OHE September 12, 1998

Date: Sat, 12 Sep 1998 21:00:20 -1000
From: "Dayle K. Turner" (turner@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Kaupo Cliffs

Next month, Pat Rorie and I will coordinate a HTMC hike that starts in Waimanalo and ends in Niu Valley. The route from 'Nalo to the Koolau summit is called Kaupo Cliffs and Pat, Laredo "Rainbowman" Murray (bright red hair today), and I scouted out the trail this afternoon.

Earlier, we joined a big gang of others, mostly HTMC trail maintenance crew members, for an interesting visit to Waiahole Valley, where we were able to check out a portal deep in the valley that is the water source for the controversial Waiahole Ditch system. Mahalo nui to Mahealani Cypher and two gentleman from the Waiahole Ditch Company who allowed us access and shared their knowledge of the ditch, the valley, and more.

After leaving Waiahole, Pat, Laredo, and I motored over to Waimanalo for the second half of today's twinbill. Our hike began at a vacant lot at the end of Manawaiola Place (this is also the head of the Tom-Tom Trail). For those who haven't hiked Tom-Tom, it's on a ridge almost directly mauka of Waimanalo Beach Park. We had two chainlink fences to scale to get to the trail. As were looking for the best place to hop over, a 12-ish girl came out of the last house on the left and pointed out an opening in the first fence we could go through. We thanked her for the advice and continued on into a forest of haole koa.

We had been told to look for an old concrete drainage ditch that began near a grove of ironwoods. After bashing about in the haole koa for a couple minutes, we found the ditch and began following it as it headed left in the direction of Makapuu. We followed the ditch to its end, needing about 15 minutes to do so. We continued to contour along the base of the mountain, passing some old rock walls and low-lying stone enclosures. The vegetation was still mostly haole koa and we had to be careful not to twist an ankle or knee on loose football- and watermelon-sized rocks.

Not far past the rock walls, we encountered an old barbed-wire fence that ran makai to mauka in front of us. We followed the fenceline mauka, and continued to climb a buttress ridge at the fence's end. The ridge led us to a viewspot above the haole koa forest. At the viewspot, someone had jammed a long screwdriver into the rock and fashioned a white sheet into a makeshift flag. At first, we weren't sure this was the right ridge to ascend because several hundred feet upslope it became impossibly steep. What's more, a deep gulch lay to the left and we were unsure that we could reach a point where we could contour across it to get to the next ridge on the left.

Thinking we had climbed the wrong buttress, we went back down and continued to contour east (toward Makapuu) in the haole koa forest. This interlude led us further toward the "corner" of the crest, where the ridge ends its eastward curve to form one side of Waimanalo Valley (not really a valley but it appears as such with the ridge from Pu'u o Kona forming the west shoulder and one we were headed for the east).

While we contoured, all we saw above us were cliffs impossible to climb without technical aids. Knowing that there was no way to go up where we were headed, we turned back and again ascended the buttress ridge at the end of the barbed-wire fence.

Again we reached the lookout spot, and this time we climbed 70 to 80 feet higher and began contouring gingerly to the left across a crumbly slope populated with scattered, unsturdy haole koa. Below us was a steep gulch. A slip here would have meant a nasty, possibly deadly plunge. As I contoured, heading for the base of a vertical waterfall chute, I spotted a blue rope hanging from a vertical section 40 feet above my position. This freaked me a bit because I hadn't expected to see/use any climbing aids on the ascent (a reliable source advised us of such).

We were just about to call it quits at that point but we spotted a marginal-looking shelf on the far (east) side of the steep gulch. It appeared that we might be able to use the shelf to contour around the next buttress ridge. Its marginal looks were deceptive, for this shelf turned out to be quite do-able, and we pressed on, leaving the steep gulch and gnarly blue rope section behind. After looking at a topo map, I'd say the elevation here was about 600 feet.

The shelf was populated with haole koa which provided security from the steep drop to the left. After contouring around the head of a ridge and crossing a small, gentle gulch, we headed straight up the next buttress, ducking under java plum branches and more haole koa as we initially ascended. The ridge here was quite broad and safe.

As we continued to ascend steeply, we reached a spectacular narrow dike. A near-vertical 12 to 15 foot rockface halted further straight-up progress and we had to contour carefully to the left to a point where we could climb up to bypass the vertical section and regain the ridgeline. I have to emphasize "carefully" here because the rocks on the slope are very unstable (we purposely dislodged some of the worst) and the drop on the left is in the order of 400-500 feet.

We completed the contour safely and regained the ridgeline where someone had pounded in a metal spike. A solid rope or cable affixed to the spike would help make the 12-15 rock do-able (possibly) and/or the left contour section less harrowing.

Once again atop the ridgeline, we continued ascending the steep but broadening shank until we reached a grove of ironwoods. Feral goats are regular visitors of the grove, evidenced by the ample scat on the ground and the acrid smell of their urine. The elevation here is probably 900 feet.

Not far above the ironwoods, the ridge became impossibly steep. Here we contoured right on a goat trail, passing two cableless metal spikes. Just like the previous contour section, we treaded carefully to avoid a mis-step and a big plunge (this time on the right). The contour brought us to a ridge on the right, which we headed up.

On this ridge, we ascended through a second ironwood grove; we then negotiated three pointy, impossible-looking nobs on the ridge, the first to the left and the second and third right over the top (these nobs only look bad). A hundred feet after the last nob, we reached the Koolau summit at a hilltop (1,320 ft.) just to the right of an ironwood grove that HTMC members use as a lunchspot on the Makapuu-TomTom hike. Pat, Laredo, and I exchanged high fives to acknowledge our successful ascent. The time was 4:30.

After a short rest break, we headed west on the Koolau summit, bound for the TomTom trail, which we'd descend back to Manawaiola Place. The crest section to the TomTom terminus took about 30 minutes and the TomTom descent another 30. Once back at Manawaioloa, we looked up at the route we'd climbed. "We did that?" I asked my comrades as we marvelled at our accomplishment.

For the HTMC hike next month, after ascending Kaupo Cliffs, we'll continue west on the crest to the terminus of the Kulepeamoa trail, which we'll descend to Niu Valley. Pat and I will probably go up Kaupo another time prior to the club outing to do some clearing and put up some more ribbons. Anyone wishing to join us should contact Pat or me. HTMC members on the list who'd like to take part in the club hike should also contact us.


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