OHE January 31, 1999 (waialae nui to olympus)

Date: Sun, 31 Jan 1999 23:44:07 -1000
From: Kirby D Young (kirby.young@worldnet.att.net>
Subject: Waialae Nui to Mt. Olympus

A check of the Koolaus Friday morning (1/29) suggested to my shaky forecasting capabilities that there would be clear views along much of the summit that day. I had the day available for a hike but waffled on a choice as I prepared my stuff. Finally heading out, I waffled once more by the time I reached the car, switching to Waialae Nui, a much shorter route to the Koolau summit than my original plan. 20 minutes later I parked near the terminus of Aha Aina Place, little knowing how ironic my preference for a shorter hike would be by the end of the day.

Quietly circumventing a cyclone fence and the obligatory "No Trespassing" sign (sigh) at 10:15, I followed an obvious path to the top of the forested ridge, where I turned right and proceeded about 30 yards to an open-sloped dip. Here I phoned in my change of plans as I enjoyed a nice view of Waialae Nui ridge all the way to the Koolau summit.

The trail first proceeded about a mile through an alternating series of open ridge sections and thickets of strawberry guava. Views in all directions were great in the open areas. Adjacent Mau'umae Ridge and the Lanipo Dip were very visible on the left, with the Dip shockingly _far_ below the elevation of Waialae Nui. To the right, Norfolk Island pines formed scattered towers on Wiliwilinui ridge.

I entered uluhe past a tall stand of strawberry guava and soon passed over the one significant pu'u between the start and final assault on the Ko'olau summit. The trail was a bit overgrown from here on, but easy to follow. Muddy spots never made much of an appearance thanks I suppose to the fact that relatively few people travel this route to the Koolau summit.

After about 2.5 miles the final ascent began, first at a moderate grade, then more steeply as the ridge swung first right, then arced left. A communications facility near the top of Wiliwilinui was very prominent on the right. Near the top of this ascent was a wonderful view of the windward side through a low gap in the summit between Waialae Nui and Wiliwilinui. This gap is notable for its row of power poles visible from a distance. Leeward views included Koko Head, Aina Haina, my very own Waialae Nui ridge, Diamond Head, the high rises of Waikiki and downtown, and Tantalus, amongst others.

The final 200 yards to the Koolau crest were along a mostly level ridge with one short ascent. Windward views were off-and-on as the cloud bases scraped over the top of the highest bumps along the summit. There was, however, quite a bit of sun shining on the windward side, with the 3 peaks of Olomana getting their share of the warm stuff.

I descended steeply along the summit to the right, going just past the set of 6 or 7 power poles in the gap. Here I had more consistent windward views, from Rabbit Island to Ohulehule in the hazy distance. I also pondered the rest of my day, as it was only about 12:30. Climbing back to the Waialae Nui summit (foggy), I opted to "abandon" my car for retrieval at an unspecified later time and began a summit crossing towards Lanipo.

Mostly foggy conditions hung over the summit as I passed Lanipo and began a short descent to the next gap. Suddenly the clouds lifted a bit. I turned around and returned to Lanipo to enjoy the views from its somewhat more projecting position at the top of the Pali. A windward ridge descending from Lanipo looked inviting. According to previous OHE posts, famous Oahu hiker Dick Davis descended this ridge successfully in what must be about the craziest hiking adventure imaginable. I checked this ridge out from both Waialae Nui and a vantage point past Lanipo, and I cannot see how _there is any way_ a person could descend this without technical aids. It makes Piliwale Ridge look like a joke.

Infused with, or maybe drunk on, the windward views at Lanipo, I skipped on over to the top of Mau'umae Ridge (Kainawaaunui) and a junction with the leeward-descending Lanipo Trail. Yes, I was really tipsy on views now, for my original plan of descending Mau'umae Ridge was forgotten in a sudden notion - why not just continue along the summit crest as far as Olympus.

So off I went at about 1:50 PM or, more accurately, down I went for there is a very significant gap just past the Lanipo Trail junction. Conditions for me as I stood in this saddle a few minutes later were like that of a wind tunnel, and the presence of only very low vegetation and bare slopes here suggested this was not such an unusual weather phenomenon.

Passing a prominent pu'u beyond (Palikea), I began the summit section of a loop trip that can be walked in a circuit of Ka'au Crater (over 600' below me on the lee side!). The crestal track widened significantly in the vicinity of powerline towers that sit on the summit above said crater.

Where the Ewa-side Ka'au trail descends the crater "rim" off of the summit, the summit track turned distinctly more difficult, as it was choked with vegetation in many places and had a bit more exposure to windward in a few places. I would say Ka'au-Ewa to Mt. Olympus was the most difficult part of the summit traverse I did this day.

Descending initially, I fell forward at one point where the trail was slightly leeward of the crest, and curled into a roll of sorts to avoid injury. The head-high growth arrested my fall immediately, and I appropriately pulled myself up using the large root that had tripped me.

At the base of Olympus there is one slightly tricky section. First there were some pretty serious vertical drops immediately on the windward side requiring more than the normal attention to footing and balance. The ridge then narrowed; a low center of gravity was helpful here. Climbing upwards on this narrow section, a threatening rain shower drove me to take shelter in the lee of a strongly weathered cliff of pahoehoe lava (it had the texture of lava flow-on-lava flow but felt more like dirt). With the rain past, I climbed back onto the ridge, and up 10 yds to a fluke of topography. Here I had to climb a jutting, 7' vertical section (not bad because of numerous footholds and not serious exposure) that topped out at the base of a small gully draining off Olympus. Where water spills out of this gully onto the jutting rock, I guess it has the choice of bouncing left to fall windward or right to go leeward.

I climbed further up and out of the gully, and soon reached the top of Mt. Olympus. As it was mostly foggy along the top of this broad summit, I traversed it without pausing until I was descending its Konahuanui side. Here I came to a pronounced junction with what I think has been called the Manoa-Castle trail in OHE posts. Someone has hacked this open for several hundred yards in this area and, as I descended further, I could look back at Olympus and see its prominent line on the leeward face of Olympus (climbing up to what?) and circumventing the first pu'u from Mt. Olympus towards Konahuanui (descending a bit). Looking at the many ridges descending Konahuanui into Manoa Valley, I tried to pick out further lines of this archaeological wonder. I could not really decide I saw a definite remnant of this trail at any place, however, and soon found myself getting a bit bug-eyed with the patterns of vegetation mottling the various ridges.

Beginning a further descent of the Olympus Trail beginning about 4 PM, I arrived at its junction with the Wa'ahila/Kolowalu Trail at an unknown time, because I then discovered that my watch had fallen off. This $12 value awaits a lucky hiker somewhere along the trail, I guess.

I chose to descend Kolowalu rather than continue on Wa'ahila. Most of the way down this steep route into Manoa Valley I second-guessed my decision as I stepped over slippery roots and rocks. Arriving at the trailhead on Alani Dr. I removed gaitors and exchanged long pants for shorts in an attempt to look halfway presentable for the bus ride downtown. No doubt I was only halfway successful in that effort.

Overall, it was a very satifying journey, and certainly one I will remember for awhile.

Kirby


Return to OHE top | Return to Oahu Hike Tales | Email Dayle