OHE January 26, 2000 (Kalena-Kaala)

Date: Wed, 26 Jan 2000 17:09:21 -1000
From: SLAMCNULTY@aol.com (Sean McNulty)
Subject: From Sean McNulty

What follows is an account of one experience in the Waianae Range in October of 1999. I am a moderately experienced climber, having spent time hiking all over the United States, and having climbed Mt. Rainier in Washington State (over 14,000 feet).

I set out from Kole Kole pass at about 11:00 am, intending on making a trek toward Ka'ala to the North. I had on shorts and a t-shirt, a two quart Camel-Bak, and two powerbars. My first couple of hours has some steep, rough going. I was doing some climbing, some scrambling, and some plain old hiking, depending on the terrain. Included in the first three hours was some of the most breathtaking terrain and views (particularly to the west toward the Naval Magaizine) that I could have expected. The terrain was fit in places for only expert and confident climbers. I made Pu'u Kalena by 2:00 o'clock or so, and decided to continue down into the saddle and up the south slope of Ka'ala on my way to the North. This required me to traverse some densly vegetated path segments that resulted in some leg and arm scratches (shorts were not sufficient). The path was made somewhat more challenging by the trade winds blowing through the saddles along the path. I made the rim of Ka'ala at about 4:30 or so, and the view constituted nothing short of a lifetime milestone.

Looking south, I could just see short of Honolulu, and the panorama of the western shore including the Naval Magazine was amazing. The top of Ka'ala was almost sureal. After having made most of the climb in the sun of late October, I found the top to be a cool, misty bog that opened up infront of me as I followed the path. The path itself was defined in some areas only by trail marking ribbon as it winds through the bog. I used what little ribbon I had in the first few hundred meters, and with the low visibility, I decided to turn back to make the pick up point back at Kole Kole pass. I then wathced the weather go from absolutely clear and sunny to socked in with light rain (courtesy of the trade winds) in about 20 minutes. A lthough disappointed in not having made visual contact with the relay station while standing only a few hundred meters short, I made my way south to take back the path I had taken in. The weather then thickened, and the sun began to set.

I recognized that the path I had taken to this point was not safe to negotiate with out a light in the hours of darkness. I also recognized that I had made a decidedly amatuerish mistake of having been unprepared for the possibility of bad weather, and that I had underestimated the time remaining to make the pick up point. Although underdressed and with no light source, I made the judgment call to spend the night at about 7:00 pm. I was soaked from the rain, but managed to find an accomadating spot to spend the time 'till sunrise. Since I failed to make the pickup point back at Kole Kole pass, my brother and wife took steps through the night to secure my where abouts, not knowing I was spending a humbling night on the trail waiting for daylight. A search operation was launched, and was subsequently put on hold because of the afore mentioned weather. Daylight arrived at about 5:00 am, and I continued on my way to the pass. At about that same time, a second search attempt set out (courtesy of the Honolulu Fire and Rescue) from the pass. By about 8:30 am, I made contact with the search team on the path about 45 minutes from the pass. After swallowing my embarrassment and after having run out of water the night before, I gratefully accepted a drink and we returned to the pass, arriving by about 9:30 am.

I would like to summarize three principal lessons that I had to re-learn about hiking. First: A successful climb in the Waianae range demands bringing some rain resistant/proof clothing and extra gear for contingencies, as the weather can change faster than I have ever seen before. Second: The path as it runs from Kole Kole pass North to Ka'ala is, in sections, barely passable. I should have known this prior to my trip, but I failed to thoroughly research the terrain before leaving for my hike. Third: The island of Ohau offers some of the most unique, beautiful, and challenging terrain anywhere the world. I am planning a return visit, and I can hardly wait.

Sean McNulty

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