OHE June 26, 1999 (Kipapa Windward--2nd attempt)

Date: Sat, 26 Jun 1999 23:33:52 -1000
From: Dayle K. Turner (turner@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Kipapa Windward--Attempt 2

I may have set our group up for a fall by predicting we'd make the summit today, and if so, I know now to squelch excess optimism when dealing with a ridge where possibly no person has has ever set a hiking boot (or cleated Nike, as it were). A couple things I developed more of are patience and respect for the mountains, both important when hiking in the Koolaus.

Our group included Steve Poor, Jay Feldman, Jason Sunada, Wing Ng, Charlotte Yamane, her friend Steve, and I. Jason, Jay, and Charlotte are top-drawer Koolau climbers, and their talents were put to good use on the ridge we climbed in Waiahole Valley. Last Saturday, Wing, Steve Poor and I did some exploratory climbing and clearing on the ridge and that work helped today's group move upslope with less effort.

Last week, because we were without rope, we stopped at a steep rocky segment at about the 1,200-foot level. Today, fatigue and another steep pu'u turned us back. An altimeter reading and a posthike map review indicated that we got up to 1,650 feet, approximately 1,000 vertical feet from the Koolau summit.

Though we didn't top out, getting as far as we did was an adventure.

The rocky segment at the 1,200 level turned out to be a small obstacle compared to what lay ahead. Mauka of it was an impassable, impossible pinnacle. In the lead when we reached it, and knowing my limits, I requested Charlotte attempt a tree-to-tree slab left bypass. A Koolau free-climber without peer, she made it but needed to resort to opihi-like maneuvering that would be too risky for the rest of us, save Jason, to attempt.

While Charlotte made like an acrobat, I asked Jason and Steve (Charlotte's friend) to backtrack on the ridge and find a more promising bypass lower on the left, the right (Waikane-facing side) being impossibly steep. Jason dropped down 30 to 40 feet from the ridgecrest, found a good line, and eventually made his way to Charlotte. We put a rope up to assist in the initial drop-down from the crest and ribboned the slab-left bypass. Steve Poor did good work cutting footholds and creating a narrow contour trail and his efforts were much appreciated when we headed back in the afternoon. During the slab and during climbs further upridge, loose rocks were a constant concern, and we took care to stay still and yell out warnings when a colleague was situated below us.

{Disclaimer: Anyone climbing this ridge should use ropes at his/her own risk. For the record, we removed all ropes when we came back down.}

We had been making good time prior to the impossible pinnacle impasse, and we spent half an hour, maybe more, finding a way around it. Eventually, we were able to regain the ridgeline on the backside of a near-vertical rock dike. We regrouped in the saddle there, happy with our success to that point.

The next obstacle was a steep, crumbly, semi-exposed slope, very reminiscent of the HTMC's approach to Ohulehule (where the plethora of ropes/wires/cables are). Jay took the initiative and manned the ramrod up this slope. About 20-feet up, a rope was affixed in a handhold-deprived segment. Another few feet up, Jay reached a point where another rope was needed. While he waited for Jason to climb up with another rope, I climbed to an adjacent position and hurled loose rocks (many) over the side. Feeling exposed where I was, I climbed to a more secure perch and did more clearing of loose rock.

I was able to make my way up to where the vegetation (mixed native and exotic) thickened and the going was safer. More rope was affixed (extremely helpful later on the descent), and up came Jay, Jason, and Charlotte. Wing and the two Steves opted not to climb any further.

There was no sign of human or pig presence on this high ridge. After fighting through thickets of i'e i'e and dead uluhe, we reached a level segment of the ridge where we plopped down to eat lunch. A hundred meters upridge was the final high pu'u (elev. ~1,800), very prominent when looking at the ridge from lower Waiahole. Thinking we had just surmounted this pu'u on the just-completed climb, our resolve to summit was dashed when this high pu'u came into view. In addition, it was past 1 p.m. and the remainder of the ridge above the high pu'u, though a relatively gentle grade, appeared lengthy and would require much effort to push/hack through.

During lunch, the decision was tendered to head back down. As we ate, Charlotte pointed out some native flora, including kolea lauli'i. We also had nice views to the left of a high waterfall chute situated on the massive southern wall of Waiahole Valley that in the past we've christened "the corner." Ahead, the summit crest was clear. One of the pu'us to the right was the Kipapa Trail terminus, but we couldn't pinpoint the exact one. What we could identify was the Waiawa Gap, a low point (about 2,200 ft) in the crest at the head of Waiawa Valley to leeward.

After lunch, we carefully made our way down, taking much care when we descended the rope/loose rock sections. At the steepest section, Charlotte reminded me several times to "grab the rope" instead of just relying on rock or branch.

Charlotte's friend Steve was waiting for us at the saddle after the impossible pinnacle. Steve Poor had already headed down and we caught up to Wing before we reached the junction with the Waiahole Ditch Trail.

We arrived at our cars around 3:45, passing a group of a dozen and a half adults and kids heading up the road for Waiahole Stream. We spent a few minutes partaking of refreshments (thanks, Charlotte), relaxing, and discussing a future ascent to continue our quest to reach the summit. We set no specific date nor did I predict that the next time will be the one where success will be achieved.

Hopefully, patience and respect will get us there in due time.

Safe hiking,


Return to OHE top | Return to Oahu Hike Tales | Email Dayle