OHE November 16, 1998 (b)

Date: Mon, 16 Nov 1998 16:58:49 -1000
From: "Dayle K. Turner" (turner@Hawaii.Edu>
Subject: Kawiwi

Pat described the outing of this past Saturday in detail and I'll add some input.

Prior to the venture, I had examined the direct route to Kawiwi via topo map and via first-hand perusal from various angles on previous visits to Waianae Valley. A result of these ruminations was a sense of confidence that the summit could be gained by going up the direct ridge.

A few weeks ago when we did Pu'u Kepau'ula, Wing was a seeming ally in the direct ridge campaign. For some reason, Wingo changed his mind this past Saturday, claiming that Kawiwi, via the direct ridge, couldn't be climbed successfully. Why the change of view I'm not sure.

Steve, a very conservative sort, shared the same opinion, but perhaps because he didn't want me to hike alone, he opted to join me on a try of the direct ridge. Pat and Wing, meanwhile, would try to reach Kawiwi by an indirect route via a side ridge deeper in the valley.

Before I set out, Steve and Wing didn't give me much of a chance to make it, saying things like "He'll end up going in circles in the forest and won't even find the ridge." Pat, wanting to remain neutral, remained silent. Doug, our visiting hiker from the mainland, tramped on up the road, not wanting to involve himself in the roadside argument.

And so the table was set, and off Steve and I went in an attempt to avoid going around in circles while looking to hook up with the direct ridge to Kawiwi. As it turned out, we followed a distinct, well-marked trail through the forest that took us on a fairly direct track toward the base of the ridge we sought. Apparently, this trail has been used by the HTMC in the past and may continue to be used by hunters and an occasional hiker. On the way, we crossed a streambed and passed an array of terraces and old rock structure sites.

As we moved to a hundred yards or so from the ridge's base, the distinct trail split--one fork heading to the right (up valley) and the other left (makai). At that point, Steve and I took to winding our way straight ahead on faint trails or none at all, mostly through koa haole and low, dry grass. I handed Steve a roll of pink ribbon I had and he proceeded to affix markers to trees as we moved along.

Within 20 minutes of departing company with Pat and Wing, Steve and I had reached the direct ridge to Kawiwi and commenced ascending it. During the climb, I noticed a couple cast off water bottles, other assorted trash, and old cuttings on trees, indicating that others had preceded us up the ridge in fairly recent times. Almost all the way, Formosan koa was the dominant flora with an occasional cactus, ilima, and Christmas berry here and there.

The ridge has similarities to Kepau'ula and Kamaileunu but Kawiwi direct is more tree-covered and features more rock climbing. About two-thirds of the way up, there is a narrow Kalena-like dike section but goat trails left and right offer bypass options. On the ascent I used the left side bypass and on the descent I used the other side. The drops to both sides are precipitous but trees offer security and peace of mind.

It was at this dike section that I first saw goats, a couple of sandy-brown colored big boys about 100 yards mauka in a pocket to the left of the largest rockface on the ridge. The duo remained motionless, watching me, waiting to see my next move. When I resumed hiking, they bolted off up the pocket, skirting the rockface to the left.

It was also about this time that rain began to fall. I welcomed the rain for its cooling effect and also noted how unusual it was for a shower to hit, something that's happened just once before, while I hiked in the Waianaes. I also noted that I should be careful later on the descent since some of the rocky sections would be slippery when damp.

I have to admit that I gave thought to quitting when I reached the dike section. When I reflect on what prompted me to continue, I attribute it partly to the realization that another summit chance might be a long time in coming and partly to spotting a possible route to bypass the intimidating rockface beyond the dike. I'll also admit the words "He'll never make it," and "That ridge can't be climbed" uttered by a couple of my colleagues played a part in motivating me to press on.

And so press on I did.

One regret is that I didn't have ribbon to mark the route in its upper reaches since I had given my roll to Steve early on. After the dike, what loomed ahead was a mid-sized rockface and then a much larger one that looked too steep and dangerous to attempt. To get past the mid-sized one, I contoured on the right, then switchbacked on a goat trail to regain the ridge crest. To get past the larger rockface, I worked left into the pocket where the goats had been and continued ascending on an eroded Kuliouou-like hillside until I had again regained the ridgecrest at the base of the very steepest part. From there, I crossed back over to the right and slabbed well below the ridge crest on goat trails. A grove of Christmas berry maybe 60 to 70 feet below offered some protection if I fell. At a couple points, I kicked down some loose rocks which bounded down the hillside, crashed through the Christmas berry, and launched out into a deep gulch below.

Ribbons to mark the crossover points would have been helpful. The earlier rain had made this contour segment a little trickier than it normally would have been but I never felt in peril. While contouring, I spotted another large goat 50 yards away, a patch of Christmas berry and a small hill separating us. Like the other goats I'd spotted earlier, this one didn't bolt off when it saw me, even when I yelled out to frighten it. Also like the others, this one made a strange honking/barking sound and only terminated its stare-down when I moved toward it with machete raised. I hadn't intended to have my cutting tool out at that point, wanting to have use of both hands for grabbing branches and for balance. However, given the abnormal behavior of this animal, I decided to keep it handy for self-defense if need be.

Watchful for a possible horned nemesis, I continued climbing by contouring on the right side of the ridge along a semi-rocky slope populated by plenty of Formosan koa and some Christmas berry. Goat trails continued to be in evidence here but from this section to the summit, I saw no trash, cuttings, ribbons, or other signs of human presence. Sources I've read indicate that ancient Hawaiians used Kawiwi as a place of refuge during war. Also, a kahuna supposedly inhabited Kawiwi in ancient times. If true, signs of such a presence weren't apparent.

To gain the summit of Kawiwi, I continued contouring on the forested right side of the ridge until reaching the crest of the Waianae range just to the right of Kawiwi's apex. From there I scrambled the final yards to a small grassy knoll and stood tall with arms raised high. The summit knoll, a shade below 3,000 feet in elevation, offered a panoramic vista of Waianae Valley to one side and Makaha Valley to the other. There are saddles in both directions, with the one toward the Kamaileunu terminus looking menacing and the one toward No Name Peak also appearing not very hiker-friendly.

I whooped out and seconds later heard Pat yell out from somewhere in the saddle section toward No Name Peak. Meanwhile, clouds and a light rain swept over the ridgetop toward Ka'ala while the makai view served up an interesting contrast with Waianae Valley bathed in sunshine.

Atop Kawiwi, I logged only 20 minutes, spending it eating lunch and making mental note of what I'd experienced at the top and during the climb. I tied a plastic bag to a small tree to mark my presence in case my colleagues didn't believe I'd made it. Otherwise, I left nor found other indications that anyone had visited this spot recently.

I descended along the same basic route as the ascent, following the line that seemed the safest and most efficient since I hadn't left ribbons on the way up. About halfway down, I yelled out and heard Steve whistling unseen in reply. I also heard a loud squawking sound from the forest below. Steve told me later that the source of the noise was a large cockatoo perched in a tree.

Once off the ridge, I lost the trail in the section of haole koa between the ridge and the Board of Water Supply road. However, I continued moving in the general direction of the road, crossing a streambed en route. When I finally reached the road after 15 minutes of bashing about, I was surprised I emerged a good deal mauka of where Steve and I had entered the forest when we set out. In any event, I had made it back okay and proceeded down the road in good spirits to Wingo's car and my comrades.

On the drive back, Steve mentioned that the route should now be turned into a club hike. We'll see if that comes to pass. In any regard, a future trip is surely in the works so that my colleagues of this past Saturday can claim this enigmatic, elusive peak as their own.


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