Date: Mon, 4 May 1998 11:13:59 -1000 From: "STONE, J. BRANDON" (email@example.com> Subject: Hauula Papali Ridge
Last Saturday, May 2, three of us hiked counter-clockwise (i.e., we turned right after getting up the initial switchbacks) to the highest point of the Hauula Papali Loop Trail and then kept on going up the ridge. Two weeks prior, we had gone up the Nipple (Pu'u Wai'ahilahila) and on about 45 min. from there. We were looking for a suitable way to backpack into the area for overnighters near the Koolau summit, but the Nipple itself seemed a little steep to ascend while carrying a sizable load. We thought that the Papali route might be more gradual. Our plan was to go as far as we could; we hoped that we'd make it to the junction with the trail coming up from the Nipple.
After leaving the top of the Papali Loop, we first travelled through Formosan koa and then through Christmas berry. The trail was obvious but very overgrown. We saw old cuts on trees, and some old ribbons (reddish sticky tape, yellow plastic Do Not Cross This Line ribbon, and at one point some pink and some blue standard trail ribbons). We did quite a bit of clearing and the way through this area is much more open than when we started.
We then got into ohia lehua and uluhe, with lots of lama, plus kopiko, ho'awa, and kolea. The trail was pretty much obscured by overgrowth from here on, though the footbed was still visible once we ploughed through the uluhe. I would guess that no one had been up there in six months or more. There's no way to go wrong, though, because the ridge is usually quite narrow and there are no spurs off to the side. After four hours of slow trail-clearing progress, we had to turn back. We stopped after descending into a sizable saddle and starting to ascend the other side, near the bowl-like back of the valley on our left (i.e., the Kaneohe side). I think we stopped somewhere between 1400 and 1600 ft. in altitude, maybe two-thirds of the way from the end of the loop trail to the junction with the Nipple Trail. It only took us two hours to descend to the trailhead.
The views were amazing. We were looking straight down into Ma'akua Gulch, and we passed one very prominent and lengthy waterfall chute. The plants were starting to get interesting toward the back. As we ate lunch in a small clearing I started to say that we hadn't seen anything very unusual, but just then I noticed a large lobelioid with about a dozen 6-10' stalks only a few feet away!
I don't know if the Papali route is really any better for backpacking than the Nipple route. More clearing would be required just to get the packs through easily, and the ridge was very narrow in spots. I have no idea what lay up ahead, either. I look forward to going back and making it to the junction and beyond. However, there may be a good reason that all the OHEers seem to go up and down the Nipple route, in spite of the steepness of that Pu'u itself. Perhaps someone could enlighten us?
"Historically", Al Miller pioneered both trails, but it was not clear that even he got to the top. In 1989 he convinced HTMC trail clearers to clear the Papali to Nipple route,in the hope of getting to Castle, from which we were shut off. We worked several weekends, and then inexplicably gave up. In 1995(?) Wade Johnson disappeared, and two policemen also died when their helicopter crashed. There was then a crash effort to open these trails to look for him, and as a result Papali-Nipple-to-Castle, and all of Castlei tself, were opened up by the rescuers.
I, Stuart Ball, Ken Suzuki, and Carole Ripley Moon then tried to get to Castle from Papali. The route was more overgrown than '89, but was quite passable. Stuart actually did get to the Castle intersection, and the three of us sat several humps back to have lunch. As we returned, someone proposed going down Nipple, and I recall I adamantly opposed - didn't like to go down that steep Nipple when I am tired.
Then Al Miller came along, and said he liked using Nipple route better, because it goes straight up and gains altitude quickly. So that route was adopted.
I think that the Papali route would be better for backpacking, but the trail needs to be cleared better. At one or two places, it's steep, slippery mud, and a cable would be helpful, but not necessary from safety point of view.
Actually, the easiest way would be to go up Castle itself. Now the top 3 switchbacks are clogged up and the route is to go straight up a steep ridge. But even that is easier than Nipple, and possibly easier than Papali-Nipple. Long time ago, HTMC used to do 3-day backpacking up there and stay near the stream as a camp-site. I think Ripley claims that she actually did that one time.