OHE December 16, 1999 (Kea'au Middle Ridge)

Date: Thu, 16 Dec 1999 23:14:23 -1000
From: Dayle K. Turner (turner@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Middle Ridge of Kea'au

In December '99, we found a way to get up to Kea'au Ridge near Ohikilolo via a spur in the back of Kea'au Valley. With the traditional route to the Ohikilolo terminus now a thing of the past due to access restrictions, this spur is now a way to get there through a public-accessible hunting easement and hunting area.

Name: Kea'au Middle Ridge
Type: Ungraded Ridge
Elev. gain: 3,000 feet
Difficulty/Danger: High
Roundtrip distance: 6 miles
Topo Map: Kaena, Waianae

Route description: Start along Farrington Highway across from the entrance road to the (former) FHB vacation/rec center. This is located past Makaha, past Kea'au Beach Park and before Ohikilolo Ranch and Makua (Kaneana) Cave. On weekends during hunting season (March-November), the gate to the rec center access road may be open and driving the half mile to the start of the hunting area is possible. If the gate is locked, you'll have to park on the highway, not the most pleasant proposition since exposure to car theft is increased. From the highway, hop over the gate and walk up the road, eventually passing the rec center on the right.

You'll reach another gate just after the paved road ends. Climb over it or duck through the bars and continue on the dirt/gravel road. Signs indicate that this is a no-hunting zone. Pass an old ranch house on the left. Just afterward, the road will veer to the left to contour around a nob in the ridge. Stay on the road, continually marked by white no-hunting signs.

Where the road swings right to continue up-valley, there will be views down to the ocean and the ranch property. Continue mauka on the road, passing an old bunker on the right. Faint trails & side roads come in on the left and right. Stay on the main, most well-used road all the while, following the no-hunting signs. Ohikilolo Ridge towers over you to the left. Across the valley is the south wall of Kea'au Valley.

About 1.5 miles from the highway and at about the 800-foot elevation level, reach the end of the road. Pass a sign indicating the start of Makua-Kea'au Hunting Area B. Descend on a faint trail into a ravine that is a jumble of koa haole and buffalo grass. Follow the trail mauka as it climbs out of the ravine. At a spot with several large boulders, head right briefly on a distinct path.

The path will peter into nothing. At that point, turn left to descend a bank into the bed of a rocky wash and climb steeply on its mauka bank. The trail switchbacks to gain elevation on a broad spur ridge. At one point, climb straight up to gain the crest of the spur, staying for the most part on its left side.

Keeping to the left side of the spur, reach a junction, marked by level clearing and a pit used as a wallow by pigs. This locale is at the 1,100-foot elevation level (approx.). At the junction, head left, following a distinct trail that contours along the left side of the spur and then steadily descends to a ravine. On the opposite side of the ravine is a spur ridge, the one that will be climbed to get to the back wall of Kea'au Valley.

Cross the ravine at a flat bed of rock and then pick up a trail on the opposite side. The trail will contour makai briefly and then become indistinct in a sea of grass. The goal at this point is to gain the crest of the spur ridge. Do so by following game trails or, if these aren't visible, following the line of least resistance.

The spur is relatively clear as the elevation increases, so battling vegetation won't be necessary. Be on the lookout, however, for loose rocks. These are plentiful and a hazard to you and others you may be hiking with.

The ridge narrows in places but never is a rope or cable required. The dropoff to the steep ravine on the left is pronounced and Ohikilolo Ridge continues to tower above, also to the left. The dropoff on the right is also steep but less daunting because of the presence of more vegetation, mainly Christmas berry. Some native flora grows on the ridge, including lama and ilima.

After a particularly narrow segment, climb fairly steeply to gain the crest of distinct nob in the ridge. Descend gradually to reach a flat, eroded spot. Ahead, the spur broadens but continuing straight up is impossible because of a massive vertical rockface. This is about the 2,000 foot level.

Bypassing the rockface is possible by contouring along the slope to the right. A massive forest of Christmas berry offers ample protection and the understory is relatively (and surprisingly) open. Goat trails zigzag up the slope. Use these to gain elevation, continuing on basically a rightward track.

Reach the crest of another spur ridge that comes up from the right to join the one you've been climbing. Follow this spur upward. When another small but steep rockface is reached, contour to the left on a goat trail at the base of the face. When the rockface ends, turn right upslope, climbing steeply for awhile until the angle of ascent relents briefly. At this point, you are above the massive vertical rockface and have regained the crest of the spur that will take you to the top.

Continue up the spur, at times on a very clear trail, at times steeply, at times scrambling over rock outcrops. Again, be wary of loose rocks, still plentiful and a constant hazard.

As the top nears, a spectacular view of the peak that marks the terminus of the Ohikilolo Trail is available.

Reach the crest of Kea'au Ridge at a distinct pu'u marked 2,952 on the map. From the highway where you started, this is the most prominent hilltop on the back wall of the valley. When you return to your car later, look back at this spot and marvel at the climb you completed to get there. At the top, there are views down into upper Makaha Valley and across to Kamaileunu Ridge and the spread of much of the Waianae Range.

From this pu'u, you have the option of turning left to complete the final ascent to reach Ohikilolo Ridge or turning right to follow Kea'au Ridge as it heads south then veers west toward the ocean. The latter is a possible (and longer) return route.

This hike is best done during the winter months (December thru February) because it is cooler and hunting season is not in effect. At present, all indications we have had from the DLNR is that hikers are welcome in the valley. Remain on the road until reaching the start of the hunting area to avoid trespassing.

When hiking in the valley during hunting season, wear bright attire to make your presence known to hunters.


Reply From: Wing C Ng (wing@lava.net>

Great detailed instructions in the Guru style! :-)

However, I beg to differ.

There are at least two doable ridges, one to the left, and one to the right.

After the road, drop into the gully and immediately come up on the opposite bank, as the narrative states.

That bank is actually the nose, low point of the "middle" ridge that we ascended. Simply continue and you will get to it.

The narrative states drop into another gulch go back up the other side, and that actually gets to the _right_ ridge. Continue on it and it is straightforward and easy and you will join the middle ridge above the vertical rockface.

The narrative actually follows the right ridge, and then drop back down left into the same gully to regain the middle ridge, totally unnecessary, other than Mallory's "because it's there!"

The left valley, left of the middle ridge, continues. It's a nice dry valley like Waianae Kai, and eventually it gets to the nose of the short left ridge. Take it and you get to the knob to the right of the saddle with the fearsome dike. It is absolutely completely safe: the Club did it with Fred Dodge in '94, there is a metal wire along the entire ridge, nice handhold.

Mr. Silva informed us that it was used to slide goats down the ridge :-) [I am sure that is tongue in cheek.]

Furthermore, waaay to the right, there is a nice ridge that goes up to 27xx feet puu (whereas the "middle" ridge goes to 29xx feet puu, _and_ further to the right, there seems to be a ridge that reaches the low saddle, the lowest point between Keaau and 29xx.

I hope one of these days, we will do _all_ of these other ridges!

Meantime, Paka informed me that the final ascent to triangular Ohikilolo along this route is "not too bad". In '94, Fred Dodge talked about buying 500 feet of mountain climbing rope in order to make the final ascent to Ohikilolo. I am so glad that Mr. Dodge was too pessimistic.



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