In preparation for a hike I'll be leading for LCC colleagues, I bee-bopped around the three-mile path around the reef runway with my handheld clippers to make sure no thorny bushes encroached upon the path. The folks attending the hike this coming Saturday are far from hardcore hiking types, and I want to make sure conditions are as hospitable as can be. Since not a hiking soul was in the vicinity on Friday, I even took a dip in the ocean Pat Rorie style.
At the invitation of HTMC member Steve Poor, I headed out to Mokuleia to do some hiking. Paka-lolo Rorie was also there as was another HTMC gent named Mike. We parked our vehicles in a lot across from Camp Erdman, chatted for a few minutes with Rueben Mateo--known as "The Ambassador of Kaena Point-- transported my car over to the trailhead of the Kealia Trail where we planned to end our hike, and set out for a gulch mauka of Erdman that Steve called Crystal Canyon (Nihoa Gulch on topo maps).
Crystal Canyon, by the way, isn't a name Steve concocted. Instead, it's probably one coined by the camp staff of Erdman, who've used the area for hiking for many years. Steve also pointed out a ridge to the right of Crystal Canyon that he said is named "Lost Menehune Mine." A few weeks ago, Steve led a group that included Stuart and Lynne Ball and Jason Sunada up that ridge. The HTMC may add the Lost Menehune Mine trail to its calendar of events.
The hike to Crystal Canyon didn't take long and in about 10 to 15 minutes we were standing at the base of a 30-foot dry waterfall. A thick rope, the kind used to affix ships to docks, hung down its face and an array of roots and small indentations in the rock made for good hand- and footholds. Steve proclaimed this waterfall "not bad at all" and commenced climbing it. The rest of us were a bit skeptical but after seeing Steve ascend without problem and hesitation, we climbed after him one by one.
That behind us, we continued up the gulch/canyon and in a couple minutes were face to face with waterfall number two, a two-tiered 70-footer. This one was more problematic because of its height and because a trickle of water lapped down its face (water + steep rockface = slippery conditions = danger). Another thick rope tied to a tree was situated to the right of the falls. Using the rope, Pat cautiously went up first and proclaimed the final 10 feet "very steep." It was actually vertical and possibly slightly overhung (read: dangerous).
Steve went up next, opting to go up the falls instead of the roped route to the right Pat had just ascended. To help Steve's ascent, Pat affixed a safety line to a tree (Steve, Mike, and I each had brought along 50-foot coils of rope). Steve then tied this line around his chest and cautiously made his way up the semi-steep, slippery face of the falls.
Next to ascend was Mike, who chose to use the ship rope route to the right of the falls. Pat and Steve set up a safety line for him. Finally, it was my turn. Having seen my hiking mates go up before me, I decided the least dangerous route to take was up the falls. Before I began my ascent, Steve and Mike sent down two lines, one that I tied around my chest for safety, and the other I used as a handhold for climbing. With the aid of the ropes, I made it up safely.
Waterfall number three, a vertical 50-footer, was 80 to 90 yards up the gulch and after seeing it, we unanimously agreed this one was too dangerous to attempt. First, it was wet/slippery. More critically, there was no rope set to help us climb it. And there appeared to be no safe way for anyone to go up to tie a rope.
We began searching for alternate routes to scale the slopes of the gulch/canyon. Pat ascended a steep landslide section to the right of the falls while Steve, Mike and I backtracked downstream a bit and found a less precipitous ascent route. Thereafter, we spent a good hour contouring back and forth along the slope of the gulch trying to find a safe line up to the ridgetop (plenty of loose rock). Through trial and error, we zigzagged our way up the steep slope, at times following goat trails. We passed many small caves I was certain would hold ancient remains (we saw none but we didn't dare poke around these caves). Eventually we found a safe line to the top near the makai end of the gulch.
Once topside, we voted to nix our plan to hike mauka on the ridge and eventually come down the Kealia Trail (remember I had left my car at the Kealia trailhead). Plan B was to descend the Lost Menehune Mine trail which Steve, Stuart Ball and company had climbed and marked a few weeks prior. The way down was steep, chock full of trees to hang onto, and confusing and overgrown near the bottom, much like Tom-Tom. At one point, we stopped at a nice viewspot where we could see the section that local rock climbers use. The descent took about 50 minutes and returned us back to the vehicles across from Erdman.
As is my Sunday custom, I joined the HTMC gang for trail clearing work. Our designated path was the Koloa Gulch Trail out Hauula way. I had the option of joining Pat Rorie and Wing Ng, who'd be climbing the Malaekahana Ridge trail, crossing over on the KST, and coming down Laie, but I didn't have the time and energy to invest in such an undertaking. So trail clearing it would be.
Only a small crew was on hand, including Mabel Kekina (our leader), Grant Oka (HTMC president), Ken Suzuki (veteran outings leader), Jason Sunada (club daredevil who, among other things, ascended AND descended the renowned Piliwale Ridge), and Ralph Valentino (the man who circumnavigated Kaau Crater with both a machete and shovel in hand). Other regular members were either sick, off island, or working on other trail projects (Sierra Club).
I hiked and worked with the group for 2.5 hours, heading back after the ninth stream crossing (there are 22 or 23 altogether) because I had a bunch of work-related stuff (student essays) waiting for me at home. Since there didn't appear to be an overwhelming amount of hacking and cutting that needed to be done, I didn't feel guilty about bagging out.
All in all, a good weekend.
Aloha and safe hiking to you all,