OHE January 18, 1999 (puu o kona)

Date: Mon, 18 Jan 1999 16:06:52 -1000
From: "Dayle K. Turner" (turner@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Pu'u o Kona with the HTMC

Yesterday (1/17), I assisted John Hall with the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club members-only hike on the route called Pu'u o Kona. Over two dozen club members, including OHE-Lers Richard McMahon, and Fred Boll and his wife Mi Cha, assembled at the end of Kala'au Place in Kuliouou Valley. After listening to John's pre-hike briefing, we set off on the trail at just past 8:30.

John asked me to stay among the lead hikers so that I could help keep first-timers to the route from going off course. I'd also put up ribbons if needed. Instead of using the state switchback trail to gain the ridge, we used another route that follows a gully to the ridgecrest. The climbing was steep a minute from the start, and the initial chatter and laughter from the group quieted down as oxygen processing from the exertion of the climb took precedence over talking and such. I led for about 20 minutes but yielded to Peter Kempf, Evelia Torres, and Henry Vegter, a trio of marathon runner types. The chicken salad sandwich (bought at 7-11) I'd eaten for breakfast didn't seem to be congruent with the physical processes needed for the climb, and I hoped the queasiness in my gut would dissipate after awhile.

Once atop the east ridge of Kuliouou, the route continued mauka for a couple hundred meters before heading right and down on a trail that contoured gradually to the back of Kaalakei Valley. Noticing a lack of directional markers, I placed some ribbons at a couple junctions where folks might go off-course. As it turned out, I found out later that some folks went off course nonetheless, continuing mauka up Kuliouou east and eventually hooking up with the state trail instead of following the intended route. In addition, some folks opted not to follow the ribbons and intentionally continued on to the state trail instead of dropping down to Kaalakei.

From Kaalakei, the route we used gained and then climbed Mauna o Ahi ridge, ascending it to the Koolau summit. Mauna o Ahi doesn't level off appreciably anywhere on the climb, and I sweated heavily and grunted and groaned on my way to the top. Part of the groaning was a result of the toughness of the ascent while part was due to the bad selection of breakfast food. Once at the summit crest, we turned left to head for the terminus of the Kuliouou state trail. Except for brief instances, views to windward were obscured by clouds.

At the state trail terminus, I caught up with Henry, who said he wouldn't be continuing along the crest route because he had an engagement to attend. Meanwhile, Peter and Evelia had zipped off several minutes prior, bound for Pu'u o Kona and then the terminus of the west ridge of Kuliouou.

After watching Henry head down the state trail, I spent a couple minutes chatting with a sixsome of club hikers who'd missed the junction down to Kaalakei. They told me they'd come up the state trail instead and were planning to continue along the crest after a few minutes of rest. Meanwhile, no other club hikers were in sight. After bidding farewell to the six, I headed for Pu'u o Kona, negotiating the two eroded pu'u before it without incident. Wingo's ropes at his nightmare hill were still intact.

While I normally spend a few minutes enjoying the views at Pu'u o Kona, I didn't linger a second yesterday because the views were nil. I pressed on, pausing only to puke out (not self-induced) the chicken salad sandwich. It was amazing how much better I felt after my gut was rid of that ill conceived morning meal choice. Invigorated, away I went.

The crossover from the Kuliouou east terminus to the west terminus pu'u took half an hour, and I tied a trio of pink ribbons to an i'e i'e branch to mark the spot as the turnoff point from the summit ridge. On the leeward side of the pu'u is a semi-sheltered clearing where Rob Geer, Melissa Scruton, and a visitor from Switzerland were seated. They'd started out late, had come up the state trail, completed the crossover, and were waiting for the club hikers to arrive. They said Peter and Evelia had dashed by about 15 minutes prior to begin the descent of Kuliouou west.

At the leeward clearing, I spent the next half hour talking story with the trio, accepting a membership application from the Swiss visitor, and greeting the arriving parade of club hikers. Among the arrivals I knew were Naomi Nasu, Steve Brown, and Lin Black.

In all, sixteen of us completed the crossover and descended the ridge on the west side of Kuliouou to the vacant lot on Papahehi Place. On the way down, everyone completed the two cable tricks without a problem. The upper part of the west ridge trail was overgrown but not a big dilemma to navigate.

John accompanied the last hikers to completed the six-mile loop hike at a little past two. With my work done, I drove to Wailupe Valley to talk story with members of the HTMC trail clearing gang, who spent the day working on the route the club calls Wailupe Gulch. Stuart Ball, assisted by Mike Algiers, will coordinate the club hike a couple Sundays from now.


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