OHE March 7, 1999 (Olympus to Ka'au)

Date: Sun, 7 Mar 1999 23:21:15 -1000
From: Dayle K. Turner (turner@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Olympus to Ka'au

Today's (3/7) HTMC trail maintenance outing was Wa'ahila Ridge/Olympus. In a meeting of minds last weekend, the idea was tendered that after reaching Olympus, we'd head right (east) along the Koolau summit to Ka'au Crater. No nays were voiced to the suggestion.

Since we'd end up at a different place than where we began, several of us made plans to meet this morning at 7:30 at the designated pau point: the Ka'au Crater trailhead on Waiomao Road in Palolo Valley. Ralph Valentino, Ken Suzuki, Thomas Yoza, and I left our vehicles on Waiomao and Thomas's buddy, Cary, ferried us up to Wa'ahila State park on St. Louis Heights where the other members of our crew were to meet.

In addition to the folks I already mentioned, on hand for today's outing were Mabel Kekina (our honcho), Dusty Klein, Nathan Yuen, Ellyn Tong, Jim Pushaw, Deetsie Chave, Carole K. Moon, June Miyasato, Lynn Agena, Jason Sunada, Kost Pankiwskyj, his wife Gina Goodman, Jay Feldman, Jay's friend Craig (a Kuakini doctor), Georgina Oka (at 14, a potential heir to the title of "Famous Woman Hiker"), Arnold Fujioka, and Carmen Craig.

Everyone except Mabel (sore foot) and Deetsie (afternoon party) reached Olympus and did the crossover to Ka'au. The following is a recap of the day's events.

After our traditional briefing by Mabel, we hit the trail at 8:20 with partly cloudy skies, light winds, and a bit of mugginess prevailing. The section of the ridge prior to the junction with the Kolowalu trail was rollercoaster-ish but wide open, and no work was needed on it. Just before Kolowalu, we noted Wing's red ribbon that marked the ridge that descends to Carlos Long Park in upper Palolo. There was no time to check out that trail today, however.

Around 9:00, we stopped to pull out our cutting tools and began clearing. The trail mauka of Kolowalu was only moderately overgrown, but we still took our time to do a decent job of clearing. The day was humid, and the 20 to 25 MPH winds predicted by the weather service never materialized, so sweat flowed in high quantity.

After a steep climb with the aid of a rope, we reached the section of the ridge where views upslope to the summit were available. Clouds along the crest came and went, but we mostly had an open view of the top. Konahuanui to the west was socked in but points along the crest to the east were generally clear. Underfoot, the trail was a bit damp but mud was minimal and negotiating the route wasn't a problem.

Moving methodically, we reached the summit of Olympus (2,486 ft) at 10:45. From the trailhead, the elevation gain was ~1,400. I think the distance was three miles. Compared to other ridges in the Koolaus in East Oahu, Wa'ahila is one of the quicker routes to the crest, with perhaps only Wiliwilinui and Mariner's offering faster access.

From Olympus, the eastbound summit trail follows the apex of the crest for about 60-70 yards and then veers to windward down a steep, windswept slope. If whiteout conditions are in effect when this point is reached, one might be skeptical about descending the slope because, lacking a visual reference, it appears said descent leads straight down the pali to a windward freefall. Fortunately, clouds, although closing fast, were absent when we reached this point, so the correct way was obvious.

At last week's meeting of minds, I had mentioned that there is rock by an eroded spot at the base of this slope where a cable might be helpful, and today a cable was supplied, lugged to the summit, affixed to a solid anchor (a nearby loulu palm), and fashioned with sturdy loops for handholds. Near to the loulu, Kost and Ken spotted several rare lobelia.

One by one, we made our way down the new cable section and over the rock. Several of us in front stopped to watch the others descend, and we had fun chiding Carole about her spider-like, sliding descent of the cable. To her credit, she took this kidding in stride and later completed the crossover without a problem even though narrow, precipitous ridges aren't her favorites.

Beyond the cable section, the trail along the ridge was overgrown but a swath was readily apparent. Careful not to hack certain native flora, we cleared the route probably better than it has been in decades. Of course, we voiced the usual summit crossing adage: if you must fall, don't fall to windward.

At one point, about midway between Olympus and the junction with the west ridge of Ka'au Crater, we spotted a group hiking on the Maunawili Demo Trail, and they returned waves and shouts. Hundreds of feet below, a female voice yelled, "What trail is that?" to which I replied, "We're making our own."

In all, we needed about an hour to clear the segment leading over to Ka'au's west ridge. Just beyond that junction is a powerline tower, and we stopped to eat lunch there. Except for a few moments, we had clear views to windward and leeward during our 45-minute lunch stop. We also used Jim Pushaw's cell phone to page HTMC president Grant Oka, who couldn't be with us because of work obligations (he's an engineer at Pearl Harbor). Grant was concerned about the safety of his daughter, Georgina, during today's hike, and when he called to answer the page, he was relieved that she and the rest of us made it across okay.

At 12:30, we ended our lunch break. The majority backtracked west 20 yards and then descended the west ridge of Ka'au Crater, hiked along its makai rim, and then descended the middle ridge. Later on, part of that group missed a lefthand turnoff on the middle ridge and continued makai on the ridge until picking up a private road. In the end, that group had to endure a long roadwalk back to the vehicles.

Meanwhile, eight of us (Jim, Jay, Jason, Nathan, Craig, Arnold, Lynn, and I) chose to continue east along the crest after lunch. We passed another powerline tower and then made the short, steep climb to Palikea (2,400 ft.). From Palikea, we descended a steep, eroded trail along the east rim of Ka'au Crater. There are two ropes on that ridge now, one near the top at the uppermost eroded pitch, and another about midway down, which might be the spot where Wing almost cashed in his chips on a past hike.

About three-quarters of the way down the ridge, we encountered a group of four heading for the top. One was a grad assistant of UH prof and HTMC hike coordinator Mike Mottl. The foursome told us they'd come up via the middle ridge trail, eschewing the waterfall route because they weren't feeling adventurous.

What thrill-seeking bent the quartet lacked, Nathan, Jason, Jim, and Jay possessed, for my four comrades intended to descend the waterfall route of Ka'au instead of the tamer middle ridge. Not a great fan of stream trails, I'd initially decided to head down via the middle ridge, but was persuaded instead to take the waterfall route. Craig decided to tag along while Arnold and Lynn opted for the middle ridge.

Moving steadily and carefully, the waterfall group completed the handful of rope sections and slippery stream crossings safely. Further down, on the long contour segment, Jay, Jim, and Nathan still had energy to do clear palm grass and lantana. When we reached the junction where the middle ridge trail reached Waiomao Stream, I whooped out, thinking that the middle ridge group would hear us from the ridge above or somewhere nearby. But no whoops were returned. "Either they're way ahead of us or way behind," I reasoned.

Jay, Jim, Craig, Jason, Nathan, and I reached my vehicle at Waiomao Road at just past 2:30. Ken's, Ralph's, and Thomas' vehicles were still there so it was clear the other group was still behind us somewhere.

At 2:45, we loaded into my vehicle for the return drive up to Wa'ahila Park. Arnold and Lynn arrived just as we were about to drive away, saying they'd wait for a ride from the first of the drivers to return.

By 3:00, our group of six arrived at Wa'ahila, where we were greeted by Mabel and her renowned posthike refreshments (blueberry cheesecake today). By 4:00, Thomas, Ralph, and Ken motored into the parking area of the park with the balance of our crew as passengers. We relaxed and enjoyed refreshments until 5:00 and then headed home.

Next week Sunday (3/14), the crew will work on the long, rugged Bowman Trail. For those interested in joining us, we'll meet at 8 a.m. on Na'ai Street by Kalihi Elementary School.

Safe hiking,


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