OHE February 28, 1998

Date: Sat, 28 Feb 1998 18:57:14 -1000
From: Wing C Ng (wing@LAVA.NET>
Subject: Kaua to Pohakea

Went with Patrick Rorie, Dayle Turner and Steve Poor up Kaua.

Plan was plastic: we might turn left or right at the summit, to go to Palikea or to Kanehoa.

I and Steve strenuously objected to the killer pinnacle on the right side. Steve says that Dick Schmidt broke his arm on that pinnacle. That's it for me, no way!!

We decided to take left turn. There is this Pohakea Pass (aka Gunsight Pass) between Kaua and Palikea. On the Palikea side of the Pass there is a vertical cliff. One can go down to Honouliuli Contour Trail in principle to by pass the cliff and continue on to Palikea.

HTMC used to go up to Kaua using the Pohakea Pass route. There is a jeep road that goes up from Kunia side, and matter of fact continues to go to the naval magazine on the other side. Club would go up the jeep road, turn right upon reaching the Pass, and ascend the Waianae crest to Kaua. Sometimes they come down the direct ridge from Kaua, and then loop back via the Honouliuli Contour Trail. This is one of the "no longer done" hikes that I always wanted very much to do.

Going up to Kaua was uneventful. Didn't feel too good in the morning, and so was going even slower than usual. They were down at the loop turnoff already when I got to the top. So I didn't linger and turned left right away.

Took half hour to get to the loop turnoff. This is the steep trail that goes off the crest and then down to loop back to the direct trail going up. For the first time in my life, I went beyond the intersection and walked on this ridge crest that I always wanted so much to do.

The ridge walk was easy. But I noticed that it gets steeper later on. I actually read the trail description of the hike that used to be scheduled 30-40 years ago. It says it is a steep climb from the Pass, but it gets gentler as it nears the top. Says nothing about excessive heroics.

Time passes by fast when I am having fun. Soon it is 1:25, and I entered a semi-shaded clump of trees, and decided to sit down and have lunch. In 5 seconds, I was astounded to see the 3 macho guys returning already. Upon interrogation, they admitted to seeing some dangerous sections and deciding to quit and turn back. "How do you spell 'quit'?" , " C H I C K E N ", I instantly replied.

They said there are some steep loose rock sections that should need a cable, blah blah blah. These two guys met the Spirit of Kanehoalani last week, who guaranteed to them that no matter what happens, they will never die from falling off in a hike!!! Well, I never got to that section, and I'll leave it to them to defend themselves about this avian behavior.

Steve wants to get home fast and says he will go down the steep loop trail. Paka and Dayle says they want to go down this ridge going down right there to explore. I sat down to lunch and said I'll decide later what to do.

After lunch I chickened out and decided to follow Steve and do the steep loop.

The steep trail was OK near the top, but at the bottom becomes unrecognizable, overgrown, and ribbonless. I must have wandered off to another ridge, but strangely enough that ridge also has oranger Dayle-like ribbons (Dayle steadfastly denied those were his ribbons). Anyway, eventually I found the correct route, where luckily some almost new blue ribbons are there.

Trudged out to the trailhead, and was amazed that the Pat-mobile was still there!! I was sleepy, and so figured would take a short nap next to the car. Soon, it's a whole hour!! I figured the two might have decided to go down the ridge, then turn right on Honouliuli to get to Pohakea Pass to look at the crest that they never got to do. Maybe they got lost ...., they sure have flashlights.

I was about to get up and leave when Pat finally returned. He mumbled something about overgrown Honouliuli trail. I'll let them tell their story.


Reply from: "Dayle K. Turner" (turner@hawaii.edu>

An enjoyable write-up, Wingo, save for the "fowl" reference. :-)

As Wing mentioned, the climb to Kaua was relatively uneventful. For those thinking of doing the hike, be warned that a water pipe blocks the dirt road one normally uses to drive to the Kaua trailhead. Plus, runoff from the pipe has created a small quagmire on one part of the road. The great Paka-lolo was undaunted by the mud, and drove the Pat-mobile through it in the same way he attacks narrow dike sections. :-)

The summit stretch from Kaua to the near side of Pohakea is fantastic and just a super stretch of trail--great views and not overly narrow, precipitous, or dangerous. The initial descent to the lowpoint of Pohakea includes three boulder/rock sections followed by a series of dikes. The first boudler section is not too bad, the second is mildly dicey but easily doable with a rope or cable and the third is similarly dicey but with no easily accessible trees to affix a safety line to.

Pat, Steve, and I went down the first boulder with the assistance of a rope Steve tied to a tree (the rope there was helpful but not really needed). Then Steve and I waited while Pat went (unaided) down the second boulder section. While Pat examined and partially descended the third boulder section, Steve and I explored a possible contour route on the left (Kunia) side of the summit ridge.

Steve announced that he didn't feel comfortable pressing on and urged Pat to retreat. Meanwhile, mighty Paka-lolo, the conqueror of Mo'o Kapu o Haloa last Sunday, was displaying all the body language of wanting to continue on. Better judgment and thoughtfulness won out, however, and Pat opted not to go forth alone.

As Wing mentioned, he was surprised to see us retreating, and playing Pat's we-kid-because-we-care schitck to the hilt, Dr Ng. rubbed in the fact that we were chicken for not taking Pohakea by the throat and dispatching it without hesitation.

Mark my words, Wingo--we will conquer Pohakea on another day!

Anyway, Pat and I decided to bushwhack down a ridge that tops out on the crest at level spot amongst eucalyptus trees on the Kaua side of Pohakea. The first several hundred yards weren't too bad but after that the slope became rubble-strewn and steep. We eventually reached a 10-foot vertical rockface that we scaled by using an adjacent Christmas berry tree like a jungle gym. A cable would have been helpful at this spot.

The angle of descent lessened after the rockface and eventually the ridge we were on broadened and then split. We headed left at the split, taking the line of least resistance through foliage and fallen tree branches. After last week's fiasco where we battled down a gulley off of the ridge leading up to Kanehoa, Pat and I were more disciplined about staying on the ridgetop as we descended.

Nonetheless, vegetation tangles forced us to contour on the side of the ridge and then to drop down off it. In less than an hour of descending from the crest, we encountered a trail that contoured left to right in front of us. Pat wondered if this might be a pig trail (which it turned out to be) but since it looked promising, we terminated our downslope descent and turned left and began to contour.

After 10 minutes of contouring on a rough trail with a myriad of fallen trees and vegetation tangles, Pat and I decided to bail on this contour scenario and descend the next ridge we encountered. And thus we proceeded until, bingo, we reached a ribbon-marked trail that contoured left to right. This certainly was the Honouliuli contour trail and after a short break, we headed left (toward Kaua) on it.

This segment of Honouliuli was in deplorable stead with fallen trees and tangles forcing us to contour below or climb above these obstacles to continue progress. And then in a rock-lined gully, we lost the trail altogether. That being the case, we abandoned the attempt at contouring and began descending the next available ridge we encountered.

Thereafter, Pat and I began a tortuous routine of descending downridge and crossing gullies to work our way toward the pine field where Pat's car was parked. A simple matter, right? Not a chance.

We plowed through more buffalo grass than I ever want to encounter again, ducked under more low bridge branches than I ever want to bend over for again, and dropped down into and climbed out of more gullies than I ever want to negotiate again. At one point, Pat remarked, "This is getting old."

While doing all this, though, we did encounter things of interest: a huge collection of boulders, each maybe 20 feet high, with a cave underneath (looked like na pua'a was using this cave as a pig hotel); an old shed; a trailer with a large wooden water tank on it; and several old overgrown jeep roads carved into the slope of gullies. We even hopped over or went through barbed-wire fences a couple times.

We finally reached the Pat-mobile at 4:30, the return leg from hell taking us approximately three hours. Yow!

With two strikes against me, I know I'll think twice about bushwhacking down a ridge in the Waianaes again. But in a weird sort of way, I can see myself repeating the self-flagellation sometime soon.

Call me a bonehead but don't call me chicken. :-)

Aloha and safe hiking to all,


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