OHE November 1, 1998 (b)

Date: Sun, 1 Nov 1998 19:48:24 -1000
From: "Dayle K. Turner" (turner@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Pu'u Lanihuli

I completed my second ascent of Lanihuli today (11/1/98), and I had the good fortune to be joined by my friend, Pat Rorie, and my idol, Charlotte Yamane.

Our plan was to head to the summit via the end of Alewa Drive and then descend to Nu'uanu via Kekoalele Ridge, the one that bottoms out adjacent to Oahu Country Club. We staged a car in Nu'uanu and then met at the top of Alewa Drive, shoving off at 8:41.

Initially, there is a fence to hop, and because my climbing skills were lacking, I sustained a small wound from barbed wire. But the wound was minor, not anything that would prevent me from continuing.

The starting point is at elevation 1,040 and Pu'u Lanihuli on the Koolau summit is 2,700. In between is a fairly grueling ascent that includes some heart-pumping climbing of a string of pu'u including Waolani (1,414), Napu'umaia (1,870), and (HTMC) lunchspot hill (2,160).

Thanks to recent work by the HTMC gang and the outdoor club of the Kamehameha Schools, the section of the Alewa Ridge to 2,160 is a freeway. And we made nice time as a result, needing just an hour and a half to acquire the 2,160 pu'u where Lanihuli first comes into sight.

That pu'u is quite a gem, I should mention, because it offers views not only of the massive summit bulk, but of upper Kalihi Valley, parts of Kaneohe, and the ridge that leads to the terminus of the Bowman trail. While we rested, Charlotte pointed out a couple of lobelia plants and an amakihi, a native bird.

Beyond 2,160, the ridge levels off for a quarter mile and then drops steeply to a saddle, home of the oft-mentioned straddle ridge of Lanihuli. We spent about 20 minutes at the straddle ridge, affixing a rope to trees and working on some footholds to make the traverse safer. Whereas my first visit to this ridge saw me straddling the ridge, today I had confidence enough to contour to the right, which isn't as dicey as it appears. The rope and improved footholds make the contour much better.

Past the straddle section is a short, steep climb followed by a gentle rollercoaster segment. Then one arrives at the base of summit mass where steep but non-perilous climbing commences. The trail beyond 2,160 is pristine--minimal erosion, minimal non-native flora invasion, and devoid of a human bootprint.

And despite the obvious lack of people traffic, the trail, albeit overgrown, is easy to follow. Na pua'a are the primary maintainers of the route in its upper environs, but we saw no pigs today although there were hoofprints aplenty in the few muddy sections we passed.

At noon, Pat, Charlotte, and I received our reward for our morning of toil: a panoramic view of the windward side stretching from Pu'u Piei (Kahana Valley) to Makapu'u. We were especially thankful for the cloudfree crest since Lanihuli is socked in more often than not. Pat, wearing a sizable grin, was like the proverbial kid in a candy store, pointing out the various peaks in view--Keahiakahoe, Olomana, Ohulehule, Kanehoalani, and others--and reciting their names.

Charlotte, a first-time visitor to Lanihuli, told me she had heard in her dreams the night before Kealii Reichel's song, Lei Hali'a, which mentions both Lanihuli and Konahuanui, the most prominent peaks in the Koolaus "And I'm going to listen to the song at home tonight," said Charlotte. Since I have Reichel's CD, I did the same. Nice.

We spent nearly an hour at the summit, departing a few minutes before one. The descent went without a hitch, thanks to a mud-deprived trail.

As I mentioned, we descended Kekoalele Ridge to Nu'uanu instead of retracing our steps to Alewa Drive (we are fans of variety when hiking). In all, we needed three hours from the summit to reach my car in Nu'uanu. Instead of leading as he normally does, Pat hung back all day to enjoy the pleasing views afforded by the cool conditions and clear skies.

I'm often asked about my favorite trail on Oahu. Even though I've done others many times more (Aiea Loop trail over three dozen times, for example), I now know my answer: Lanihuli.


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