OHE September 5, 1998

Date: Sat, 5 Sep 1998 19:26:38 -1000
From: "Dayle K. Turner" (turner@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Kuliouou West via Kuliouou Valley

Grant Tokumi and Alex Okihara, and more recently, Dick Beaton and company, provided the spark for the hike I completed today. The above-mentioned folks submitted write-ups about climbing up a steep ridge deep in Kuliouou to gain the west (left) side shoulder of the valley and upon hearing about their exploits, I added that trek to my hiking to-do list.

With some free time today, I decided to give the route a go. I asked Pat and Wing to accompany me, but Pat passed, saying he was a tad under the weather after just returning from the mainland; Wing also declined, claiming he wanted to save himself for a big hike tomorrow (Waimalu middle).

So I set off alone, departing the trailhead at Kalaau Place at 8:45 a.m. Before leaving, I left a note on the front seat of my vehicle stating, "Hiking to Pu'u o Kona via Kuliouou Valley trail end," just in case I encountered some difficulties.

The valley trail is in really nice shape for the first 20 minutes, probably a result of work by the folks at Na Ala Hele. Beyond that, a few fallen trees had to be ducked under but presented no problem. At about the thirty minute mark, the trail completed its contour on the east (right) slope above the stream and entered the stream itself. I took my time while hiking in the mostly waterless streambed, not wanting to fall or twist an ankle on the mossy boulders and stones I maneuvered over and past.

After ten minutes of rock-hopping, I reached a place where the stream split. I headed left, contouring on the left bank of the left fork to avoid a slippery chute. Not far from the split junction, the left fork terminated at a dry waterfall. I walked along the base of the waterless cascade, picking up a faint trail on the right marked by a pink ribbon.

As I began climbing to leave the falls behind, I heard a gunshot from down the valley. "If that's a hunter, I hope he doesn't shoot me," I thought. I whooped a couple of times to let whoever it was know that the bashing about was from a human and not potential quarry.

As I pressed on, the climbing was "sustained steep," with ample branches and roots from lama, Christmas berry, and assorted other trees to hang onto. Although steep, the ridge didn't seem perilous since the vegetation provided security. I suppose if I had been descending, my perspective would be different and the angle of the slope would have seemed more severe.

The canopy obscured any views upslope but on occasion I reached places where I could see makai down Kuliouou Valley. After hiking in the stream for a spell and then climbing under a thick umbrella of foliage, when I had makai views I was surprised how high I'd climbed.

There was a hundred yard stretch where I spotted no ribbons, so I put up a half dozen along this segment after determining that it was indeed the right way. When I finally spotted an old ribbon, I felt relieved, knowing I was on track.

In their OHE write-ups, Grant, Alex and Dick didn't report where on Kuliouou West they had topped out, so I was eager to find out where this ridge led. As I continued to ascend, I was surprised to find a 10-foot rockface with a rope for a climbing aid affixed to a tree. Neither Grant, Alex, nor Dick mentioned this rope, hence my surprise. I made it up this section on my second attempt (I slipped on my first try, avoiding a nasty spill after luckily landing on an unseen foothold) and a few minutes later I emerged from the forest canopy at the edge of a crumbly ridge where I could look down into a steep gulch of upper Kuliouou, straight ahead to the Koolau summit spine, to the right toward the state-maintained Kuliouou (Ahi) Ridge trail, and left to the crest of Kuliouou west.

I spotted a group of hikers ascending the state trail and waved to them, thinking they'd easily spot me in my red shirt and red pack. The wind whipped with some force at this ridge-edge position, and I enjoyed the cooling effect after suffering a bit during the steep, humid climb.

After a short rest, I continued up the edge of the eroded ridge, passing the wreckage of a plane crash on the left just before topping out on the crest of Kuliouou west. As it turned out, the ridge I'd climbed from the valley crested at a pu'u (~2,200 elev.) 50 yards mauka of the cable sections on Kuliouou west. I marked this pu'u with a double pink ribbon. From the dry waterfall, the climb (1,200 foot elevation gain in about half a mile), had taken me an hour and a half. I have to admit that the climb was grueling, and I must have stopped to rest ten times on the way up.

From the top-out pu'u on Kuliouou west, the Koolau crest is about 10 minutes away on a gentle rollercoaster climb. Thereafter, the jaunt along the summit past Pu'u o Kona to the terminus of Kuliouou Ridge (we also refer to this as Kuliouou Ahi) takes 20 to 30 minutes, most of it level or downhill. Clidemia has resumed its onslaught on the crest after we'd hacked it down a couple months ago, but the ridge route was dry and not difficult to manage. The views were pretty, with cloudfree conditions to Konahuanui and beyond up the windward coast.

On the descent of Ahi, I passed a group of 10 UH co-eds also descending (they were the ones I spotted ascending Ahi earlier). Several inquired where I had come from since they hadn't spotted me during their lunch break at the Ahi terminus. A little later, I chatted with a 50-ish haole gentleman, also heading down, who had seen me on Kuliouou west and asked about the route I'd taken. I explained what I'd done and also told him about the start of another trail at the end of Papahehi Place. He thanked me for the info.

Further down, in the beginning of the Norfolk pine section, to my surprise, I ran into Wing (loppers in hand), who decided to get a workout by going up and down Ahi. We talked for several minutes about the climb I'd completed and upcoming outings before parting company.

I was back at my vehicle at 12:50, ending a four-hour-plus-change jaunt in the eastern Koolaus. Nice workout. Nice hike. Nice post-hike kaukau at Hawaii Kai Taco Bell. :-)

Hope everyone has a pleasant three-day weekend.


Reply from: Wing C Ng (wing@lava.net>

Well, Prof. asked me to come along, and I said "I checked this out on Ahi before and could see _no_ way up". Then I decided to go up and down Ahi as a short workout and surprise, surprise, found the Profmobile with Kam School and LCC emblems on it, and his "last will and testament" on the front seat. Then I met him on my way up and grilled him intensely on the route he took. After we parted, I went up and took many hard looks at the valley below, and I have to report that I could _still_ see no way up that is anything less than a sheer cliff!!! Well, we decide that it was a pig trail that he followed, and the pigs, in their infinite wisdom, somehow found a way up something that the human eye from Ahi ridge can only conclude is totally impossible! :-)


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