OHE November 16, 1997

Date: Sun, 16 Nov 1997 02:42:29 -1000
From: Gene Robinson (gene@lava.net>
Subject: Re: Putting our bodies through nature's unforgiving gauntlet. 

Saturday morning, when I saw the Ko'olau summit completely cloudless, no rain for several days, no wind... I couldn't help myself. And with all the talk about Aiea Ridge to Waimalu Middle Ridge, I had to check it out. I parked my truck outside Keaiwa Heiau park about 9:45 and pushed pretty hard up Aiea ridge to make up for the late start. I hadn't been up that ridge in about 5 years; contrary to the trend with many other trails, this one seems much more open than it used to be. The helicopter landing at the top of Puu Kawipoo is great; good place to camp, with a spectacular view. The trail is very muddy in the upper sections, though.

I made it to the summit (the first set of power lines) in three hours and crossed a little gulch running parallel to the summit ridge to get to the second set of power lines. Pete mentioned a potential water source there, and there definitely is a small creek running over some big rocks, probably one of the headwaters for Kalauao. A group could camp at either power line, but it's pretty steep down to the water source. There's not much space for camping next to the creek.

The summit route over to the first peak between Aiea and Waimalu is a bit steep, brushy, and takes almost an hour, including the climb down to the creek and back up to the power lines on the summit ridge (the second set). The next peak is the highest between the main ridges, and the view was, again, fantastic. As I looked at the other ridges running up to the Ko'olau summit, I wondered how many other OHE folks were out (Nathan and Dayle on Waimano, now we know!) The peak I was on is the point where the Kalauao ridge intersects the summit (red line on the topo map, altitude about 2520).

There are about seven peaks between Aiea and Waimalu ridges. The easiest going is between 2 and 4. There's a lot of short grass, little patches of uki, and not very steep. I was making good time and feeling confident about getting out before dark. Wrong. The last three peaks were tough; fairly steep, especially the long climb up to Waimalu Middle summit. Peak number five (counting from Aiea to Waimalu) is where Waimalu "right" ridge, Diamond Head of Waimalu Middle, meets the summit. There were several sections of nearly concave ridge, the Ko'olau equivalent of a cornice, between there and Waimalu middle. The valley between six and seven had a lot of ti plants, which is unusual along the summit ridge, and made me wonder if there was once a heiau up there. I didn't poke around to check it out! The last valley between seven and Waimalu had a lot of ginger, and is the low point along the summit traverse. The climb up to Waimalu Middle is about 400 to 500 feet, and tough.

It took me four hours to go from one ridge to the other, and with the sun going down (it was 4:45), I didn't linger to enjoy the mystical beauty before heading down Waimalu Middle ridge. I wished that I had brought a tent to rest, enjoy the windward lights and the full moon, but I didn't plan well. The gallon of water I had brought was almost gone, too. But I did bring a head lamp, which I put to good use.

Going down into Waimalu valley was not too bad. It's such a pleasure to be on a ridge trail that's not heavily eroded with big mud puddles (yet). I want to send a big mahalo to Wing or Patrick for leaving trail markers all along the route. I needed them! The final stretch through the valley and up to Onikiniki was not pretty. Picture a muddy, stumbling man in total darkness, with a head lamp, mumbling something about "ice cold pepsi" over and over, stopping to devour any lilikoi or guava that he finds on the trail. I shoulda brought a tent and two gallons of water!

Speaking of trail markers, there are a few along the summit section, at the top of peaks two, six and seven. They are hot pink and tied very tightly with multiple knots. Stuart Ball? Army guy? This section of the Ko'olau summit is challenging, tougher than Waimalu Middle to Manana, but not as bad as Kipapa to Manana. For anybody doing this hike, I'd definitely advise spending the night, mainly because either Waimalu Middle or Aiea ridges will take a lot out of you before you get to the flog along the summit.

Happy hiking!

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