OHE May 26, 1999 (Kawiwi to Waianae Kai)



Date: Wed, 26 May 1999 20:46:28 -1000
From: Dayle K. Turner (turner@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Wednesday in the Waianaes

Because the weather in Nuuanu looked not-so-promising this a.m., a small group of us opted against hiking to Lanihuli via Mo`ole as originally announced. Our alternative: Pu'u Kawiwi out in Waianae Valley. Joining me were three primo hikers--Jay Feldman, Mark Short, and Charlotte Yamane. The Wednesday crew hasn't ruled out Lanihuli; we may do that next week if weather and will allow.

From our usual rendezvous point on Luluku Road in Kaneohe, today's gang jumped in my Cherokee for the ride out to Oahu's west side. While on H-1 near the stadium, we noticed that the Waianae range was totally hidden by an ominous mass of clouds. Had we made a critical error in our choice of hikes? Noticing the quietness of the others, I tried to stay optimistic since the weather bureau had predicted mostly sunny skies today. Plus, it rarely rains out Waianae way, I added.

By the time we rounded the corner by Makakilo (the new water park looks unready for the upcoming grand opening), the sun beamed down brightly and the day was looking typically westside-ish. We took pause when we made the turn up Waianae Valley Road and saw rain clouds in the upper valley on the facing slopes of Kaala. By this time, we all were in the optimistic mode, saying things like, "The rain will keep us cool," or "It's better than hiking in the hot sun."

We drove up to the pulloff by the locked gate at the start of the single-lane Board of Water Supply road a little past 10:00, and we set off about 10:15. Though unexciting, the initial 10 minute walk up the narrow road served as a good warm-up for the climbing ahead. For future reference, note that the forest trail to Kawiwi is on the left just past a big rock on the right and also just past where the road makes a transition from concrete to asphalt. Though the trailhead is unmarked, plenty of pink and yellow ribbons indicate the way through a maze of buffalo grass and koa haole until eventually, steady climbing commences.

We took several rest stops on the ascent. At the first, at an outcrop just above the tops of the haole koa forest, we watched and listened to a white parrot squawking from a distant treetop. In the meantime, light breezes offered some cooling comfort. Early on, the clouds seemed indecisive, as if pondering whether to let loose some rain or disperse to let the sun shine through. While we didn't want either, we were happy with the resulting compromise--high overcast conditions and moderate breezes.

The higher we climbed, the more the winds cooled us and the more the views became commanding. Chopping, lopping, and ribbon-placing from previous ascents made today's hike more trouble-free. There is some nice rock climbing opportunities on the way up, but nothing overly dangerous or technical.

As we approached the summit area, we spotted two different herds of goats, one near the crest of Kawiwi and another 100 meters downslope. At one point, a lone goat dashed in front of us about 50 feet away. "This is the goat capital of Oahu," I told my hiking companions, reflecting on past encounters with these animals on previous climbs.

One modification we made was to slab right all the way at the final big rockface before the top. On previous climbs, we had gone up and over the ridgecrest a couple times before slabbing right. Old ribbons mark this route.

In retrospect, the total slab-right option is faster, easier, and safer. We left no ribbons for this, but anyone going up to try this should know that slabbing all the way near the top is doable. Eventually, you'll pick up pink ribbons that will lead to the crest.

Even with several rest breaks, we topped out at Kawiwi (elev. 2,975 ft.) in two hours. Charlotte claimed to be feeling fatigued, but let me tell you that fatigued or otherwise she can outclimb many hikers 20 to 30 years younger, male or female. Jay and Mark were also in fine form, completing the 2,400-foot vertical ascent from car to summit steadily without complaint.

We spent thirty-plus minutes for lunch, enjoying beautiful views of Makaha Valley, Ohikilolo Ridge across the way, massive Waianae & Lualualei Valleys, and Kaala, the acme of Oahu mountain summits. While we spied out the ridge route between Kawiwi and Kamaileunu, we marveled at Al Miller's single-day outing that took him up Kamaileunu, past Kawiwi, No-Name, and Kaala, and down Dupont to Waialua. Pat Rorie will do this someday, we predicted.

Using Charlotte's mini binoculars, we also scanned the ridge from Makaha Valley to Kamaileunu--no major obstacles apparent. Hopefully, a group of us will ascend/descend this at some point, replicating the feat accomplished years ago by Fred Dodge of the HTMC.

After Charlotte, Mark, and Jay snapped some pictures, we set off for phase two of our hike--the crossover to No-Name Peak. The crossing features some splendid dike sections that descend to a saddle segment Wing Ng has named "Broken Teeth," a narrow section of the ridge characterized by large boulders, jagged rocks, and precipitous dropoffs. In a January post to OHE-L, Wing said negotiating Broken Teeth was "like walking on top of the dental works of a Tyrannosaurus from Hell, whose teeth are 100 feet high!!" Nicely put, Wing.

Fortunately, the T-Rex from hell wasn't hungry today, allowing the four of us to carefully negotiate its dental work uneaten. On a serious note, care is required on the crossover because of the narrowness of the ridge, looseness of rocks, and uneveness of footing. And take care we did.

I lost track of time, but I think the Kawiwi to No-Name crossing took more than an hour, maybe closer to 1.5 hours. Though less than a mile, the crossing isn't anything we wanted to rush because of the aforementioned hazards. One thing I'd like to note is that contouring on the right (Waianae Valley side) seems doable in place of much of the dike segments leading up to Broken Teeth (Mark pointed this out and I concur). We didn't contour, but the goat trails indicate that they do. This alternative would be safer albeit less exciting.

After some energy-sapping climbing, we plopped down to rest on tufts of buffalo grass atop No-Name peak (elev. 3,000). We all agreed that this peak was more distinctive, at least from below and at a distance, than Kawiwi. Perhaps, we surmised, the mapmakers had made a mistake and No-Name is actually Kawiwi and Kawiwi is No-Name.

Using Charlotte's binocs again, we took turns viewing waterfalls to the left and right of the Waianae-Kaala Trail ridge. Mark recollected the left waterfall being more substantial when he and his son hiked W-K last November. Today, Kaala was cloudfree as was Kalena and the parade of Waianae Range peaks extending left to right beyond it. Mark pointed out the distant Koolau range visible beyond Kalena.

Our 15-minute break at No-Name over, we descended the ridge to the junction with the Waianae Kai Trail. At the junction were two pig hunters and their two dogs. "Wea you folks came from?" asked the shorter of the two. When I explained our route, he seemed amazed. And when I mentioned our goat sighting, he perked up even more. The hunters were preoccupied, however, since one of their dogs was lost somewhere in Makaha Valley. They'd just come up "the old trail" from Makaha Valley, they said, and wondered if we'd heard a dog barking. We hadn't, I said. A point to note is that the picnic shelter at this junction is no longer there. The hunters didn't know who took it out or why. It didn't appear to be burned down, just removed altogether. I'm not sure why.

After bidding the hunters goodbye, we commenced the descent of Waianae Kai, which went quickly without flop or fall. We saw some local kids heading up by the lower picnic shelter where the paved road ends/begins, and then made the tedious road walk back to my vehicle. We were out before 4 p.m. and enjoyed some drinks and snacks provided by Jay and Mark and then made the relaxing drive back to Kaneohe.

Will this loop ever be an HTMC hike? Charlotte and Jay say they don't see why not. We'll see.

Safe hiking to all,

--DKT


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