OHE September 1, 1997

From: Wing C Ng (wing@LAVA.NET)

Heleakala is a pyramid-shaped peak in Nanakuli. It is located in an extremely dry area; I've never seen that peak colored green.

It is actually not an isolated peak, even though it looks that way. Behind it a ridge extends eastwards towards the Waianae Range, eventually joining it near Palikea peak. The ridge is long and dry. Behind Heleakala it drops some 500 feet into what I call Despair Dip, and then regains altitude rather steeply to 2200 feet level. Then it goes up and down, and then eventually rises extremely precipitously over a rock cliff and then a very, very steep grassy slope to merge into the forested Waianae Range.

Dayle Turner, Pat Rorie, Laredo, Gene Robinson, Torrey Goodman, and I were to do this hike today. Last night I got "cold feet" so to speak, because weather is so hot and sun is so merciless over that side, and I may well get too exhausted and/or intimidated to climb that extremely steep cliff and grass. So I said you guys go ahead, I shall go from Palikea side, come down that precipitous slope, meet you guys, and then turn around.

We were going to go from the Kunia pineapple fields, park some cars, and then I'll go up to Palikea. A quarter mile into the dirt road, and some Dole Pineapple patrol cars came by, demanded permits that we don't have, and ejected us. So Plan B, go up Makakilo, and go to Palikea via the Palehua trail. We were fortunate to have some angels help us with the first locked gate, and so we parked by the second gate at the forest reserve boundary, and the quintet drove over to Nanakuli to climb hot and sunny Hellish-akala.

The uphill grind on the road took 1:25; never saw anyone or any vehicles. It was cool up there at 2500 feet level. At 10:05 I started on the beautiful Palehua trail and got to the intersection with Heleakala ridge at 11:10.

I was a bit apprehensive about this steep and narrow ridge, and the beginning part was steep and the footing was bad. But soon things improved, and it looks like a real trail in a forested area. The steep drop-offs on both sides were well-masked by vegetation, and were not too intimidating. There were even cuttings and faded ribbons, which don't look more than 5 years old. My plan was to meet the five at the place where the going gets very, very steep, and so I was taking my time, cutting intruding branches, and generally improving the trail.

After 2 hours, the slope steepens, and I caught the first glimpse of the ridge below. I yelled and yelled, and in a couple minutes I saw 3 figures below, who yelled back. I was glad to see some humans after 5 hours, and according to them, they were so glad to hear my voice too, for it meant we shall soon meet and their ordeal will come to an end.

I then sat down to have lunch, and resumed going downhill. In another hour I came to the end of the forested area and the transition to the dreaded grassy slope. I could see that the angle of descent increases sharply, and the trail also abruptly disappeared. I am not good at finding trail and took 15-20 minutes investigating alternatives, when I heard voices really near. In a few minutes Pat, Laredo and Torrey appeared from the grass, and in a few more minutes Gene and Dayle also huffed and puffed up from the grass.

We then turned upslope, and it only took 20 minutes to cover the distance that I took 3 hours trail-clearing. Return to our cars was uneventful, except for one encounter with a vehicle driver, who questioned our right to be there. I came up with a good defense, and pointed out that I am a Nature Conservancy member, and so "we" collectively own that mountain, which argument carried the day.

According to the quintet, the fearsome rock cliff has a groove with vegetation and/or handholds. The awesome grassy slope was not too bad because the "grass" was sticky buffalo grass, which is sticky and resilient and offers excellent foothold traction and sticky handholds. I'm sure one or more of them will offer their perspectives of their heroic exploits.

In recorded history, only Fred Dodge and Harmony Bentosino (sp?), and possibly Al Miller and Dick Schmidt, were known to have done this ridge. Today, we have added five and a half people to the roster. I must say though that the trail on the ridge looks well established, and may again have been an ancient Hawaiian commuting route.