OHE March 11, 2000 (Kuliouou to Palolo)

Date: Sat, 11 Mar 2000 20:20:55 -1000
From: Dayle K. Turner (turner@hawaii.edu)
Subject: Kuliouou to Kaau

Today, seven of us hiked the Ko'olau summit crest between the terminus of the west ridge of Kuliouou and the east ridge of Ka'au crater. As I mentioned in a post to OHE earlier this week, the outing was a hike-thru of a good portion of the route of an HTMC hike I'll coordinate next Saturday. Our group of seven (Steve Poor, Ed Gilman, Justin Ohara, Peter Kempf, Rich Jacobson, Andre Alyokhin, and I) met on Waiomao Road in Palolo Valley this morning at 7:15 a.m. From there, we piled into vehicles driven by Rich and I and motored over to Papahehi Place in Kuliouou Valley to begin our hike.

We arrived at Papahehi at 7:40 and after ten minutes of preps, we were on the trail, heading up the middle ridge of Kuliouou, bound for the summit. The pace was torrid and, since the day was a near windless one with fairly high humidity, I suffered a good deal on the ascent. The others were slowed a bit by the conditions, but seemingly not slowed as much as I. The bottom line is we all reached the summit of Kuliouou west ridge, a bit west of Pu'u o Kona, in about 1.5 hours. After a ten minute break, part of which I used to put on long pants, we began the westbound trek along the summit.

The section between Kuliouou west and the next pu'u over, Kulepeamoa, begins with a deceptive descent of what appears to be a plunge over the crest to the windward side. For the coming weekend's hike, I put up some ribbons to lead folks down the right line since first-timers to this section might be perplexed by what appears to be a trek to oblivion. After a short deceptive plunge, the trail heads left again along the crest, which obviously isn't hiked much based on the brushiness (uluhe and clidemia) we encountered. Peter and Justin were wearing shorts and gaiters, and, as a consequence, got scratched up a bit, but to their credit, they took the discomfort in stride. After a descent from Kuliouou west, a fairly level segment, and a couple small humps, there is a fairly substantial climb to get to the terminus of the Kulepeamoa trail. I announced that this was the most significant ascent we'd face during our hike, but my statement turned out to be inaccurate, as we'd find out after lunch. In all, we needed 35 minutes to complete this section.

As we would do every time we reached the termini of the seven ridge trails we'd pass, we stopped to rest before proceeding. Usually these breaks were about five minutes, and I welcomed every minute, for I had a chance to plop down to rest and to slurp some of the 5.5 liter cache of water I had in my pack.

The next leg was from Kulepeamoa to Hawaii Loa, a relatively open segment since the club hikes this regularly. We needed 10 minutes to hike this (moving at a brisk pace), and again, we stopped for a short rest in the clearing next to the Hawaii Loa end-of-trail sign. I should mention that except for a few minutes during the crossover from Kuliouou west to Kulepeamoa, we had clear viewing conditions to windward and leeward. The usual trades that flow over the crest from the Waimanalo side were virtually nil, and more than a couple of us commented how nice some wind would have been to cool things down a bit. For the most part, high overcast conditions prevailed, and that was welcome.

Beyond Hawaii Loa, the next leg was to Wailupe Middle. I told the others that this segment might be overgrown, but as it turned out, most of the way featured an easy-to-navigate though slightly brushy trail. There was some intermediate degree nobs to deal with along the way, and we needed 35 minutes to complete the section. While we rested, we all agreed to stop for lunch at the next terminus--Wiliwilinui.

After our rest break, we mushed on, bound for Wiliwilinui. This leg was similar to the Kulepeamoa to Hawaii Loa section--not long and relatively open, again since HTMC hikes this regularly. As we descended the steep slope of a nob just east of Wiliwilinui, we saw a gathering of hikers at the Wiliwilinui terminus. When we arrived there (it was about 11:30), after the 15 minute leg from Wailupe Middle, we said hellos to the group of young local 20-somethings gathered there. They were a friendly group (I didn't count but there were about 8-10 of them), half males and half females, and inquisitive about our undertaking. While our group of seven plopped down for lunch as we had agreed, the local kids rested and talked story in a group of their own. At one point, one of the wahines asked if I could snap a shot of their group, and I agreed, even though I had yanked my hiking pants down to my ankles (to cool off, and, yes, I was wearing shorts underneath) and though I stumbled and nearly fell on my face while moving in position to take the shot.

If I remember correctly, we ended our lunch break and resumed hiking a few minutes before noon. The next leg was to Waialae Nui, which, as Rich pointed out to me later, featured the stiffest climb of the day even more taxing than the one up to Kulepeamoa. Prior to that huff-n-puff ascent, we enjoyed some of the best trail conditions of the outing. There are powerline towers in this segment, and it seems that a HECO crew had been in the area recently to clear the trail along the ridge to the towers. The crew undoubtedly did some machete work, and in some segments even some weed whacking. The result--a freeway--at least to the powerline towers. Thereafter, the route transitioned into brushiness, but a swath still existed and we had no trouble following it. Above the towers, there was that stiff climb to contend with, but we persevered. Even with the tough climb, we needed only 15 minutes to reach the summit of Waialae Nui from Wiliwilinui, thanks mainly to the freeway state of much of the leg as a result of the work of the HECO crew.

One thing I'd like to report is that the summit ridge was the driest I've ever seen it, so much so that I can only recall a couple of places that were slightly damp with a tinge of muddiness. The dryness was welcome, for having to deal with sliding and slipping, a usual thing to cope with when negotiating the crest, was factored out of the equation. Good deal.

From Waialae Nui, the next leg took us to true Lanipo (benchmarked), which we passed without pause, and then to the end of the Lanipo trail at Kainawa'aunui. This segment of the summit was in nice shape, thanks to the recent work of the HTMC trail maintenance crew. Mahalo. On the approach to Kainawa'aunui, we spotted a hiker resting there. However, when we reached the terminus, the hiker had departed, heading back down the trail bound for Maunalani Heights. Fifteen minutes after leaving Waialae Nui, we stopped for a break at Kainawa'aunui, with a good view along the crest to the west. In sight was the end of our summit romp, specifically, the hilltop that marked the terminus of the Ka'au Crater east ridge trail, and beyond that was Olympus and the daunting climb needed to reach its summit. Fortunately, we wouldn't have to contend with Olympus today, but hikers attending next Saturday's outing will.

After our usual rest break, we resumed hiking, needing fifteen minutes to cover the section from Kainawa'aunui to the summit of Ka'au East aka Palikea. One highlight of this leg was a steep descent down a broad slope to an eroded saddle. Heading eastbound from Olympus, this is the most challenging ascent of the day. Fortunately, we were westbound, so we descended this instead of climbing it. At one point, Rich and I resorted to butt-sliding, laughing like kids as we did. From the saddle, we had to climb steadily though not steeply to arrive at the Ka'au east summit. Justin and Peter arrived there a few minutes ahead of the rest of us, and by the time we reached there, they had already departed and begun the descent of Ka'au east (Justin had a wedding to attend and needed to be out between 2:30 and 3:00, and Peter just likes to hike at a rapid tempo without long rest breaks). Our remaining group of five greeted two hikers in their early 20s resting at the clearing at the top of Ka'au east. They were very friendly and had two large brown dogs with them. Come to find out, the dogs didn't belong to the guys, who told us the canines had followed them from the trailhead at the end of Waiomao Road, up the waterfall route to Ka'au Crater, and on up to the Ko'olau summit. A couple of gung-ho dogs!

We spent between 30-40 minutes resting at the summit. I enjoyed this long break, especially the views of the windward side. We'd be departing the crest from here, so none of us was in a big hurry to head down. The two hikers set off a few minutes before us, and the dogs followed them down the east ridge. On our way down, we had to cajole one of the dogs when it hesitated at a steep, eroded segment, but once it was past that, it bounded down the trail at a good clip.

Just as Pat pointed out in a post to the list earlier this week, the trail up Ka'au's east ridge to Palikea is riddled by heavy erosion. When we set out in the morning, we had plans to descend Ka'au's west ridge to avoid the eroded sections of the east ridge and thus lessen the impact. But as former Texas football coach Darrell Royal once said, "Fatigue makes cowards of us all," so, saddled with fatigue, we opted to head down the east ridge to avoid the summit leg over to the top of the west ridge (not very long, but long enough for hikers not feeling energetic) and the subsequent descent of Ka'au west.

After we left the summit, I stopped keeping track of time. I'm not sure what time Justin and Peter arrived back at their cars on Waiomao Road, but they were likely long gone by the time the rest of us arrived at 3:15. Instead of using the waterfall route, we descended the ridge route (pioneered by Dick Davis?) that eventually switchbacked down to Waiomao Stream at the fifth crossing of the stream trail. The stream, except for a couple small standing pools of water, was virtually dry--the first time I have ever seen it in this state.

Ed had his car on Waiomao and we said our thanks and goodbyes to him before he headed off to do some shopping. Meanwhile, Andre drove Rich, Steve, and I back to Kuliouou to get our vehicles (Steve had ridden with me from Kaneohe in the a.m.). And on the drive over, we found out Andre is originally from Russia and is now working as an entomologist (bugs) at UH.

As we drove up Kuliouou Road, we spotted Wing, armed with ice axe (drawn) and machete (holstered), walking on the sidewalk across from the community park. Where had he been today? We'd find out in a few minutes when he returned to his car, parked on Papahehi Place not far from Rich's and mine. As we rested by our cars, Wing came walking up, informing us he had arrived in the morning too late to join us, so he ended up hiking the middle ridge like we had, but instead of heading westbound on the crest, he headed the other way, eventually to ascend Kuliouou east all the way to its bottoming out point near Kalanianaole Highway. Wing will likely file a detailed report about his adventure.

From Papahehi, Rich, Andre, and Wing boarded their vehicles and were homeward bound. Steve jumped into my Cherokee and we were off, stopping off first at the Foodmart at the Hawaii Kai Shopping Center for some snacks and cold drinks, and then continuing on past Sandy's, Makapu'u, and Waimanalo, where we were able to scan the summit section we had hiked earlier. Nice.

Thanks again to the six hikers (strong ones at that) who showed up to assist me today. We did no clearing, but the hike-thru helped to determine that the route is ready for next Saturday.

Tomorrow, it's trail clearing with the HTMC crew (Olympus). I'm looking forward to that.

Hike on,


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