OHE June 24, 1999 (Kahana, Kila, Koiele)

Date: Thu, 24 Jun 1999 22:50:23 -1000
From: Dayle K. Turner (turner@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Half of the Kahana Bowl

The WEHOT gang headed to Kahana Valley today, and with a day off from teaching, I was able to join them. Showing up a Kahana at the appointed 8:30 a.m. meeting time were Mabel Kekina, Charlotte Yamane, Bill Gorst, Jay Feldman, and Rich Jacobson. Mark Short arrived late and eventually caught up with us.

After checking in with the valley caretaker, we drove past the homes and to the trailhead and waited for a few minutes as a small rainshower passed. For the rest of day, the sun made only a short appearance but we were spared from heavy rain, with only a couple small drizzles dampening things. The overcast conditions were favorable for hiking and the winds were normal 10-15 mph trades.

We used the same approach that Mabel, Jay, and Bill used last Thursday, doing some clearing as we hiked. Jay described last week's outing in an OHE post and today we determined that they hadn't reached Pu'u o Kila as Jay reported. Instead, they stopped at a pu'u along the northeast spur leading to Kila.

Today, Bill, Jay, Charlotte, Mark, and I reached Pu'u o Kila (1,530 ft.) via the northeast spur. On the climb, hand-over-hand steep in the final 100 meters, Rich and I sustained bee stings when we passed a tree where the bees had nested. Since Rich is allergic to stings, he opted not to continue. The rest of us pushed on, using a slab-left bypass or by dashing quickly past the trees and the bees. Meanwhile, Mabel did some exploring on the lower segment of the spur and after lunch went down a exploratory route that crossed the upper segment of Kawa Stream.

At Kila, we found an empty beer bottle and a covered glass jar with paper and pencil inside. We didn't open the jar but could read some printing on the waterlogged paper within that mentioned a Massachusetts horticultural educational institution. On the way up, we spotted a couple of old ribbons (actually some shards from a blue plastic bag); otherwise, we observed little evidence that hikers/hunters visited Kila with any frequency.

We ate lunch at Kila on a narrow ribbon of ridge with enough room to sit down. Low clouds flooded upper Kahana so that any views we might have had were obscured. A few ti plants grew atop Kila, typical of many other pu'u summits. I think these had to have been planted by someone since I don't remember seeing any ti anywhere on the spur on the way up.

We finished lunch at 12:15, with Bill choosing to head back down via the way we'd come up. Looking for more adventure and exercise, Jay, Mark, Charlotte, and I decided to head south on the ridge bound for Pu'u Koiele (1,683 ft.) and if time and energy permitted, continue onward to the ridge that formed the northwest approach to Pu'u Ohulehule. Mapless today, I estimated that the segment to Koiele and then to Ohulehule's northwest ridge was about half a mile (it actually is closer to a mile) and would require about an hour to complete.

However, my estimates were faulty, and as things turned out, we stopped about 50-60 meters from Koiele and needed about three hours (no typo) to navigate the half mile from Pu'u o Kila. The going was snail-like for several reasons: a lack of a trail, the extreme narrowness of the ridge (near knife-edge in a few spots), the need to put up ropes in two places, and the overall need for caution since none of us had traversed the ridge in the past.

In many places, we had to swing our bodies around branches and limbs to make forward progress, always testing these to determine their strength, for if a branch broke, a long fall could result. Often, the ridgetop wasn't solid ground at all. Instead, we found ourselves moving gingerly over moss-covered tree branches and stumps, hoping that we wouldn't go plunging through unexpectedly. "I feel like I'm walking on clouds," said Charlotte.

We put a rope at a notch where we had to drop steeply about 20 feet and another on a steep climb past a crumbly segment where a large boulder is primed to bust loose from its ridgetop perch. We retrieved the latter rope and left the former.

The final steep climb to Koiele includes a narrow, eroded section, and we stopped at a small blip on the ridge right before this. It was after 3 p.m at the time. Based on our progress to that point (three hours to cover half a mile, with another half mile to go to reach the HTMC's Ohulehule trail), we thought that retreating was the most prudent option. Unless ridgetop conditions ahead suddenly improved, and we had no reason to believe they would, we'd likely be hiking out in the dark or spending the night in the valley, not acceptable options.

So back we headed, making much better time because of the trail clearing we'd done. We required only half the time to get back to Kila, and although we moved faster, we reminded ourselves to be careful because of the narrowness of ridge and the substandard footing.

At Kila, Mark missed the righthand turnoff to descend the northeast spur. He went down the northwest spur for a short distance before realizing his mistake and backtracking to get on course. He did report that the NW approach to Kila may be a better option and we may return at some point to determine if that is true.

Taking a couple rest stops on the way, Jay, Mark and I arrived back at our vehicles at 6 p.m. (Charlotte arrived 20 minutes prior). Mabel was waiting for us. Rich and Bill had left a couple hours earlier.

For those interested in hiking this route, here are some general directions: Cross the dam and pick up the trail on the far bank of Kahana Stream. Soon afterward, reach a junction. The trail to the left heads to Pu'u Ohulehule. Stay straight ahead on the main valley trail. Eventually, reach a junction with a trail sign. Continue straight ahead instead of veering right at the sign. Emerge from the forest on what appears to be an old jeep road. Ignore the trail going over the hilltop straight ahead. Instead, turn right and pick up a trail along the right side of the hilltop. Climb a hill populated with ironwoods (we passed a guy camped in a clearing under the trees today). Arrive at a large open area partially covered by uluhe. At its upper end, pick up a trail that contours along the right side of a spur. That trail eventually climbs to the crest of the spur and continues ascending in a large arc to Pu'u o Kila. Once at Kila, return the way you came, turn left to continue to Pu'u Koiele (narrow ridge), or descend the northwest spur to the right (bushwhacking probably required) to eventually get to the upper Kahana Valley trail.

If one can traverse the ridge past Kila, Koiele, and on to Ohulehule's northwest spur, a challenging hike around the natural bowl formed by these ridges will be completed.

Safe hiking to those who attempt this.


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