Kipapa to Manana--Day 1:
Pat "Paka-lolo" Rorie coined it "The Mother of All Hikes." Well, the trek up the 7-mile~ Kipapa Trail, south along the Koolau summit crest (3 miles~), and down the 6-mile Manana Trail was a mother all right. History will note that on October 25 and 26, five individuals--Pete Caldwell, Laredo Murray, Gene Robinson, Patrick Rorie, and Dayle Turner--completed the journey. Five others, for varying reasons, did only a portion of the trek. For the record, here's my account of what happened.
We began at 6:30 at the top of Komo Mai Drive above Pearl City at the Manana Trailhead. Meeting there was Mike Uslan, Wing Ng, Don Fox, and the five mentioned in the preceding paragraph. We carpooled over to the head of Kipapa in Mike's car and Gene's truck. Steve Poor and Dave Webb, who planned to dayhike to the Kipapa Summit and return, met us at Ka Uka Boulevard by Waipio Gentry and followed us up the road past Koa Ridge Ranch in Steve's car.
After readying all our gear and having a group photo snapped by Mike's wife Kelen, we departed at 8:14. The weather was solid with high overcast skies, a light breeze, and a cloud-free summit. Forecasts pointed to excellent conditions for the weekend. We set out with nervous enthusiasm.
In their write-ups, Mike and Wing expounded on the ruggedness and danger of the Kipapa Trail. Let me just sum up my feeling about Kipapa in two words: not fun. Strange I should feel that way, for we did Kipapa in June ("The Ultimate Dayhike") and my memories of it weren't harsh. Pete suggested that since this time we were lugging heavy packs with provisions for an overnight stay, the going was noticeably harder. I think he was correct.
Mike, as he explained in his post, decided not to press on at 10:30. I told him to keep a lookout for Wing, who had dropped back a bit, and recommend that Wing consider turning back. Of course, we now know Wing pressed on to the Kipapa Summit and spent an amazingly restful night by the small stream with his warm jacket and space blanket. An amazing feat, Wing!!
After a seemingly endless traverse through slipped trail along steep slopes of uluhe and countless fallen trees, the main group reached the small stream, which is a feeder to Kipapa Stream, at between 1 and 1:30. Dave and Steve, since they were dayhiking, pressed on to the Kipapa Summit. The rest of us spent about 30 minutes resting and filling our water bottles in a small dip about 15 yards above the point where the trail crosses the stream. We treated this water with iodine tablets and later added powdered juice mix (Gatorade for me) to mask the taste of and the reddish color of the iodine.
It was at the stream that Don, because of a sore leg, decided he wouldn't continue on with the main group. When I heard Don was going back, I gave strong consideration to joining him. Although physically nearly whipped, I ultimately pushed on because of my disdain for another round with the harsh and unrelenting Kipapa Trail. Add a dash of ego into the mix and my decision was made.
I must add I don't think any less of the five who set out with us who didn't go all the way. And neither should anyone else. Steve and Dave never intended to go the distance. And Wing, Don, and Mike saw their good intentions and will dampened by various circumstances. The important thing is we all survived in good health to hike another day.
To continue our saga, we began the half-hour hike from the stream to the Kipapa Summit at 2:00. On the way up, we passed Steve and Dave, who had topped out, eaten lunch, and were heading back. We told them about Don and suggested when/if they saw Wing to strongly recommend he return to the trailhead with them. We bid them a safe descent and pushed on. In turn, they wished us well.
The top (elevation 2,786 feet) was clouded-in and wind-whipped when we reached it. Feeling subdued about the inhospitable conditions, we hunkered down to rest and contemplate the unknown ahead. A couple of us ate lunch, an MRE BBQ beef and rice for me.
After several minutes at the summit, suddenly Gene Robinson yelled, "Hey, I can see something below!!" Sure enough, the clouds began to clear slightly. Pete, in an attempt to bring some life and levity to the situation, began an impromptu, light-hearted Hawaiian chant. In a minute, whoosh, the clouds were gone so that we could see Waikane and Waiahole Valleys laid out at our feet. Pat was in ecstasy as his sweetheart Ohulehule rose up in all its splendor in the foreground.
The fact that we now had a view certainly made a positive impact on the group. The previous air of somberness was transformed into one of enthusiasm and hope. Later, as we were hiking together down Manana, Pete and I talked about how more psychologically taxing the expedition would have been if the crest were socked in for the duration. Seeing the spectacular sight of the windward side, the sheer pali, and more importantly, the ridge route ahead certainly helped to keep us in favorable spirits. And the weather, as we all know, is a crapshoot. Fortunately, Mother Nature, in all her majesty, decided to be kind to us for most of the daylight hours of our trip (more about the weather at night later).
Not only could we see the windward side, but a good portion of the summit crest we'd have to cover to reach Manana. It'd be a long, hard trip but at least we could see where we were going and make mental note of how much ground we had covered and where we had come from. During our Kipapa to Schofield hike in June, we struggled along in white-out conditions for almost the whole way, veering off course on several occasions because we lacked visual references. We hoped we wouldn't have to endure a repeat of that.
We left the summit of Kipapa at around 3:15 or so and began working our way along the crest. Pete led the way for a spell with Pat, Laredo, and Gene also logging time in the front. I could not muster the speed to keep us moving at a decent pace so I just remained at the rear for most of the crossing. As we moved along, the basic routine was to hug the windward edge of the summit crest for the vegetation on that side tended to remain low. This was admittedly a perilous proposition at times but the alternative was to pound and hack our way through thick foliage on the lee side of the crest which would have slowed our pace to almost nil and sap more of our energy.
Pete and Don had attempted the crossing about 15 years ago and both recalled very slow going because of heavy vegetation. They aborted their attempt after a couple hours after not making decent progress. Hearing this, we were anticipating the worst.
But we seemed to be progressing quite well, moving methodically along the crest as it descended initially and then ascended. We knew darkness would hit at around 6 so Pete suggested we find a campsite by 5, so we could get settled in before nightfall. Our pre-hike plan was to try to reach the lowpoint of the crest (approx. 2,100 feet) at place we called the Waiawa Gap. It was near there that topo maps showed the head of Waiawa Stream, a possible source of water. But time would not allow us to proceed nearly that far.
Instead, at around 4:15, we found a small sheltered ravine with low grass and some semi-flat spots for pitching tents. Since we still had time, the others ascended a heavily vegetated hill on the south side of the ravine to see if more promising spots loomed further on. Fatigued and eager to rest, I waited in the ravine for them and was relieved when they returned at 4:30 saying that this spot was where we'd camp for the night.
For you map enthusiasts, look at the Kaneohe quad topo map and find the summit crest south of the point where the Kipapa Trail crests out. Then look for the words "DISTRICT" that straddles the crest. As far as I can determine, we camped at the spot between the "I" and "C" of those words.
From there, through a gap in the ridge, we had a view to leeward of parts of Waipahu, West Loch, Barber's Point, and Ewa Beach. And below us to windward was Waikane Valley and just ahead was Waiahole and the distinct ridge from the crest that divides those two. Visible beyond Waiahole were Kahaluu, Kaneohe, Mokapu, Kailua and the Mokulua Islands off of Lanikai.
Once the decision was made to set up camp, we each began searching for the best spots to pitch our tents. Pete wasted no time and found a nice location for his free-standing Goretex Bivy Sack (2 pounds) under a gnarled ohia and lapalapa tree that had become intertwined (we affixed two pink ribbons to this tree to mark the spot). Laredo brought a tent but forgot to pack its poles and ended up jury rigging what he had with stakes and rope to the same tree Pete had selected. Meanwhile, Pat, Gene, and I each had Slumberjack Bivy Tents (2.75 pounds) and chose spots on a sloping, mushy hillside. A small slope and wall of native vegetation formed a nice windbreak to deflect breezes hurtling over the crest. And our site was situated between hills to the north (where we had come from) and south (where we were going) and save for a handful of strong gusts over the top of the hill to the north during the night, we were fairly well protected from the wind (more about the perils of Pat in my Day 2 write-up).
Before night fell, we settled down to eat dinner. Pat, Laredo and I dined on MREs. And Laredo shared with us some compressed FOOD, a sea ration thing with the texture of a shortbread cookie but with the taste of coconut pie crust. Meanwhile, Pete and Gene used a butane stove Don let us borrow to fire up some hot water to add to dehydrated packaged food they had brought along. Before leaving us earlier in the day, Don even donated a quarter- pint plastic flask of Bacardi 151 rum that Laredo mixed with some fruit juice he had brought along. Everyone except Paka-lolo took a shot of this potent potable.
Knowing we'd have little to entertain ourselves after darkness hit, I brought along a small transistor radio. At 7 p.m., we tuned into KCCN-AM and listened to the UH-San Diego State football game. Since a couple of us had cell phones, we considered the idea of calling UH coach Fred vonAppen during his postgame show to tell him even at the summit of the Koolaus, fans were cheering for his 'Bows. We never did call. However, if the folks at Guiness had a record for being in the most remote spot on Oahu while listening to a UH football game, we'd probably be strong contenders.
With the distant lights of Kahaluu, Kaneohe and Kailua visible to windward and those of Waipahu and Barber's Point to leeward, we sat in darkness around the radio till halftime (8:30) at which point we retired to our respective shelters. I continued listening to the game in my tent, shouting out the final result when it later ended after 10 (UH lost 10-3).
By 10:30, we all had settled down to get as much as sleep as we could, undoubtedly with thoughts of the long, rugged day that lay waiting for us.
1) I was surprised how miserable the Kipapa leg was. From you guys previous accounts, it was never a piece of cake, but not quite like this.
Maybe the heavy pack.
2) I got to the summit and looked down the path you guys took, and was almost tempted to go. But the heavy fog totally discouraged me. If it had cleared momentarily like what happened to you guys, I might have chanced it. I might even have caught up with you at the campsite by the time it gets dark.
I did hear noises of motorcycle and even people/radio wafting up from below. Kind of eerie, voices coming up from the white fog.
Holding my breath to read your installment 2, and from Pakalolo.