OHE December 17, 1997

Date: Wed, 17 Dec 1997 18:42:08 -1000
From: "Dayle K. Turner" (turner@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Waialae-Nui to Olympus traverse

On 12/13, Sat., Pat Rorie, Art Neilson, Art's dog Ziggy, Wing Ng, and I hiked up Waialae Nui ridge, crossed over on the Koolau summit and came down the Olympus/Kolowalu trails to Manoa Valley. We had the good fortune to hike all day under ideal conditions--high overcast skies, cool temperatures in the 70s, light breezes, and a cloudless summit crest.

Waialae Nui is the ridge that sits between Lanipo (Maunalani Heights) to the west and Wiliwilinui (the hills above Kalani High School) to the east. Access is via a residential street in the Waialae Nui residential tract. Waialae Nui is a beautiful, relatively pristine trail, a bit overgrown but still easily discernible and not marred by erosion and mudholes ala Hawaii Loa, Lanipo, and others. Getting to the Waialae Nui trail involves the "T" thing, so day-to-day hiker traffic is light. The trek to the summit took about two hours for mortals like Wing, Art, and I and about half that for speedster Pat.

As we neared the top, about a half mile east of us was Wiliwilinui and its trademark communications shack/tower. Visible to us were two or three people there, probably workmen, who had erected a tarp lean-to on the west side of the shack. We waved and shouted to these folks but received no acknowledgement. The hike east on the crest to Wiliwilinui would take maybe 20 to 30 minutes but that would have to wait for another day since our plan was to head west (ewa bound).

Once at the summit, we set off on some gentle rollercoaster action through native vegetation--uluhe, lapalapa, ohia, olapa, loulu, to name a few. We passed a pair of metal benchmark stamps on true Lanipo (elev. 2,621 ft.) and reached Kainawaaunui, the topping out point of the Lanipo Trail, in 30 minutes. The "path" on the summit wasn't badly overgrown since the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club clearing gang, among others, hikes the section from Kainawaaunui to Waialae Nui on occasion. At the base of the Koolaus far below us, we could see the Maunawili Demonstration Trail but saw no one hiking it. Triple-peaked Olomana was a prominent feature of the windward side scenery as was the steep ridge from Lanipo to the windward side that hiking legend Dick Davis descended in the 1940s. There were no takers for the latter feature today.

After a short rest at Kainawaaunui, we continued west, dropping steeply 150 yards on a broad, low-grass hillside to a summit dip before climbing to Palikea, the acme of the east (Kokohead-side) ridge of Kaau Crater. The Kainawaaunui to Palikea segment took just over 30 minutes, and we lingered for 30 minutes at the latter before continuing on. Pat and I made entries in a summit logbook left in a half-gallon, plastic mayonaise bottle by some unknown hiker. Someone had even left a couple of pop tarts (brown sugar/cinammon) in the bottle and I gladly consumed one of the two.

The next third-of-a-mile segment along the crest to the topping out point of the west ridge of Kaau Crater was a virtual freeway since the HTMC had cleared it for a members-only hike a couple months prior. So wide open was it that we sailed along, passing first one then another powerline tower and reaching the Kaau west ridge apex in just 10 minutes.

The toughest segment of the day lay ahead. To reach our summit crest goal, we needed to dip down briefly to a saddle and then climb steeply to the broad flat-topped hump that distinguishes Olympus (elev. 2,486 ft.). The saddle section was overgrown with uluhe and clidemia and the ridge was at times narrow but armed with machetes and steady nerves we pushed through with no mishaps. Pat, a veteran of summit hiking, did fine work as ramrod. Ziggy, a husky black animal who has accompanied Art on a bunch of hikes in the past, was especially gonzo, negotiating thickets of uluhe and clidemia and moving across semi-dicey ridge sections with no hesitation. We dubbed him Ziggy the Wonder Dog.

One rockface needed to be scaled on the ascent to Olympus but we easily found the right line (on the left) and assisted Ziggy briefly until he reached a spot with sure footing. From a distance, the climb to Olympus looked gnarly but once we reached the base of the slope we could see the hill was certainly scalable. Just before we topped out, Art and I heard someone shouting and it turned out to be some folks over a mile away at the summit of the Lanipo Trail. We waved and returned shouts to these people. If I remember correctly, the section from Kaau west ridge to Olympus took 50 minutes.

To recap, for those planning future jaunts along the crest, here are the aproximate distances and traverse times between various points:

--Waialae Nui to apex of Lanipo Trail [.4 miles]: 30 minutes;
--Lanipo summit to Palikea (Kaau east ridge) [.4 miles]: 35 minutes;
--Palikea to Kaau west ridge [.3 miles]: 10 minutes;
--Kaau west ridge to Olympus summit [.5 miles]: 50 minutes.

Factor in rest stops along the way and the 1.6 mile crossover will amount to 2.5 to 3 hours (we took 2:45). The Konahuanui to Olympus crossover is about the same distance but is much more difficult and dangerous say Pat, Wing and Art, who've now done both.

The descent of Olympus and Kolowalu went without a hitch and we arrived on Alani Drive in the Woodlawn area of Manoa Valley without having to use flashlights (the last few hikes we've completed ended up with us hiking out in the dark). My vehicle was staged on Alani Drive and I transported Art, Pat, Wing, and Ziggy back to Waialae Nui heights to their cars.

Hiking the Koolau summit spine is exhilarating and if you have the opportunity, give it a go.

Aloha and happy holidays to all,


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