OHE November 1, 1999 (Kuliouou-TomTom)

Date: Mon, 1 Nov 1999 07:39:33 -1000
From: Dayle K. Turner (turner@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Kuliouou-TomTom

We had a day off from trail clearing yesterday (Sun, 10/31) and since the club hike (Makapuu-TomTom) was something we had done recently, a group of thirteen, plus one tough canine, showed up at the HTMC clubhouse in Waimanalo this morning for a non-club outing in the Koolaus. In the group were Grant Oka, his daughter Georgina, Jay Feldman, Naomi Nasu, Lynn Agena, Steve Montgomery, Thomas Yoza, Jason Sunada, Rich Jacobson, Nathan Yuen, Mark Short, Mark's Rhodesian Ridgeback, Sam, Mr. Kim, and I.

We met at the clubhouse at 7:30 and then boarded vehicles driven by Mark, Thomas, and I and headed to Kalaau Place in Kuliouou Valley. We were on the trail at a bit past 8:00.

Instead of heading up and right on the Kuliouou Ridge Trail, we stayed on the valley trail, under cloudy skies and with humid conditions prevailing. For about a half mile, the trail was well maintained. Thereafter, we had to duck under branches and watch our footing, as morning rains had slickened the rocky trail. For the most part, we followed a path along the right bank of the stream, doing some minor rollercoaster ups and downs at times to bypass obstructions. At about the three-quarters of a mile mark, the trail became obscure and entered the streambed, strewn with slippery moss-covered boulders. Along the way, we passed a few small pools of standing water, and Sam used several of these to hydrate himself.

At the one-mile mark of the stream trail, we reached a fork in the stream and followed the one that went up to the left. About 50 to 60 meters up, we reached a vertical waterfall face, with ribbons on the steep embankment on its right side. A map check revealed we were at the 1,000 foot elevation level with a climb of about 1/3 of a mile and an elevation gain of 1,200 feet to reach the crest of the west ridge of Kuliouou Valley.

The climb was steep, and the path we followed was slick, so we ascended carefully to avoid slipping and falling. Ribbons marked the way. Fortunately, vegetation was ample to offer sufficient handholds and security. At about the 1,600 foot level, sweating buckets as a consequence of the muggy, windless conditions, we reached a vertical rock band of about ten feet where a blue rope was hanging as a climbing aid. Roots and branches were also available and were quite welcome. While the two-legged among us climbed the band with only minor difficulty, Sam needed some assistance to negotiate this segment and a strap belay proved successful. Above this vertical band was another eight-foot face where Steve put up another rope for added security. We did not leave this rope since it might be needed for other places along our route (and it was).

Not far above the rock bands, we emerged from the canopied overstory of lama, Christmas berry, and guava, and emerged at the right edge of the fairly broad spur we'd been heading up from the valley. Nice views of the upper valley were available as were cooling winds sweeping over the summit crest and down toward our position. Clouds obscured the summit, but we hoped these would dissipate by the time we reached the top.

The faint trail we followed continued along the edge of the ridge, with a big drop on the right. Just before cresting out on Kuliouou west (at the 2,200 foot level), we stopped to examine the scattered remants of a plane wreckage, probably circa WWII. By this time, our group had split in two, with Naomi, Nathan, Mark (and Sam), Jay, Steve, Rich, and I in the front group and the others trailing downridge. We kept in communication with whoops and yells, and returned calls indicated relative position and distance from us.

We spent ten minutes resting at the top-out pu'u (old pink double ribbons mark this), and then continued up Kuliouou west for the ten-minute trip to the Koolau summit (elev. 2,360). I pointed out the continuation of the faint summit ridge trail that headed along the crest to points west and noted how it plunged deceptively over the windward side of the crest. Given white-out conditions, a hiker might be doubtful about following this trail, thinking it would lead to a free fall to the base of the pali in Waimanalo. However, the danger of this windward plunge is mostly an illusion, for after dropping down the windward-facing slope for about 20 meters, the trail contours west to regain the ridge crest.

The east-bound segment of the crest trail, although a bit overgrown with clidemia, was a pleasure to hike after the rugged climb from Kuliouou Valley. For brief spells, we had clear views to the windward side, but clouds obscured things most of the time. The winds were steady and strong most of the way to the terminus of the Kuliouou Ridge Trail. We stopped briefly to examine the upper segment of Bear Claw Ridge that drops to windward from Pu'u o Kona (elev. 2,200), and Mark and I talked about how do-able it looked (when any of us will ever muster the gumption to go up or down Bear Claw remains undetermined, however).

The lead group reached the Kuliouou terminus (elev. 2,028) at 11:30 (3.5 hours from setting out), and we spent an hour there, thinking the trailing group would catch up to us during that time. During lunch, Jay made it known he was feeling exhausted and was considering bailing down Kuliouou instead of continuing with the rest of us to TomTom. However, rest and plenty of chiding from the rest of us convinced him to nix his notion to bail.

Grant, Jason, Thomas, Lynn, Georgina, and Mr. Kim did arrive at our lunch spot just past 12:30, and they stopped there for a 45-minute lunch. Meanwhile, the lead group shoved off to continue our eastbound journey, hoping to reach Mariner's Ridge in an hour and TomTom in two.

Beyond Kuliouou, we dropped below cloudline, enjoying clear, spectacular views to windward. Although there were pu'us to negotiate, the ridge was mostly in descent mode with significant landmarks being the termini of Mauna O Ahi (elev. 1,720) and Mariner's Ridge (elev. 1,560). Moving at a steady clip, we needed 45 minutes to get to Mariner's Ridge from Kuliouou, fifteen minutes faster than projected. Good deal.

Sam was in good form, negotiating some tricky rock sections mostly without assistance. We also took time to study a phallic rock formation just before Mariner's Ridge. Rich went over the top while the rest of us contoured around it to windward.

After Mariner's Ridge, Rich, Mark, Sam, and I picked up the pace, reaching a windswept ironwood pu'u (elev. 1,361), the most significant hilltop before the top of the TomTom trail. We rested for ten minutes at pu'u 1,361, then descended its eastern slope and climbed the next pu'u over, where a long cable had been placed to assist a steep descent. The cable was gone, however, and we joked that Wing would have cause to charge some unknown person with attempted murder as he has been wont to do whenever he's learned of a removed climbing aid in the mountains.

Though the cable was helpful when there, we discovered it wasn't essential, for we, including Sam the wonder dog, were able to descend the cliffy hillside without incident. We reached the top of TomTom around 2 p.m. (1.5 hours from Kuliouou and 6 hours from starting out), and descended at a steady pace, reaching the trailhead cul de sac in Waimanalo in 30 minutes.

Wing, after doing the Makapuu-TomTom hike with the club, was just emerging from the brush at the time, and waiting for him at the end of the street in a truck were Stuart Ball, his wife Lynn, Steve Becker, and several other club hikers. Since the truck was filled to capacity, I volunteered to walk back to the clubhouse.

The jaunt through the Waimanalo Hawaiian Homesteads was a pleasant one, with several residents waving greetings to me as I went by. Rich, who had gotten a ride back to the clubhouse with Stuart, Wing, et al, drove back to pick me up and we drove back to the trailhead to pick up Mark and Sam (Sam had some difficulty with a rock section on the way down TomTom and Mark had to go back up to assist him).

With Mark, Sam, and I on board, Rich drove us back to Kuliouou where we retrieved our vehicles. We noted that Thomas's and Mr. Kim's vehicles were still there, so we knew that the trailing group hadn't bailed down Kuliouou and were still making their way eastbound along the crest.

After an obligatory stop at Hawaii Kai Taco Bell (two bean burritos and two extra-large Diet Cokes), I drove back to the HTMC clubhouse. Mabel was there with refreshments. Meanwhile, Jay had taken a shower as had Steve. Nathan was relaxing under the hau arbor, and Naomi had taken off for home. Mark and Sam were also on hand as were Stuart, Lynn, and Mike Algiers.

Grant, Mr. Kim, Jason, Thomas, Georgina, and Lynn arrived at the clubhouse around 4:30, and we enjoyed refreshments, relaxed, and rehashed the day's hike till past 6 p.m. Before we left, Rob Geer came walking up the street with two German girls in tow. They all had hiked the Makapuu-TomTom trail, launching at 10 a.m. One of the girls had difficulty (not in hiking shape and fearful of heights), so that equated to a long day on the trail.

The first HTMC Super Hike of the new millenium will start with an ascent of the steep Kuliouou waterfall trail to the Koolau summit. However, instead of heading east when reaching the crest, hikers will be westbound for the middle ridge of Manoa Valley, passing the endpoints of Kulepeamoa, Hawaii Loa, Wailupe middle, Wiliwilinui, Waialae Nui, Lanipo, Palikea (Kaau Crater), and Mount Olympus, respectively. That should be a challenging and memorable outing.

Imua HTMC!


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