Date: Sat, 30 May 1998 18:48:03 -1000 From: ALEX H OKIHARA (OKIHARA@prodigy.net> Subject: The Amazing Pu'u Kaua
I will be putting up pictures on my web page as soon as they are developed...
Date: Sunday, May 24, 1998
Hike: Pu'u Kaua
Party: Ann Mukai, Stacie Young, Wayne Shibata, & Alex Okihara
Weather: Sunny with some clouds
Time Started: 11:36 AM
Time Finished: 5:43 PM
Round trip duration: ~ 4.5 hours (excluding lunch break)
Time to Peak: ~ 2 hours
Everyday as I drove home to Mililani, I see the outline of Pu'u Kaua on the Wai'anae Range. Standing at 3,127 feet, it is the third highest peak on O'ahu. Today, I finally got the chance to climb it.
From Kunia Road, we turned left on a dirt road as instructed by the Hikers Guide. The road branches out many times, and meanders through the pineapple fields, so it was easy for us to get lost. Eventually, we found the spot where we should park.
Just before entering the trail, a band of hunters were exiting with their many dogs. We then began our adventure.
The trail is one of the nicest that I've seen. It is, for the most part, well-established and wide. There are many trees along the way until you reach the upper section of the ridge. The trees do obscure your view of Pu'u Kaua, so it is hard to tell how much farther you need to go until you get to the upper portion of the ridge.
Along the way, we took a lot of group shots. There are many huge boulders with widths spanning 7 feet or more.
The climb is gradual in the beginning, and then gets steeper. It climbs gradually again, and then gets really steep. Finally we reached the top at about 1:30 PM.
On the way, there was an empty stump that was full of bees! If you ever go up there, don't sit on it or you may never be able to sit comfortably again.
At the top, there is an open grassy area where the views are unobscured. The grassy area looks like a nice place to cruise at night and watch the stars. There were views of Mt. Ka'ala, Lualualei, Pearl Harbor, Mililani, etc. We broke for lunch and some of us took a short nap. After more pictures from the top, we decided to continue the loop. It was about 3:00 PM.
Continuing on, the trail became a little overgrown until we reached the steep descent. The views were breathtaking. We continued down in search of the side ridge to turn off of.
Unfortunately, I wasn't paying attention to the Hikers Guide, and we wound up walking farther than we should. We were approaching a steep near-vertical section that can be seen on the left of Pu'u Kaua from the windward side of the range. That section looks so cool! I really wanted to go further and climb it, but we were supposed to go to Sams Club before they closed.
After searching for a suitable trail and finding none (the ridges seemed to drop off precipitously), we turned around to go back the way we came. Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, we found the trail heading back down which would allow us to complete the loop. The trail is marked by a group of rocks with a blue trail marker tied around one rock. It is very indistinct, and doesn't really look like a way down, but it is. The trail was steep and there were many big loose rocks. We gave ourselves some spacing because some of the rocks would come loose and start to roll down the hill. One of the football sized rocks almost hit my friend in the head.
At one point, my friend Ann slipped and bruised her shin really badly. When we got back to the trailhead, she changed from her jeans to her shorts, revealing a very swollen bruise on her shin. It was about 4 inches wide, and stuck out about half an inch. It looked like she had a big muscle on the front of her shin.
The trail leading down was also indistinct at times. There were markers at some points, but as we approached the bottom, we lost sight of the markers and just picked a direction. There were more huge boulders, which made me feel slightly uncomfortable as I walked past them. I imagined what it would be like to have one of those huge boulders rolling after me, like in the Indiana Jones movies.
Descending down a steep section near a dry streambed, a boulder about 2 feet wide came loose and started chasing my friend Ann. Unfortunately for Ann, she ran in the wrong direction for a while, allowing it to gain on her. She finally veered off to the side, and the boulder rolled past her, coming to a stop in the middle of the streambed. Everybody started laughing in relief.
Eventually, we made our way back to the ridge that we had first climbed, completing the loop, but re-connecting at a much different point than specified in the Hikers Guide.
We followed the trail down, arriving back at the car at 5:43 PM.
If you continue the loop, be prepared for a steep descent down the mountain through potentially dangerous territory. It is probably a better idea to descend back the way you came insted of going off on the indistinct side trail.
Pu'u Kaua is indeed an awesome peak, quite noticable from aywhere in central Oahu. I used to do the entire loop myself however the Nature Conservancy has asked that folks doing the Kaua hike *NOT* do the loop. There are endangered spicies and tree snails along the steep descent that get damaged/destroyed when clumsy humans slide down and set boulders loose smashing the foliage and such. My buddy Mike Adams and I usually just go up to the summit and back down the same way we went up. It really is the "T" word if you haven't gotten permission from the conservancy to do the hike, so at least be respectful in this regard and refrain from doing the loop???
Mahalo, Art Neilson (Nature Conservancy docent in a past life)
1) The 3rd highest point of Oahu is actually the top of Kamaileunu.
2) That loop descent is becoming indistinct from about 1/2 way downwards. Somebody should flag it again. How come I didn't do it?? I went down and got lost ...., several times, and so did not flag until I know what I was doing. I am surprised you did not see my big ribbon marking the left-turn spot to get back to the ascending trail.