OHE July 4, 1998

Date: Sat, 4 Jul 1998 12:32:23 -1000
From: Wing C Ng (wing@lava.net>
Subject: Return to Waimalu

Thursday I bugged Paka-Lolo and the Professor to finish what we were supposed to do Memorial Day weekend, i.e. go up Waimano and then down Waimalu. The Professor had a car-camping (wimp!) engagement, and Paka graciously consented, adding that it is too short for him, and he will go down Aiea instead.

Makes a logistical nightmare. Will meet at Aiea, Paka leaves his car, we drive to Waimano and start. He will likely come out before me and will drive home, and I'll call him on cellular to pick me up at Waimalu. Or I can always ring that doorbell for Dr. Gene Robinson the rescue service :-)

Going up Waimano was uneventful, but being with Paka exerts a speed-up influence, and so I unconsciously went fast, posting a record time of 3:15, 5 min. better than the one I posted in 1991, when I was 15 lbs. lighter!

Went ahead of Paka, when was having a sumptuous snack, and got to the Waiau intersection. All my ribbons of 1996 were gone, but the opening is recognizable. I cleared the opening wide, and placed one single ribbon there. I only had a tiny bit, because I gave my new roll to Paka, who will go ahead of me to ribbon to show the way, and then he will place the roll at the top of Waimalu for me to use on Waimalu descent.

At this time Paka caught up, I yelled my Waiau slogan, "Never Again" (that's my disastrous trip down Waiau in '96, resulting in rescue), and said "see you a lot later", and he flew by in a blur.

So I trudged on. Just as Paka and Professor said, this section of the Koolau summit is very similar to the section between Manana and Waimano, with low vegetation, and almost no leeward sections. You just go on a faint swatch along the edge. And it was totally fogged in, you can't see anything, esp. not how you might fall off from the left, and so it felt totally secure, and I had no problem at all walking right at the edge. The wind-blown rain got into my eyes a lot, and I had to stop often to wipe my eyes, but it is a tolerable intrusion.

They said it should be two hours. Right about two hours, there is a ribboned opening to the right, wide-open. This is the by-pass of a steep section right before Waimalu Middle. I felt excited to be near.

The wide trail goes down to a tiny stream (which is flowing from the rain). I followed the ribbons along the stream, which gets smaller and smaller, and eventually petered out to a tiny dry gully. Paka meticulously ribboned the route, which is quite necessary as there is no swath, the terrain is confusing, and can't see more than 100 feet in the fog.

Suddenly I saw a figure climbing in front of me up the grassy slope to the top of a ridge. I couldn't determine if it was Paka (I assumed he would be far ahead), and thought maybe it was Dr. Robinson giving us a surprise re-union at the top of Waimalu Middle. So I gave out a yell "hello!" rather than "Pakalolo", (which might get you into trouble with strangers in the wild). The figure looked around, seemed to gesture to point to the right, and then swiftly disappeared.

I thought, "hmmm, Paka-Lolo is grouchy now because I caught up with him!". So I followed the path the figure took.

The geology is atrocious. It looks like a grassy slope with a reasonable angle. In reality it's mostly a layer of moss loosely attached to the soil, which is pure, wet, slick mud of the consistency and color of molten chocolate. I tried climb what seemed like a good line, and there is no handhold/foothold, the moss just peeled away, leaving slick mud. I placed my loppers on a ledge above and tried to climb, and the moss gave way, and I fell off some 20 feet. It was quite safe, as I only slipped on soft moss down to the flat terrain below, but is was unnerving, the last time I did THAT was Xmas of 1981 in Koko Crater, when I almost died except I was stopped by some haole koa trees!

Eventually I found another line and got up to that knife-edge ridge. I looked down and it was steep to get to that ledge, and I couldn't see my loppers any more. I decided to go back down and try to retrieve the loppers (Paka-Lolo retrieved my loppers last time, True Horrors Konahuanui-Olympus traverse). But the soil was disturbed so much already, with all handholds/ footholds gone, that I couldn't even get near to the bottom of the ledge any more! And I couldn't see the loppers either from the bottom.

So I said to myself, the might Waimalu Middle demands a sacrifice today, and I'd better placate her in order to safely get out to have dinner and go to bed tonight. I gave up and went on the knife-edge ridge to gain the Summit Plateau. Took 3:10 to do the traverse, including 15 minutes wasted on the loppers rescue effort.

I got to where I thought was the lunch-spot, and was surprised not to see any ribbons, or the ribbon roll that Paka promised to leave there. I thought, maybe Paka was pissed about my catching up with him and started jogging and forgot about the roll. Or maybe this is not the lunch-spot yet. I looked around, and the most obvious continuation goes gently down apparently to another flat spot. I brought compass and took a reading and that's north! This is the Kalahaku Commuting Trail!!! Then I turned right and saw a ridge going steeply down and continuing on, and I recognized this to be the Koolau summit ridge going towards Aiea, from the previous trek up here.

It was too windy to have lunch at the top, and so I followed the south direction, and immediately ran into two old ribbons on branches that was put there in Aug. 97, the last time we were here. I kept walking and then saw new ribbons and then the ribbon roll! I wondered if Paka maybe decided to bail out and go down Waimalu instead.

I got past the narrow spot and then sat down to have lunch. No loppers to cut trail, but still have ribbons to mark trail.

The descent was uneventful. The top half was wonderful, no overgrowth at all. I noted with approval all the lopper marks I made before, which eliminated tree branch intrusions. Couldn't do it today, but mostly there was no need. After the half-way point there was some uluhe. The steep descent section was quite clear also. Then uluhe becomes thick in the last long level section. Finally, come to the last steep descent to the valley floor.

This is is the section that I spent about 4 hours on in '97, clearing a 3-feet wide trail! Now, sic transit gloria, and it was TOTALLY gone. I know this trail like the back of my hand, and knew this is the right route, but otherwise, I would not have gone down at all: there is solid, green uluhe, no swath at all! Only one year, and the trail is totally gone!

So I simply bashed through. And got to the bottom valley floor at 5:55, 3h 20m since the top. That was a good time for me too.

The rest is uneventful. Got to the open rest spot at 6:55. Last time I laid down here to take a nap; this time I did not need to. Sat down to eat an orange, take out the flashlight from the pack, change my compass watch to an indiglo watch, and went on.

Got dark about 7:45, turned on the flashlight. At 8:00 got to the last tiny stream crossing. Huffed and puffed up that amazingly steep up section. Was quite tired, having hiked more than 12 hours nonstop already.

Finally, 8:55 got the the last uphill before the trailhead. Sat down and enjoyed a drink of water (drank only 1/2 of the 1-gallon bottle, true camel!), and took out cell phone to call Paka. Got to the end 9:00, sat on the sidewalk for a well-deserved rest, and in 15 minutes Paka-Lolo arrived.

Got home, showered and cleaned up, and it was 11 p.m. Went to a Chinese restaurant that opens till 2 a.m., as all my other favorite restaurants were closed already. Had sumptuous dinner and then 9 hours sleep, as reward to myself for hiking 13 hours in the rain.

The boots probably won't dry until next Friday.


Reply from: Patrick Rorie

Dr. Ng did a more than adequate job of describing our July 3rd adventure up Waimano and along the Ko'olau summit crest to Waimalu middle ridge. This entry is submitted to answer the question,"What happened to Paka?".

First of all, I did not become "grouchy" or "pissed" during the crossover. As a matter of fact, I never saw or heard Wing after bidding him farewell at the Waiau summit. But apparently he saw me as I climbed up to the broad plateau which is the Waimalu summit. Hats off to him for being so speedy that day.

I arrived at the middle ridge topping out point a few minutes after 2 p.m. and hung the orange roll of ribbon on a tree stump which was next to the trail leading down to Waimalu Valley (where I thought Wing would clearly see it). The peak was completely engulfed in clouds accompanied by gusty trade winds and periodic rain showers.

At 2:07 p.m. I started descending the Ko'olau summit ridge toward Aiea. On two previous occasions I had traveled from Aiea to Waimalu but never vise versa. The final ascent to the Waimalu middle ridge coming from the south, as Gene Robinson can affirm, is a difficult, lengthy ordeal. Going down the sometimes narrow crest was not as taxing but great caution had to be exercised. A mixture of wind-blown rain "pellets" and some sunscreen entered my eyes making matters worse.

Accomplished the steep descent and made my way over a short level stretch where I noticed a large patch of ginger plants growing right on top of the summit ridge (very unusual). Endured two memorable climbs, the second being a steep drawn-out affair to one of the five prominent peaks between the Waimalu plateau and the Aiea Ridge summit. Observed several loulu palm patches mainly on the windward side of the summit crest. Most of the trees were of the tall variety.

Later, following a downward segment, I came across a leeward ravine which had several ti leaf plants/trees growing in it. On the opposite side, a short distance below the crest, was a stand of tall loulu. During a hike earlier in the year, Mahealani Cypher told me of how ancient Hawaiians marked burial caves using loulu palms. If there was ever a candidate for such a location (esp. with the existence of ti leaf plants/trees nearby) it was this one!

Pressing on, I made three more serious climbs. Along the way I recognized a pleasant, windswept ravine of low grass on the leeward side (the clouds swirling just above the region as they crossed the mountain range); a pole protruding a few inches out of the ground pounded directly into the ridge line; periodic boar rootings and a series of four boulders covered partially by earth coming after a leeward stretch of the trail. Also observed a few lapalapa trees, the sound of their leaves paking each other was a delight.

I was greatly relieved when, at long last, I recognized the lower power-line tower through the fog which is only a short distance from the Aiea summit. Upon reaching the tower, I dropped down to a gully which featured a flowing stream. Scrambled steeply out of the area but up the wrong finger ridge (should have remained on the summit crest instead of descending to the bottom of the gulch). Sat down to rest on a large grassy clearing at 4:37 p.m. still completely engulfed in clouds.

Began the exit leg of the trek down the Aiea Ridge Trail at 4:50 p.m. It was rather uneventful except for slipping and slidding over a very muddy footpath (I didn't remember to bring my Nike Landsharks for the hike) and the noise of H-3. The Aiea Loop Trail, while equally muddy, offered a pleasant stroll through a variety of flora (including eucalyptus, paperbark, strawberry guava, uluhe, and Norfolk Island pines) and was a nice way to end the day.

Arrived at the upper lot of Keaiwa Heiau State Recreational Area at 7 p.m., got into my car and took off for home a few minutes later.

Notes: Now is the time (longest days of the year) for Mike Uslan, Dr. Peter Caldwell, Dayle Turner, and Wing Ng to do the Aiea to Waimalu loop. It may require an overnighter but would be well worth the effort. What do you say, gentlemen?

== Paka

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