Talked to Stuart Ball about the Aina Haina Middle Ridge that he just did.
Go to the end of Hao Street and walk on this grass-covered jeep road for 10-15 minutes, at which time the vegetation turns to Christmas berries and hau. After 5 minutes, there is a red cloth ribbon on the right and a 5 foot high boulder that marks the right side turn-off.
The trail doubles back and head out the valley for a couple minutes, crosses the gully and contours across the slope (to the east), and then it crosses a dry streambed and then crosses the main streambed, at which turn it makes a left turn to climb up the left side of the ridge, which is the middle one of the 3 middle ridges of Aina Haina valley.
The trail is said to be really nice, quite steep in places, like the Waimalu Middle Ridge, but not "cable steep". Eventually the leftmost middle ridge joins this ridge and then you reach the Koolau crest.
Turn left to go to Wiliwilinui. That part of the summit trail was also cleared.
Go down Wiliwilinui, first the trail and then the jeep road. After passing two sets of powerline poles, the road makes an S curve, at the end of which there is a tiny orange/black ribbon on the left that marks the turnoff to go back down into the valley. The path is not distinct at first, being overgrown with strawberry guava, but it eventually becomes a distinct ridge. It comes out the valley jeep road, beyond the original right-turn you made to climb the middle ridge, and you just follow the jeep road out to Hao Street.
Seems interesting, should do it some day!
After hearing that my hiking guru and mentor Stuart Ball had done this hike on Sunday I had to follow in his bootprints.
Was delayed from leaving work so I didn't exit the parking structure until after 4:30 p.m. Took H-1 and drove to Aina Haina. Turned left onto West Hind Drive. Turned left again at Nohu and then a right onto Hao. Followed Hao all the way to its termination point.
Changed clothes inside my car and then departed for the trail at 4:55. Walked up a jeep road which had tall grass in the middle of it toward the back of Wailupe Valley. The road became a trail with tall grass on each side. The grass protruded into the trail so I found myself pushing it away to avoid getting hit in the face. Eventually the trail went left and into a hau forrest. It was wide open with no tangles to negotiate. There was somewhat of a canopy above.
After making more progress I reached a junction and went right. I descended into a gulch area surrounded by a wealth of vegetation including lots of large leaf plants which have thin stems and grow right out of the ground. Followed red cloth material which was tied to trees along the route. After crossing two dry stream beds I began working my way out of the gulch toward the middle ridge.
Ascended somewhat steeply up the middle ridge until it leveled off for a stretch thru short itchy grass and then past guava trees on the left. The trail went thru an open area and featured very pleasant ridge walking. I could see down into both sides of the valley and a beautiful Norfolk Island pine grove on the left side caught my attention. The building with the antennas on it which is just before the Waialea Iki Summit was visible up and to the left and became a point of reference as to how much higher I had to go.
Next came another somewhat steep ascent thru a guava forest. I noticed that many of the branches had been cut to make the way easier. That must have taken a lot of work. After the trail leveled off again I encountered another somewhat steep ascent thru a mixed forest of mostly guava trees. The trail went thru forest with occasional open spots until just after the beginning of the long uluhe section.
Further on I climbed up and over a rock outcrop. After I had done this I noticed that the trail contoured to the left by-passing the outcrop. After another somewhat steep ascent I reached a small bolder and sat down to rest briefly. The views were terrific of Koko Head and Koko Crater.
Pressing on the ridge became more narrow. I climbed again and reached a loose dirt area with a view toward the ocean. The dark blue Pacific Ocean with the waves breaking off the coast were esp. pleasing.
Continuing on the ridge leveled off with the very short spongey soft grass under foot. After climbing again I began the long uluhe stretch. I emerged from the forest not long after encountering the uluhe. The trail was not overgrown and the angle of ascent was more gradual. Noticed a short lone loulu to the right of the trail and scattered O'hia trees along both sides as I got closer and closer to the summit. Turned around and saw the Hawaii Loa Ridge mansions to the left and off in the distance only a couple ridges over.
Just before reaching the final steep ascent I stopped and turned back. I didn't have my indiglo watch (do be do be do !) so I had no idea what time it was and the sun was not very far above the Waianae Range. I was atleast 15 minutes from the summit so I didn't think I could make it out before darkness set in. I didn't want to try and find the way thru the gully area after dark. Bummers. From the final vantage point before heading down I observed the Waianae Range, the Ewa Plane, the reef runway, Diamond Head to the right as I faced the ocean.
On the way down I enjoyed looking at the rocky cliffs of Wailupe Valley also on the right. As I was descending the front of the middle ridge above the gulch area I almost took a tumble because of small branches along the ground which easily snare your feet. Watch out for those.
Reached my car as darkness was setting in at 7:05 p.m.
Notes: If you've done Lanipo, Waialae Nui, and Waialae Iki try this one to experience something a little different. If you have time do the entire loop as described in Wing Ng's 8/25/97 e-mail message "Aina Haina Middle Ridge". Another option would be to go along the Ko'olau Summit toward Hawaii Loa Ridge and descend that trail. Gerald Leao, a very distinguished member of the HTMC, has worked hard on this trail and deserves much praise and mahalos.
Friday 8/29 I decided to check out the new trail up Aina-Hina Middle Ridge. This ridge appears nameless on the Koko Head topo. Arrived at the trailhead at the end of Hao St. at 11:00 and headed up the grass covered jeep road. The route description provided by Stuart via Wing was very accurate, I found the ribbon and boulder marking the turn off towards the stream bed with no trouble.
Crossed the stream and headed into the valley following the stream. Boy, that area is Mosquito Heaven!! Those guys were hungrily biting any exposed skin they could find, good thing I was wearing my camoflauge pants! Reached the junction and headed up the point of the ridge at 11:30. The first 2/3 of the ridge trail was relatively easy, several humps in the ridge to ascend, first the ridge is rather barren then guava forest then Uluhe and forest.
The last 1/3 of the trail was a bear. It climbs a couple really steep humps before topping out several hundred yards shy of the summit. The trail was not packed down and was soft and spongy with topsoil. Is this a brand new trail? It appears to have been just recently either opened or made brand new. You take a step and your foot slides backwards as you try to grab a handful of uluhe to hold on to. There were very few handholds in some spots and it was very difficult to gain forward momentum. I split my cammo pants wide open about 1/2 way up the last, steepest hump when my foot slipped and I did the splits on the trail. I finally reached the summit at 3:00. It took me 4 hours to ascend that ridge! I was going slow and it was super hot but I think the trail itself slowed me down the most.
Anyway, a decent clearing has been *hacked* out at the summit, I had some nice views of Waimanalo down below before the clouds began streaming over the lip of the Koolaus. I only stopped for ~10 min at the clearing before moving on toward Wiliwilinui. Boy, the summit trail was really clear too! The summit walk was really nice, though I could just barely make out the communications station atop Wiliwilinui. I could hear men talking over at the station and a helicopter came and left.
I arrived at the Wiliwilinui summit at 3:30 and wolfed down a sandwich and a pint of Guiness as I watched the men at the station working on an antenna array they had taken down from the top of the tall communications tower. It looked like a blue fork, you know the end of the fork with multiple tines. They didn't notice me for quite some time as I was fully clothed in cammo gear. The helicopter came flying back and landed on the trail between the station and the summit with the rotors whirling. Finally the helicopter lifted off with a long cable and hook setup hanging off it. It hovered over the men with the antenna while some other men climbed the tall communications tower and waited at the top. That tower looks at least 50 ft. high. The men on the ground attached the cable to the antenna and the copter moved off towards the tower with the antenna in tow. It went way up over the tower and slowly descended, dangling the antenna ever closer to the men on top of the tower. The men reached out and grabbed the antenna, quickly affixed it to the top and detached the cable. The helicopter then flew off down the mountain.
That's my cue! It was a few minutes after 4:00 and I descended the trail to the comm station saying howzit to the guys, nice job. Wiliwilinui is very clear and I made really good time descending the mountain. By 4:30 I was walking down the road section of the trail hunting for the orange and black ribbon marking my descent point back into the valley. I found it a few minutes later and headed thru some thick guava with no discernable trail. Good thing there were ribbons. Picked up the second ribbon and headed down on a very faint leaf covered game trail. Was this really a trail?
The trail became more legible as I descended. It was very steep, fortunately the guava trees provided support as I fell downhill from one tree to the next. By 5:00 I reached the valley floor and followed the ribbons to the stream bed and on to the grass covered jeep road. I reached my truck at 5:30, chugged a warm coke and drove off. That hike was pretty neat but I don't think I'll do it again real soon!! I'll let some other folks pack down the trail first. Some mud steps and/or cables on the final climb would be great!
Today (8/30), Pat, Wing and I decided to give a try to the same hike Art described. Of course, we had to chose a day with the highest-ever temp (93F) for the date to do it. 8-)
Just like last Sunday at Kulepeamoa, I suffered mightily but managed to huff, puff, sweat, and gag my way to the summit in just under three hours. Meanwhile, Paka-lolo cruised almost effortlessly up the mountain, holding back enough to keep Wing and I in shouting distance. Pat could have easily topped out in under two hours but intentionally slowed down to finish at about 2.5.
Art's right about the final climb right before the summit--it's steep and could use some well-placed cables/ropes, some steps cut into the slope, and some packing of the soil underfoot. There's no big danger but without these modes of assistance, the climb becomes more of an energy burn than it needs to be.
Much appreciation has to be extended to the folks who've expended much time and energy to open up the trail. I understand that Gerald Leao of the HTMC is one of those responsible and I suspect John Hall, among others, has a hand in this too. Mahalo to them.
Just like Art reported, the trail along the crest over to Wiliwilinui is wide open and a delight to traverse. Someone affixed a long rope to the steepest section along this section. Pat and I remarked that this rope might be better placed on the ridge section leading up to the summit.
Anyway, we found the trail back down to Wailupe Valley after a bit of searching. In addition to the pink/blank ribbon, it's now marked with double pink ribbons. In case these are removed, remember that as one is coming down the mountain, this junction is along the road section of Wiliwilinui at the bottom of a fairly steep hill where the road starts to curve like an S. A couple of tall pine trees are on the left just before the junction.
Perhaps Wing or Pat will write a more detailed piece about the hike.