OHE November 19, 1997

Date: Wed, 19 Nov 1997 13:58:33 -1000
From: Patrick Rorie (prorie@hekili.k12.hi.us>
Subject: Five Reach The Mount Ohulehule Summit

Mount Ohulehule has been described as the K2 amoung us - not the tallest but certainly the most dangerous. 5 men made the summit their goal as they headed to Kahana Valley on Saturday, Nov. 8, 1997.

Earier that week I sent an e-mail invite to Kurt Heilbron, Jarrod Kinoshita, Gene Robinson and Art Neilson. None replied back so I wasn't sure if any of them would show up. I had spoken with Dave Webb and Steve Poor over the phone and weather permitting knew that they would accompany me.

Dave greeted me as I arrived in the parking lot of the Kahana Valley State Park at 10 a.m. As he got into my car he told me that he had dropped off Steve Poor at the last gate on the mauka end of a new community. I drove us to the grass area just outside the community and made final preps. From there we proceeded on foot toward the trailhead. About half way thru the community Art and his buddy Mike Adams pulled up beside us in Art's truck. I told him to park next to my car and that we would wait for them at the last gate. Dave and I made it to the gate and found Steve adjusting his external backpack. "How is he going to get that thru the tight spots ?", I thought to myself. Steve was slightly perturbed. "Off to a late start I see !" he commented.

The three of us waited for Art and Mike and at approx. 10:37 a.m. the gang of 5 headed up the road toward the trailhead marked by a brown hunter/hiker check-in box. We passed it, went down a wide trail and crossed a dam. Next the group turned left and after a short distance went left again at a junction. We crossed the same stream twice as the trail curved to the right. The 5 of us then worked our way along the narrow trail thru the jungle. During this stretch Art, Mike and I identified and enjoyed gazing at the true Manamana with the pointy near vertical peak to its right. We came to an open area, went left and descended to a stream. Dave and I took a few minutes to study a nice swimming pool that had formed naturally in the stream as Steve changed into a different pair of shoes. Mike took the lead as all of us carefully ascended thru a bamboo forest. The trail broke out into the open and narrowed as we hiked along a very lovely stretch above the stream. The way the trees, flowers and hills were arranged beside the stream with the mountains in the background made this "perhaps the most beautiful valley walk on the island"*. "There is really nothing better in life than spending a sunny afternoon by Kahana Stream"*.

Pressing on, the group ascended again and as the trail leveled off thru uluhe and lots of mud Mike and I got way in front. I stopped to wait for the others under a large tree which had a metal pole near it. Mike also stopped about 30 yards ahead of me. As soon as Art reached my location I started hiking again and reached Mike. The gang continued toward the northwest ridge of Ohulehule ascending at first gradually and then somewhat steeply thru another jungle. Mike lead the way followed by Steve and Dave. Art fell behind and I waited for him. Art has been slowed by a knee injury (a torn ACL) and I give him much credit for coming with us despite the difficulty. When I could see Art approaching I climbed methodically up the ridge and reached Dave and Steve who were taking a break. I pointed out the sphinx shaped rock above and to the right. I eventually moved ahead of them because I wanted to reach Mike before he came across the very steep thin metal cable section of the trail. On the way I passed Kurt's hat which he lost the day he fell and enjoyed phenomenal views of Kaaawa Valley to the left and Kahana featuring Pu'u Piei behind.

I joined Mike at the saddle (where HTMC terminates its Waikane Saddle Hike) a few minutes later and together we proceeded along the narrow ridge. He pointed out various native vegetation to me as we approached the steep ascent. Just before we reached it he said,"Here we go ! Like going up Olomana !". I thought to myself,"Mike. This ain't no Olomana !!!". When we arrived at the long cable section at the beginning of the very steep ascent Mike went first. About half way up he started to get scared but I encouraged him with words like "You're doing great ! Keep going !". He shot back,"But how are we going to get down ?!" and I replied,"We'll figure that out when the time comes". Mike is a fast, very capable hiker and I knew he could make it without much of a problem so it was fun to see him squirm a little !

The ridge gradually leveled off and the summit region came into view. As Mike continued I went down the southwest ridge for a short distance. "One of these days I'll try this one" I told myself. Mike and I followed the ribbons I had tied to various trees along the route on July 13 of this year as we pushed thru low level vegetation. Both of us suffered scratches on our legs as we moved thru uluhe and lots of thimbleberry plants.

At about 1:40 p.m. Mike and I reached the summit. He headed for the eastern view spot and lit up a cigarette as I took out my bolo knife and performed trail maintenance reestablishing the Kahana view spot. When I looked down the southeast ridge I was shocked to see clidemia covering it like a blanket. There were other trees and plants amongst the clidemia but they were few and far between. I had just about finished clearing the part of the trail which goes around the summit to the various view spots when Steve and Dave arrived. I greeted them with a warm,"Welcome to the summit of Ohulehule ! Congratulations ! You made it !". I could tell that they had just experienced one of the most exciting times of their lives. Dave commented,"Now I know why club members are not permitted to go beyond the saddle on the day of the hike !".

Having completed the majority of the work at the summit I proceeded to the next item on my agenda - a descent of the famous southeast ridge which Ball describes as "the most dangerous hike on the island". I had gone down it a short distance in July but wanted to reach the very, very steep section on this day. I followed the trail I had cut in July and continued beyond it until the descent became very steep. It didn't take me long to realize that I was hiking off the side of the mountain ! I quickly made a sharp left and regained the ridge line. I was never in any danger because the thick clidemia surrounded me available as handholds. As I continued my descent I heard Dave say that he and Steve were heading down. I told him that we'd be in touch for future adventures. Moving slowly down the ridge I cut a path thru the clidemia. I was surprised at how narrow the ridge was at the place where it levels off before the very, very steep section (refer to the bottom photo on the last page of the photo section in Ball's "Hiker's Guide to O'ahu". Locate the summit of Ohulehule. The southeast ridge is to the right of it stretching all the way under Chinaman's Hat). I reached a point beyond a tree where I couldn't see the ground under the clidemia when Mike called down to me that clouds were moving toward the summit. The last thing I wanted was for us to get caught in the rain going down because of what happened to Kurt. Reluctantly I turned around and headed back to the summit. I vowed to myself that I would return to complete the descent. On my way up the southeast ridge I tied ribbon to trees along the route to mark the progress I had made.

The summit became socked in by clouds as Art arrived. Mike and I were glad to see him (that he made it). He remarked that the climb up the very steep part of the ridge using the thin metal cable was nuts. I cut down some clidemia trees (yes, trees !) while Art sat down to rest. Mike suggested that we start down soon because of the possibility of rain and to have enough time to get out before darkness (it was a little past 2 p.m.).

As soon as Art had recovered slightly the three of us departed the summit. I lead the way with Art behind me and Mike bringing up the rear. Art and Mike requested that we stick together to help each other get thru the difficult section we knew was coming. I told them that it was easier going down but they seemed kindof skeptical. I got slightly ahead of them so I stopped and enjoyed the wonderful view of Kahana Valley with the afternoon sun shining very beautifully on Pu'u Piei with low clouds obscuring the ridge which connects Piei to the Ko'olau summit ridge. We began descending somewhat steeply and I told Art and Mike that there was no shame in slidding on their okoles. We carefully made it down the very steep area using the cables and strong branches and breathed a sigh of relief.

At 3:05 p.m. the three of us reached the saddle and shortly thereafter a steady rain came down on us. Art's glasses became fogged which slowed his progress as we continued descending toward the Kahana Valley floor. Mike and I got ahead of him and he yelled for us to wait. The three of us were together as we worked our way thru the valley. We went thru the bamboo again, crossed the stream and ascended to a junction in the trail. We took a quick break at the junction before entering the jungle at approx. 5:50 p.m. I got my flashlight out before we started moving again. It got very dark while traveling thru the jungle. Art put on his head lamp and Mike stayed between us so that he could see the trail. We crossed the stream and dam and reached the hunter/hiker box at approx. 6:30 p.m. Without stopping, Mike, Art and myself walked thru the new community and reached our vehicles 15 minutes later. While the three of us cleaned up, Art and Mike thanked me for taking them on such an awesome escapade. We went our separate ways at 6:50 p.m.


* Ball Jr., Stuart M. THE HIKER'S GUIDE TO O'AHU. Honolulu: University Of Hawaii Press, 1993.

== Patrick

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