OHE August 30, 1998

Date: Sun, 30 Aug 1998 21:02:46 -1000
From: "Dayle K. Turner" (turner@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Kahana north ridge

Jason Sunada and I made a push for the Koolau summit at Pu'u Pauao via the north (right side when looking mauka from Kahana Bay) ridge of Kahana Valley. We came up short but had a nice workout and discovered some things for future explorations.

Today was the HTMC trail clearing of Kahana Valley, and Jason and I were initially part of that venture. However, since there were ample bodies on hand to handle maintenance work (in attendance were Mabel Kekina, Ken Suzuki, Carole K. Moon, Bob Butchart, Thomas Yoza, Lester Ohara, June Miyasato, Lita Komura, Lynn Agena, Georgina Oka, Bill Gorst, Jay Feldman, Charlotte Yamane (my idol), and Nathan Yuen), Jason and I received the green light from Mabel to break off to make a try for the summit.

We had heard of a route to the ridge top via a trail that started by the water tank, but Mabel discouraged us from trying it, saying that the ridge was slippery and covered with fallen hala leaves.

Jason and I weren't very good listeners since we found ourselves ascending the very ridge Mabel had told us to avoid. At the water tank, there is a trail that contours to the left (the main route) and another lesser used one that climbs a short slope to contour around it to the right. We took the latter but instead of contouring around the tank, we veered right up a trail that headed upslope toward the ridge separating Kahana from Punaluu.

In a few minutes, we found ourselves scrambling up a muddy slope littered with the hala leaves Mabel had warned us about. We saw blue ribbons here and there but mostly we followed the route of least blockage up the ridgeside until we had left the hala behind and moved into hapu'u fern country. The trail became more discernible here and we spotted rootings of na pua'a and some fairly fresh boot prints (hunters?).

The hapu'u yielded to uluhe with a distinct albeit slighty overgrown trail through it. About 25 minutes from the water tank, we arrived at the ridgetop (elevation ~900 ft.). If you have the Hau'ula quad topo, locate the 910 elevation point at the right edge of the map just above the 32'30"). That's about where we crested out.

There was a nice breeze at the ridgetop along with a pretty view down into Punaluu Valley and across it to the big ridge where the Castle Trail is cut. Some hunter trash was on the ground in the small clearing at the crest, and a distinct trail headed mauka up the ridge.

It seems that the route we had climbed and the trail on the ridge receive occasional traffic from hunters. In fact, hunters were likely on the trail today because ribbons I left at this junction were nowhere to be found when we returned several hours later.

The ridgetop trail remains good for about 45 minutes mauka. Beyond the most distinct pu'u (~1,300) along the ridge, uluhe reigns and the going became much slower.

Where the distinct trail ended, Jason and I took turns pounding and pushing through the uluhe gauntlet, both of us now and then flopping over obscured branches/roots and plunging into hidden potholes in the ridge. Not fun. Also not fun was being scorched by the relentless sun. The wind had also strangely dissipated into nothingness, increasing our discomfort. But hardy hikers are we, so we rammed forth with the Koolau summit our goal.

When noon hit, we had logged 2.5 hours on the ridge, 1:45 which were spent in pummel-by-uluhe mode. I suggested that we stop for lunch and during that time assess our water supply, energy level, and motivation to continue on. Jason agreed, and we found a pleasant shaded spot under a clutch of ohia trees. A later topo map review indicated that we lunched at about the 1,400 foot level at a point .75 miles from the Pu'u Pauao (~2,640) at the Koolau summit. Looming ahead was a steep climb to gain the 1,610 pu'u on the map, and then a final ascent that was even steeper ("sustained steep," to borrow a phrase used recently by Wing and Brandon).

During lunch, we decided to pass on a summit assault. We had the time to make it (we'd probably need 2 more hours to gain the Koolau summit trail just below Pauao), but we'd then need 3 to 4 hours or so for the return leg, and a possible exit in the dark wasn't appealing. So we spent a leisurely hour for lunch--eating, talking story and relaxing, free of the mental anguish of a forthcoming grueling ascent. We also enjoyed a clear shot of the summit crest where Poamoho tops out but we spotted no hikers at the summit pu'u or on the KST, even with Jason's pocket binocs.

BTW, for those who don't know him, Jason is an unassuming, soft-spoken man with some huge hiking accomplishments, including three completions of the Piliwale trail, among other things. He is one of Stuart Ball's most frequent hiking partners and has joined the guru on many a trek. Several of Jason's photos appear in Stuart's *Hikers Guide* book. I've hiked with Jason on a number of occasions, usually HTMC trail maintenance outings, but this was the first time we'd hiked together with no one else. We were able to talk at length today, which I enjoyed

With a swath to follow, the return leg went much quicker. We found a cleared trail that went down into Punaluu Valley (we actually descended this trail for a couple minutes, mistakenly thinking it was the ridge route we had used earlier). We also found a route down into Kahana that our trail clearing colleagues had hacked open today (we opted not to use it, reasoning that it would take longer to get out that way). What we didn't find was a long ribbon they had left at the ridgetop. The ribbon was apparently removed by hunters whose presence was never verified by sight but by a black pickup truck at the trailhead.

When we reached the point where we had topped out from the water tank, my double pink ribbon was also missing. But the trash was still on the ground at that point; plus the water tank was clearly in view below so we knew we had to head down at that point.

From the ridgetop, we made our way quickly down to the water tank, needing only half the time we had used to go up. By 3:30, we had rejoined our friends at the cars and we enjoyed our usual post-hike refreshment outing.

The ridge route to Pauao has been done by others, including Ken Suzuki's brother-in-law and friends about a year ago. I've also been told that older topo maps show a trail on the ridge, which may have been used as an access route during the construction of the KST.

Pauao is about 45 minutes from the Poamoho terminus and an hour and change from the Schofield terminus. When we try this again, we'll probably plan on an exit via Poamoho OR a descent into Kahana after going up Poamoho. My grand plan is to conduct an HTMC super hike that includes an ascent of Kahana north to the KST, a trek along the KST and a descent of the Waikane trail, and a return to the starting point via the Waiahole Ditch and Kahana Valley trails. Far-fetched? Perhaps, but it's okay to dream. :-)

Hope everyone had a pleasant weekend that included a hike or two.


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