OHE October 19, 1999 (Kaala East Ridge)



Date: Tue, 19 Oct 1999 17:17:04 -1000
From: Dayle K. Turner (turner@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Kamaohanui

I was about two-thirds of the way to finishing this when Wing posted his account to the list; otherwise, I wouldn't have posted it at all since redundancy seems to offend certain subscribers. But the delete key is always at hand for those with such an aversion, I like to think, so here goes.

This past Saturday (10/16), Pat Rorie, Steve Poor, Wing, and I returned to the Waianae Range to make another attempt to reach the distinct nob on the ridge leading up to Kaala from the Waialua area. I mistakenly referred to this nob as Pu'u Pane in my last write-up when in actuality it is called Kamaohanui (elev 3,450). Just like Ohulehule has ridges radiating from it in various directions, so does Kaala. The Dupont Trail climbs the ridge extending north, Kalena the one pointing southeast, Waianae-Kaala the one pointing west, and Kamaohanui, our goal on this day, the one to the east.

Steve deserves credit for the impetus to try for Kamaohanui, and as folks who know anything about him, the man has no shortage of determination, trying and trying until he gets something done. A case in point is Kawiwi, which he finally was able to reach after at least a half dozen prior attempts.

Nowadays, Steve, a history teacher at Kahuku High, has his mind set on Kamaohanui, and so midweek last, he put out a call to Pat, Wing, and I to join him for attempt number two, our first try a couple weeks back being a mission not accomplished. We also invited Greg Kingsley, but he had another commitment and couldn't join us.

As it turned out, Steve had plans to ascend a side spur that would put us on Kaala's east ridge where Pu'u Pane and Kamaohanui reside. In fact, he had hiked this spur with a friend a few years back, stopping near the spur's apex when they encountered a precipitous dike.

We met at 7 a.m. at the Arco Station in Haleiwa, and from there we jumped in Steve's vintage surf car (an old Nissan wagon) for the short trip over to the flashing light junction where Kaukonahua Road transitions into Farrington Highway. After unloading, we then hiked on a dirt road, passing on the right the ruins of a church (the first Catholic Church in the district, said Steve) and an old graveyard with plots dating back to the early part of the century.

The dirt road swung left when it reached the edge of Kaukonahua Gulch, and we followed the road for another 100 meters before leaving it to head south across a large grassy field to get to Kaukonahua Stream. After hopping over a wire fence, we crossed the boulder-strewn streambed, filled with pockets of reddish, muddy water. The area is used for horse/cattle grazing, and animal trails are everywhere along the stream and around the foothills on its south side.

We headed upstream for a few minutes, following a fenceline. When we reached the base of the broad spur we wanted to ascend, we used a belly-to-the-ground technique to snake our way under a barbed-wire fence. Horses and/or cows have done an effective job of chewing up or trampling vegetation underfoot so that much of what remains is koa haole and cat's claw. Otherwise, there is red dirt and cow and horse dung aplenty.

Having successfully completed the crawling maneuver, we climbed the broad spur on its right side, following horse trails up the slope. In a minute, we found ourselves slurping through KST-like mud, a surprising circumstance since the area is desert-like. Come to find out, the mud is a result of leakage from a water flume (the map identifies this as the Ito Ditch) that contours across the hillside about halfway up. The flume was about six feet in width, and I had notions about trying a running broad jump to get across. But better judgment (and a recommendation from Pat) said that wet shoes were preferable to a failed attempt and shattered body parts, so I waded instead.

Pat, Steve, and I reached a broad level area at the top of the slope, resting under a large date tree while waiting for Wing. When we heard his whoops downslope, we set off up the spur, which remained very broad for a long way. Come to find out, we would not see Wing again until 5:30 when we returned to Steve's car at the flashing light junction.

We followed an old jeep road up the spur, rutted extensively in its steeper sections. The area is dryland mesic forest, with silk oak, java plum, kiawe, and Christmas berry the most prevalent tree types. Meanwhile, cow and horse dung on the ground indicated that these animals come up this far to graze. We also passed through an area badly overgrown with cat's claw, a nasty weed that can rip skin with ease. Pat mentioned he'd heard this plant was imported to Oahu by the Board of Water Supply folks to keep the public from entering watershed areas--cheap, self-propagating barbed wire, as it were.

At about the 1,000 foot level, we left the trees behind, entering a zone of shrubland, and were greeted with views upslope to Pu'u Pane, a broad, flat-topped nob, and more outstanding Kamaohanui, the last major promontory before Kaala. A couple ridges to our right was the one with the Dupont Trail. In between, about a half mile off, was another broad spur, and on it we spotted someone on a 4-wheel motorbike, probably a worker from Waialua Ranch.

After climbing a steep section of the old jeep road, with Pat about 30 meters in front and just out of view, I heard the loud grunting of what sounded like a pig in the bushes to the right. Just when I was about to shout, "Nice imitation, Pat," I saw him standing on the road, definitely not where the pig noises were coming from. Realizing the grunts were the real deal, (and an angry-sounding real deal at that), Steve and I commenced clawing and scrambling up an embankment on the left side of the road just in case the pua'a decided to come storming out of the brush after us. Of course, Pat, safely out of harm's way, took great delight in our escape attempt, howling with laughter. After his laughing subsided, he told us about the baby pig he saw traipsing across the road, followed by its mama, a good-sized sow and the likely real deal noise maker.

Not long after the pig encounter, Pat, Steve, and I arrived at a junction with a substantial jeep road that contours across the face of Kaala's east ridge at the 1,500 foot level. A couple weeks back, we had hiked along this same road but had not walked as far as this junction. According to the map, the road starts in Schofield Barracks, contours across and around the east ridge--more specifically the long spur that Pu'u Pane and Kamaohanui sit on, and then swings north to emerge in civilization near Waialua High School. We had heard a report about this road from a hiking colleague and off-road 4x4 enthusiast, Mike Uslan, and Pat and I thought Mike would be happy we were able to explore it.

But we had no designs on hiking the road on this day. Instead, we climbed a steep, eroded embankment on its mauka side to continue toward Pane and Kamaohanui. Beyond the eroded slope, we had to battle and duck Christmas berry for a short spell. Then the ridge opened up again and we were able to climb more or less unhindered. The ascending wasn't technical but the slopes were unrelenting and sometimes steep. Throw in the heat of the day and a lack of brisk trades, and I felt like a fried egg.

After hiking in relative safety all day, we had some excitement to deal with in the final couple hundred meters of the spur. This segment featured a narrow dike and then an insurmountable pinnacle. Steve and his friend had hiked to the toe of this dike before, and at the time Steve thought the dike and pinnacle could be bypassed by dropping down and contouring on the right. Steve was correct and he was able to execute the bypass successfully. Meanwhile, Pat and I, veterans of prior ill-fated bypass attempts in the Waianaes, opted to give the dike a try. We both made it across, hoping the rocks we hung onto and inched around wouldn't come loose ala Greg Kingsley at Marconi Pass/Kamilonui recently. The rocks held (this time), but I think if I ever go up this spur again, I'll stick with Steve's right side bypass, thank you very much.

We reached Kaala's east ridge around 11:30, completing an ascent of perhaps five to six miles and an elevation gain of about 2,600 feet. The topping out point of our spur put us about midway between Pu'u Pane and Kamaohanui. Directly below us to the south was a major firing range of Schofield Barracks. While we rested, we listened to the ra-ta-tat of machine-gun fire and watched signal flares being fired aloft. The range was peppered with huge impact craters, no doubt from artillery fire. When I pointed out to Steve similar looking features along the east ridge we were on, he laughed nervously. Cannon shots gone awry? We hoped not

We rested until noon, eating lunch and cooling off as we did so, and decided to make a go at Kamaohanui. There were some nobs on the ridge to negotiate to get there, but the looks of these weren't Kalahaku- or Kanehoalani-like. The facing side of Kamaohanui also looked make-able. And although we ran out of time to attempt an ascent, a future go at it will surely be made.

We did some maintenance work between our lunch spot and Kamaohanui, and there was a Kalena-like dike on the way. Steve again opted for a right-side bypass of this while Pat and I followed a goat trail along the top. We also noticed evidence that others have been up this way in recent times: some old cuttings along the ridge and even a plastic bag with trash in it hanging from a tree.

Pat went as far as a prominent pinnacle, likely the one marked 2,834 on the map, reporting that a rope/cable would be helpful on its upridge side. Meanwhile, Steve and I stopped at a big nob before the pinnacle, mostly because we were fatigued and also because our turnaround time of 1 p.m. was almost at hand (Steve always sets a turnaround time when hiking).

In a few minutes, Pat rejoined Steve and I at our nob, and we set off together to head back down the east ridge. We reached our lunch spot at 1:30 and instead of turning left to head back down the spur we'd come up, we continued down the east ridge on a pretty good trail, kept open mostly by goats and also by unknown hikers/hunters who'd cut branches and limbs that once blocked the way.

The ridge is heavily impacted by erosion (or bomb craters?) and we moved along fairly easily through dryland forest vegetation until we reached a badly overgrown section of uluhe on the slope leading up to Pu'u Pane. In that same area, we startled a pig (or goat?) that went exploding through the underbrush down the steep slope to our left. Uluhe isn't that prevalent in the Waianae Range and since the area is so arid, the thicket we went thru was dry and scratchy, not a particularly pleasant circumstance when one is worn down from a tough day of hiking.

Spotting a thicket of lantana ahead, I urged Pat and Steve to follow my lead and descend a well-trampled pig trail heading down the slope to the left. They agreed and down we went, following a wide dirt and mud swath dug out by na pua'a. About 100 meters down the slope, the pig trail petered out in a ravine and we thought it better to work cross slope to our right to get atop a tree-lined spur (we've learned tough, punishing lessons about descending down trail-less ravines).

Cross-sloping worked for a short while until the hillside steepened to near vertical with overhead uluhe to boot. Biting the bullet, we dug our heels and hands into the mountainside, using our bodies as battering rams to smash through the uluhe. A few breathless minutes of hand over hand climbing brought us to a spur-top, still thick with uluhe but much easier to descend.

Down we went, moving with more ease after a few minutes when the uluhe relented and dryland forest terrain recommenced. After 20 to 30 minutes, we arrived at the jeep road at the exact spot we had left it a couple weeks ago, during a previous exploratory venture, to descend a spur to Kaukonahua Stream.

Happy to be on familiar ground, we rested for a few minutes and then headed down the spur, clearer since we'd done some work on it a couple weeks back, and arrived at Kaukonahua Stream less than an hour later.

Whereas a couple weeks ago we climbed a steep slope on the far side of the stream to get back to Kaukonahua Road, this time we followed horse trails along the bank of the stream, at one point encountering a small herd of horses that we scared off. Eventually, we emerged on the same dirt road we had hiked along in the morning from the flashing light junction and followed it back to Steve's surf mobile.

Waiting there was Dr. Ng, napping in his maroon Mustang. Pat and I woke la Wingo up by jostling his car, then related a synopsis of our day to him. He told us what he did and how he'd spent some time exploring the old graveyard along the dirt road.

Not surprisingly, Steve was not hesitant about trying to set a date for a return engagement to Kamaohanui; however, nothing has been firmed up yet. If we are successful on our next go, and if we can obtain the needed permissions from landowners, we may propose an HTMC hike for all to enjoy thereafter.

**When I get around to posting this to the OHE website, I'll add links to some pics I took.**

--DKT


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