OHE June 23, 1997

Wing Ng tells us about a trek into the Koolaus:
I could not go on the epic hike up Kipapa and down Schofield on Sat., and moreover had to stay up late that night. So I also woke up late on Sun. and had to find a short hike to entertain myself. I have done Wiliwilinui many times lately, and Hawaii Loa's parking is often full by 9 a.m. on Sundays, so those are out. Kuliouou is however near to my home, relatively short, and more challenging than those two any way, and so that was my choice.

The State built and maintains the trail on the right-side ridge (called Ahi). After a couple minutes on a wide level trail, the switchbacks start going up. After the switchbacks reach the ridge-top, one just continues up to the Koolau summit. The trail is in beautiful shape and very popular; I must have met some 20 plus people on the way up to the summit. About 100 feet from the top, I heard voices in Hong Kong Chinese, and they came from 5-6 Hong Kong people. I said "it's most unusual to hear Chinese spoken on Hawaii trails, I just came back from a trip to Hong Kong", but they seem to not hear my remarks.

At the top I turned left on the summit ridge. A couple was sitting there and inquired in a tone of concern, that I would do something that looks dangerous. I did this many times, and so reassured them that I have done this before, and will come down the middle ridge of Kuliouou Valley.

The cross-over is the most interesting part of the whole loop hike. There are two rockfaces with mostly loose dirt acting as "rock" to go over. In the past couple years, it was a piece of cake as someone put ropes on both of those rockfaces. Alas, the rope-ripper struck here also, and both ropes were gone! A few more years prior, there was no rope either, and one just has to be extra careful.

At that point I became slightly concerned: there are two more cables on the middle ridge coming down. It is true that both places could be done with no cable, especially when dry, but the ground is moist and fog and mist keep blowing across at the time. They might be dangerous to go down with no cable, and then I would have to turn back.

I figured that even if I had to turn back, there is still plenty of time, and so I continued across on the summit ridge. It is always a great pleasure to go across the Puu o Kona, which may have something to do with a spiritual presence. One can look down the amazing "bear claw ridge" going down to Waimanalo that Fred Dodge and co. did some years ago.

After a bit over an hour the top of the middle ridge is reached. I don't recall ever being there in the fog and mist, and the top actually looked unfamiliar. Fortunately the ribbons are still there, and I had lunch and then started going down. I was quite relieved to find that those two very sturdy cables on this ridge were still there, and I got out through an empty lot with no problem. Actually it will probably never be a problem, because several houses collapsed in that particular valley during the New Year flood of 1988, and those houses had to be torn down.

The Kuliouou loop is a very nice hike to do if one starts out late in the day. The whole thing took less than 4 hours for me. It is exhilarating without crossing over into "dangerous". I should do it more often!


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