Date: Sat, 2 May 1998 20:22:25 -1000 From: Wing C Ng
Subject: Wonderful Keaau
Keaau was one of those climbs that I have always wanted to do, since that first time I went into Makaha Valley and looked at those very ugly condos nested against the green (it was rainy season) vertical walls that come down from Keaau. The condos looked so incongruous that they looked like the stuff of nightmares. Sorry to anyone who lives there .....
Thanks to David Katjang and Guy Sugahara, who furnished the trail instructions and tips, I and Steve Poor met at 9 at the onetime Makaha Cornet to climb this route. We drove into the road for the First Hawaiian Bank Recreation Center, and parked at the end of the paved portion, and started to walk. Hopped the gate, and then came to hunter check-in, and then we turned right on a wide trail.
The trail climbed a ridge at the "U" of Keaau Homesteads on the Kaena topo. It was cow pastures, similar to the terrain at the beginning of Dupont (or De Ponte?). The instructions says, follow this ridge all the way, and climb some rocks, etc., but Steve seemed to be divinely inspired today, and decided to veer right, to cross a wide gentle-gradient gully to reach the other ridge located at the "K" of the same words. That was a good move, as the "K" ridge is the one that goes directly up to Keaau peak 2650', and so we avoided some steep climbs on rocks and grass near the top of the "U" ridge when it joins the "K" ridge.
The view opens up on the "K" ridge, with magnificent views of the entire Keaau complex. The "triangular peak" also came into view, which is quite prominent when looked at on the trail, but quite unnoticeable on the topo. I think it corresponds to the point 1880' marked on the topo.
We gained altitude fast, as it was only 1.5 hours to get to 1880'. We met two groups of hunters, the 1st consists of two men and a dead goat, and the 2nd consists of six men. Only archery is permitted this month. We exchanged greetings, and the second group suggests that we go beyond Keaau to the saddle and then come down into Ohikilolo Ranch.
The ridge narrows after the 1880' point, and is similar to Ohikilolo or Kamaileunu, upper portion, except that the dropoff on the right side on this ridge is quite gentle and reassuring (so, if you have to fall, fall on the right, you probably won't even get hurt).
There are several big rock outcrops, that can be negotiated either left or right, more often on the right, as that's the gentle side. I was also admiring the gentle ridge that comes down from the point marked as "Burns" (wonder if it's a guy's name, or if there was a major fire). That side has been burned thoroughly recently, and is totally barren. One big rock outcrop negotiated on the right feels just like a similar one on Kamaileunu.
Rather soon, the final ascent comes up, and it's not too bad. One can avoid the exposure on the main ridge by veering to the right, where one has to just watch out for loose dirt. We summitted at 12:15, after only 2 h 55 m. Today I am wearing a very reliable watch, counterfeit Cartier from the swap meet, ...., totally accurate.
We sat down to eat lunch and then discuss what to do. No one wants to go to the saddle and come down Ohikilolo valley. I pushed going on to Keaau II and come down Skipole's ridge that we did 2 months ago, but prudence and fear of the unknown nipped that.
So, we simply retraced our steps. This has been such a wonderful hike; the weather was gorgeous, cool, breeze, 5 minutes of drizzles, some clouds, can't get ANY better. I hardly even sweated. It is amazing that we got to the top at 2650' in less than 3 hours. Ohikilolo and Kamaileunu would take me more than 4 hours, and they are only a few hundred feet higher. I think it is because this is an "honest" ridge, that gains altitude moderately rapidly, and that's all it does. It does not go down, and it hardly even flattens out. The ridge is exhilarating without being dangerous. Gee, maybe this is even becoming my _favorite_ ridge!
The return was uneventful, until we get to the traverse from "K" ridge to "U" ridge. We lost the original way. When we came up, we passed a neat cave that is also the cows' favorite haunt; no sign of that on the way down. Still, since it's cow pasture land, it doesn't matter to get lost, we got the the "U" ridge okay. Then we went down the "U" ridge, and it occurred to me that we need to turn right some place. I forgot to mark that spot on the way up. Steve actually turned right way too early, and I was still on the ridge top when I heard him whistle from the valley bottom, way inside. I think I found roughly the way to go, and finally did retrace the steps at the hunters check-in, etc.
Dayle Turner and friend drove by in a 4-wd to offer congratulations. You don't know what you missed out, Paka and Professor!! Be green with envy!!
Steve and I plan to do Skipole's trail two weeks from today. There are so many possibilities with the Keaau complex. Some day, i shall reach that Red Spot way inside.