OHE January 26, 1998 (c)

Date: Mon, 26 Jan 1998 21:53:53 -1000
From: Nathan Yuen (nyuen@lava.net>
Subject: Koolau Ridge from Olympus to Konahuanui

Went on a great hike yesterday with the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club to traverse the section of the Koolaus between Olympus, the peak above St. Louis Heights, and Konahuanui, the highest point on the Koolau Range. Konahuanui is that massive double peak which towers over the eastern side of Nuuanu. With many small canyons carved into the upper face of Konahuanui, Nuuanu is stunning in the rain when many waterfalls plunge over the cliffs of Konahuanui into a series of streams which flow into the lovely reservoir at the base of lush green Nuuanu Valley.

Fortunately for us, conditions were near-perfect when we started the hike with merely a wisp of clouds tickling the very summits of Olympus and Konahuanui. Beginning from Waahila State Park, we hiked up the ungraded trail which follows the contour of the ridge as it goes up and down over and over again. With the sun shinging brighly overhead, the views were just fantastic with Manoa Valley on one side and Palolo Valley on the other. Hiking ever higher on the trail, we reached the point where the Waahila and Kolowalu trails connect and the trail to Olympus begins. As we began our ascent of Olympus, the trail became increasingly steep and overgrown with uluhe. Hacking away at the ferns as we climbed we contoured-off to the right began our hike westward along the summit ridge towards Konahuanui.

As we hiked along the Koolau Summit Ridge we were treated to beautiful views of southern shore of Oahu with Manoa valley below us on one side and the Koolauloa coastline with Kaneohe, Kailua, Olomana, and Waimanalo on the other. We could also see the offshore islands of Manana (Rabbit Island) and the Mokuluas off in the distance. Unfortuntely, the skies were somewhat voggy preventing us from enjoying the fantastic shades of blue which otherwise color the coastline. As we made our way along the summit ridge, the trail became increaslingly overgrown with clidemia and other vegetation. With Patrick and Gene alternating the ramrod position, we following behind with our machetes and other trail-clearing implements hacking at the vegetation. So choked was the trail with scratchy vegetation, those of us who did not wear long pants paid dearly with a thousand lashes for our lack of foresight.

At what I believe was the very head of Manoa Valley (the saddle along the summit ridge between Olympus and Konahuanui), we were confronted with the first of two dike formations a couple of feet wide with a near vertical face on the windward-side. The first dike formation we encountered proved to be quite easy as the trail contoured around it rather than over it. Not wanting to miss a fantastic photo opportunity, I yelled out to Patrick to climb ontop the dike for a picture. And what a great snapshot I got! Anyway, after we climbed over a large boulder at the end of the first dike which required a fair degree of concentration to overcome, we hiked a bit further before reaching a second dike formation. Fortunately for us, quite a few ironwood trees grew along the sheer windward-face of the dike making effective handholds to pull ourselves up the mountain.

After traversing these dikes, we were confronted with several what seemed to be relentess climbs up and down the summit ridge. The worse thing was that upon reaching the top of one, we were forced to climb back down only to climb back up even higher! After reaching a couple of steep mountain-sides overgrown with tuffs of spagnum moss admist kawelo and uki uki grass, we decided to rest a bit for lunch. As we finished out lunches and admired fantastic views of the southern coastline of Oahu, clouds began to appear in the near distance and fortunately for us, began to shield us from the hot rays of the sun.

After completeing our lunch break, we climbed up and down a few more steep climbs until we reached the first peak of Konahuanui! And what a view! Perched some 2,900 feet above sea level we had a great (but somewhat hazy) view of the southern shore of Oahu. We had a beautiful view of the Nuuanu reservoir, the peaks of Puu Lanihuli (the massive mountain forming the western side of Nuuanu valley), and the up-side down falls of Nuuanu. Many small canyons are carved into the upper portion of Puu Lanihuli, some of which become home for temporary waterfalls when it rains. One such temporary waterfall is situated in a spot that it particularly vulnerable to the wind. When conditions are ever so perfect, the wind will disrupt the water from falling to the valley floor below by blowing the water into a fine mist up and away from the cliff! It's a fantastic sight to see the upside-down waterfall of Nuuanu in action!

As we rested ontop the first peak of Konahuanui, I could not help but recall that according to legend, the twin peaks Konahuanui are the testicles of a giant who tore them off himself and threw them at a woman who was fleeing from him into a cave. Anyway... a thick bank of clouds began descending from the windward side and prodded us to begin our descent into Manoa Valley along a ridge that straddle Nuuanu and Manoa Valleys. As we began our quick descent, we saw a small stream which must be the source of Lulumahu Falls, a charming hundred foot waterfall hidden within a deep canyon carved into the Nuuanu-facing side of Konahuanui. Anyway, after trudging ever downwards along the trail, we finally reached the Pauoa Flats trail. From here the hike was anticlimatic as we hiked down the Aihualama trail down to Manoa falls and then back to civilzation.

As we trudged down back to our cars, I was thankful that I had experienced the length of the Koolau Summit Ridge which overlooks Manoa valley. As I drive into Manoa Valley for work everyday, I had often wondered what its like along the summit ridge--and now I know. I will however, have to return in order to conquer the second higher peak of Konahuanui which is some 3,105 feet above sea level.


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