OHE September 20, 1998

Date: Sun, 20 Sep 1998 23:15:02 -1000
From: "Dayle K. Turner" (turner@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Kuliouou to Hawaii Loa

As I usually do on Sundays, I joined the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club trail maintenance gang for an outing in the Oahu mountains. On hand today were trail boss Mabel Kekina, Charlotte Yamane (my idol), Grant Oka, his daughter Georgina, Ken Suzuki, Bill Gorst, Carole K. Moon, June Miyasato, Erin (last name?), Stuart Ball, his wife Lynn, Jason Sunada, Pat Rorie, Ralph Valentino, Nathan Yuen, Kim Roy, Judy Roy, Lynn Agena, Arnold Fujioka, Greg Kingsley (debut with da gang), and I.

Or mission today was to prep the Kulepeamoa trail in Niu Valley for an outing Stuart will lead on 9/27 and also to ready the summit section between Kuliouou Ahi and the Kulepeamoa terminus for a trek Pat and I will co-lead next month.

Mabel divided us into three teams. Mabel and Charlotte (Team 1) would clear and mark the section of Kulepeamoa in Pia Valley (left side of upper Niu); a group of 10 (Team 2), starting from Aolani Street in Niu, would head into Niu Valley for a bit and then climb Kulepeamoa Ridge (right-side ridge of Niu), proceed to the Koolau summit, and then turn left on the crest to the Hawaii Loa terminus; finally, a group of nine (Team 3), beginning at Kala'au Place in Kuliouou Valley, would go up Kuliouou Ahi (state trail) and clear the crest between the Ahi terminus and Kulepeamoa.

I was on Team 3, the Kuliouou to Kulepeamoa group, and from Niu Valley we all jumped into Ralph's large pickup for the 5-minute drive to Kuliouou. We began hiking at 8:30, ascending Ahi at a steady pace. After a brief rest at the top, we began the crossover on the Koolau summit crest at 10. We brandished our cutting tools just before Pu'u o Kona, clearing uluhe, clidemia, and occasional Christmas berry and guava that intruded on the path. Clouds hung out along the ridgline as we began but as we worked our way past o Kona, the veil of white lifted, affording us visual clarity to windward, leeward, and down the summit line to Konahuanui and beyond.

The trudge along this section of the crest is especially spectacular because the ridge drops straight down in many places. Between o Kona and the Kuliouou west terminus, erosion is a problem with some sections of the trail forming a cornice because of soil slippage. We reminded ourselves to walk carefully and gently on these segments

We needed about 75 minutes to work our way to the Kuliouou west terminus and after a 15 minute break, another 90 to open up the crest section to Kulepeamoa. Clidemia is the No. 1 pest on the trail, and we did our best to hack this menace down to the nub.

Before Kuleapeamoa, there are two cable sections, but these aren't bad, falling under the helpful-but-not-required category. As Team 3 approached the Kulepeamoa terminus, we could see members of Team 2 making the final push up Kulepeamoa proper. Our yells and whoops were returned in kind by Team 2. As it turned out, Team 3 reached the top of Kulepeamoa just before 1, with Team 2 topping out about 10 minutes later.

We enjoyed a relaxing lunch on the Koolau summit, with a good-sized reservoir laying almost directly below us at the base of the mountain on the 'Nalo side. A bit to the left was triple-peaked Olomana, with the windward coast from Waimanalo to Kailua forming a nice backdrop.

After lunch, Teams 2 & 3 combined to work on the section between Kulepeamoa and Hawaii Loa, needing about 45 minutes to get this done. We shared the benchmarked Hawaii Loa terminus with two couples, one with a dog and one without. After a 15 minute break, our gang began the descent of the Hawaii Loa trail, which includes some recently-placed stair segments ala Kuliouou Ahi. On the way down, Bill Gorst and I discussed the terrible erosion on upper Hawaii Loa, a result that Bill blames on poor maintenance and route planning during construction.

About 30 minutes down Hawaii Loa, we ran into Charlotte, who'd climbed up from Pia Valley to mark and clear the trail we'd be descending to get back to our cars. This left turn is just past a banyan on the right on Hawaii Loa. A guava stump with crosscuts in the middle of the trail is another landmark to alert one to this junction. For now, pink ribbons mark this spot on Hawaii Loa, but Stuart will remove the markers after the club hike so that unwary Hawaii Loa hikers won't be led astray.

The 20 to 30 minute descent to Pia Valley is steep, but an array of sturdy guava trees helped to make the semi-freefall manageable. The downward leg ended in a dry streambed, where we turned right to follow a ribbon-marked trail makai in or along the waterless stream. The valley leg is about 40 minutes, with the first of us reaching Aolani Street about 4.

As is our custom, we enjoyed each other's company and refreshments after our day of work in the mountains. Next week da gang is headed for Waimanalo for an exciting climb to the Koolau summit on the Kaupo Cliffs trail. Once topside, we'll head along the crest to Kuliouou Ahi, which we'll use as our descent route. We're all looking forward to next Sunday's challenge.


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