OHE June 27, 1999 (Kahana Little Bowl)

Date: Sun, 27 Jun 1999 19:17:32 -1000
From: Dayle K. Turner (turner@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Kahana Little Bowl

Kahana Valley was abuzz with hikers today with the HTMC hike up Pu'u Ohulehule. Over 40 folks turned out for the outing, with a large percentage reaching the summit of the sharkfin peak. Since a handful of us who showed up had been to the peak a few weeks back for trail clearing, we decided to do some exploratory hiking in the valley instead. As it turned out, a day that started out cloudy with a potential for rain was transformed into a pleasant, sunny one with decent trade winds to offer a cooling effect.

While the mass of hikers set off for Ohulehule, John Hall, Nathan Yuen, Bill Gorst, Jay Feldman, and I waited for everyone to move out of sight before we set off on our expedition. While the Ohulehule folks headed down the old jeep road to the dam and stream crossing, our quintet followed the water tank road to its end. On the way, John told us hiking tales from his recent trip to North Carolina and New York. John, a retired UH professor, is a legend in Hawaii hiking, and I enjoy listening to his many backcountry stories.

After reaching the water tank, we then picked up the Kahana Valley Trail until arriving at the four-way hala tree junction (map point E on page 156 of Ball's book). After a quick topo map check to determine the most expedient way to proceed, we set off mauka on the valley trail, making a left turn (map point F) a minute later on a trail that descended through bamboo to Kahana Stream.

At the stream, Jay, a new convert to cleated football shoes for hiking, stopped to change to felt-soled tabis. Meanwhile, Bill cut some bamboo walking sticks to help us ford the shin-deep stream. Once across, Nathan fished out some insect repellent and applied a healthy dose while Jay made the switch back to his cleats.

That done, we continued hiking, following the ribboned upper loop trail along the stream, crossing an intermittent creek (dry) a couple minutes later. Mountain apple season is reaching a peak in the valley, and we paused at a couple places to pick some red, juicy fruit for a taste test.

Bill and I eyed a spur that looked like it might lead us to our desired destination, Pu'u o Kila, and after some poking around, we found a way to scale a small bank to begin searching for a trail, a pig route, or some kind of swath. What little swath we could find dissolved into a wall of uluhe after 20 feet. The consensus was to push through uphill until gaining a vantage point where we could determine if we were on the right spur. Thus, we set forth, switching to bulldoze mode, with Jay putting up ribbons as we plowed on.

In ten to fifteen minutes, we gained the desired vantage point and verified that we were proceeding toward Kila along a spur that extended from it to the northwest. This past Thursday, a few of us climbed the northeast spur to Kila, and if all went well, today's fivesome would use the NE route as a return path.

Before that, we had trackless uluhe to deal with. Plenty of it. Working as a team, we made slow, steady progress, switching the ramrod when the lead man fatigued. Initially, the slopes we ascended were gentle with an occasional koa or hala tree having enough wherewithal to push out of the uluhe overgrowth. Meanwhile, the sun heated things up a good deal, and the effort to hack open a trail and the warmth put me into high perspiration output. But plenty of water and Power Gel (can't rave enough about this stuff) kept my energy level up, allowing me to sustain climbing and clearing forte.

As noon neared, we had gained only 350 vertical feet up the spur based on John's altimeter reading. I pinpointed our position on the topo map, informing the others that the going might be better higher up the spur. We stopped for lunch under a large, spreading ohia tree, where we had a nice view point of lower Kahana. As he often does, Nathan shared tasty honey mustard pretzel bits and li hing mango with us, treats always appreciated by hungry hikers.

We still had ~1,000 vertical feet to gain to reach Pu'u o Kila (elev. 1,530), but everyone was willing to make a try for it, figuring the uluhe would thin as we progressed higher upspur. A couple of sweetbread rolls, Nathan's snacks, and more Power Gel must have worked metabolic wonders, for I volunteered for the ramrod after lunch and never needed to relinquish it all the way to the top.

Just as we suspected, the uluhe barrage lessened as we ascended higher, and soon enough, we picked up pig trails on the ridgetop that helped us gain momentum. We found no ribbons or trash on the ridge (Bill did notice an old cup), and it appeared that few if any folks have climbed this route to Kila. I did spot a half dozen or so old cuttings as we neared the summit but elsewise, nada.

The spur narrowed as we approached the apex and the final 50 meters to Kila required concentration and hand-over-hand climbing, but the scramble wasn't as severe as the final 50 meters of the northeast spur. It was 2 p.m. when we reached the summit, and after a ten-minute respite, we began the descent of the northeast spur, negotiating the steepest part carefully and without incident.

Further down, we passed the bee tree using the right bypass (a couple of us were stung at the tree on Thursday) and fifteen minutes later paused at a triple-ribbon junction marking a spur that Mabel and company went down this past Thursday. With an unobscured view, we traced the route up Ohulehule and noticed club hikers descending at various points on the spur on its flank.

From the summit of Kila, we completed the descent of the NE spur in about an hour and needed another half hour to reach the stream crossing at the dam. We paused there to rinse mud and trail grime off our boots and bodies. Still energized by the fuel consumed at lunch, I took a refreshing plunge in the pool below the dam. Ahh, what a great feeling.

When we reached our cars at 3:45, most of the vehicles of those doing the club hike were gone, including the one belonging to Dr. Wing Ng. Had Wing topped out today? We'll wait for his OHE report to see if he did.

While hanging out by our cars, we talked to a couple of young women with foreign accents, and they told us they had reached Ohulehule's summit, characterizing the trek as "exciting." Apparently, water consumption was underestimated as the duo asked for a cold drink as did a couple other club hikers who arrived before we left.

Final comments: the spur we went up today now provides a means of completing what I'll refer to as the Little Bowl of Kahana Valley. The Big Bowl (or Super Bowl, according to Jay) would involve an ascent of today's spur (Kila NW), a traverse to Pu'u Koiele, onward to the Ohulehule saddle, and a descent of Ohulehule's NW spur. Try either bowl for a good workout and challenge.

Hike on,


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