OHE January 24, 1999 (Kawiwi to Waianae Kai)

Date: Sun, 24 Jan 1999 00:53:04 -1000
From: Wing C Ng (wing@lava.net>
Subject: Most dangerous thing I did today

Several times before, when I first started driving, my car hydroplaned and I could have been killed.

It's been long time since doing something almost as dangerous. Today came close.

I, Steve Poor, Dave Webb, Dayle Turner, and Dick Beaton met at 8:30 at Waikele. We started hiking at 9:30. Patrick Rorie will start later because of usual commitment. Turns out Arnold Fujioka comes as well with Paka.

I did Kawiwi almost to the top early Dec., and so I don't anticipate any difficulties getting to the top today. The rest are talking about crossing over to Noname. I said that I would probably come out in the dark in that case, and planned on bailing out at Ironwoods.

It was no problem until the almost vertical dike. There is a big slabbing contour trail to the right, which I am still convinced would lead to the top. But the ribbons pointed to climbing back up to the ridgetop from the right, which I did.

I was slightly surprised not to find my yellow ribbon from last time. Didn't think anything of it and proceeded to slab left. Funny, didn't seem to be so dangerous last time, but it must be faulty memory and so I went ahead.

It was a narrow ledge on the left. I looked and saw only Hawaiian air until 1000 feet down. I swallowed hard and crossed the ledge.

Then things don't look familiar, and I was confused. How can the landscape change so much in a little over a month?

I looked around, and fortunately found another ledge going backwards, which I took, and which then got to the ridgetop again. Apparently somebody (Paka?) took an earlier climb to the ridgetop and placed ribbons. Now I found my yellow ribbon at this higher point! But the super-narrow ledge was unnerving. A fall there would be definitely Aloha.

I slabbed left and then right with no problem. I now entered a forested area with good footing and lots of trees for security. The trail follows the wide gully all the way to the top, a saddle to the right of Kawiwi peak. I got to the saddle and ascended left and got to the top of Kawiwi, FINALLY, after 7 tries, and it was 1:10 p.m.

I saw the other guys crossing the spectacular dike over to Noname, and so, I drank water and ate an apple and proceeded to cross at 1:20.

The dike is spectacular: it drops off 500 feet or so on both sides. This is not level with smooth surface like on Kalena; rather it has uneven rocky surface and descends rather steeply in places.

In some of the most spooky places, there is a goat trail on the left that is less spooky. The first occurrence entails jumping off 4-5 feet to get to the goat trail. I grabbed an unfortunate plant, which came off its anchor, but there are trees farther down, and so it was a controlled fall.

There are at least two places where the goat trail gets exceedingly narrow, and there is a rock protruding out, essentially forcing my body to protrude over the edge, over thin Hawaiian air. I grabbed rock, grass and whatever is available for balance. Luckily, as the fact that I am writing this shows, I crossed safely.

Dayle says that he does not remember these. He probably went on the ridgetop instead.

There is a place with bypass trails on both left and right, with ribbons on both sides. The right side looks better and so I chose that. Afterwards I looked back, and the left does not look too bad either. Dayle says that Paka chose left and he chose right. I liked Dayle's conservatism in this case.

A seemingly vertical rockface beckons ahead, and there is a helpful ribbon tied to a tree on top of the rockface. When I got there, it is not quite vertical and there are some hand/footholds. But there would normally be a cable in such a place if this were a Club hike, and of course there is none. So I gingerly grabbed rocks and plants and succeeded in climbing up that rockface.

Now I was nearing that structure that I called Broken Tooth in a previous article. Near the Ironwoods grove there are a number of rocks jutting into the air that looks like broken teeth of a huge monster. Couple months ago, Paka and I went up Ironwoods and turned left, and was stopped at a place where we had to climb up to the top of one of the Broken Teeth. I was kind of apprehensive all day about negotiating that descent.

I came to the start of the broken teeth, and there is a well-defined path going to the left. I was surprised that there is no ribbon and so I placed one of mine there. The path is good, until ... , it ends. It seems that one either climbs up to the top of the tooth on the right, or drop down farther to the left. Or maybe there is another way that I missed?

I backtracked and took off my ribbon. I looked and looked and could not find any alternative. I went back on the left, and explored the drop-down alternative. Footing becomes treacherous, and the slope left becomes very steep. I also noticed that the teeth are very tall, maybe 100 feet dropoff on the left side and I knew that it is 200-300 feet dropoff on the right side.

I climbed back up and proceeded to go up to the top of the tooth. Miraculously, there is a gap I could squeeze through, and a crack that goes down into a nice ledge. I managed to go down to the ledge and then noticed a RIBBBON!! tied to the ridgetop. I looked ahead, and saw several more ribbons on the ridgetop, on top of the teeth.

So those guys did negotiate these teeth by walking on top. This is stupendous: the teeth are jagged rocks, going up and down. It is understatement to say it's an uneven surface: there is no "surface", it's like walking on top of the dental works of a Tyrannosaurus from Hell, whose teeth are 100 feet high!!

Encouraged by the ribbons, I gingerly went forward, knowing that the Ironwoods is almost there. The moves were not particularly technical or difficult: climb up one rock, down the other side, repeat, ... , but there is NO ROOM FOR ERROR, the slightest mistake that results in a slip will bring me sliding down either left or right, and the choice is 100 feet or 250 feet vertical fall, either of which again means Aloha.

I concentrated on my moves for an eternity, and finally spotted the two ribbons tied to a tree that was the startpoint of the nice trail through the Ironwoods. There is only one rocky descent, and then walking on a rock ledge sloping down, the feature that stopped me and Paka few months ago and the subject of so much apprehension today. Turns out that the rock ledge was a piece of cake, compared to what I went through today.

It's 3:15, and I was finally at the Ironwoods!!

Meantime, the other guys got to Noname like an hour ago, and disappeared from sight. Obviously I had to bail out from Ironwoods, and so I ate my lunch in a hurry and then went down.

Like those who went up the backside of Olomana 3rd peak, I found that the rest was SO EASY!!

Got to the car by 5:30, and all the others were gone. Dayle left a note on my windshield at 4:00 to call him to report safety.

Today I succeeded in doing a crossover that was done by Al Miller years ago, and that was done by very few others. I am #6 in topping out Kawiwi, and probably even Al did not do THAT. I am still alive to eat dinner after this magnificent hike.

The moves all day were not particularly difficult, and so I did not say it was the most difficult hike I've done. But at many spots, and for a continuous half-hour or so on top of the Broken Tooth, any slightest mistake means Instant Aloha, and that's why I think this is the most dangerous thing I've for quite some years.

I miss Mike Uslan: if he were around today, he would be able to write an account that is even more, MUCH MORE melodramatic.


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

Wing posted a detailed write-up about our outing yesterday. Here are some additional insights.

From our parking spot at the end of the single-lane access road in Waianae Valley, we needed 20 minutes to reach the start of the trail to Kawiwi. This trail is on the left and is just before a spot where the road bends right. For those going up there to look for the trail, know that if you reach the first Well/Pump Building, you've gone too far.

The trail leading to the base of Kawiwi ridge has become a bit overgrown as a consequence of recent rains, and even though there are ribbons, these are difficult to spot in places because of the vegetation. Remember to keep working toward Kawiwi and eventually you'll emerge at the base of the ridge and probably pick up the ribbons that lead up the slope.

Yesterday, we needed about two hours to summit Kawiwi. Pat, who started late, needed less time and was the first to reach the summit crest, topping out at about 11:45. There was a bit of excitement during the final approach to the crest when Pat unknowingly startled a herd of a dozen goats. The fleeing animals triggered a rock slide that sent some watermelon-sized rocks bounding downslope at Dave, Dick, Steve, and I. Fortunately, we were about 10 feet away from the main path of the rocks and avoided injury.

After the rock slide, we completed the final 50 meters to Kawiwi's summit, where we spent about 15 minutes. Dave, Dick, and Steve used the opportunity to snap some photos. The views were sparkling and the resulting pics should be nice ones.

At 12:15, we began the crossover to NoName peak (elev. 3,000). Wing had yet to summit but we saw him downridge as we began the crossing. He was moving steadily upward so we knew he was okay.

From Kawiwi (elev. 2,975), the summit crest loses about 300 feet of elevation as it drops to a saddle. The section Wing refers to as Broken Tooth is at or near the low point, and the section leading to Broken Tooth features some super dike sections where caution must be exercised. Even though none of us had ever done the crossover, Pat and I were optimistic it could be done without major risk since we'd observed a herd of goats crossing the narrow ridge on our previous ascent of Kawiwi on 12/5. Plus, HTMC legend Al Miller had done the crossing and said no aids were needed, so our optimism was bolstered even more.

The whole crossover from Kawiwi to NoName is three-quarters of a mile, give or take, with Broken Tooth at about the halfway mark. We needed about 45 minutes to reach the ironwoods beyond Broken Tooth. Pat led and put up ribbons. I manned the No. 2 spot and hammered away at branches and vegetation to make the going easier and, in some cases, safer.

When I reached Broken Tooth, Pat was long gone, and I was confronted with a huge sentinel boulder that blocked straight-ahead progress on the crest. There was a cliff on the right; on the left was what appeared to be a goat trail through a small tangle of Christmas berry branches. Pat had diligently placed ribbons up to that point and I found it odd that I couldn't find one at that spot. Going over the top of the boulder seemed impossible and with the cliff to the right, going left was the only apparent option. So I worked left, hacking down branches and looking for a ribbon or sign that Pat had come this way.

After about 20 feet of slabbing on the left, I looked up about eight feet to my right at a notch in the boulder. Straight ahead slabbing would require a steep descent through a thinning forest on a steep slope. Not wanting to descend and chance a fall, I climbed up to the notch, regained the ridge, and saw a ribbon tied to a small branch about 10 feet straight ahead. A good sign!

I walked carefully on the rock slab/ridge to the ribbon, and then inched my way down a slidingboard-like rock to descend to a decent looking ledge on the right. That ledge was solid and after moving forward a few feet, I spotted an old double ribbon on an ironwood branch, which marked the spot where Pat and Wing had stopped when they came up the ironwood route on 11/14. For those who don't know, the ironwood ridge was pioneered last summer by Steve Poor and Wing, who used an approach via the lower reaches of the Waianae Kai trail.

A little past 1:00, Steve, Dave, Dick, and I plopped down to eat lunch in the ironwoods. Arnold, who stopped to eat further back, was trailing by a few minutes. When he reached Broken Tooth, Arnold yelled out for directions about how to negotiate the slab left/notch segment. Hearing him, I backtracked to where I could see him and pointed out the correct line.

At that point, we hadn't heard nor seen Wing. We had no doubt that he would reach Kawiwi but we thought that he'd probably opt against the crossover, particularly since he would be crossing by himself. But Wing demonstrated some impressive fortitude by negotiating a tricky and challenging segment of ridgeline. With time against him, he also used good judgment by descending the ironwood ridge instead of continuing on to NoName. Kudos to Wing.

With lunch consumed, the rest of us resumed hiking at 1:30. The climb to NoName from the ironwoods took a tad over half an hour. When we reached NoName, Pat had already departed and we could hear him calling out from the forest below as he descended the Waianae Kai trail.

At 2:30 we reached a brand new picnic table shelter (like the one on Kuliouou) that sits in the clearing on the ridgetop where the Waianae Kai trail descends to Waianae Valley. We later found out that some Boy Scouts working on an Eagle Scout project had constructed the shelter, with the supplies choppered in by Na Ala Hele, the state trail management organization.

We spent a few minutes admiring the shelter and picnic table and then began the descent of Waianae Kai. Near where the paved road ends and trail begins, we met the Scouts, who were just finishing up another picnic shelter at that spot.

We were back at the cars at 3:45. Pat had already taken off, a note telling us that he had an afternoon commitment to attend. Meanwhile, I left a note on Wing's windshield, asking him to call me at home when he got out. He left a message at 5:45 to say that he made it out okay.

To sum up, the whole route we did probably is too perilous to be added as an HTMC outing. The big danger is from loose rock. Along the crest between Kawiwi and No Name, solid looking boulders may not be as steadfast as they appear, and grabbing or stepping on rocks like these may lead to a fatal accident. On the other hand, the climb to Kawiwi has been cleared and flagged fairly well and with the addition of cables in a couple of spots, that route can be added to the club's calendar at some point.

If anyone on the list has a desire to hike the route, be careful and before putting weight on rocks at exposed places, test the rocks for solidness.


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