OHE December 29, 1997 (c)

Date: Mon, 29 Dec 1997 16:20:12 -1000
From: Patrick Rorie (prorie@hekili.k12.hi.us>
Subject: Labor Of Love

With the option to take administrative leave on Dec. 26 or Jan. 2, I chose the former based on the weather and headed for my beloved Mount Ohulehule. Got off to a late start (too much partying with Dr. Peter Caldwell the night before) and stopped at Eagle Hardware and Garden to pick up some loppers (using Wing's really turned me on to this tool !). Parked at the entrance to a new community (Hawaiian Homelands ?) in Kahana Valley just before 10 a.m. It was a beautiful day with some cloud cover and occasional passing showers (so what else is new for Kahana Valley - the wettest spot on Oahu). Otherwise, lots of blue sky.

Made final preparations and started walking thru the community at 10:01 a.m. The Ko'olau Summit crest was visible (free of cloud cover). I could see the Ko'olau Summit Trail cut nicely into the mountain. Reached the hunter/hiker check-in box and signed in (just in case something happended). Descended on a wide trail to a dam, changed shoes and crossed it. Went left along a trail and then left again at a junction. Crossed a stream. While crossing it I spotted a large pron. It scared me it was so big ! The trail did a 'U' and I crossed the same stream again. Changed back into my Nike landsharks and headed up the trail thru thick jungle. Emerged from the jungle into an open area and shortly thereafter went left. It was 10:40 a.m. Descended gradually to a stream (this part of the hike was one of the best because the trail is on a somewhat narrow, open ridge with a venerable cornucopia of flora and phauna below on all sides). Also, the ridge featuring the true Manamana is on the left providing an awesome backdrop.

Crossed the stream which includes a pleasant swimming area then climbed thru a bamboo forest being careful not to slip in the mud. Traveled over another open, semi-narrow ridge and enjoyed the surroundings (the stream below; the sound of its flowing waters was very soothing). Gradually ascended thru an open uluhe region. Passed under a tree with a metal pole near it. The open uluhe section continued but I had to sludge thru thick mud. I noticed wild boar hoof marks in the mud and began talking out loud to myself. I used phrases like "Watch out !" and "I'm coming at ya !". It paid off because I alerted a smallish pua'a before we had a confrontation (I saw it dart off the trail down toward the stream). I began to perspire profusely in this segment because I was in a large bowl area. Surrounding me almost completely from a distance was the combination of the ridge which features Turnover and the true Manamana, the ridge which separates Kaaawa and Kahana Valleys, Mount Ohulehule, the northwest ridge of Ohulehule which connects with Pu'u Koiele and the ridge which joins Pu'u Koiele and Pu'u O'Kila.

Entered a jungle area and began ascending somewhat steeply soon after. Struggled to keep my footing because of more mud. The boar hoof marks continued up the slope so I resumed my loud chatter. Attaining significant elevation gain I spocked the sphinx - a large bolder shaped like a man's head which juts out from a rock outcrop. The side ridge leveled off briefly followed by moderate climbing. The views of Pu'u Piei and Kahana Valley behind and Kaaawa Valley and Kanehoalani Ridge to the left were wonderful. Discovered Kurt's hat and hung it on a tree nearby. I did so as a reminder to myself of the danger involved in scaling this mountain.

Arrived at the Waikane saddle (not the true Waikane saddle) at 11:45 a.m. and took a short water break. Pressing on I worked my way up the northwest ridge of Ohulehule. I could see the swath created by the 5 men who successfully reached the summit on Nov. 8, 1997 (without using oxygen !).

Ascended steeply using the lower part of a cable (it is insulated and has knots) and clidemia. When the insulation and knots came to an end (became a thin metal cable) I relied exclusively on clidemia and trees to continue the ascent. Erosion from the Nov. 8th expedition made the part of the route just before the second cable tricky (even under the best conditions it is very steep but now there wasn't much to hang onto) and I got a little nervous. Complicating things was the fact that I was carrying the loppers in one hand. Once I reached the second cable anxiety levels returned to normal.

The angle of ascent gradually decreased as I approached the point where the northwest and southwest ridges intersect. Moving forward, I pushed thru lots of uluhe and passed by trees in route to the summit. Encountered several christmas berry plants as well. Paused briefly and turned around. The entire windward stretch of the Ko'olau Summit Trail was visible as was Pu'u Ka'aumakua and the summit of the Kipapa Ridge Trail. It was a stunning sight !

Reached the summit of Mount Ohulehule (elev. 2,265 ft) at 12:34 p.m. Sat down to rest and make the first entry in the summit notebook. I recorded the date at the top of the page and wrote,"You have reached the summit of Mount Ohulehule. Please sign in. Mount Ohulehule is 'the craggy peak which dominates the windward coast from Kahalu'u to Punalu'u. It stands alone only loosely connected to the Ko'olau summit ridge'. Quote from Stuart Ball's Hiker's Guide to Oahu". After signing it I placed the sheets of paper inside the ziplock bag and the bag and pen inside the plastic container. Took a few minutes to enjoy the eastern view spot. I could see the golf ball shaped structures of the Mount Ka'ala summit beyond the Ko'olau summit ridge !

At 12:55 p.m. I started down the southeast ridge (described in Ball's Hiker's Guide as "the most dangerous hike on the island"). Followed the trail I had cut on Nov. 8 and began extending it. The loppers were a huge help. The tool cut thru clidemia (the kind with the wooden stem) and other vegetation. It was very slow going because of the tangle. I tried to stay as close to the windward side of the ridge as possible but a very steep drop off existed there (unlike most of the Ko'olau summit ridge which has a more gradual drop off to windward near the crest - atleast in my opinion its more gradual). The leeward side was more forgiving but it contained a greater amount of vegetation to plow thru. Also, the ridge crest was not very wide so it was a constant struggle to maintain solid footing. There was a mental battle going on in my head,"Stay on the crest not too close to the steep drop off yet away from the thicket".

While I was toiling a Kualoa tour helicopter flew near me and I waved. I can imagine what might have gone on inside when the occupants saw me. A small keiki might have exclaimed,"Look mommy theres a man on that mountain !" while the pilot said to himself,"Look at that nut ! He's gonna die ! I'd better alert fire rescue ! He must be on something or have been smoking pakalolo !".

Harvested uluhe using my bolo knife but at 2:15 p.m. I ran out of gas and decided to turn back. "I'll save the rest for another day" I told myself. If you look at the bottom photo on the last page of the photo section in Ball's "Hiker's Guide to Oahu" you can follow my progress. There is a very small hump on the saddle between the summit and the place where the ridge begins to descend very very steeply. Thats approx. where I stopped. Anxiety started kicking in again after I observed rain showers approaching from the ocean recalling what happened to Kurt. I slowly climbed back up to the summit tying ribbon on trees periodically and clearing the trail even more. Reached the summit shortly before 3 p.m.

At 3:05 p.m. I commenced clearing the summit primarily using the loppers. The clidemia trees (some as tall as 7 feet) and a few tall, thick tea leaf trees fell victim to the loppers/bolo knife. I produced two sizeable heaps of vegetation and made a nice clearing. The men who accompanied me to the summit in November would hardly recognize the place now. I was bummed because if I'd started earlier in the day I could have gotten a lot more done. Next time ! The view at the top was once one of the best on the island and I could visualize what it would look like if all of the trees were cleared.

At 4:02 p.m. I started heading down the mountain. Carefully descended past the two cables. While using the short one I discovered the glass bottle Dick Schmidt left behind a few years ago. Water had seeped in. It contained a piece of paper with a recipe on the back and a penil. Breathed a sigh of relief once I reached the start of the first cable but told myself not to let my guard down. At 4:40 p.m. I arrived at the Waikane saddle.

The remainder of the trip was relatively uneventful except for the two Kualoa helicopters which flew overhead seemingly every 15 minutes creating a racket. It made me angry (here I am in a very special place trying to get away from civilization to enjoy the sound of the birds singing and the flowing stream and these damn choppers come buzzing around) :-(. On a more positive note, the sight of clouds obscurring Pu'u Piei as I made my way thru the bowl area was terrific.

Signed out at the hunter/hiker box at 6:08 p.m. and got to my car at approx. 6:20 p.m.

Notes: I greatly desire to see HTMC extend the Waikane Saddle hike to the summit of Ohulehule. The next time I climb to the summit I plan on bringing atleast 70 feet of knotted cable (if its not too heavy) for the very steep section to replace the thin metal one. Furthermore, I hope to clear the summit of all trees (except for some of the tea leaf trees) restoring the awesome panoramic view that once existed there. As for the southeast and southwest ridges, they are long term projects.

== Patrick


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