OHE July 26, 1999 (Kalena-Kaala)



Date: Mon, 26 Jul 1999 14:49:21 -1000
From: Patrick Rorie (prorie@k12.hi.us>
Subject: Kalena-Ka'ala

Let the annals of Oahu hiking history show that Pat "Paka" Rorie and Laredo "Rainbowman" Murray traversed the crest of the Waianae Range from Pu'u Kalena to Mount Ka'ala on Sunday, July 25th, 1999.

5:45 a.m. the radio alarm in my bedroom goes off, and I head for the bathroom to revive and wash up. Out the door of my Waikele apartment at 6:30 a.m. bound for Maili on the Leeward Coast of Oahu to meet Keith Palmer (Sierra Club conservation chair). I follow Keith to a GTE substation beyond Taco Bell in Waianae where I park my car (neither of us feel good about leaving Keith's volvo or the pat-mobile in Waianae Valley all day). Keith and I carpool to Kolekole Pass (elev. 1,604 ft) arriving there before 8 a.m. Keith gets a head start as Laredo (purple hair on this day) pulls in. Following final preps, Laredo and I begin the initial ascent on the dirt road where the giant white cross used to be at 8:34 a.m. We catch up to Keith before the terminus of the opening climb and together the three of us gain the crest of the Waianae Range at a benchmark. It is hot due to unobstructed sun and a light breeze, and I notice rain pouring down on the leeward Ko'olaus in the distance. Our party methodically travels along the summit ridge enjoying breath-taking views of the leeward side of the Waianae Range as it stretches south including Pu'u Hapapa, massive Pu'u Kaua, Palikea, Pu'u Heleakala as well as vast Lualualei Valley, Pu'u O'Hulu, and Pu'u Kailio almost directly below.

Following a steep climb over the eroded trail to a distinct peak (page 205 map point 'D' in Ball's "Hiker's Guide"), we pass the remains of a fire and, soon after, Keith spots two hikers about a quarter of the way up the final ascent of Pu'u Kalena. Keith also recognizes three flowering lobelia but I'm hiking too quickly and preparing mentally for the coming ordeal to notice. Eventually, the three of us catch up to the two hikers (an army ranger and a heavyset wahine) and their dog (part labrador). Eric (the ranger) informs us that he, the female and the dog camped overnight on the distinct peak and are heading for the tracking station (atop Mount Ka'ala). "He means the summit of Kalena" I say to myself. The couple allow us to pass and Laredo, Keith and I complete the ascent to the summit of Pu'u Kalena (elev. 3,504 ft and the second highest peak on Oahu) at 11:34 a.m.

After about a half hour break, Laredo and I proceed along the crest avoiding thorny blackberry plants as best we can (I use my bolo knife to aid in the effort) while Keith continues to rest. We come to a 10 foot drop over rotten rock which forms one side of a notch in the narrow ridge (a blue belt shaped rope is available for assistance) and nervously negotiate the crumbly descent. Further ahead we encounter a rock outcropping covered almost entirely with vegetation. It is obvious that previous hikers had contoured steeply on the Wahiawa side of the ridge to bypass the outcropping but the damage they caused to the flora makes it difficult for others to follow. I attempt to contour below the route taken by others but to no avail. "Its too early to turn back now!" I tell myself. Keith and Eric join us a few minutes later and Eric saves the day by free climbing upslope and attaching a white rope Laredo has brought to a tree on the crest above the outcropping. Laredo and I ascend above the outcropping while Eric continues toward Ka'ala to obtain water for the wahine (she has halted near Kalena to wait for his return). However, Keith (a tall but heavy fellow) is unable to accomplish the maneuver and turns back at 1:09 p.m. Before we part company, he agrees to meet us in Waianae Valley between 4 and 6 p.m. if and when we come out.

I untie the white rope just in case we need it again and, pressing on, Laredo and I tramp as quickly as possible along the narrow but relatively level summit crest in an attempt to catch Eric. We pass through canopied native flora following an obvious swath (footpath), then drop down into and struggle to climb out of another notch in the ridge. The ridge broadens and opens up via low level sticky buffalo grass, and I recognize Eric up ahead commencing the big climb to the summit bog of Mount Ka'ala. Laredo and I fail to catch him and during the ascent are confronted with the biggest (literally) obstacle of the day, a 50 foot stack of light grey boulders creating a near vertical rock face. The only option is to contour on the Wahiawa side of the geological feature which Laredo and I undertake using Eric's muddy footprints as a guide. I spot a ribbon and disturbed soil/vegetation prior to accomplishing a tricky but brief initial ascent over slick, moss covered rock. Upon completing the manuever, I tie off Laredo's rope to a sturdy tree and throw the other end down to my partner. Another ribbon above is observed and the two of us head for it. The final stretch to the top of the boulders involves a slow, near vertical nerve wracking scramble inside a cleft, once again over/against slick, moss covered rock. A thin, moss covered yellow rope complete with loops is discovered which Laredo and I use to proceed beyond the boulders.

At 3 p.m. we regain the ridge crest after crawling under native vegetation but a clump of blackberry plants forces us to the right (Wahiawa side) of the ridge top. We accomplish a final, brief steep ascent through more native flora, then meander about the canopied summit bog generally aiming for the two huge white "balls" inside the FAA radar installation. I become disoriented and surrender the ram-rod at 4 p.m. to Laredo who eventually discovers blue ribbons. We follow them to the Ka'ala boardwalk (elev. 4,025 ft and the highest peak on Oahu) arriving there at 4:21 p.m.

Hoping to meet Keith in Waianae Valley by 6 p.m., Laredo and I without delay head southwest along the boardwalk in the direction of the Waianae-Ka'ala Trail. At the first stunning vista on Waianae-Ka'ala the two of us pause briefly to take pleasure from the views of upper Makaha Valley, Keaau Ridge, Ohikilolo Ridge, all partially obscured by shadow, a small section of Makua Valley, and Kaena Point in the distance. We race down the trail using various cables and ropes for safety, pass three metal utility poles, and inevitably emerge near the uppermost watertank in Waianae Valley.

When Laredo and I reach the dirt parking area (elev. 515 ft) at 5:45 p.m., Keith and his volvo are no where to be seen, so we keep walking to Waianae Valley Road. A shuttle bus comes along and we catch it to Waianae Town where I call Keith's wife to find out his location. She informs me that he is waiting at the Waianae Mall. Once the phone conversation is pau, the two of us tramp to the mall but Keith isn't there either. I phone Keith's wife again and instruct her in a nice manner to tell her husband when he calls that we're waiting at the mall for pick up. Frustration and fatique having set in, we sit down on a bench to wait for Keith to arrive.

Shortly before 8 p.m. Keith's white volvo pulls up curbside and he drives us to the GTE substation where I pick up my car. Laredo and I thank Keith for his help and bid him farewell, then head to Schofield. As we near the Foote Gate sentry box, I rehearse my sob story about how we need to enter the barracks to retrieve Laredo's vehicle. The guard waves us on without any flack and I proceed to Kolekole Pass arriving there at 8:45 p.m. After the normal hike debriefing, Laredo and I depart the base in our respective vehicles onto Kunia Road homeward bound.

== Pat


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