without benefit of a trail or previously left ribbons, we had to stop to make choices about which way to proceed.

I must mention that key indicators of the past presence of someone on the ridge were the old cuts Wing had made with a lopper during his ill-fated trip down Waiau in 1996. Whenever we spotted a cleanly snipped branch, someone yelled out "lopper cut," a positive sign we were following the course Wing used.

At noon, we had cleared about three-quarters of a mile from the summit. On the way down, Ralph, Kim, and I misstepped and went sliding off the ridgetop at different points. Luckily, we sustained no injuries. We all also kept a watch for Wing's wallet, which he lost while descending the ridge in '96. Wing said there was at least $50 in it.

At the urging of the peanut gallery (led by Judy Roy), we stopped to eat lunch atop a small pu'u situated just upridge of a large nob (elev. 1,800). Kim took an altimeter reading during lunch, and the resulting elevation reading was 1,760 feet. The cloud cover had lifted by then, and we could see ridges to the left (Waimalu Middle) and right (Waimano).

After lunch, we dropped into a saddle then climbed fairly steeply to gain the crest of the large nob. Our initial inkling was to head left (south) once atop the nob, but an examination of the lay of the land indicated that heading right (north) was the way to go. The ridgetop, as was the case from the summit, was trackless, virtually ribbonless (we spotted three of Wing's old ribbons--of the couple dozen he left, during the descent), and a general grind to hike.

Fatigue did its work on us, and after a half hour of diligent work after lunch, we shifted into push-through mode, decreasing the energy and time spent chopping to concentrate on just getting out. At 1:00, we spotted our colleagues far below in the Big Dip area. Our yells and whoops netted waves and return whoops. Seeing them lifted our spirits.

Plowing on steadily, at 1:50, I slammed my machete point-down into the ground of a small clearing and shook the hand of Thomas Yoza, the ramrod of the bottom-up team. With him were Arnold, Carole, Naomi, Grant, Larry, and Kris (the other bottom-uppers had turned around after lunch). Earlier, Thomas made a vow to continue upridge until meeting the top-downers, and he was true-to-word.

By 2 p.m., everyone on the top-down crew (save for Pat who was busy chopping away) was assembled at the small clearing. Both teams were happy to see each other and cutting tools were holstered in preparation for the hike out to the trailhead.

From where we met, we needed over two hours to reach Kaahumanu. The Big Dip, a maze of uluhe and mud, has been thoroughly ribboned and a swath opened up. Thereafter, we endured a rollercoaster ride of various sized pu'u, with the good clearing work of the bottom-up team readily evident. We also met two groups of hunters who were curious about where'd we come from and what we'd seen. Ken pointed out a large sandalwood tree right on the trail, and Brandon showed us a large lobelia tree.

At about 4:15, the last of us emerged at a cul de sac at the upper point of Kaahumanu Street. Mabel and Jason Sunada were there, and we all enjoyed a nice spread of soft drinks and dessert and snack items.

It is our hope that others will hike the entire ridge to help keep the trail open. To be sure, Waiau is a challenging hike that will test the stamina of experienced hikers. Give it a go, with Waimano available as an ascent or descent option.

Safe hiking,


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