OHE December 15, 1997 (c)

Date: Mon, 15 Dec 1997 21:56:18 -1000
From: Nathan Yuen (nyuen@lava.net>
Subject: The Peaks of Mount Olomana

Went on the neatest hike to Mount Olomana yesterday with the trail-clearing crew of the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club. A scenic landmark and unique geological feature on the windward coast, Olomana is a remnant of the Ko'olau caldera, the principle caldera which formed the greater part of O'ahu. With the northern half of the Ko'olau shield volcano falling into the sea in massive landslide several hundreds of thousands of years ago, Mount Olomana and the spine of the Ko'olau Mountain Range are remnants of that gigantic cataclysm.

After meeting at the trailhead in Maunawili, the crew spit into two groups, one to clear the trail that skirts the ridge below Olomana and the other to clear the trail that leads to the peaks of Olomana. Given all the neat rock formations and treacherous rock-climbs I had heard about, I had no choice but to join the group that would scale the peaks of Olomana.

Hacking our way with machetes, we slashed through christmas berry and strawberry guava to widen the trail. After ascending through a couple of gradual switchbacks we found ourselves in a grove of ironwood trees carpeted with a thick bed of soft needles. Ascending ever higher, we were confronted with the first of what would be many rock climbs up a nearly vertical rock face. Climbing up and over the rock, we continued through a steep rocky section of the trail until... we reached the first peak of Olomana! Perched some 1650 feet above sea level, we lingered to admire a 360 degree view of the windward coastline despite thick clouds which shrouded the peaks of the Koolaus and prevented the sun from shining through.

From this first peak, we gazed towards the second and third peaks of Olomana which are slightly lower in elevation, but considerably more difficult to reach than the first. Awed by the steepness of the third peak, we speculated that the peak was constructed from a series of interlocking dike formations. Made when magma seeped into cracks within the mountain and solidified before reaching the surface, dike rocks are much denser and considerably more impervious to erosion than the surrounding basaltic rock. Over the passage of time, the surrounding softer rock eroded away, leaving the underlying dike rocks to form the impressive sharp peak.

Anyway... after gaining the courage to push onward, we began a short but steep descent into the grassy saddle between the first and second peaks, and then climbed up a short but steep distance to the top of the second peak Resting for a bit to catch our breaths, we peered sheepishly down the precipice of the second peak. TALK ABOUT STEEP! Descending with aid of a long rope which must have been at least a couple of hundred feet long, we lowered ourselves down the precipitous incline all the time dreading the inevitable climb back up during the return. Proceeding inch by inch, step by step, we slowly made our way to the saddle between the second and third peaks. As we reached the bottom we were treated to the sight of a fantastic dike formation about two feet thick which jutted at least thirty feet into the air for a distance of about twenty feet with a large puka (hole) at the top of the formation. Fortunately for us, the trail took us around rather than up and over that rock formation.

As we began the final steep ascent up the third peak, we were confronted by a rocky section barely a few of feet wide that plunged precipitously on either side. With adrenaline coursing through our veins, we climbed on all fours at certain times and pulled ourselves up with ropes at other times. After climbing at least several hundred feet up the steep incline... we finally reached the top of the third peak! As we hacked the encroaching vegetation to enlarge the resting spot at the top, the clouds began to dissipate permitting us to see the magnificent peaks of the Ko'olaus--Konahuanui, Olympus, Lanipo, Wililinui, and Puu o Kona and the fantastic knife-edged ridges and folds in the mountains. We also admired the many orange and black pulelehua (butterflies) on top Olomana, many of which were pursuing each other with amorous intentions--in fact we witnessed seven pulelehua engaged in certain acts with each other simultaneously. ;-)

After eating our lunches and resting for a bit we began the arduous travail back to the first peak the same way we had come. As we reached the first peak, we were thrilled that the clouds had almost entirely cleared permitting the rays of the sun to illuminate the panoramic landscape below! We enjoyed fantastic views of Kaneohe, Mokapu, Kailua, Waimanalo, and Makapu'u off in the distance, and the tiny off-shore islands of Moko o Loe in Kaneohe Bay, Mokulua off Lanikai, Popoia off Kailua, and the rocky islets of Mokumanu off Mokapu. It was especially spectacular to see how the deep blue waters of the ocean blended into lighter shades of aquamarine and finally to azure off the beautiful white sand beaches along the graceful curve of the Waimanalo coastline.

As we began our trek down Mount Olomana we returned through a different trail which lead through fairly dense vegetation. During this final stretch back through the well-cleared trail, I could not help but recall the legend of Olomana, the giant warrior who terrorized the windward coast with his great strength and athletic prowess. So troublesome was the warrior that the chief of O'ahu at the time, 'Ahuapau, made a bargain with Palila, a warrior from Kaua'i, to kill the giant on his behalf. Also endowed with supernatural powers, a terrible battle was waged with Palila finally striking Olomana so hard that the giant was cut in two--one portion flew towards the sea becoming Mahihui, and the other portion remaining where Olomana stood, becoming Mount Olomana. And is it for this reason according to legend that the peaks of Mount Olomana are so sharp. What a neat story!

Anyway... as we reached the trailhead and returned to our cars, I was just elated that I had experienced the peaks of Olomana, climbed up and over the treacherous dike formations, and admired the magnificent views of the Koolaupoko coastline. What an incredible thrill!

Reply from: BETH SAURER (peka@home.com>

Oh how this talk of Mount Olomana brings back Christmas memories! :)

In the good 'ole days, when I was growing up in Pohakupu (a community subdivision around Mount Olomana, near Castle Medical Center, Kaliua) about four men of the Pohakupu-Kukonono Community Association would gather every year about a week or so before Christmas. Why would they gather? To hike up Mount Olomana with lengthy (~12'-15') boards of lumber, several car batteries, Christmas tree lights, and plenty of tools (not to mention "standard hiking gear") and BUILD A LIGHTED CHRISTMAS TREE ON THE VERY TOP of the mountain for all to see! ....and what a sight it was! : )

I was one of the oldest of "the Association" kids (~6-~12), but I still remember vividly gathering across the street from our house with the many Association families. It would be nighttime and we would take turns looking through binoculars towards the top of the mountain to try to witness our our fathers, husbands, and friends setting up this "great miracle" in the dark. The moment we saw the glow of this tree, that old house would empty and everyone would stand in the front yard in awe of this yearly tradition being successfully accomplished yet again! One of our mothers would call several television stations to report this phenomenon....and not too long afterwards we would see a helicopter encircling Mount Olomana, footage of which would appear on the local news.

One year my dad took his "Super 8 movie camera" (silent movies were a sign-of-the-times) and as the film only lasted about five minutes, he waited until they reaced the top of the mountain before beginning to film their endeavor. I remember watching this movie and seeing the four or so men drenched with sweat and dirt stuggling with all that equipment! 'Aue! What they would go through to make this Windward Christmas tradition happen! The movie would make Kaliua, Maunawili, and Kane'ohe seem so small, it being filmed from so high on top of Mount Olomana! But these courageous men accomplished this task every year! Could you imagine lighting the tree after the sun went down....then finding your way down that long trail IN THE DARK?!!!

I don't remember exactly how many nights (maybe a week or so) that the Christmas tree would shine. But it was an inspiring part of my family's, and the whole community's, Christmas!

Happy Holidays to all!

Me ke aloha pumehana,


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