Laauhihaihai
Kahili

Mon, Dec 17, 2007
Etymology
Story Photos / Slideshow Map Profile
Laauhihaihai previously climbed Sat, Dec 15, 2007

After a successful foray two days earlier that led to the discovery of a trail leading to the ridgeline south of the peak, I was favorably impressed that I might actually be able to reach the summit of Kahili, a 3,000-foot peak on the flanks of the main mountain massif on the island of Kauai. Often shrouded in clouds, the peak is an impressive sight from Poipu Beach and the town of Koloa on the SE side of the island - when it is visible. On this second visit, I once again returned to Kahili Mountain Park, a private park/school on the SE side of the peak from where the Kahili Ridge Trail commences. This time there was another car in the small turnout when I started off shortly before noon.

I retraced the route to Laauhihaihai, the overlook 1,200ft above the trailhead, that son Ryan and I had climbed on the first visit. Along the way I came across a party of three Europeans (country unknown), a man and two women in their 20's. The two women stopped short of Laauhihaihai while the man continued, but I did not see him progress far beyond the lookout. It had taken me 40 minutes to climb to the lookout, from where I continued by following the thin trail along the ridgeline. It took another 40 minutes to cover the half mile or so to the communications tower south of Kahili. There is a road leading up to the tower along an adjoining ridgeline to the west. Though I'm pretty sure you can't drive your car up the road, it might provide an easier walk (though less scenic I'm sure) than the Kahili Ridge Trail.

I figured I would be at the summit of Kahili in short order as it was now less than half a mile distance with not even 500ft more gain remaining. But the trail that was already quite thin and heavily overgrown only grew more so, petering out altogether as I approached the final steep climb to the top. There were some dicey moves along ridge that I'd call class 3-4 bushwhacking. If it was just solid rock it would have been class 3 with exposure, but everything in Kauai is covered in vegetation and I was grasping at stuff that was just as likely to rip out as it was to provide purchase, and the notorious Kauai dirt that underlay everything did nothing to bolster one's confidence. Eventually the very ridge itself grew impassable and I had to move left to the steeply vegetated SW side (the SE side was dangerous cliffs). Any semblence of a trail was long gone as I found myself crawling over ferns, under fallen logs, and generally wallowing in the mounds of decaying detritus that underlies the vibrant green covering on the hillsides. At several points I was about to quit, thinking I was getting in over my head, but with a bit of perseverence I would find a way around an obstacle or the seeming impasse.

It took nearly an hour from the radio tower to make it to the summit of Kahili, and then for reward I found there were virtually no views amongst the forested summit area. There appeared to be three points vying for the highpoint, but I chose not to visit the other two - they appeared to offer little additional reward for the pain of the additional bushwhacking and I was running out of time besides. They were certainly accessible - all the hardest parts were behind me - but the futility of the exercise stopped me. Further north I could see the jagged ridgeline continuing in what looked like a far more difficult venture to the even higher summit of Kapalaoa about 1 1/4 miles further north. At one time I had thought this might be a possible route to the summit of Kawaikini (another five miles north of Kapalaoa), but the progress along these ridges is just too arduous and slow without some semblence of a trail.

Back I went via the same route, taking about 1 1/2 hours to return to the car. Though windy and a bit chilly, I had gotten lucky with no rain to make things more difficult, and though the views were limited at the summit, at least I wasn't enveloped in clouds as is often the case. Perhaps some future all-day adventure could be devoted to finding a way to the summit of Kapalaoa - though I hold little hope of finding anything reasonable.


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