OHE February 18, 1999 (Konahuanui to Olympus)

Date: Thu, 18 Feb 1999 10:11:57 -1000
From: Kirby D. Young (kirbyd@teleport.com>
Subject: Konahuanui-Olympus traverse

A last hike for me for awhile - the day - Wednesday 2/10. The forecast was for light trades, and only a few clouds were parked over the Ko'olaus. I waffled - Waianaes or Koolaus? Thinking I had a very good chance at clear weather on top of the ultimate Koolau summit, Konahuanui, I opted for a traverse of its crest, then continuing along the summit ridge to Mt. Olympus. I'd thought about doing this hike for years, and OHE reports said the way was now clear. Was now the time? My weak weather divining abilities would be tested...

Parking my car on Manoa Road at about 9:50 AM, I set out for Manoa Falls and the Aihualama Trail to Pauoa Flats. Several tourist vans were parked at the Falls Trailhead, but I encountered all of their passengers in descent mode. I therefore enjoyed Manoa Falls in solitude, at least for a few moments. A middle-aged woman happened along several minutes later with several companions. She opined that all the Falls needed was a Hawaiian maiden in the plunge pool. I suggested that she would do just fine. Very weak laughter.

Climbing the Aihualama switchbacks in still air, I arrived at the Nuuanu Overlook a bit hot. Only a slight breeze was here and I cooled off too slowly.

Took a look at the Manoa-Castle paleotrail, then headed past the former "Kapu" signpost on my way to the prominent pu'u above the lookout. A number of minutes later I topped out on it, where I immediately flopped down on my back in the heat and rather still air. Bleh.

Glancing makai towards Tantalus there was a cloud, a very massive, oddly dark grey cloud hovering over that rounded summit. Indeed, that is a very dark cloud to be in such a place, I thought. Glancing mauka and looking "windward" through the low Nuuanu Pali, I noticed streaky dark lensoid clouds out to sea. Hmmm, I thought, those usually mean some sort of unsettled, maybe even rainy weather. Yeah, right. Nahhhh. Konahuanui was free of clouds in all its glory, how could it be?

Clambering down the various pitches to the mostly level ridge leading to Konahuanui from my rest stop, I progressed to the base of the long climb to the summital right bump. One thing I noticed was that all along this trail there was an almost complete lack of Clidemia, that woody pest of a plant! Was there a concerted effort to remove this invader by some unknown Clidemia policing group? It almost had to be. I pulled up what few Clidemia I could find for a while.

As I climbed towards the crest, the dark cloud over Tantalus had expanded considerably, so that now a ceiling of darkness extended from Nuuanu to Manoa to Mt. Olympus, and perhaps beyond. About half-way on my climb, this dark mass enshrouded Konahuanui's summit with its lighter-colored extensions. There goes the view, I thought, as I puffed my way to 3105' elevation at the Koolau summit.

In fog, I decided to turn left for a sidetrip to the true summit of Konahuanui, a surprisingly long jaunt downnnn, then up to 3150'. Maybe it'll clear, I thought optimistically. Clouds mostly hung with me, however, though I occasionally had views leeward.

Parking myself on Konahuanui's true top for some lunch, I enjoyed the fog as best I could. The air was nearly still, perhaps even a slight Kona breeze. This was a boon to giddy chopper pilots however, as I could hear them gleefully plying there way back and forth over the Nuuanu Pali somewhere below me and the clouds.

Checking my topo map, I noted that to walk back to the 3105' puu I had just come from would constitute nearly a full 20% of the distance that I would have to traverse to reach Mt. Olympus. Taking about a half-hour to retrace my steps to the Konahuanui Trail terminus-of-sorts I began my further adventure along the Koolau summit at about 2 or 2:30 PM.

I quickly came to find that the trail hacked out by the OHE'ers and others in the past year and a half was pretty good. This contrasted with the almost total lack of a trail in this stretch leading down from Konahuanui that I had investigated in my very feeble attempt at doing this traverse in about 1990. (I turned back quickly then).

Within a few minutes I emerged below the cloud deck. Well, in fact it's better to say half-emerged, for the air was quite clear leeward, but windward there rose a wall of cloud up from the top of the pali. Up it rose to join with the main cloud deck. As a result I had a very fine view of Diamond Head and Waikiki, but could not see my much closer destination, Mt. Olympus, as the summit crest curved steadily in the direction of the cloud wall.

This striking weather pattern persisted most of my traverse along the summit from Konahuanui to Mt. Olympus. Occasionally the fog would expand from its rising wall to completely engulf my summit ridge. Rarely, the wall would part slightly along a crack, or open a bit more fully and, when it did so, I expected to see a fine view of the windward side. Instead what I saw was a remarkably dark maelstrom of clouds. What's going on down there? I thought. It was as if the entire windward side had been swallowed up whole by a voracious, convecting equatorial monsoon.

Arriving at about the very lowest point in the traverse, I passed through the infamous Ironwood grove, ascended a small pu'u beyond (Wing referred to this as the "pyramid" - 10/10/97), and plopped down on a sofa-sized rock, claiming it temperarily as my own. Views to windward suddenly opened up a bit, and I could see Olomana, Mokapu Peninsula and a bit of Kaneohe Bay. A cloud hung darkly on Olomana. At the immediate base of the pali I noticed the zigzagging Maunawili Trail. It seemed surprisingly close, almost as if I could have had a reasonable shouted conversation with whoever might appear on this path. But of course, no one appeared.

Enjoying the temporary view I didn't notice what faced me in decending my little pu'u beyond. To accomplish this required passing another very large boulder (aka "sedan rock", "true horror", "faded true horror", etc.), adorned with two thick phone(?) cables (one of 'em peeling badly) and a rope. The boulder could not be descended to leeward, for it was vertical vegetation below the rock. The boulder could not be climbed face-on to a ledge and ridge continuation below, at least not easily because it again was too far (I guess I could have done a stomach slide hanging onto the cables). Instead, there was an inviting shallow notch slightly to windward that allowed a relatively straightforward scramble down to the ledge, but... a slip would mean a clean plummet of a couple of hundred feet down the pali, vertical immediately below, and with a good bounce... well add another 1500' maybe.

Not being a big fan of exposure such as this I grumbled some moments, then grabbed all three artificial lines, and gingerly lowered myself to the ledge. I found it a bit uncomfortable - But you don't need to read my weak words... There's always Mike Uslan's "True Horror" writeup (11/10/97): . http://www2.hawaii.edu/~turner/ohe/Nov97/11-10b.htm. According to Wing (8/15/98), however, it is now a lot better than before because of improved ropes.

That done, and a subsequent very narrow and rocky ridge bypassed via a ledge on the leeward side, mentally it seemed my traverse was nearly complete. Still, it was another 20-30 minutes before steady climbing brought me to the upper flank of Mt. Olympus, where I traversed to the Olympus Trail, and began my descent of Waahila Ridge. The "crossing" had taken me about 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 hours. In this time I enjoyed pleasant walking segments on a number of level stretches, and found many of the Makapuu-facing descents provided unimpeded walking through wind-blown vegetation.

To reach my car and completion of the loop required that I descend the Kolowalu Trail to Manoa Valley, followed by a not-so-joyful 1.5 miles of road and sidewalk strolling. I arrived at said vehicle at dusk (about 6:50 PM). While being disappointed at the lack of views from Konahuanui, the odd clouds and mists I encountered in the cross-over to Mt. Olympus made for a very interesting day.


P.S. Ohh, Waianaes... Waianaes were almost cloud-free the entire day.

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