OHE November 1, 1998

Date: Sun, 1 Nov 1998 18:39:07 -1000
From: "Dayle K. Turner" (turner@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Pu'u Kepau'ula

Pu'u Kepau'ula, a peak on Kamaileunu Ridge out Waianae way, translates to "red gum hill." I'm not sure if red gum is a kind of plant species or if the reference is literally to a person's gums. Whatever the case, Pat Rorie, Wing Ng, Steve Poor and I ascended to red gum hill via a side ridge in Waianae Valley yesterday (10/31, Sat).

A few months ago, Steve, Wing, Dave Webb did some exploring in Waianae Valley and during their outing they received permission from the owner of Angel's Junk Yard to access the side ridge via his property. The side ridge is prominent, both visually and via a topo map perusal, and a water tank sits at its base.

Piled into Steve's car, we drove onto Angel's property, checked in to let him know we'd be passing through, and commenced the hike. Initially, we walked through the junk yard, a mass of scrapped vehicles and vehicle parts. I joked that we should be on guard for a roving pit bull or rotweiller (every junk yard has a dog, right?), and my hiking colleagues didn't appreciate that bit of levity.

At the rear of Angel's property, we had to hop over a wire fence then make our way gingerly through a section of dry, shin-high grass that hid bowling ball-sized rocks. Wing took a spill as a consequence of a hidden pohaku, and we joked that he was fortunate he wasn't carrying his ice axe else he might have impaled himself.

In about five minutes, we had negotiated the hidden rock minefield without further mishap and had reached the water tank. We contoured around the right side of the fenced water tank area and then began the business of no-nonsense climbing.

The day was toasty and clear-skied. Accordingly, I lugged 5.5 liters of water but ended up consuming four. One surprise was a brisk breeze that blew makai down the valley. Steve remarked that we'd have fried without the breeze. Actually, we fried with the breeze but instead of well-done, we were only medium-rare.

In all, the climb was tough on legs and lungs, but the ridge wasn't precarious. There was some novice-level rock climbing to be done at a few spots, but nothing dicey. In addition, there was a sheer-sloped ravine to the right of the ridge we climbed but there was never any threat of falling into the chasm since the ridge was generally broad. A topo map review says the elevation gain from junk yard to Kepau'ula is ~2,300 feet over a distance of a mile and a quarter, making for a decent test of endurance.

Pat completed the climb in an hour and change, with Steve and I about 20 minutes behind. Wing, the master of deliberate hiking, topped out about an hour after Pat.

One of the highlights of the day was spotting two large herds of goats moving down an adjacent side ridge. In total, we counted about 30 animals, several which displayed remarkable balance and dexterity while moving at high speed down steep, cliffy slopes. I should also note that Steve bagged a good-sized pair of goat horns, which he found on a rock during the climb.

Equally remarkable to the goats' cliffside sprint were the views from Kepau'ula, with Makaha Valley to one side and Waianae/Lualualei Valleys to the other. The Waianae Range summit crest was cloudfree, offering a nice visual display from Kaala to Palehua. Makai, the waters off the Waianae coast looked especially inviting, not surprising given the warmth of the day.

Kepau'ula is about an hour from the usual terminus of the Kamaileunu hike, but no one was motivated to continue on to the end. Instead of heading back on the side ridge we'd climbed, after lunch, we set off for the 2.5-mile makai leg down Kamaileunu Ridge. Just mauka of the Kamaile Heiau, Pat and I were attacked by wasps, each of us sustaining two stings. Steve made it past the wasp zone unstung as did Wingo, the beneficiary of a warning from Pat.

An hour and a half after departing Kepau'ula (a bit longer for Wing), we emerged on Maiu'u Road where I had staged my vehicle a short walk away.

Based on the scraps of trash, bullet casings, and other signs we saw, hunters obviously use the side ridge to Kepau'ula as the primary access to Kamaileunu Ridge. If we can continue to secure entry from Waianae Valley, Pat and I may propose this route as part of a HTMC hike, perhaps as an interesting traverse of the ridge, starting in Waianae Valley and ending in Makaha Valley. We've already pinpointed the ridge we'd like to hike to drop into upper Makaha.

More on this later if it pans out.


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