Buffeted by relentless trades, five of us stood on Kipapa Summit staring a little disconsolately at the grey void. Ridges veered off in several directions, and once again, the feeling of disorientation swept over us. Ready to try anything, I jokingly tried a makeshift Hawaiian chant designed to improve the situation. Oh well, compass time again as we tried to figure out which was the southern ridge.
Suddenly I heard Gene yell that he could see something. Sure enough,there was a glimpse of ocean below and cloud-shrouded peak to the northeast. We all began yelling spontaneously as the view improved rapidly. To the delight of Patrick, Ohulehule appeared followed shortly by all of Waikane Valley. Our spirits and optimism for the traverse ahead lifted as well since we could now see our planned route clearly. Glad now that I had added my usual two cameras plus lenses and other camera gear to the weekend's load, I began firing away hopeful somehow to capture the magic of the scene. Actually since our trip up here in June was basically a whiteout, this spectacular view had just been a memory dating back to 1973 when Don Fox and I were whooping it up from the same spot at the time of our first Kipapa Summit visit.
It was a windy clear day then, and I had taken some shots of Don almost taking off into space as he held onto a bright orange poncho. We had been unexpectedly presented with an opportunity to hike the closed access trail because a friend had rented a cabin on Castle & Cooke pasture land. Hiking down that day, we made plans to return to try a Kipapa-Manana traverse as soon as possible.
Back we came with full packs on a November saturday. We took off after work on Saturday afternoon figuring we could make it to the summit before dark. Leaving a car at the Manana trailhead, we were on our way up the Kipapa trail which was in better condition then. Still we ran out of daylight around 20 minutes or so short of the summit, and we ended up pitching our tent in the middle of trail which at the time was the only available level and clear spot.
We awoke to a rainy morning and quickly packed up thankful for lack of pig traffic during the night as it turned out we were basically on the edge of a fairly significant dropoff. Reaching the top and heading south, we struggled along as the weather unfortunately seemed to worsen with gusts of heavy rain and poor visibility. Our old fashioned bulky aluminum external frame packs didn't help the cause either as we tried to negotiate our way through the dense ridgetop vegetation. The going was slow, and soon we were hit with the realization that there was no way we were going to make it. A retreat was in order so after two hours, we turned back hopeful for another try under better circumstances. As it turned out, it wasn't going to happen for another 14 years.
I was flashing back to that trip as we headed south on a ridge that really didn't seem familiar at all. My memories were more of a really pristine world of native vegetation. I had even seen a beautiful yellow and green striped land snail then on a downed hapuu log. This time there seemed to be definitely more clidemia and exotic weeds. Probably I had just recalled the good stuff I thought as we made fairly good progress. But yet given the number of years and the aggressive nature of some of these plants, the picture probably was different.
We had hoped to make it as far as the Waiawa Gap on the first day but as the time passed, we knew that this goal was unreachable. Not wanting to wait too long to find a campsite, around 4:30 we topped a small hump on the ridge and spotted a grassy small ravine that looked promising from above. Going a little further to the top of the next small summit, there was nothing in sight except another thickly-vegetated narrow ridge followed by another higher peak shrouded in the swirling clouds.
So back we went and began the process of settling in for the night. Of course what looked like dry grass from above was actually pretty soggy and wet underneath so the familiar sucking and squishing sounds of our boots accompanied our efforts to find a good place for a tent. Laredo soon realized that he was going to have to improvise as his newly-purchased tent somehow was missing a few vital parts like poles for one. Paka-lolo was also trying out a new tent, and we cheered him on as he went into action. I lucked out and spotted a twisted old ohia and lapalapa tree that provided just enough space for one body and bivy sack underneath some low branches. It was out of the wind but still muddy. However it was home sweet home for the night which was showing more promise as we could soon see the lights of the Windward side and also Waipahu and Pearl City through the gap to Leeward.
We entertained ourselves by watching each other's meal selections for the evening. Laredo who most of the time doesn't seem to need much food on our day hikes came really prepared with MREs plus Coast Guard emergency rations called what else but "Food". These survival biscuits were compressed everything and actually tasted pretty good we decided. We shared one stove between us and also some 151 Rum for after dinner apertifs complete with limes. We had these items courtesy of Don Fox who unfortunately wasn't feeling up to par (he was still coughing from a recent bug) and had decided to turn back at our water hole strem stop not too far from the Kipapa Summit.
We toasted him and the struggling Rainbows who we were following on Dayle's small radio. Surely no one had ever cheered them on from this spot before we thought as we laughed about the possibility of a postgame talk show call. Now we have Dayle calling from ???Where. We did make some phone calls but couldn't wait for the post game show as we all decided to retire at halftime. I called my friend Fire Rescue Capt.Aaron Young to give him our coordinates from my GPS. I decided it wouldn't be a bad idea to tell him our game plan. He in turn asked me to record the coordinates of any potential chopper landing site that we found along the way. We certainly would do everything possible to not require his services but just for future reference. How about some pizza and a few extra gallons of water Capt. Young?
I struggled to change into dry clothes in the very limited confines of my Goretex bivy sack while hearing the faint sounds of the Bows game from Dayle's tent. Ah, a nite in the boonies. Thankful to be dry and fairly comfortable on my Thermarest, I fell asleep hoping for a clear day in the morning. Not!! Sleep was intermittent, and once I woke up to the sound of some gusts of wind followed by some laughter from Dayle plus some muffled comments from Patrick. Could be the new tent maybe? Or a stray pua'a? Or just a dream thanks to Laredo the designated bartender's bottle of Surge spiked with 151.
Speaking of giving up, my Kipapa-Manana story part 2 will continue tomorrow. Sure wish I had learned to type fast somewhere along the line!
See you guys later,
When Pete mentioned that impromptu, light-hearted Hawaiian chant he bellowed at the Kipapa summit, I got to thinking how important a positive outlook and a sense of humor are when undertaking such a task as the mother-of-all-hikes. Actually, I couldn't have selected a better bunch for positiveness and humor, not to mention pure hiking expertise.
Everyone who's been around Pat knows about his infectuous laughter. Rainbowman Laredo is joker as is Pete. And Gene is always bright-eyed and smiling. We kidded him countless times about fielding calls on his cell phone during the hike, at times while on a treacherous balancing act on a narrow ridge.
Can't emphasize enough how important maintaining a sense of humor and a positive view of things are, particularly when situations seem grim.
Good things to keep in mind for others planning such expeditions.