OHE June 8, 1998 (d)

Date: Mon, 8 Jun 1998 16:23:53 -1000
From: "Dayle K. Turner" (turner@hawaii.edu>
Subject: An Ascent of Mighty Ohulehule

The Event: Waikane Saddle/Ohulehule--HTMC trail maintenance outing.

HTMC trail clearing gang members in attendance: Mabel Kekina, Carole K. Moon, Grant Oka, Georgina Oka, Ralph Valentino, Michael Valentino, Chris Atkinson, Ken Suzuki, John Hall, Jay Feldman, Arnold Fujioka, Pat Rorie, Bill Gorst, Thomas Yoza, Nathan Yuen, Dusty Klein, Judy Roy, Kim Roy, Deetsie Chave, Carol Wood, Kost Pankiwskyj and his wife Gina, Larry Oswald, Kris Corliss, June Miyasato, Lynn (last name ?), and Famous Woman Hiker (my idol). [apologies to anyone I missed]

Initial meeting time and place: 8 a.m., parking lot, Kahana Valley State Park. Approximate departure time from trailhead at hunter's check-in: 8:45.

Weather conditions: High overcast, mountaintops mostly clear, light tradewinds, temps in the 80s.

Logistics: The group was divided into two teams--one would make a push for the summit of Ohulehule and begin clearing beyond the uluhe sections, and the other would work on the sections in Kahana Valley.

Narrative: The summit team (ST) led the way, and did only nominal clearing through the trail section through Kahana Valley. Several of us agreed that if the ST had worked on the uluhe sections in the Valley, the group would probably not have had the time and energy to push to Ohulehule's summit. In the end, the two-team approach worked beautifully.

On the way to Ohulehule, there are four stream crossings, a long stretch through a corridor of Ink berry plants, and long stretches through uluhe. The latter section tends to become overgrown.

There are a several tricky junctions where one can go astray. The first is in the uluhe section where one must veer left and down at a small clearing marked by tin cans hanging on a tree. This junction was marked with ribbons yesterday but hunters may remove the ribbons. Another go-astray spot is just prior to the fourth stream crossing. At that point, one may be inclined to descend a six-foot slope to Kawa Stream. Instead, heading left and following a switchback trail will lead one to the correct stream crossing locale. Right after the crossing is a bamboo grove and a short but steep slope one must climb to continue on. Thereafter, one ascends a large hill through uluhe, passes a long metal pipe situated under a large koa tree, and stays on the ridge through uluhe until arriving in a forest section at the base of Ohulehule's summit bulk.

The ST began clearing in the forest at the base of the mountain. Although slightly muddy, the trail was in pretty decent shape footing-wise, definitely much better and less slippery than my previous visit on and HTMC trail clearing a year ago. Sturdy ropes and newly carved footholds are available at several steep uluhe sections. Instead of my hiking boots, I donned cleated Nikes (the kind Pat wears) and these worked beautifully on the steep slopes. Gaiters and kneepads (the kind volleyball players wear) also served me well during the outing.

The ST regrouped at the traditional club lunch spot in the saddle area between Pu'u Koiele and Pu'u Ohulehule. This saddle location, elevation 1520' according to the topo map, offers some nice views. Particularly memorable for me was the sight of the Koolau Summit Trail and its junction with the Waikane Trail. After a short break, we pushed on, with Ohulehule vet Pat Rorie assuming the ramrod.

To reach the 2,265-foot summit of Ohulehule, there is a very steep section with crumbliness underfoot to ascend. From the saddle, this section looks intimidating and downright dangerous. "How the hell are we going to climb that?" someone remarked as we approached. But we knew it could be climbed, and up it we went.

An array of cables and ropes are in place to aid the ascent. There is also plenty of sturdy clidemia to hang onto and this steep segment is one of the places on Oahu where this pesky weed is a welcome addition.

One of the dangers of this section is falling rocks. Grant Tokumi and crew had a close encounter with a boulder while climbing in this area earlier this year. With that in mind, on the way up yesterday several of us pushed rocks and small boulders over the side to eliminate future skull crushers.

The steep section climbs in a southwest direction and gains about 500 feet of elevation in less than a quarter mile. I don't recall being overly fatigued by the ascent, probably because all my attention was focused on making it up safely. Fortunately, plenty of vegetation envelopes the mountainside so that even if one falls, the foliage will (probably) slow or stop the trip to the Kahana (left) or Waikane (right) valley floor.

The steep section terminates at a flat clearing where I plopped down and bellowed a sigh of relief. Dusty Klein was just ahead of me and was resting there as well. After I caught my breath and sipped some water, I stood up and could see the final section leading to Ohulehule's summit. >From my vantage point, the ridge swung due west and climbed gently for 2/10s of a mile to gain the final 200 vertical feet. Incidentally, this rest spot was where Wing terminated his ascent in October 1995 after discovering that his lunch had fallen from his pack (he took the missing lunch as a bad omen). With Dr. Ng in mind, I yelled out, "My lunch fell out! I'm not going any further!" Hearing this, Pat, who was a hundred yards ahead clearing the trail, let loose his well-known laugh (we kid because we care, Wingo).

During the final .2-mile climb to the summit, I spotted several members of non-summit crew well below our position. They were climbing the ridge to the saddle, probably to eat lunch. Waves and whoops were exchanged.

We reached the summit of Ohulehule at 12:15~, needing about 3.5 hours to top out from the trailhead (Pat has completed the ascent in 2.5 hours in the past). The summit crew included Famous Woman Hiker, Pat Rorie, Arnold Fujioka, Ralph Valentino, Dusty Klein, Nathan Yuen, Ken Suzuki, Grant Oka, Jay Feldman, Kim Roy, Thomas Yoza, Larry Oswald, and I.

The summit area is amazing. I'd say the flat top of Ohulehule is perhaps 100 x 60 feet with a large (~15 ft.) native Hawaiian tree smack dab in the middle. Although I can't recall the name of the species, Famous Woman Hiker said the tree is the largest of its kind she's seen. Ken Suzuki also pointed out an olona plant, which ancient Hawaiians used to make cordage.

The summit would be a great camping spot for one with the wherewithal to lug a pack of gear and rations up the mountain. In fact, Famous Woman Hiker said she knew of someone who had camped at the top after an ascent of the amazing southeast ridge of Ohulehule (we had used the "easy" northwest approach).

On previous visits, Pat had razed huge quantities of 10-foot clidemia and other foliage to help restore some of the panoramic vistas that HTMC vets say once existed at the summit. In a locale that a year ago had almost no views, Pat had opened up viewing spots of most of the makai vista so that we could see from Pu'u Piei to Mokapu. While everyone else plopped down to eat lunch, Pat continued lopping clidemia, not heeding our pleas to stop and rest.

After eating, we all joined Pat's effort to clear the summit, felling clidemia and tossing them over the side of the mountain. While we worked, Ken and FWH implored us to be careful about not hacking native vegetation.

The top is now much clearer than it was when we arrived, with much of the mauka-facing side still needing clearing. Pat has a stated goal to restore the summit to its former panoramic state. Hopefully, in the next year or so that goal will be accomplished.

I began the descent at 1:30, with a couple others just ahead of me. Ken and FWH pointed out some interesting flora on the way down, including a species of large-leafed lobelia and yellow-blossomed ohia.

The steep section seemed even steeper on the way down but ropes, cables, and freshly carved footholds offered welcome assistance. The cleated Nikes I was wearing were also very effective.

On the way back to the trailhead, we were able to zoom through Kahana Valley because the non-summit team had hacked open a nice swath through the uluhe. Nice job, gang!

By 3:30, I was making the final stream crossing, where several members of the crew, including Chris Atkinson, Judy Roy, Kris Corliss, along with a dozen valley residents, were enjoying a cool dip in the swimming hole below the dam. I passed on a swim, opting instead to hike up the final jeep road section to the trailhead where Mabel had cold drinks and ono dessert and snack items waiting.

By 4, everyone had reached the trailhead where we spent time relaxing, talking story, and enjoying refreshments.

Final summation: A memorable hike that lived up to expectations. The element of danger one perceives is relative to experience. While Ken said that he thought Kalena was spookier than Ohulehule, others may rate Ohulehule as the most dangerous climb on Oahu. For me, challenge-wise and danger-wise, Ohulehule occupies a spot up there with Moku o Haloa, with the latter being a couple notches more gnarly.


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