OHE November 6, 1999 (Schmidt's Peak to Kanehoa)

Date: Sat, 6 Nov 1999 22:02:09 -1000
From: Dayle K. Turner (turner@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Schmidt's Peak to Kanehoa

Steve Poor, Pat Rorie, and I climbed to the Waianae summit via a ridge not often hiked. We topped out at a peak Steve referred to as Schmidt's Peak, in honor of HTMC legend Dick Schmidt, who is one of the few folks we know who have ever negotiated it. After visiting the peak (coming close, to be precise), we headed right along the crest until reaching Pu'u Kanehoa, where we ate lunch and then descended a ridge to the Honouliuli Contour Trail.

Joining us today were Wing Ng and Greg Kingsley. They climbed up to Pu'u Kaua and returned the same way.

We all met at 8 at the parking lot of the Hawaii Country Club on Kunia Road. It was a nice day for hiking, with high overcast skies and a cooling nip in the air. Forecasters had warned of scattered showers for Oahu today, but not a drop of rain fell in the Waianaes nor in Koolaus, at least based on what we observed from our ridgetop vantage point.

One of our concerns was being confronted by security personnel for Del Monte, since we'd be hiking up to the Kaua trailhead via pine field roads. Driving to the trailhead was out of the question because of a locked gate, so we hiked it, needing about 45 minutes to get from cars to trailhead.

While Steve, Pat, and I waited at the trailhead, a gruff-looking haole guy pulled up in a pickup truck. Damn, this guy is Del Monte security and he's going to tell us to beat it out of the area, we thought. We were incorrect, however, for this guy turned out to be "working on a fence to keep out pigs" in the Honouliuli Preserve. After pulling up, he grabbed from the bed of his pickup a liter bottle of water and a pick and strode off briskly into the woods, not once asking us who we were or what we were doing there.

Feeling fortunate, Pat, Steve, and I decided hanging at the trailhead wasn't a smart thing to do any longer, so we headed into the forest, following a well-worn trail. Greg and Wing would catch up to us later, we thought.

The trail contoured for a few minutes, then swung right and up to commence a climb to the Honouliuli Contour Trail and then onward to the crest of the Waianaes at Pu'u Kaua. On the way to the junction with the contour trail, we noticed that the haole guy had dug up some drainage trenches to stave off erosion. We got within sight of him as he made his way up the trail, but this guy was in good shape and he motored upslope with seemingly minimal effort and we never saw him again after that.

Pat, Steve, and I rested briefly when we reached the contour trail, then decided to head right to check out a trail Pat had descended from the crest on a past hike. Getting to this trail via the contour trail wouldn't take long, said Pat, and after checking it out, we'd backtrack to meet Greg and Wing.

Well, Pat was correct about the brief amount of time needed to get to the junction with the trail, but the spirit of adventure existing in Pat, Steve, and I being what it is, we all agreed that we wanted to head up this alternate route to the summit rather than ascend the Kaua trail. We'd try to summon Wing and Greg over with whoops and shouts, we told ourselves.

The climb up this ridge was steady but not steep, and we huffed upridge steadily, stopping to whoop out for wing and Greg periodically. We needed about 30 to 40 minutes to reach the top. The ridge crests out in a spectacular fashion, ascending a pinnacle we've in the past referred to as "the fang." Steve thought Schmidt's Peak was a more apt name, and Pat and I offered no protest.

Pat was in the lead as we neared the top. As he came into view, I noticed he was in pause mode on a steep, rocky, handhold-deprived segment about 30 meters below the summit of Schmidt's Peak. Normally, Pat just blows doors up a slope, so the fact he had stopped told me he was confronted with a dangerous situation.

"How's it look?" I asked when I climbed within ten meters of him.

"Well, I can climb this but coming back down will be really dicey," said the inimitable Paka, referring to a slightly overhanging rockface of crumbly shale with big drops left and right.

Pat, Steve, and I had rope in our pack, but with nothing to tie onto at this spot, we might as well not have brought any.

So back down we went, not wanting to risk a fall. We still needed to gain the actual crest of the Waianae range, and we did that by dropping down and contouring on a steep, sparsely treed slope, following what appeared to be a goat or pig trail.

Having completed the contour, we climbed partway up a smaller fang, still hoping to continue toward Kaua. However, the going beyond the small fang to the top of Schmidt's Peak looked like a death-defying undertaking, so the decision to change our goal to Kanehoa was agreed to without debate or hesitation.

To document our outing, Steve urged me to take pics of the ridge, the fangs, et al. which I did. I'll post these at some point. We took a fifteen-minute break on the Kanehoa side of the small fang, enjoying the cool breeze streaming over the crest. The views down into massive Lualualei Valley and out to Pu'u o Hulu and the ocean were inspiring and relaxing.

We thought the leg to Kanehoa would take an hour but it was more like 1.5. Christmas berry has a ubiquitous presence on the crest and more than once I made a vow to pick up a pair of goggles after having an eye nearly gouged by a branch protruding across my line of progression.

No major danger exists on the crossover. "Take your time, watch your step, concentrate" was my mantra. There was a short dike section right before the final climb to Kanehoa, made more exciting by some strong wind gusts blasting over the top. A swarm of bees, hovered along the cliff on the Lualualei side, but the bees proved benign and didn't bother us even though we hiked right by them.

We spent a relaxing 45 minutes at the summit of Kanehoa, enjoying the views and laying down to take short naps. I munched on a power bar and drank a liter of water and this fuel made me feel more energetic.

Instead of continuing on the crest to Hapapa (we would have done so if we had a car staged at Kolekole Pass), we descended the Kanehoa Trail, leaving the summit around 1:15, to its junction with Honouliuli. The trail down the mountain is still in decent shape and well-ribboned, thanks to HTMC. Steve, a man who loves to examine plants, had Pat and I stopping every couple minutes to check out an array of flora. Alani, kopiko, alahe'e, maile, a'ali'i, pukiawe, ohia, lama were among the plants we checked out.

The Honouliuli junction is marked by huge pine trees and bright ribbons. The contour trail toward Makakilo was a marked contrast with the trail heading toward Kolekole. While the former was wide, well-marked, and graded, the latter, at least the short section we examined, was clogged by clidemia and blown down trees.

The Nature Conservancy folks have been doing good work on the contour trail between Kanehoa and Kaua. It appears as if their goal is to clear and regrade that entire segment. About ten percent has already been regraded and the entire stretch has been cleared fairly well, with some especially impressive saw work completed to open up some bad blowdowns. Of note is the ribboning of any native plant growing on or along the trail. The ribbons brought my attention to the surprising amount of native flora in the lower, drier elevations of the Waianae Range. Plenty of stuff, much I wouldn't have noticed without the ribbons.

Instead of following the contour trail all the way back to the Kaua trailhead, we headed down a wide trail on the most prominent spur before Kaua. On this spur is a memorial marker for a boy who died in 1991 at the age of 12. A poem he had written was engraved on the marker, and I was touched by the words, the closing line of which was "Nature is beautiful."

As we neared the bottom of the spur, we spotted Wing hiking down a dirt road in the pineapple field, and he heard our whoops and yells. The trail we were on emerged on a pine field road near the Kaua trailhead, and we noticed the gruff-looking guy's truck was still there.

We were back at the golf course parking lot at 4:15, arriving a couple minutes after Wing. We talked about a return visit to the mountain to find a way up to Pohakea Pass. When that will happen depends on the persistence of Steve, a man well known for pursuing a goal until it is met or deemed undoable.

Overall, a great hike today over some sections I hadn't been on before.


Addendum from Greg Kingsley (gkingsle@hawaii.edu>

Just some added notes...

The trail's in great condition. There's an increase in research areas (marked off by ribbons and cord). Lualualei Valley is a lot greener than I remember from last November. Visibility, today, was just as excellent, though, if not clearer.

> but Greg claimed he saw them climb the famous Tooth backwards.

What I'm sure would've been a stunning feat and will be much to the disappointment of all, the trio didn't hike backwards up the tooth - at least not that I could see! =) When they whooped out, I was on the broad section of Kaua Ridge and could see them advancing. What I didn't know (until later) was that they came across some difficulty in proceeding the rest of the way to Kaua, backtracked down the tooth, and headed to Puu Kanehoa.

Thinking they were coming up to Kaua, I cleared the thickets of uluhe for about 30-yards. Then came a 15-foot drop and a huge influx of native plants. Though there's a way to sneak under and wiggle through this endangered collection, it wouldn't have been done without damaging a horde of plants, especially on an ascent. I ceased clearing at that point and returned to the peak and ate lunch. Wingo appeared about 30 - 40 minutes after I initially arrived at the peak.

BTW, Wing, it was a good thing we bush-whacked through to the parallel dirt road while we were on our way in. After I departed the trailhead on the way out, I took the south fork (as I had pointed out in the morning) and headed toward the same two water tanks we passed. Remember where those pineapple field workers, whom we had ducked away from, were working? In those same fields were big signs posted with "field treated with pesticide 11-06-99" and "do not enter until 11-08-99". I'm sure, because of the hazards of their spraying operation, that we'd have definitely been turned around or reported if we continued to walk in on that road.

A word about radios... the one I had (2-mile range) was picking up transmissions clearly, all the way from Aloha Tower. This, of course, helped by the clear line-of-sight from atop the 3,127-foot peak.

Happy hiking! Greg

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