On Saturday morning, October 25th, 1997, Mike Uslan, Dayle K. Turner, Dr. Peter Caldwell, Dr. Don Fox, Dr. Gene Robinson, PHD Wing Ng, Laredo Murray, and Patrick Rorie gathered at the end of Komo Mai Drive at the top of Pacific Palisades near the Manana Trailhead for the purpose of accomplishing what few hikers have even contemplated - a trek up the Kipapa Ridge Trail, along the Ko'olau summit crest, and down the Manana Trail.
Just before 6:30 a.m. the men began to arrive. It was a beautiful morning with clouds well above the Ko'olau Mountain Range. While waiting for Gene Robinson and his truck which would ferry some of them to the Koa Ridge Ranch the men made final preparations and studied the summit ridge which they would traverse sometime that weekend.
At 7:09 a.m. the group departed for Koa Ridge Ranch. When they reached the entrance to the Pineapple Road just off of Ka Uka Blvd. they were joined by Steve Poor and Dave Webb who would be doing a day hike of the Kipapa Ridge Trail. Much to their surprise and frustration the gate at the beginning of the road was closed and locked. Patrick considered reaching the Kipapa Ridge Trail from another trail at the same time Peter suggested the men remove some of the boulders next to the gate. Fortunately, a wahine arrived a few minutes later and unlocked and opened a new gate to the left of the main one and the men breathed a sigh of relief. On the way up the dirt road leading to the Koa Ridge Ranch the men inside Gene's truck noticed how gorgeous the mountains looked as the summit ridge remained clear of clouds. This made them even more psyched to get the trip underway.
The hiking party reassembled at the back of the ranch and after a couple of "before" photos were snapped the group of 10 moved toward the Kipapa Ridge Trailhead marked by an old wooden DLNR sign. They started up the trail at 8:02 a.m. Dayle lead the way and set a brisk pace as the men traveled first over a dirt road then as the trail narrowed thru a paperbark grove. Next the crew followed the trail as it contoured thru a long stretch of strawberry guava trees interrupted briefly by open uluhe fern areas. At approx. 8:32 a.m. the men reached the first grove of fan palms with the birds of paradise on them. Passing the tall Norfolk island pine on the left the group continued, reaching the second grove of fan palms at approx. 9:02 a.m. It was shortly thereafter that Dayle surrendered the ram-rod position to Steve. The trail narrowed significantly as it contoured on the right side of the ridge thru a landslidy/soil slippage region. It was along this section that Mike fell off of the trail. Dayle helped him recover. As a result of the mishap the hiking party split into two groups. Steve, Gene, Dave, Patrick and Don reached the end of the landslidy/soil slippage section at approx. 9:44 a.m. and waited for the others. Laredo and Peter joined them a few minutes later. Meanwhile, Mike decided to turn back and return to the trailhead. When it became apparent that something had gone wrong Steve and Dave went ahead with the hike since they had a limited amount of daylight to work with.
At 10:20 a.m. Dayle joined the others and five minutes later the group moved forward thru sections which featured several low bridges and lots of uluhe which pushed the men almost completely off of the trail. Just before the landslide where the trail became a narrow shelf the others caught up with Steve and Dave. Instead of using the bypass trail which went up and over the landslide the men carefully walked over the shelf.
Pressing on the crew carefully made their way thru australian tea while passing underneath a set of twin Norfolk island pines located on the top of the ridge. It was about this time that the Ko'olau summit became socked in. Peter remained optimistic and told Patrick that perhaps the clouds would blow thru because of the trade winds. Later during the stretch which contoured on the left side of the ridge underneath a single Norfolk island pine the men enjoyed fantastic views of Kipapa Gulch and the Waianae Range.
Peter took the ram-rod and lead the group to the spot above a steep intermittent waterfall. At 1:10 p.m. they reached it. The views were excellent of Pearl Harbor, the Ewa Plain, Kipapa Ridge, Kipapa Gulch, the Wahiawa Plain and the Waianae Range. Peter climbed up a couple of smaller falls searching for water to fill his containers. Gene and Laredo went a little bit further up the trail and took a break. Meanwhile, Steve and Dave continued on the trail ascending thru the switchback section in order to reach the summit before it was time for them to head back to the trailhead. Peter indicated that he had found water so Patrick moved toward his position to get some. It was at this point that Don told the others that he would not be going any further because of fatique. Dayle eventually reached the group and looked very tired. He provided Patrick and Laredo with iodine tablets to treat the water obtained from the upper falls.
At 1:50 p.m. Patrick, Laredo, Gene, Peter and Dayle started up the switchback section while Don began descending toward the trailhead. On the way up the final stretch of the trail as it contoured spectacularly along the side of the mountain the party of 5 met Steve and Dave as they were making their way down from the summit. It had been socked in while they were up there so they were unable to enjoy any of the incredible views.
After passing above the metal stake which marks the start/end of the Ko'olau Summit Trail, Patrick, Gene and Laredo went by a lone loulu tree and reached the Kipapa Ridge Summit (elev. 2,785 ft.) at 2:30 p.m. The three of them then headed south up the flat grassy overlook toward a narrow section of the Ko'olau summit ridge. At the end of the flat grassy region they sat down to rest. Peter and Dayle eventually joined them.
Just before 3 p.m. the clouds broke and the views were breathtaking. To the north (left) leeward sections of the Ko'olau Summit Trail were visible as well as Pu'u Piei, Pu'u O'Kila, Pu'u Koiele, Kahana Valley, Pu'u Manamana, Pu'u Ohulehule, Kaaawa Valley, Pu'u Kanehoalani. Also, Chinaman's Hat (only slightly to the left), Waikane Valley (to the left and directly below), the large Norfolk island pine grove of Waiahole Valley (to the right), and Kaneohe Bay could be seen. Dr. Caldwell took out his camera and snapped several photos.
At 3:15 p.m. the 5 men lead by Peter Caldwell began heading south descending gradually on the narrow summit crest toward the Waiawa gap (dip) not knowing what to expect hoping to find an adequate place to camp for the night. The men had to bushwack because there was no trail. The rule of thumb for bushwacking on the summit was to stay to windward if possible because that side of the ridge was windswept and the vegetation lower making for easier progress. However, it was more dangerous to do so because of steep dropoffs. Half an hour had passed when Laredo took the ram-rod from Pete and Patrick began tying ribbon to trees along the route. For a short stretch Laredo was forced to contour along the leeward side of the summit crest. Shortly after 4 p.m. the group came across a small grassy ravine ideal for setting up camp. They agreed to camp there but continued along the summit ridge just in case there was another camp sight further ahead and to scout out the route for the next day.
With visibility low due to socked in conditions and finding nothing but narrow ridge onward, Peter, Gene, Patrick, and Laredo returned to Dayle at the ravine. Pete grabbed a primo spot to sleep for the night under an ohia/lapalapa tree. Laredo set up his tent near Pete's location and Gene, Dayle, and Patrick set up their bivy tents in the open grassy area. The men ate dinner and as darkness set in relaxed in/near their tents to the sound of Dayle's radio tuned in to the Rainbow football game. They poked their heads out periodically and could see both the windward and leeward city lights. Sleep was hard to come by for all but Peter because of gusty winds and cold conditions. Patrick's tent collapsed on top of him because of the strong winds and he slid a few feet down the ravine which reduced his sleep area to a heap. Just before 5 a.m. Patrick attempted to sleep on his tarp with his legs and feet inside the tent. This strategy worked fairly well until it began to rain at 5:51 a.m.
The men began to rise as darkness became light around 6:30 a.m. They ate some breakfast, packed up, and began heading south again at 8:12 a.m. The ridge was socked in making for low visibility. Gene had the ram-rod followed by Laredo and Dayle. Pete and Patrick (once again tying ribbon) brought up the rear. Peter pointed out a large thicket of ? flowers to Patrick during this time.
When the group reached a short metal pole in the middle of a small flat grassy area they went left and descended along the main summit ridge. A side ridge was visible to the right. Topo map and compass helped determine the correct route. The ridge leveled off and a variety of flora and fauna was observed to the right including guava trees. Good progress was made as Gene remained in the ram-rod slot.
Further ahead past the windward ridge which separates Waiahole Valley from Waikane Valley the clouds finally broke allowing for wonderful views of Waiahole Valley. Most of the Ko'olau summit ridge to the south could be seen as well which allowed the men to realize what was ahead of them.
Next Gene and Laredo plowed thru the vegetation as the summit ridge descended somewhat steeply toward the Waiawa gap. The men slid on their okoles down the middle of the ridge on two separate occasions then were forced to crawl thru a tunnel surrounded by foliage formed by several trees growing together. The men ascended somewhat steeply as the ridge gained elevation. All chose to climb the middle slope of the ridge. Laredo went almost straight up the left side of the slope while Gene and Patrick did some contouring of the left side. A notch was perfectly suited for this. Pete and Dayle chose to climb the middle of the slope and had some difficulty. The ridge narrowed and more climbing ensued.
After 12 noon and with a major ascent coming up the men stopped at the top of a hill for some lunch. Patrick took the ram-rod position at 12:40 p.m. as the group continued their journey. He stopped tying ribbon and set a brutal pace. Once again the men chose to climb up the middle slope of the next steep ascent rather than remaining on the summit crest. The summit ridge began to curve to the east during this stretch. Once Patrick reached the top of the peak at 1:20 p.m. he sat down to rest and wait for the others. Laredo and Gene joined him shortly thereafter. As soon as Pete and Dayle were in sight Gene started up the next hill. Patrick and Laredo followed him a few minutes later.
During the stretch before the summit ridge turned back to the south Patrick and Laredo noticed an interesting, deep, bowl shaped area below them which opened up toward the ocean. Following this Patrick studied the huge waterfall shoot above Waiahole Valley which can easily be seen from points north when he passed over it. Gene pointed out a lobelia in bloom. Patrick removed his pack and descended a short distance to tie a ribbon on it so that Pete and Dayle would notice the lovely plant.
Prior to departing the summit crest to cross a wide, windswept, grassy region where the ridge bends south, Patrick took one last look down into Waiahole Valley and across at the route the men had taken that day. He also gazed at Ohulehule and Kanehoalani. Pressing on Gene and Laredo climbed above the grassy area while Patrick marked the best route to take for Pete and Dayle.
Pushing thru thick clidemia, Gene, Laredo and Patrick worked their way up the final stretch to the Manana Summit. The three of them reached it at 3 p.m. Patrick found Dayle's stash of water and he and Laredo drank some. Gene made a phone call and let Laredo make one as well. Patrick wrote a note for Pete and Dayle then Gene departed the summit. A few minutes before Patrick and Laredo left they saw Peter and Dayle making their way across the peak where the summit ridge bends to the south.
At 3:38 p.m. Patrick and Laredo started heading down the Manana Trail. During their decent they saw Gene in the distance only one more time. On two or three occasions Patrick and Laredo stopped and recognized the single Norfolk island pine and the other pines located on the top of Kipapa Ridge. It didn't seem that far away. When they reached the shelter where Mike Uslan had hidden water the two of them looked for it in the uluhe fern but could not find it.
At 6:27 p.m. Patrick and Laredo emerged from the Manana Trail and walked to Patrick's car. Not expecting Pete and Dayle to come out for atleast another hour Patrick left a note for Dayle. The two men then got into Patrick's car and headed for Laredo's Kaneohe home at 6:33 p.m.
== Respectfully submitted by Patrick Rorie