Piliwale Ridge 7-27-97 by Kurt Heilbron
Pat and I had talked about doing Piliwale for quite some time. This last Sunday, we decided to give the trail a look. We did not anticipate going all the way to the top of Konahuanui but basically wanted to see if the route via Piliwale was passable.
Pat and I met at the hairpin turn on the Kailua side of the Pali highway right where the Koolaupoko trail begins. We got started at 5:45 P.M., and headed for the Koolaupoko / Piliwale junction. The Piliwale ridge trail starts where the Maunawili trail meets the Koolaupoko trail.
Look directly to your right and you will see the Piliwale trail. We got to the Piliwale / Koolaupoko junction at 6:00 P.M and started on up the Piliwale ridge trail. The trail itself is in fairly good condition considering it hasn't been done for some time. The beginning of this trail reminds me of the backside of Manamana. It is steep and gets down to business right away. Since we didn't have much time, Pat and I decided to try and go as far as possible before it got dark.
We pushed our way on up and passed two pieces of rope that had been cut. Not a good sign. We came to a rock face section that wasn't too bad, however, the trail is narrow and there are drop-offs on both sides. You must be careful here. At 6:40 we reached another rock face that had a cable attached to it. After carefully testing the cable we made our way up and over the huge rock face. This is where we decided to stop. Just in front of us was the rest of the Piliwale trail which appeared to go up a near vertical rock face. We could not see any cables here. Pat and I just stared at it for quite sometime. The rest of trail looks like the most dangerous hike I have ever seen. This ridge is so narrow and there is no room for error here. One slip and I guarantee you will die. There is no vegetation to stop you, only huge drop-offs on both sides. I can't believe that some people have actually scaled this ridge. You have to see it to believe it.
We rested on a nice grassy area and gulped down some water and tigersport bars. Pat and I decided that maybe coming down from Konahuanui with ropes would be a lot safer than trying to go straight up Piliwale. So we will put that on the schedule for another day.
> At 7:10 we started our descent down. After a brief shower passed over us and trekking our way through the vegetation we made it back to the Koolaupoko / Piliwale junction at 7:40. With flashlights, (Mine not working but Pats did) we made our way back to our cars at 7:54.
This hike is in no way a hike to do alone. Even doing it with someone would still be extremely dangerous. I still would like to give it a try from Konahuanui using ropes. The trail to the huge rock face is very nice. This would be a good intermediate hike. Its not long and the views are very nice. If anyone is interested in Piliwale please let Pat or myself know before you do it.
Aloha for now, (Hulehule is next) Again :)
It is nice to know the real name of this trail. We always refer to it as the Jim Yuen "piece-of-cake" hike. We asked him once about the difficulty of that hike; his reply became immortal in our memory. I believe he & his mom both scaled the trail to the top.
If I'm correct, I believe the Jim Yuen you refer to is JY Jr. and his mom is Charlotte Yamane, a veteran HTMC member and daredevil extraordinaire in her own right. Regarding the reference to JY and Charlotte, am I right, Wing and Mae?
Speaking of the "piece of cake" reference, another person who has completed Piliwale (ascent and descent) is Jason Sunada, who mentioned that it was "not too bad" almost in the same breath as remarking about the ridge's "death drops." Hmmm....
While I may be a gung-ho hiker of sorts, I'm not sure I'm that gung ho.
Now I know there are at least 4 people who did Piliwale, besides Piliwale himself:
Jim Yuen's mom
The last one told me about it: some place he closed his eyes and jumped.
This guy fell off an ice ledge in Washington State in July 1991, a most honorable way to depart this world.
Is it _that_ Jim Yuen?, didn't occur to me ...
Charlotte never boasted about doing Piliwale Ridge. Of course she did Kanehoalani, and so she could do _anything_!
BTW, John Hall said that he climbed up Lanihuli, straight up, from one of the ridges going up from the Windward side. He did _not_ mean going up either side along the Koolaus .... John was of course a professorial type, Ph.D. Berkeley, and would never lie about something like that :)
These "spider men/women" are my envy.
It occurred to me when Mae mentioned that Jim *AND HIS MOM* had done Piliwale. No offense to moms and women out there, but there aren't many moms (or, for that matter, dads, sons, etc.) who can claim to doing Piliwale Ridge. But I know Charlotte is such a mom and I remember her introducing her son Jim to me once--hence the connection.
Charlotte was atop Konahuanui with the trail clearing gang a couple Sundays ago and she didn't mention doing Piliwale. But Charlotte is the non-boastful type who probably won't talk about it unless asked.
> BTW, John Hall said that he climbed up Lanihuli, straight up, from
> one of the ridges going up from the Windward side.
I remember your mention of this, Wing, and a week or so ago while I hiked Likeke, I think I spotted the ridge that John climbed. Every one of the fingers ascending to the crest in that area is dicey but there appeared to be one that was a bit less dicey than the rest (but not something I'd ever do). John has completed some amazing hikes, including Waialeale, Pololu to Waimano, a circumnavigation of Mauna Kea at the 9,000-foot level, a descent of Mauna Loa via the southwest rift, and more. Like Charlotte, he is very modest about his accomplishments.
I admire folks like these.